Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice just added himself with this post.

Personal income in the US, 1950 vs. 2004 (in constant 2004 dollars):

1950:  $17,076 (male); $6,333 (female)

2004:  $30,513 (male); $17,629 (female)

The Consumer Price Index, 1950-2004

12/1950: 25

12/2004: 190.3

(August 1983=100.2)

Which is to say that consumer prices rose about 7. 6 times over the period in which wages fell short of doubling for men and short of tripling (from a much lower base, obviously) for women.

No, the numbers do not show that. However, this does show that Tom does not know what “constant 2004 dollars” means. If he had ever looked that up he might understand that it means the numbers are adjusted for inflation, i.e. rising consumer prices.

The numbers demonstrate, in fact, the exact opposite of what this ignoramus claims. It really makes me wonder if any of the editors over there know what constant dollars means. Any person familiar with the term couldn’t have missed a mistake this egregious.

UPDATE: Tom was informed of his mistake in the comment section and has since retracted his thesis. Click the link above to see his gracious update.


“Is the government acting like an armed robber when you are taxed so that the government can operate illegitimate programs or policies?

The answer is no.”

Or, so my pal Cole says. We have, after all, the opportunity to vote. That’s the same thing as consent, right?

It sounds so nice. When we vote, we have a voice! Government by the people suggests a few things, thought. Among them: election outcomes represent voter preferences. But like most premises in Cole’s argument, there is little in the way of truth.

In real life, voters have ordinal preferences on several thousand possible issues, but to make this easier for Cole, I’ll lower the bar. Let’s do a quick test.

Can voters choose a pack of beer? There are three voters, and they will have to choose between two kinds of beer.

Voter One: Cole. He likes good beer, and his preferences are just an ordinal scale of quality; he would buy a pack of good beer before a medium-quality beer, and a medium-quality beer to Four Loko. His preferences are transitive.

Voter Two: Some hipster. He hates Coors because normal people drink it. He likes craft beer, the best stuff that few drink, but he really likes drinking Four Loko because it tastes like garbage. Sooooo IRONIC.

Voter Three: Hank Hill. He drinks Coors. He will not drink some sissy by under any circumstance. He’d even drink Four Loko before that.

Now imagine the three  walked into a store, and they had to vote on which beer to buy. This is a simple store, much simpler than real life, so it should be easier for them to express their preferences. There are only two packs of beer: one twelver of Imperial (I don’t think it actually comes in packs), and a bunch of Four Loko. Cole votes for Imperial, the hipster and Hank vote to get Loked. Garbage carries the day. Democracy has spoken!

But what if they had to choose between Four Loko and Coors? Cole would vote for Coors, as would Hank. The hipster votes for the garbage drink, but has to drink Coors anyway. Democracy spoke again?

Or, what if it were Imperial v. Coors? Cole and the hipster would vote for Imperial, while Hank would go for Coors. Democracy chose all three, now?

Sure, there was a victor in each cycle, but these elections didn’t express anyone’s preferences. And as elections become more complex, and begin to resemble our actual elections, these problems get worse. Kenneth Arrow actually won a Nobel for doing the math to prove this.

But even if elections were able to express voters’ preferences, there is still the problem of the majority not ruling. There has never been a presidential election where the majority of Americans chose to elect a candidate. The closest we’ve ever come is 23%.

It’s hard to take Cole’s idea that voters can revoke the rights of others when elections fail to meet these basic criteria.

But this is the smallest problem with Cole’s proposal. The more serious false premises (natural rights, what consent means, exit) will be addressed later.

EDIT: And now for a proper conclusion.

Although I assumed the conclusion would be clear from the introduction and discussion of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, I’ll be more explicit.

Cole is a proponent of a modified “consent of the governed” theory. He believes that elections allow me to express my preferences and I am bound to the results by having the opportunity to do so. But why? Say the ballots were thrown into a swimming pool and one ballot chosen at random, and the results were based entirely on it. Would I still be bound to the results of the election under his theory? I had a vote, after all!

Of course not. His point isn’t simply that elections are binding because ballots were submitted. At least, I hope not. Cole believes that elections transmit the preferences of voters, and the majority agree on a particular policy or a politician to vote in proxy. But this premise is demonstrably wrong. Quite often, the preferences of citizens are not transmitted through elections whatsoever. Nor is there majority rule, nor even plurality rule.  That is, even by Cole’s tortured standard, no consent has been given.

Most people realize this, which is why they have enough sense to stay home on election day. If you’re looking for actual consent, you might find it in this majority decision.

My old pal Cole wrote a post on immigration. It followed a conversation we had on the topic.

His position is that immigration should be limited to people habituated to self rule, and this can be accomplished by limiting immigration by nationality.

I find his argument strange. The biggest problem I have with idea that a free society can only persevere by abrogating the right to freedom of contract and movement, besides being nonsensical, is that it doesn’t apply to his ideas. Cole does not care for a free society; he would prefer an authoritarian virtuous society.  But still, let’s ignore that and address the question directly.

Cole imagines that history is on his side because he was able to cite several founding fathers who favored limiting immigration for similar reasons. The absurdity of seeking advice about virtue from those monsters aside, the argument is a non sequitur.

Public statements from early politicians does not show that restricting immigration has preserved a free society in the United States.

Regardless of what they said, their policies were at no point enacted.

On the contrary, the history of the United States is one of open borders. Until the 1960s (i.e. for 190 years), the percentage of native-born Americans fell at an accelerating rate. Most of these immigrants did not come from free countries. In the 1860s, millions of people used as farm machinery (hardly habituated for self-rule) were released, with no overseers to ensure they lived virtuously.

The vast majority of the United States is comprised of people, or the descendants thereof, who were absolutely not habituated to freedom. The results he claims we will now experience by returning to the historic policy of the United States were never seen. The Republic remains in tact.

What is vastly more important than the nationality of these people (as if that could capture “virtue”) are the incentives they faced. The incentives that caused people to come to the United States selected those who would benefit from a free, open society. The incentives they faced once they came here were to work or die. With no attention paid, except to ban the Chinese for a period, to nationality we got along just fine. There is no reason to believe this will not happen in the future.

Trying to design a virtuous society by central planning is a fool’s errand. The best hope one could have for a virtuous society would be to create rules of just conduct that each man could apply to himself and others in all situations. Regardless of their public statements to the contrary, this is what the founders ended up doing in deed.

Henry Rollins has a run-in with a hipster in a record store.

Link via Michael Moynihan of Reason.

Monica Gaudio published a history of apple pie several years ago, only to hear from a friend that it had appeared in Cook’s Source magazine.

The magazine did not compensate Monica for her article, nor did it even contact her for approval. When Monica contacted the editor, she was not only told to take a hike because “everything on the internet is public domain,” but that she should pay Cook’s Source for editing her article.

Monica published the story, with a few bits of email correspondence, on her livejournal. Then the internet exploded.

Currently, the Cook’s Source Facebook page is covered with thousands of insults.

“Cooks Source” is  a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

The story is getting coverage in the Washington Post, Gawker, and the Guardian.

It’s hard to tell whether the editor really believes that anything appearing on the internet is public domain or if she is just a bitch. One thing is certain, this isn’t the first time she has taken someone else’ work. The furor over this individual incident led hundreds of people on the internet to subject other articles to scrutiny, and it is being alleged that Cook’s Source has lifted articles from various bloggers, NPR, Martha Stewart and others.

Being friendly to Monica (and avoiding systematic plagiarism) could have stopped this woman’s career from being ruined.


This was just posted on the Cook’s Source Facebook page:

Hi Folks!Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry — my bad!You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…” we used to have 110 “friends,” we now have 1,870… wow!Best to all, Judith

Most of the comments are insults. Several commentators noted the typos in the apology.

Exit polls from the Sacramento Bee show that young people are supporting the measure, while old people, naturally, are against it.

Not an encouraging sign, as old people vote in large swarms, not unlike locusts.

Reason, however, is reporting that polls in San Diego State University have run out of provisional ballots. This may signal that young people are voting en masse.

Girlfriend in a coma, by the Smiths

The Smiths released a 12 CD box set of their singles in 2009.

From the San Francisco Chronicle.

Don’t bring Mylar balloons. Don’t attach non-Mylar balloons to a park bench or tree. Same with pinatas, streamers and signs (a freestanding pole is required).

Want to grill? Get a permit from the Fire Department.

Want a jumpy house? Give the city a $250 deposit and make sure the company providing the inflatable jumper has $1 million in liability insurance. And if you’re dreaming about a pony at your child’s party, consider this: The city of San Francisco expects you to have a veterinarian on hand.

Lenore Skenazy says you are paranoid.

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it’s even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That’s why they don’t let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: “You never know!” The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

H/T David Henderson

Slate lets you know when Halloween got so slutty.

In the 1970s.

And in case you spent your childhood in an insane asylum, here is a guide on how to carve a pumpkin.

Reason has a piece on the regulation [death] of Halloween.

Speaking of being raised in an insane asylum, it’s also a good time to pick up the 30th Anniversary collectors edition of Halloween. Though I must say, I am partial to Rob Zombie’s version.

A book on the history of Halloween here.

From Slate:

The job market for lawyers is terrible, full stop—and that hits young lawyers, without professional track records and in need of training, worst. Though the National Association for Law Placement, an industry nonprofit group, reports that employment for the class of 2009 was 88.3 percent, about a quarter of those jobs were temporary gigs, without the salaries needed by most new lawyers to pay off crushing debts. Another 10 percent were part-time. And thousands of jobs were actually fellowships or grants provided by the new lawyers’ law schools.

H/T Arnold Kling.

A good book if you are deciding whether or not to apply for law school here.