How close can a person get to the heart of a matter, and still pull back — just in time! — to avoid accepting any deep truth?
The answer seems to be: Very close. Microscopically close. Nanite-nudging nearness, measured in nanometers.
That margin of closeness was today put into black ink courtesy, once again, of Nobel Laureate economist and New York Times op-ed scribbler, Paul Krugman.
In “A Tale of Two Moralities,” Krugman once again hallucinates that a variant of libertarianism — unnamed, of course, and identified with “the right” — as being a major player in recent politics. He says the two moral notions that divide our nation, today, are as follows:
Reading Paul Krugman is like picking at a scab: You know you should probably just let it alone, but there’s pleasure in picking the Krugman rough redness. So you read. So you bleed. So you flick away the droplets and the clots.
I could hardly avoid his recent post, “Economics and Morality,” in part because the title mirrors an abiding interest of mine, and of many libertarians. There is a deep connection between economics and ethics. After all, one is the science of human action and transactions, the other is the art of prescribing for same. Frank Knight observed that the subject of economics was the same as that of Herbert Spencer’s Principles of Ethics: “acts adjusted to ends,” or, to put simply, Human Conduct.
Krugman offers no insights about the deep connections. Instead, he regurgitates old pabulum about the welfare state, and misunderstands the case for free markets. Again.
He begins with a concern: “[T]he right is winning economic debates because people believe, wrongly, that there’s something inherently moral about free-market outcomes.”
I don’t know if this is the case, in the real world. Perhaps I don’t follow enough “debates.” But, as I see it, market outcomes are not moral as such. It’s market processes that are. That is, non-fraudulent, non-coerced exchanges (trade) — no matter how much error there may be in them — are more moral processes than fraudulent and coerced processes. It’s the means that are important, here. Fixating on the ends leads you into traps like Krugman seems to rest his whole ideology upon.
My former colleague and neighbor Jesse Walker, in the course of an “appreciation” of exiting Sen. Russ Feingold — whom he calls “the Bob Barr of the left” — expresses the briefest note of sadness over the failure of California’s Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. I will demur.
Sadness? At a law that, had it passed, would have regulated and taxed the use of a common plant — a lovely weed and an amazing source of industrial fiber as well as widely used herbal remedy? No. All those regulations and taxes would only have skewed the cultivation and marketing of the plant from personal and small-business operations to Big Business. Right now Californians are increasingly cultivating and openly using marijuana. In defiance of the federal government, no less.
But with the initiative, the state would have started cracking down on little producers, and making it harder for small business to provide their customers with the drug. [Keep reading…]