Assorted Links

Given my job, I feel uncomfortable expressing my opinions about anything controversial. So I’ve decided to keep this blog as an aggregator of links. I don’t necessarily agree with the authors of the links below, but I find them interesting.

Don Boudreaux repudiates the idea that income inequality is the central problem of government cronyism.

Yet even if I here underestimate the extent of cronyism, the problem with cronyism isn’t that it makes incomes less equal.  The problem is that it stifles economic growth and, worse, violates the property and contract rights of ordinary people in order that government can transfer unearned treasure to politically powerful special interests.  Any resulting rise in income inequality is merely a symptom of cronyism’s evils.  Efforts aimed directly at making incomes more equal, therefore, miss the mark.  Such efforts not only penalize non-cronies, but by attacking merely a symptom of cronyism, these efforts divert attention from – and leave intact – the destructive cronyist policies themselves.

Joseph Brodsky gave a commencement address at University of Michigan in 1988. Maria Popova posted excerpts at Brain Pickings (read the site daily, seriously).

Try not to set too much store by politicians — not so much because they are dumb or dishonest, which is more often than not the case, but because of the size of their job, which is too big even for the best among them, by this or that political party, doctrine, system or a blueprint thereof. All they or those can do, at best, is to diminish a social evil, not eradicate it. …The world is not perfect; the Golden Age never was or will be.

Another awesome Brain Pickings post about keeping a notebook. I keep a Moleskin with me and vigorously take notes all the time. Joan Didion examined why some feel compelled to do that.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.

I have had a front row seat as my boss has labored intensively to build a coalition to purchase a tract of property adjacent to the Bracken Cave, the seasonal home to the largest maternal colony of bats in the world. Development of this tract would be harmful to the bats, the Edwards Aquifer, and our regional ecology. The political, legal, and economic challenges are enormous in this complex real estate transaction. The San Antonio Express News editorial lauded his efforts:

For months now, San Antonio City Councilman Ron Nirenberg has been shepherding various public interests to assist BCI and the Nature Conservancy with an acquisition. This is far more difficult than it sounds. The land is in both Comal County and the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, and there are complicated politics at play about funding sources, water flow from the Edwards Aquifer and property rights.

I’m amused that Wal-Mart is now selling Occupy Wall Street posters. Jessica Huseman, whose site I have contributed to,  gave a great Christmas gift idea.

In the event you are a capitalist who knows one of those occupy-sympathizers, the print might make a fantastic passive aggressive Christmas gift.

Speaking of capitalism, apparently it ensures that we have a free press, according to Marc Tracy at New Republic.

Capitalist self-interest is precisely the engine that drives a robust free press, and always has been. The desire to break scoops and embarrass governments has historically been related to a desire to sell copies (and, now, digital banner ads). Zenger probably just wanted to make an honest living. Though all the U.S. Founding Fathers’ writings insisted upon the importance of a free press, the Constitution doesn’t require one—it doesn’t, say, require Congress to fund an independent ombudsman. Rather, the First Amendment merely guarantees that any press that does exist will be free. This indirect mechanism—when you think about it, a rather roundabout way to creating a free press—has worked because there have always been businessmen and journalists who, armed with that protection, have seen a way to make a career and a business out of it. The press isn’t a neutral medium of information; it is a political actor in its own right (hence its common designation as a separate “Fourth Estate”) driven by its own selfish concerns.


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