Sunday, February 25, 2007

Subsidizing disaster

This is utter insanity: faced with the fact that the market rate for insurance in the more hurricane-prone areas of Florida is making people less willing to live there, the government of Florida has decided to back hurricane insurance with state money in order to lower insurance costs, and thus the cost of living in dangerous areas.

In other words, the state of Florida is actively encouraging people to live in more dangerous conditions than they would subject themselves to under free market conditions. Insurance costs provide a nice way of getting people to weigh risks and benefits, but it only works if the government doesn't have its finger on the scale.

Usually, state interference in the economy is damaging because it makes us poorer. This will do that, but it will do more; people who would otherwise have lived in safer areas may very well die because the government has needlessly urged them into harm's way. And for what gain? None, except to give some state legislators a chance to buy votes, and most likely benefit some developers and building contractors.

Can you imagine the uproar if anyone from the private sector recklessly endangered lives in this fashion? They'd be lucky to stay out of prison.

One of statism's chief legitimizing myths is the claim that it protects us from harm. Think about this the next time you hear that.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

New stuff

I have a new article up at

I've got several things up at my other site, including a review of Peter F. Hamilton's Mindstar Rising. Check it out.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Apparently I'm a liberal. Who knew?

This is just beyond parody: Sean Hannity has called the John Birch Society- the John freakin' Birch Society- "liberal" for being opposed to the war in Iraq. Apparently, that's the deciding factor that decides a person's ideology. Economic systems? Social structures? Views on the nature of justice and the proper sphere of state action? Mere frippery! It's all about Iraq. I was thoroughly dismayed to discover that I'm a liberal, though I suppose this saves me the expense of buying those Michael Oakeshott books I was interested in.

Sadly, I think this is symptomatic of why mainstream American conservatism has lost its last libertarian elements: conservatives have become so single-mindedly focused on war and closely related issues to the exclusion of all else that they have lost all interest in the idea of limiting government power. In fact, it seems like a continuation of the Cold War situation, when the respectable Right excommunicated non-interventionists like Murray Rothbard but embraced social democrats as long as they were sufficiently bellicose on foreign policy. Now that mainstream conservatism has given up even the pretense of trying to limit the state, we see where that sort of "pragmatism" leads.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Man's Quest For Knowledge: Imminent Doom Edition

A few days ago, Site Meter informed me that someone came to this site via a Google search for the phrase "John Markley murder." I had been planning to do a series of posts about the Chicago South Side's scenic sniper nests and and historic garrote shops, but I think I'll hold off for a few days.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

I feel safer already

An appalling but not atypical story from Radley Balko: A man is seen through a window cleaning his legally owned guns, and before long there are sixty police, including the local SWAT team, in a standoff at the house to stop this menace to society. (Though I suppose the police deserve credit for not killing any innocent people, shooting any dogs, or setting fire to the house, for once.) Flashbang grenades and rubber bullets were used liberally. The man was ultimately convicted only of a misdemeanor weapons charge, and he won a lawsuit against the city, though he won only a token sum.

As I said, this is not atypical, as anyone who has followed the increasing militarization of domestic law enforcement knows. This particular story caught my eye, though, because of the fact that it was about guns with no drug war angle. This makes me wonder what the response among mainline conservatives will be. The incident brings into conflict two things that are both dear to the hearts of many conservatives: support for the right to bear arms on one hand, and love of brutal displays of militarized police violence and intimidation on the other. (With some honorable exceptions, conservative outrage at jackbooted thuggery is highly selective and generally limited to select acts committed by liberal administrations, in my experience.)

I'm curious to see which value will win out among conservatives as more law-abiding gun owners are inevitably terrorized or killed by police as the militarization of law enforcement spills over from drug war enforcement into the rest of society. I'm not optimistic, though maybe four or eight years of President Obama or President Clinton Mk II would teach conservatives some useful lessons. Then again, they didn't seem to learn anything from the first Clinton.

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