Thursday, January 29, 2015

The case for liberal optimism

by John Micklethwait

Economist

January 31, 2015

This newspaper churlishly deprives its editors of the egocentric adornments of our trade. Tragically, these pages include no weekly “editor’s letter” to readers, underneath a beaming, air-brushed picture. Online, there is a weekly e-mail, but that comes from your “desk”, not you. As editor, you spend your time in deplorable obscurity, consoled merely by the fact you have the nicest job in journalism. But there are two indulgent exceptions: a brief mention when you are appointed; and this valedictory leader, which attempts to sum up the world that has hurtled across your desk.

It starts on the first day, and never lets up. There are elections, coups, wars, bankruptcies and tsunamis. Science throws up discoveries and ideas. A pantomime of Putinesque villains and Berlusconi-style clowns force themselves onto the cover. But for the things this newspaper cares about, the past nine years have been a battle, one that has left me in a state of paranoid optimism. Paranoia because so much remains under threat; optimism because, for the most part, the creed this newspaper lives by is strong enough to survive.

That applies first to The Economist itself. One of my earliest covers asked “Who killed the newspaper?” (August 24th 2006), and this newspaper has arguably faced more change in the past nine years than it did in the previous century. On April Fool’s Day 2006, when, appropriately, I began this job, Twitter was ten days old, our print advertising was growing and social media was something to do with a very good lunch.

So any modern editor who is not paranoid is a fool. But my optimism remains greater, both about The Economist and the future of independent journalism. That is partly because technology gives us ever more ways to reach our audience. In 2006 our circulation was 1.1m, all in print. Now it is 1.6m in print, digital and audio. Already half a million of you have downloaded our new Espresso app; we are adding over 70,000 Twitter followers each week. Media is not the race to the bottom that pessimists forecast. People want to read about the Kurds, Keynes and kokumi as well as the Kardashians. Ever more go to university, travel abroad and need ideas to stay employable—and will pay for an impartial view of the world, one where the editor, whatever his faults (or from now on, her virtues), is in nobody’s pocket.

More

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

New York Times
Editorial
June 16, 2015


For the second time in three terms, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. The last time around, the justices declined to take up the broad question. This time, there is every reason for them to follow the logic of their own rulings over the past 12 years and end the debate once and for all.

On Friday, the court accepted four cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, where same-sex marriage bans were upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in November. All other federal appeals courts that have ruled on the issue have struck down the bans.

Oral arguments are likely to be in late April, but there is little new to be said. Both sides’ positions have been aired out thoroughly and repeatedly for several years.

And as usual, the outcome almost certainly lies in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has authored all three of the court’s previous decisions upholding gay rights. In each case, Mr. Kennedy wrote eloquently of the dignity and equality of gay people. It is hard to see how, given the combined reasoning in those cases, he could now turn back at the threshold of one of the most important civil-rights decisions in a generation.

More

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Money is the New Morality

by Scott Adams

Dilbert

January 15, 2015

The traditional view of money-vs.-morality is that you want to start with a moral foundation and then you can pursue making money in a way that makes the world better. You treat your employees and customers well, act honestly, and perhaps even donate your wealth to those in need.

That was a good model. I think it served the United States well in its formative years. You can’t have capitalism without some level of trust, especially in earlier times, and morality in the form of religion provided a form of predictable honesty.

But today that situation is flipped because of the Internet and the free flow of information.

More

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Blasphemy We Need

by Ross Douthat

New York Times

January 7, 2015

In the wake of the vicious murders at the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo today, let me offer three tentative premises about blasphemy in a free society.

1) The right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order.

2) There is no duty to blaspheme, a society’s liberty is not proportional to the quantity of blasphemy it produces, and under many circumstances the choice to give offense (religious and otherwise) can be reasonably criticized as pointlessly antagonizing, needlessly cruel, or simply stupid.

3) The legitimacy and wisdom of criticism directed at offensive speech is generally inversely proportional to the level of mortal danger that the blasphemer brings upon himself.

More

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The "Dog-Eat-Dog" Delusion

by Gary Galles

Mises Daily

January 3, 2014

When people want to add extra “oomph” to negative depictions of self-owners acting without coercion — that is, market competition under capitalism — they turn to name-calling. One of the most effective forms is describing such competition as dog-eat-dog. When that characterization is accepted, the mountain of evidence in favor of voluntary social coordination can be dismissed on the grounds that it involves a vicious and ugly process so harmful to people that it outweighs any benefits.

Unfortunately, dog-eat-dog imagery for market competition is entirely misleading. It not only misrepresents market competition as having properties that are absent in truly free arrangements, but those properties are essential characteristics of government, the usual “solution” offered to the evils of dog-eat-dog competition. Further, it frames the issue in a way that precludes most people from recognizing why the analogy fails.

To begin with, dog-eat-dog is an odd way to characterize anything. I have never seen a dog eat another dog. I don’t know anyone who has. In fact, some trace the phrase’s origin back to the Latin, canis caninam not est, or “dog does not eat dog,” which says the opposite (and makes more sense, as an animal may try to protect its feeding grounds against competing predators, but it does not eat those competitors). It is nonsensical to rely on an analogy to something that doesn’t actually happen in animal behavior as a central premise toward condemning market systems as ruthless and hard-hearted.

More