Ave Atque Vale: Summa Cum Laude

“Buckley’s old-fashioned answering service! I still answer my own phone!” The gleeful voice rang out. If I heard it once in the 24 years that Tom Buckley and I were colleagues at the University of Tulsa, I heard it a thousand times. In a variety of ways, it captured the man. It reflected his wit, his irreverence, and his sense of fun; it betrayed his lack of pretentiousness and hinted at his capacity for mischief; and it suggested that he was a bit of a ham. One could imagine him dressing up in a tuxedo, sauntering into a classroom with a bottle and glass on a tray, and interrupting a junior colleague’s lecture with the greeting: “Your ale, Madame! And I have been told to wish you a very happy birthday.” One could imagine him pausing in the midst of one of his own lectures to pull a card from his shoe and announce that he had just produced a footnote. And he was perfectly capable of responding to an invitation to the wedding of a much-married friend by sending a note of regret, saying, “I’m sorry that I cannot make it this time, but I will be sure to be there the next time that you wed.”

Thomas H. Buckley, who died on 24 February, was an old-fashioned professor. He was a scholar of ability and distinction, a teacher of genius, and he was always around—available for consultation by colleagues, friends, students, and former students (who always came to see Buckley before dropping in on anyone else). To him, they came to discuss the essays on which they were working, the “ins” and “outs” of national politics, their job prospects, their love lives or the lack thereof (a topic on which Tom was highly knowledgeable), and many another subjects.

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Climate Change and the New Iconoclasts

Clasm_ChludovThe ancient city of Constantinople was heralded as a “new Rome” and quickly replaced the old one in splendor and importance. As the western Roman Empire withered and fell, the eastern Christian empire flourished. But after a few centuries of success, their good fortune ran out.

The first recorded bubonic plague killed more than a third of Constantinople’s inhabitants. Then in a series of bloody, expensive wars with the Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Persians, the city finally stabilized their empire only to see the majority of it swallowed by Muslim conquerors. Add in the coups, civil wars, and a spectacular volcanic eruption off the island of Santorini, and Christians wondered what they did to lose the favor of God.

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Call Takers

MISC-ParkedPoliceCars (400x300)Is Baltimore burning? Perhaps the question should be: Is Baltimore still burning?

There is a good chance that policing will change in Baltimore. Officers that were proactive will probably become call takers. The risks of proactive police work now has the potential of not just ending an officer’s career but may result in criminal charges.

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Can Republican Men Criticize Hillary?

Carly Fiorina is articulate, thoughtful, and accomplished. For those who keep track of such things, she was the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business, and she ran a credible, if unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. senate seat from California. In the early going, she is receiving enthusiastic responses from Republican audiences. Though I’ve long been skeptical of non-politicians running for president of the United States, I’m open to the possibility that she has what it takes — but only if the premise is that she is offering something besides estrogen. This is not a slam at Fiorina but rather at the presumption out there that only Carly Fiorina can really “take it to Hillary” because she’s the only Republican candidate who needn’t fear the charge of sexism.

If Republicans accept this gag rule, they are in trouble, because 18 of 19 or so possible nominees are burdened by testosterone.

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On the Continuing Political Aftermath of the Great Recession and the Financial Crisis

In my new The Week column, I write about the GOP’s problem — particularly Jeb Bush’s — with the Great Recession and Financial Crisis: Republican George W. Bush happened to be president when it happened. That is a tough-to-remove stain on the Bush brand and the GOP brand. Now as I wrote awhile back, “Obama didn’t end the Great Recession that Bush didn’t cause.” W.’s tax cuts/budget deficits/income inequality/financial deregulation aren’t the real story.

But life isn’t fair. Presidents get much of the blame or credit for what happens when happens when they’re in the Oval Office. What’s more, the economic collapse has tempered the public’s enthusiasm for pro-market policies. Now it is certainly worthwhile to try and correct the record on causality. I think the GR&FC were more or less a replay of the Great Depression, where the Fed took a modest downturn in the making and made it much, much worse. In their Financial Crisis Inquiry Report dissent, Keith Hennessey, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Bill Thomas outline a variety of domestic and international factors: credit bubble, housing bubble, nontraditional mortgages, credit ratings and securitization, financial institutions concentrated correlated risk, leverage and liquidity risk, risk of contagion, common shock, financial shock and panic. In that same report, my colleague Peter Wallison states “the  sine qua non of the financial crisis was U.S. government housing policy.”

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What Helps You Get Through a Commercial Airline Flight?

Airplane in the sky at sunsetI’m on a cross country flight. It’s tight quarters with some pretty big guys. Some are truly professional flyers. Others jump on Southwest airlines and either complain about everything or gum up the works in the Lord of the Flies self-seating challenge. All of us, 150 plus, are on a five-and-a-half hour flight to Las Vegas. And, no, I don’t like it.

I’ve taken this flight out about 25 times. Thank God, I’ve taken about 25 flights home. I’ve never liked it. That’s not to say I haven’t liked it more on some flights and less on others. It’s just that flying 500 mph inside a hollow metal tube, 35,000 feet above sea level (like it matters if it’s above the water), isn’t my preferred mode of travel. Transporter, pneumatic tube, maybe.

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Episode 260: By The People


After a brief hiatus, The Ricochet Podcast returns with nothing short of revolution on its mind. Our guest this week: the Unknowngreat Charles Murray, to discuss his latest book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, an argument for civil disobedience. Will it catch on? Also, who are the top ten GOP candidates, should our candidates appear on George Stephanopoulos’s show (h/t Ricochet member Brian Watt), and will Elian Gonzalez become a propaganda symbol if he visits the U.S. (another h/t to Ricochet member Richard Anderson). Finally, how should have Jeb Bush answered that question on the Iraq War? Our panel weighs in.

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2016: Do Looks Matter?

130916112847-29-missamerica-0916-horizontal-galleryOver the course of the next year, you’re going to hear plenty of theories as to what guarantees victory in a president election.

For example, there’s the matter of candidates’ height — the premise being that the taller contender always wins. A few years ago, researchers at Texas Tech took a look at this and decided there was something to it — something having to do with voters and their primordial instincts.

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The Libertarian Podcast: Should We Worry About Income Inequality?

This week on The Libertarian podcast, I’m leading Richard Epstein through a discussion of income inequality. Is it the disaster that liberals are making it out to be? What do progressive proposals to address the situation get wrong? What are some free market approaches that could help the poor? And are conservatives destined to lose this fight because of the Left’s appeal to emotion? All that below or on your mobile device if you subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcast service.

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Let Us Gawk at the Weird

shutterstock_156039962Marriage may be one of the more contentious issues around here, but I think the particulars described in this NYT piece about the marriage habits of the fabulously wealthy of Manhattan should unite the Ricochetti in fascinated condescension:

It was easy for me to fall into the belief, as I lived and lunched and mothered with more than 100 of them for the better part of six years, that all these wealthy, competent and beautiful women, many with irony, intelligence and a sense of humor about their tribalism (“We are freaks for Flywheel,” one told me, referring to the indoor cycling gym), were powerful as well. But as my inner anthropologist quickly realized, there was the undeniable fact of their cloistering from men. There were alcohol-fueled girls’ nights out, and women-only luncheons and trunk shows and “shopping for a cause” events. There were mommy coffees, and women-only dinners in lavish homes. There were even some girlfriend-only flyaway parties on private planes, where everyone packed and wore outfits the same color.

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L.A.’s $15 Minimum Wage: Great for Government Workers, Bad for Everyone Else

1973900_ME_garcetti_wage_GMKWhen I think about California, I think the best thing is to paraphrase historian Richard Cobb’s famous quip about France: “Wonderful state, California… pity about the Californians.”

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Municipal Star Chamber (a.k.a. City Council) voted 14-to-1 to follow Seattle over a fiscal cliff and increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour (given that California law does not allow workers earning tips to be paid less than the minimum wage, that means waitstaff would earn fifteen dollars plus tips.) The city’s non-Mexican, anti-American Mexican-American mayor Eric Garcetti has been fervently pushing for Los Angeles to commit economic seppuku since taking office, and he has gotten his way. One can only assume the one holdout vote simply wanted a more reasonable living wage of $100/hour.

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Where Do Kinder Come From?

dinosaurAs a bit of a demographic loser – I’m not the only one in these parts – I tend to be drawn to articles that attempt to explain why humans appear to be the first species in history purposely choosing extinction. The WSJ Online had an article brushing on this topic from the perspective of an American living in Germany. However, before I could get to the author’s explanation on why our family trees are turning into inverted pyramids, I was taken aback a bit by the opening paragraph….

BERLIN—My three-year-old daughter has just returned from a five-day trip with her Kita, or preschool, to the countryside. This would be unheard of back home, where helicopter-parenting is de rigeur. But I appreciate the less-fearful attitude of German parents who shun constant supervision of their children

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Successful and Unsuccessful Movements

imageVaclav Havel wrote that successful political movements don’t start political. Instead, they begin focused on unique ideas about living. As the group gain members and sorts out its ideas, they develop a more comprehensive lifestyle which ultimately leads to a political conflict. But what happens when the group becomes untethered from its social origins and fixated solely on a political purpose?

Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard describes such a devolution taking place before our eyes in the Democrat Party:

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ISIS Overruns Palmyra

640px-Capitello_colonna_brindisi (1)Brindisi is visibly part of the world the Romans built. You walk outside and stumble over the terminal columns of the Appian way. They’re not a big deal. They’ve always been here, the way the Adriatic has always been here. They survived the Goths, the Saracines, the Longobards, the Normans, the Swabians. They were here when the Austrians ran the city. They were here when the Bourbons ran it. They made it through catastrophic earthquakes in 1456 and 1743. The city was bombed massively during the First and the Second World Wars. The columns are still here.

There’s a monument to Mussolini in Brindisi. It’s ridiculous, of course. You see it and laugh at it. No one looks at what the Romans left and laughs. In the story of human history, Mussolini meant nothing compared to them.

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Religious Bigotry on Parade in the Ninth Circuit

One of the worst copyright rulings in history, even by Ninth Circuit standards, has finally been reversed by an en banc decision written mercifully by Judge Margaret McKeown. This was a hot topic on my radio show when it first came down. You all know the story.

The White House’s false narrative about the cause of the Benghazi raid on the American Embassy resulting in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher J. Stevens. Sean Smith, Tyrone Snowden Woods, and Glen Anthony Doherty. Hillary Clinton and the White House of course blamed the disrespect of the prophet Muhammad in the film “Innocence of Muslims” for the action, which of course was a scandal because that was not the cause, and she and the White House knew this.

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It’s Time for Conservatives to Defend… President Obama

Obama.Shocked-1For six years, conservatives have been hammering the Obama administration. While the lay observer may decry this seemingly out-of-the-ordinary level of partisanship of late, it must be acknowledged that President Obama himself is arguably the most left-of-center person to hold the office since FDR. This president has pushed, with varying levels of success, some of the most liberal/progressive policies ever to be championed by someone people take seriously. This leaves conservatives with little to actually chew on and weigh supporting for any significant period of time. That all being said… well… we all know the saying about a broken clock.

And that clock currently says it is time for conservatives to come to the defense of President Obama.

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Book Review: “A Short History of Man”

“A Short History of Man” by Hans-Hermann HoppeThe author is one of the most brilliant and original thinkers and eloquent contemporary expositors of libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, and Austrian economics. Educated in Germany, Hoppe came to the United States to study with Murray Rothbard and in 1986 joined Rothbard on the faculty of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he taught until his retirement in 2008. Hoppe’s 2001 book, Democracy: The God That Failed, made the argument that democratic election of temporary politicians in the modern all-encompassing state will inevitably result in profligate spending and runaway debt because elected politicians have every incentive to buy votes and no stake in the long-term solvency and prosperity of the society. Whatever the drawbacks (and historical examples of how things can go wrong), a hereditary monarch has no need to buy votes and every incentive not to pass on a bankrupt state to his descendants.

This short book (144 pages) collects three essays previously published elsewhere which, taken together, present a comprehensive picture of human development from the emergence of modern humans in Africa to the present day. Subtitled “Progress and Decline,” the story is of long periods of stasis, two enormous breakthroughs, with, in parallel, the folly of ever-growing domination of society by a coercive state which, in its modern incarnation, risks halting or reversing the gains of the modern era.

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Mike Rounds, Earning That Senate Seat

RoundsWe have a bad habit when it comes to US Senators: the guys we pay the most mind to tend to be the ones who demonstrate the best stagecraft (as I write this, Rand Paul is filibustering the Patriot Act on the Senate floor). That has its place, but there’s also a lot to be said for the guys who roll up their sleeves and do grunt work that’s vital for the country but probably won’t ever earn them a single vote. Put South Dakota freshman Mike Rounds in that latter category. As far as I’m concerned, he can have that seat as long as he wants it. From Lydia Wheeler at The Hill:

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) is planning to introduce a resolution Wednesday to create a committee to review rules enacted by federal agencies. The Regulation Sensibility Through Oversight Restoration, or RESTORE, Resolution would establish a Joint Select Committee to review new rules, hold hearings on the effects of those already in place and recommend ways to reduce regulatory overreach. The committee will also analyze whether it’s feasible for Congress to create a permanent committee to review all rules with economic impacts of $50 million or more before they are enacted.

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Ricochet: Better Than Shouting at Your Television

We’re animal lovers here at Ricochet, so we want you to stop kicking the cat. When the state of the nation has you down at the mouth, you don’t need to stay silent — and you also don’t need to scream into the abyss. Instead you can join us (the coupon code MAY gets you a free month) and have your voice heard throughout the nation. How does it work? As usual, a member says it better than we could:

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Drone Taxicabs, Maglev Transportation Bubbles, and Peak Car

shutterstock_109852124Technological advances can help us do more with less. In a new piece at the Breakthrough Institute, Jesse Ausubel argues that with better tech, a “large, prosperous, innovative humanity, producing and consuming wisely, might share the planet with many more companions, as nature rebounds.” A future of abundance, not austerity. Already we may be at Peak Farmland and Peak Timber because of efficiency and alternatives. Also, Peak Car:

The beginning of a plateau in the population of cars and light trucks on US roads suggests we are approaching peak car. The reason may be that drone taxis will win. The average personal vehicle motors about an hour per day, while a car shared like a Zipcar gets used eight or nine hours per day, and a taxi even more. Driverless cars could work tirelessly and safely and accomplish the present mileage with fewer vehicles. The manufacturers won’t like it, but markets do simply fade away, whether for typewriters or newsprint.

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Fix the California Water Crisis for Less Than a Penny A Gallon

We’ve been hearing about the water shortage all year. If you’ve watched any of the Tour of California Bike Race, you may have seen them pass a reservoir with vastly less water than is typical this time of year. Blogger Scott Alexander decided to do an assessment of the water shortage to find if there was a simple solution. First, he figured out how California uses its water and created this helpful graph in millions of acre-feet (MAF):vMF0ffiHe then assessed home water consumption:

All urban water consumption totals 9 million acre-feet. Of those, 2.4 million are for commercial and industrial institutions, 3.8 million are for lawns, and 2.8 million are personal water use by average citizens in their houses. In case you’re wondering about this latter group, by my calculations all water faucets use 0.5 million, all toilets use 0.9 million, all showers use 0.5 million, leaks lose 0.3 million, and the remaining 0.6 million covers everything else – washing machines, dishwashers, et cetera.

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Staging Riots

shutterstock_213974764 (1)Journalism is pretty much dead in the United States. Most of the newspapers that used to do the basic work of looking into things have folded, and most of those that remain are, for the most part, in the disinformation business. Do you remember the coverage of the Duke Lacrosse Case? Of the George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin case? Of the events in Ferguson? Of the Eric Garner case in New York City? And of the recent events in Baltimore?

The media has a narrative that they desperately want to peddle – which is that you and I live in a viciously racist society. That is what our budding journalists were taught in college, and they are always on the lookout for an anecdote to illustrate that meme. Before carefully examining the facts in any given case, they will leap to the predetermined conclusion.

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