File this, by Thomas Kostigen, under either "Onion Wannabe," "Fellated someone for my journalism job," or "Causation/Correlation Confusions of 2009 #5,211" Here's a sliver:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says people in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands are the most content with their lives. The three ranked first, second and third, respectively, in the OECD's rankings of "life satisfaction," or happiness.
There are myriad reasons, of course, for happiness: health, welfare, prosperity, leisure time, strong family, social connections and so on. But there is another common denominator among this group of happy people: taxes.
Usually I'd launch into some sort of critical analysis. But this warrants none of that. Between the question begging and the correlation/causation problems, the high tax countries with unhappy people (oh, and Nordic suicide rates), I'm going to let the Logic 101 students pick this one apart.
Last night I had three glasses of scotch and two cigarettes out on the deck. I do this often. I'm not a smoker, per se, but I enjoy the occasional cigarette. (If my health insurer is reading this, just kidding :). I also like trans fat, fat fat, cholesterol and sugar. There are other things I like that will probably, when tallied up, take a couple of years off my life in the end.
For example, I live in North Carolina. If I lived on this Greek island where everyone seems to live longer, I would get bored. I might also be senile and bored. So why are people so obsessed with longevity? Why is one's right to risk the least interesting 5-10 years of your life - and to have more fun in your younger years - under attack--particularly by government and interest groups?
In fact, some people are shocked, horrified and convinced that we need a Canadian healthcare system because Canadians live, on average, two years longer than Americans do. Now, I'll pass over the statistical fact that Canada has very few black or latino people and that black and latino people tend to die younger on average for a host of reasons that include both genes and bullets fired from guns over the "War on Drugs". But Americans are also crazier drivers (or maybe have less safe highways), have different eating habits and are probably more likely to smoke, etc. It probably has little, if anything to do with the health care system--and that's me being charitable with my argument. But my question is: who cares? Why should I care if I live to be only 80 versus 82? And given healthcare advances by the time I'm a senior, we may be talking about the differences between living to be 95 and 97. Even if the lifespan differential was five years, can't I just live free and die hard?
I am aware that I may have two more glorious years watching the great grandchildren play as they visit me very occasionally, as I sit idly in my soiled Depends. I am aware that my lovely younger wife and I could enjoy two more years of retirement together in our sunset years. But does it make me a bad person to be willing to trade those two years for six kick-ass months now? Or even better: to sprinkle my life with a little hedonic seasoning before I'm too old to enjoy it? And most importantly, who should have the authority to tell me how I should live my life -- particularly since government functionaries don't pay for my g.d. health insurance yet (thought not for long)? Methinks what was once puritanism has evolved into paternalism.
(Note: this is not meant to be an argument against life extension a la the Methuseleh Mouse Prize. If you can double my life span and make it qualitatively better, let's get it on. I just want to reserve the right to trade higher quality years for more lower-quality years on net -- and/or take the associated risks.)
Did you know that air pollution continues to decrease on almost every measure--despite a threefold increase in the number of cars on the road since 1980? Did you know that our water is cleaner and forestland is more abundant than in any time in U.S. history? Even the Amazon rainforests may be healing. Did you know that on just about every conceivable metric, the environment has improved year by year over the last 50 years? And here is evidence.
This Earth Day, you'll continue to get hysterical media accounts of melting glaciers and abnormal weather patterns. These reports are designed to justify tremendous accretion of state power and resources by government (resulting in more control over our lives by bureaucrats and special interest green groups who stand to benefit from new subsidies and regulations). Sadly, all of this is carried out in the name of the public good.
What you are not likely to hear is that the globe has basically not changed temperature in the last decade, that the last decade does not track AT ALL with the UN's climate models, and that the so-called "scientific concensus" on global warming is composed almost entirely of political appointees and climate "modelers" in the IPCC who have consistently been wrong with respect to the actual climate data and temperatures.
Oh, and did you know that the environment is cleanest in the market economies of the world? It's true. Capitalist countries use resources more efficiently and are more likely to employ efficient technologies. We can also afford environmental amenities. So, enjoy the good news this Earth Day. And please: don't take my word for it that climate change is largely a terrible instance of groupthink set in motion by socialists looking for means to power and increased wealth distribution. Trade your carbon credits for some critical thinking. (Note: Don't forget the late Julian Simon, who is still winning bets.)
Most people think politics boils down to different answers to the question: how do we make the world a better place? According to idealist Michael Strong, the first step is to ditch the politics. The second step in making the world better – that is, progressing in areas like human happiness, environmental health and overall well-being – is to eliminate what can only be described as some of our cultural baggage.
Consider what we’ll call the “Zero-sum Three”:
1. Manichaeism—People are good or evil and the world is black and white; 2. Pessimism—The glass is half empty (and it’s usually somebody else’s fault); and 3. Statism—Government can and should solve all of our problems. It’s easier to hope and pray (to bureaucracies) than to “just do it”.
Be the Solution, a new book by FLOW co-founder Michael Strong, is as much about liberating entrepreneurship as it is a serious critique of the Zero-sum Three. And by Strong’s lights, entrepreneurship is more than just making money. Much more. Drucker and Hayek? Meet Maslow and the Mahatma.
Heard about the new religion? Some contemporary debates center on questions about God in government: Were the Founders attempting to create a secular state in which church and government were strictly separated? Or did they have in mind a Republic that gave a nod to Judeo-Christian moral foundations? In the face of unprecedented socialization in healthcare, banking and other sectors, however, worrying about whether the word “God” appears on a nickel is like worrying about a spider in the bathtub while someone torches your house. In other words, God in government is a conversation for another day. Government as God? This is what we should be talking about.
As America continues to secularize and lurch leftward, Americans have found something new to believe in. And government has everything a hungry, anxious spirit requires.
Consider the parallels (X = God or Government):
1. In times of crisis, people turn to X to give them comfort and pray X will solve all their problems. 2. X possesses special knowledge about the affairs of ordinary people, which even they themselves do not possess. 3. X has a special power to intercede in their affairs to positive effect, as long as they are faithful and obedient. 4. Forces beyond anyone’s control can be tamed by the will of X. 5. X can work through proxies and agents to exert his will. They are anointed by X. 6. X requires sacrifice, whether in tithes (taxes) or submission to His will. 7. Such sacrifices to X are rewarded tenfold (by X), who had infinite resources. 8. People organize and evangelize to their fellow men in order to convert them. 9. Raids and crusades have been justified in the name of X, particularly during times of crisis. 10. X is personified in the form of a messiah.
There’s one little catch. Madison reminded us over 200 years ago: men are no angels.
Full disclosure: I’m an atheist. So I’m not concerned about growing secularism. I say live and let live; pray as you like and leave me to my beliefs. What keeps me up at night is the fact that we, as Americans, have begun to lose faith in ourselves—i.e. in the Weberian sense (work ethic) and the Tocquevillian sense (voluntary association).
Indeed, I rather prefer faith of the religious variety, as long as it is kept to a slow burn within the hearts of individuals who tolerate religious difference in others. Indeed, what distinguishes the faithful from the worshipers of Government is that most religious folks see charitable acts as motivated from within—and moral responsibility for one’s fellow man lies in one’s breast. Worshipers of government are not so tolerant. They’re not nearly as concerned with your intentions. They have apotheosized compulsion itself, which means they’re worshiping government power. Despite all the talk of “social justice” and the “common good,” they cannot escape the fact that politics is the means by which men bend other men to their will and call it right. Liberty is the casualty.
I want to share with you a little of my experience of what turned out to be a rare and wonderful event for me. I was privileged to attend a conference on the study of spontaneous (emergent) order. There were people from various disciplines in attendance. In the interests of searching for that lingua franca among the several strands of thought, there was very little name dropping and a lot of discovery. But a number of names did come up, many of which you may know. It will give you an idea what a treat for the intellectually curious this weekend turned out to be:
Ilya Prigogine F. A. Hayek Michael Oakeshott Stuart Kauffman Michael Polanyi John Rawls Jane Jacobs Wallace Stevens
If it was only the dark voice of the sea That rose, or even colored by many waves; If it was only the outer voice of sky And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled, However clear, it would have been deep air, The heaving speech of air, a summer sound Repeated in a summer without end And sound alone. But it was more than that, More even than her voice, and ours, among The meaningless plungings of water and the wind, Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres Of sky and sea. It was her voice that made The sky acutest at its vanishing. She measured to the hour its solitude. She was the single artificer of the world In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea, Whatever self it had, became the self That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, As we beheld her striding there alone, Knew that there never was a world for her Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know, Why, when the singing ended and we turned Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights, The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there, As night descended, tilting in the air, Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon, The maker's rage to order words of the sea, Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred, And of ourselves and of our origins, In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.