Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Elane Photography: It's time to switch talking points.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in Elane Photography, the socially liberal left and the socially conservative right have abruptly switched talking points on whether we should be left alone to live life as we see fit or submit to government to impose a common moral code on all of us, on whether we should trust democracy or ask the judicial branch to protect our rights from the howling mob. Be careful what you wish for; you just might will get it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Someone actually said this: Robert Caro on Manhattan's bookstore desert

We read in this New York Times article that rising rents in some of America's richest neighborhoods, as well as new business models such as online shopping, are driving booksellers out of Manhattan. At least one person has already called for government to step in and do something:
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m working in a field that’s disappearing right under my feet,” said the biographer and historian Robert Caro, who is a lifelong New Yorker.

* * *

“How can Manhattan be a cultural or literary center of the world when the number of bookstores has become so insignificant?” he asked. “You really say, has nobody in city government ever considered this and what can be done about it?”

I hope not; do we need subsidized rents for bookstores on Fifth Avenue? Nonetheless, I imagine that someone in city government has considered it. One of the first things that we learned in law school is "Not every bummer is a tort," but in today's political climate, every bummer is a call for government action.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: evolve

evolve, v.i. to be altered to suit changing political expediency: The candidate's position on that issue has evolved.

How you see your Maine coon....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today's vocabulary term: appeal to nature

appeal to nature, n. phr. an informal logical fallacy that says that something is good because it is natural or bad because it is unnatural. When I read a letter to the editor saying that nonhuman animals don't do such-and-such, I wonder how often nonhuman animals write letters to the editor.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Someone actually wrote this: Jeremy Rifkin, "The Rise of Anti-Capitalism"

I've previously noted the weirdly popular view that because we are approaching a post-scarcity economy, we should determine our political and economic beliefs accordingly. Now, in this column in The New York Times, Jeremy Rifkin attempts to prove that we are approaching what he calls "a zero-marginal-cost economy." Let's look at some of his examples:
The first inkling of the paradox came in 1999 when Napster, the music service, developed a network enabling millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry.

* * *

This phenomenon has even penetrated the manufacturing sector. Thousands of hobbyists are already making their own products using 3-D printers, open-source software and recycled plastic as feedstock, at near zero marginal cost.

So how is this going to work in the rest of the economy? Will we be able to 3D-print everything from cars to electronics in our own homes, or will we just download new ones, as with Napster?

Lest you think that Mr. Rifkin is alone in thinking such things, he informs us, "Industry watchers acknowledge the creeping reality of a zero-marginal-cost economy...." He never identifies those industry watchers, though. As far as he lets on, they could be roadside psychics, and why would I not be surprised?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: bipartisanship

bipartisanship, n. an agreement between two parties, one of which holds that 2+2=3, and the other of which holds that 2+2=5. The agreement involves determining whether, for a given situation, 2+2 shall equal 3, 5, or both simultaneously.