CNN’s Poll and the Youth for Rand Paul

Youth for Rand Paul has raised the issue that a recent CNN poll may not be accurately capturing Rand Paul’s support because the poll had no respondents less than 50 years old.

Check out the PDF of the poll results:

Page 33 has “N/A” for voters under 50 years old.

Page 34 has “N/A” for voters under $50K income per year and “N/A” for voters without a college degree.

Page 35 has “N/A” for voters from the Northeast, the West, the Midwest, and voters who are Urban and Rural.

Page 35 has “N/A”  for voters who oppose the Tea Party.

So, a fair reading of these poll results is that they only represent people who live in the South, who don’t oppose the Tea Party, who make more than $50K and are over 50 years old. And they live in suburbs.

What results would we see if CNN had taken a more complete sample?

Adaptive Efficiency in Institutional Change

What I have termed adaptive efficiency is an ongoing condition in which society continues to modify or create new institutions as problems evolve…. An underlying source appears to have been the development of a set of informal institutional constraints that have been powerful restraints against rigid monopoly in all its guises.

— Douglass North, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, (p. 169)

Coordination in the Market and Public Squares

Update: We had a few technical difficulties, but I think we still got a lot of good ideas on tape. My pre-podcast notes are below — KDR


This post serves as my rough notes for the podcast we plan on recording tonight with Dr. Troy Camplin and Keith Parsons (and perhaps one or two other surprise guests).

We will extend our conversation from the last podcast, “Getting to the Hayekian Network” in which Camplin and I talked about how he came to study social networks from a Hayekian point of view. Camplin’s paper by the same name describes different kinds of social networks, that are broadly categorized into two kinds: hierarchical, planned organizations, and unplanned spontaneous orders.

Particularly, we’ll take a look at theoretical framework presented by Richard Wagner in his book Fiscal Sociology and a review of this book by Adam Martin.

Martin’s rendering of Wagner’s framework, which I think would be amenable to a lot of the structural characterization that Troy has in his “Getting to the Hayekian Network” paper. Three quotes:

“state” — a network of hierarchically organized enterprises that dominates the legal stewardship of the commons. By dominion I mean neither that the state controls all of the commons, nor that such control is absolute… freedom of entry into legal adjudication within the commons is effectively curtailed

In a society with a state, private adjudication may exist for contractual relations without nullifying our common sense notion that the state has a monopoly on coercion. The key is the exercise of legal dominion within the commons, where contractual relations are absent but individuals still interact.

Wagner depicts social order as an ecology of interconnected plans that originate from the market square and the public square alike. Private enterprises engage in production and exchange while public enterprises also take in and disperse tax revenue.  Out of this ecology of intersecting plans — some complementary, some rivalrous — emerge fiscal patterns of taxation and expenditure.

Adam Martin asks questions that I think will be productive starting points for our conversation about our own views of these spheres (forums) that we live inside of:

The classical liberal question: Where should the boundary be drawn between the commons and the sphere of individual autonomy?

The libertarian question: What are the dangers of a nexus of hierachically organized governmental enterprises dominating the commons?

The anarchist question: Should such a nexus exist at all?

The anarcho-capitalist question: Can the feedback generated by market processes improve legal stewardship of the commons?

Lies, Damn Lies, and Intelligence

Recently, the Daily Beast reported that the Obama administration (at least some of the administration lackeys) had been cooking the intelligence gathered by lower level agents. Or at least cooking the analysis of lower level analysts.

I think this is a pure illustration of Gordon Tullock’s brilliant analysis of Bureaucracy. Tullock argues that the larger the bureaucracy the less correspondence exists between the knowledge of the lowest level persons who are applying the policies and the administrators who are overseeing them.

I don’t think Tullock’s analysis directly captures this situation because in this story, people at the top are actively incentivizing, or communicating in some way that the actual information should not reach the top of the bureaucracy, which is of course President Obama himself. A different story should be casted and promoted.

Who are these people and why would they think such a policy would help secure the United States? Sounds like an instance of the Ostrich Effect (h/t Tom Thrasher).

Blub, Education, and Expertise

Today, I read an interesting post by computer scientist Hal Fulton on a Ruby group I follow. It reminded me of the problem of paradigmatic blinders that I wrote about several years ago on the Free Liberal blog, “Blub in America: Can We See Better Options”

I think it is a general problem that people have, not knowing what the edge of their understanding looks like and what facts or concepts lay outside that boundary. What’s outside (or above/below) conceptually is not a part of what we might call amateur or folk theorizing. Paul Graham has a great piece on it regarding software.

FA Hayek says, “The overall problem is not merely to make use of given knowledge, buy to discover as much information as is worth searching for in prevailing conditions” (The Fatal Conceit).

Search is optimization, but there is also browsing, casual learning, and arm-chair conjectures with thoughtful friends. What should we pursue and for how long? When do we know that we know enough for a given problem set, and what have we given up to find this knowledge?

I hesitate to either condemn or endorse formal education, because while I think having an expert make the yardstick of what is a sufficient and complete base of understanding, the true intellectual is always digging deeper, checking priors against new data, and opening him or herself to opportunities for transcendence. Radical personal honesty is a part of developing this character type.

Somerset Maugham tells us of the Verger and what happened when he refused to learn to read. This is a lovely film adaptation, running about 20 minutes. Dan Klein weaves the verger story into his discussion of knowledge flat-talk.

The point is that what knowledge you pursue depends on your goals. Your goals may in turn relate back to your state of knowledge. Transcending our limitations may have more to do with our institutional environment than our own thoughts and purposes, even though we probably also need good mental strategies for navigating given institutional structures. In my view, this is the purpose of education as an ongoing project — to help ourselves see new horizons.

President Obama, Education Freedom President?

President Obama has made two broad strokes for education freedom lately. He stood up against the political correctness/trigger warning crowd by saying, “That’s not how we learn.” Today, he invited to the White House Ahmed Mohammed, the Dallas teen bullied by idiotic school officials and sheriff deputies, “It looks like a movie bomb to me.”

But will President Obama embrace school choice?

He hasn’t been the greatest supporter of education choice here in DC.

Social Norms and the Free Society

We must endeavour to view them with the eyes of other people, or as other people are likely to view them.

We don’t have to agree on everything.

That’s the point of free society. We only need rules to deal with boundaries and boundary crossings. The determination of those boundaries ought to be through an ongoing process of law (not legislation) and also as a social process where social norms help us determine what is acceptable in shared spaces. The basis of libertarian thought is that you at least own your mind, body, and home and in so far as you are not violating others’ rights to the same, you are free to do what you want.

This doesn’t say that what you choose to do is GOOD or should be followed by others.

Society, literature, family, and education all serve as counterpoints to our own personal mishegoss and our own worst impulses. Adam Smith writes:

The love and admiration which we naturally conceive for those whose character and conduct we approve of, necessarily dispose us to desire to become ourselves the objects of the like agreeable sentiments, and to be as amiable and as admirable as those whom we love and admire the most. Emulation, the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel, is originally founded in our admiration of the excellence of others. Neither can we be satisfied with being merely admired for what other people are admired. We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable for what they are admirable. But, in order to attain this satisfaction, we must become the impartial spectators of our own character and conduct. We must endeavour to view them with the eyes of other people, or as other people are likely to view them. When seen in this light, if they appear to us as we wish, we are happy and contented. But it greatly confirms this happiness and contentment when we find that other people, viewing them with those very eyes with which we, in imagination only, were endeavouring to view them, see them precisely in the same light in which we ourselves had seen them. Their approbation necessarily confirms our own self-approbation. Their praise necessarily strengthens our own sense of our own praiseworthiness. In this case, so far is the love of praise-worthiness from being derived altogether from that of praise; that the love of praise seems, at least in a great measure, to be derived from that of praise-worthiness.

But the qualification of these is a process and can’t be dictated by some government official (whose information will always be less than is available to society). See Hayek.

Kim Davis, Anarchist Hero


The ethos is, “break the rules, break the system.”

The best thing is to not have government and let the local protection/law-giver service determine the best way to adjudicate contracts. That would maximize liberty, because everyone would be required to say “liberty” and push a liberty button confirming their Liberty Service for another hour. Otherwise, enforcement agents of the Liberty Service would be required to storm the premises of deviating Liberty Service providers and administer electro-shock treatments to non-complying members.

Kim Davis, anticipating this state of relative anarchy, has wisely suggested that all Liberty Service is a matter of personal discretion. Her claim will be evaluated by the local protection service, and if necessary, she will be electro-shocked, or otherwise penalized by the this Authority, unless a competing Authority should come and fight and win a street battle with guns, knives, etc. Liberty Service is null and void upon all applications of protection in a *discontinued* area.

Kim Davis, who was recently jailed by Men Wearing Robes,  is now free to exercise her jaunty, free-spirited rejection of the homosexuals. She says “no” like they say “yes”.

Microaggressions and the Frail Young American Mind

Greg Lukianoff being interviewed about the article
Greg Lukianoff talks microaggressions

Great video and article at The Atlantic about the ruinous doctrine of being responsible for everyone’s hurt feelings. He stresses that we should recognize that American families have raised a generation that don’t believe that there should be any pain in life.

The alternative is to teach young people to think, which involves challenging their ideas and potentially causing some pain. From Lukianoff’s article (co-authored with Jonathan Haidt):

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.