Posted by: John Vandivier | October 22, 2013

Exciting News and New Website!

Whether you are a regular on the site or a visitor, thanks for stopping by! This will be the last post on the site for a while – maybe ever.

I’ll get to the point. I have a new website at!

The reasons are at least threefold:

  1. sites are great, but functionality is limited. In addition, many people sadly do not see sites like these as professional.
  2. Caeconomics is not a great term for marketing reasons. It’s hard to remember and spell. Christian and anarchist themes also make it less than optimized to enter pop culture. With a new site comes a chance to create a more effective message.
  3. In order to make money! It is super difficult to monetize this site. I am also planning to write and sell a book! Cool right?

The idea behind the new site is to take the DIYL concept I’ve discussed here to an entirely new level! “After Economics: Because learning is just the first step.” Catchy right? Have a great day and stop by when you get the chance!

-John Vandivier

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 20, 2013

Politico: Eureka! Tea partiers know science

Source – Politico – Tal Kopan – 10/17/13

A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.
Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.

However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.

Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.
“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.
“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the tea party,” he continued. “All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper’ (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and POLITICO). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”

While Kahan cautioned against thinking the results can be used to explain deep ideological fights over climate change and other politically relevant science, and he said the results wouldn’t change his negative views of the tea party, he did say he will no longer make assumptions about the level of knowledge on his opponents’ side.


Posted by: John Vandivier | October 15, 2013

Conservatism in Media and Pop Culture

In this article I will argue that there are at least a few strong and current examples of conservatism in media and pop culture, although I will not by any means arguing about its degree.

While I am not going to argue that liberalism is the major driver of media and pop culture in this particular article, I do believe it’s true. Quickly, since I have brought that up, I would recommend two comrehensive books on the infiltration of the negative aspects of feminism into media and pop culture. The books are both by Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young and are called Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture and Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men. I like certain aspects of feminism but I do not like the misandristic, or man hating, aspects of it. I argue that those aspects of feminism are tied to liberalism in a paper I did in my undergraduate studies that I will upload if I ever quit being lazy, but the same point is made more comprehensively in those two insufficiently recognized books.

Thank you for reading through that prolonged rabbit trail and I will now get to my point: While I do not want to argue whether conservatism comprises a majority or minority of the messaging behind pop culture or media in this article, I do want to argue that it is not altogether absent. As evidence I will argue that there are examples of conservatism in the production of widely consumed news, music and television.


  • Fox news is a major television outlet with high ratings. I would argue that it is center-right because it contains messaging which is largely friendly to Christianity and in support of a limited or strictly constitutional government.
  • For those who argue that Fox isn’t actually conservative so it doesn’t count, Tom E. Woods Jr. is a far righter and has a talk show which has just hit #2 on iTunes for news and politics. Neither is there any denying how popular Ron Paul and the rest of the liberty movement have gotten, although I admit these things are less mainstream than Fox news.
  • For written news, The Wall Street Journal and New York Post are generally considered center-right and have major circulation.
  • In radio there are several big names and they overlap sometimes with the television names such as in the case of Hannity. There are other big names as well like Limbaugh, Levin and Savage all who have obtained large audiences, at least as far as radio goes anymore.


  • Christian music is a huge industry in the USA. Christian music is somewhat to the ideological right by definition and often songs go further to the right on social issues. Of course it doesn’t address fiscal stuff.

    English: Photo of Justin Hills of Sleeping wit...

    English: Photo of Justin Hills of Sleeping with Sirens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • While there is already a large overt Christian music industry, there is also a large covert Christian music industry. In that industry a band or musician does not identify with Christian music as a genre but still uses Christian messaging. The line gets blurry here because sometimes covert Christian messaging is not distinct from covert messaging of other ideologies, but a little investigation on a band will often reveal from where the motives derive.

  • An example of covert Christian music would be the song “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear” by Sleeping with Sirens. Sleeping with Sirens identifies with the post-hardcore genre. The song condemns lying and states that liars “will pay for [their] sins.” Later the singer asks a mysterious figure, “come down from your tower.” While those lyrics have multiple interpretations, the music in that part of the song is vaguely reminiscent of a Christian worship song which might indicate that the singer is asking God to come down from heaven. Another interpretation would that the singer is asking the liar to stop being an elitist while the music is a case of musical irony. Even if the singer was known to be discussing God and heaven this still doesn’t necessarily indicate Christian messaging. All of this circumstantial evidence indicates that Christian messaging is a possibility, but that possibility is elevated to the status of likely when we do a little research to find that Kellin Quinn, the singer, is a married Christian who wrote and sang songs called “You Saved Me (Under a Cascade of Stars” as well as “Jesus in the Southern Sky” about his explicitly Christian faith while in other bands. We can also look at associated acts which Sleeping with Sirens chooses to have concerts with and other things, but by this point we have a good reason to think that “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear” is based on Christian messaging. Note that I didn’t prove anything, I just found evidence to show that an idea, that a certain song involves Christian ideas, is more likely than its negation, that the song doesn’t involve Christian ideas.
  • Country music is another popular genre in the USA with strong conservative messaging.
  • Rock music is a mixed bag but there is definitely some conservative messaging in there. Rock music sometimes emphasizes individualism and freedom.


  • This may be the most minor of all of the points I make in this article, but it is the one which sparked the idea for the article and which I find most interesting. My wife and I like to watch the TV show Supernatural for fun sometimes. I found the messaging to be vaguely conservative through watching many episodes and developed the hypothesis that the writers, director, actors or someone else
    English: Misha Collins at the 2011 Comic Con i...behind the show, or some combination of those people, was pushing conservative ideas. I never cared enough to do any research on the subject but Tina was checking out biographies of the actors and one thing lead to another and now I have what seems to me to be a substantial body of evidence. Many actors in the show, including the main actors and actors with smaller roles, are married, Christian, from Texas or some combination thereof. One prominent actor in the show, Misha Collins, also acts in the music video for the Christian song “Awakening” by Switchfoot. The show is based on a book series by Alexander C. Irvine and there is reason to believe he is Christian including the fact that Christian is literally his middle name, in addition to the fact that he is married and his books deal with a range of supernatural and spiritual discussions, although I admit that evidence may be weak.
  • It’s not like these professional Christian actors in Supernatural don’t have any other movies or shows. Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and other such actors I was talking about have all been featured in a wide variety of shows and movies.
  • While I think all of that background information on the show is interesting, even if it is ignored the show still seems to have Christian messaging in the actual content of the show. The show has more content then I would like to review here and I could be wrong, but I think it holds true.
  • As an independent small piece of evidence on the side of TV, consider that the TV show American Idol has lead to a large degree of attention for Christian music.

In conclusion I think there is strong reason to conclude that conservatism is present to some degree in media and pop culture. While that degree may be small or large, people who claim that conservatives are “nowhere in pop culture,” like Limbaugh does in this article, I think are mistaken. In fact I would say that Limbaugh has some influence on pop culture himself!

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 14, 2013

Why You Should Reference Wikipedia

This article will discuss reasons to reference Wikipedia pages.

Wikipedia is a great resource with a mixed reputation. It is lauded as an introductory or quick reference, but despised as an academic one. The reason is simply that it is easily edited by just about anyone. This objection is a poor one.

Wikipedia allows the use of ‘permanent links’ which will permanently refer to a frozen copy of a Wikipedia article. I have previously written on how to generate and reference these links. These referenced pages are not editable.

We do need to check Wikipedia’s sources just as we would check the source of any other article, but after verifying that a source is accurately and appropriately used we can freeze the Wikipedia article with a permanent link and reference that link instead of the original article.

Critics of Wikipedia would make yet another objection at this point. Answering that objection is the primary purpose of this article. The objection would be twofold. First they would argue that this is all a great waste of time and we may as well link to the original article. Secondly they would point out that authors have a bias and this fact is worsened because Wikipedia has multiple and sometimes anonymous authors.

Neither of these objections work and I will start with the second objection. The fact that Wikipedia is so easy for anyone to manipulate means that it will over time move to reflect less bias than a particular author would. It will move to reflect some kind of equilibrium consensus of popular opinion. It is true that in some low volume or very new pages there can sometimes be bias, but if you check sources of the article before freezing the page as I previously advised this will not be a problem. In conclusion, ceteris paribus the evidence actually indicates that there will be less bias in a Wikipedia article than in any usual article.

We see that the answer to the second objection provides a positive example of an advantage of using Wikipedia over traditional media which we can use to then refute the first objection, but this is not the only positive advantage. Wikipedia articles reduce bias and they also provide a concise, comprehensive and broad literature review with instant and hyper-linked additional resources on demand. Lastly, they are free. The free thing is significant. There are plenty of articles I have objected to and wanted to check sources on, but they referenced expensive journal articles or books I knew I would never read except for the purpose of checking this one thing. In those cases I had a rational economic motive to avoid verifying that an article was properly sourced. Such is not the case when we use Wikipedia.

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 10, 2013

The Fullness of the Problem of Knowledge

This article will discuss the Problem of Knowledge, in particular as discussed by Hayek. This discussion necessarily relates to the Economic Calculation Problem as discussed by Mises and Hayek. I will argue that the these problems are not simply economic issues, but first policy issues writ large and secondly fundamental human conditions. I will argue that this implies that centralized policy making, or policy making at all for that matter, is an inherently flawed endeavor. Lastly, I will claim that although policy making is technically flawed it is sufficiently functional as a practical matter for small scale organizations.

In his article The Use of Knowledge in Society, Hayek criticizes the rational model of economics. As he mentions, the rational model of economics describes how an economy operates under certain given conditions . In order for an economy to be rationally described there are 4 conditions, 3 of which Hayek mentions and 1 of which is implicit.

  • The system is rational according to the conventional usage at the time in economics. This requirement he made implicitly. A rational system is one in which every social actor chooses to maximize its own utility to the greatest extent possible.
  • The system possess all the relevant information. That was Hayek’s phrasing, but I would assert that the system must have perfect information. Hayek’s phrasing requires that every agent have sufficient information. I would agree, but rather than distinguishing sufficient information from complete information, I would assert that the two values are equal. Regardless, we both mean the same thing: Every agent must have all the information necessary to do whatever they want. Think about this a while because this value is huge. Not only does each person need the information to do what they would do ceteris paribus, but they must have all the information to do what they would absolutely want to do, that is, given any potential combination of conditions.
  • The system has particular preferences and it is aware of its own preferences. This means that every actor is aware of their own personal preferences as well as the collective preferences of the rest of the group. I would say that this is redundant because it is part of all of the relevant information, as is the means, but I suppose Hayek wanted to emphasize these points.
  • The system has known methods of transaction, interaction, production, operation and systemic control. This is called means. We may know that a bread factory produces bread, but only if we know how it produces bread do we have knowledge of the means of production.

The essential implication of the rational model is that for a society to act in optimal fashion it must desire to maximize its own utility and must also have perfect information. I think the first assumption is garbage and I have talked about this before. Not only is rational action not a requirement, it is in fact impossible, not observed in practice and antithetical to what it means to be human.

Hayek takes my complaints about the rationality assumption, but applies them to the other assumption. Hayek shows that perfect information can never be centralized. Criticizing Shumpeter, who claimed that the rational model implies central planning is hypothetically tenable, Hayek says:

“The problem is thus in no way solved if we can show that all the facts, if they were known to a single mind (as we hypothetically assume them to be given to the observing economist), would uniquely determine the solution; instead we must show how a solution is produced by the interactions of people each of whom possesses only partial knowledge.”

In summary, Hayek shows that a decentralized system, namely a market, is the most conducive instrument we have for optimizing information and stimulating rational choice. While he may not have proven that the market is perfect, he certainly demonstrated that central planning is worse.

News flash: This is old news. Hayek isn’t even around anymore. The article was published in NINETEEN FORTY FIVE (1945).

Over HALF A CENTURY LATER, Here is my questions: Why do we insist that economic systems should be constructed to optimize accurate information and rational choice making, but we don’t insist on the development of political and other systems which operate on the same standard? Note:

  • All decisions, not only financial or economic decisions, are superior under perfect information.
  • All decisions, not only financial or economic decisions, are superior under rational choice.
  • All information, not only financial or economic information, is disbursed, resulting in some variant of the Hayekian problem of knowledge.
  • Political systems, laws and so on can be viewed as economic products themselves. Taxes in, service out. Being monopolies, these are inefficient structures. On the other hand, economics can be viewed through a political lens. Every economic action has sociopolitical repercussions. As a result, the dichotomy between politics and economics is a false dichotomy. In fact nearly all systems exhibit this kind of false distinction. I am calling for three kinds of generalized systems theories (and work has already begun on them, but the mainstream is out of the loop): A generalized social systems theory, a generalized naturalistic systems theory, and a super-generalized systems theory, consisting only of those insights which apply to both previously mentioned sub-fields.

I think there are at least five answers for different kinds of people or groups of people to the aforementioned question. I find it likely that people have multiple contributing reasons. The list is substantial not exhaustive:

  1. We don’t. The problem is not demand it is supply. The expected ROI of going out and starting a new country in the past has been less than the expected ROI of maintaining the current, albeit decaying, system. Maybe if it turns into Nazi Germany we will run away, if that’s still an available option at that time, but for now we are content to take it.
  2. Because the structural flaws benefit me! Credit to Patri Friedman for this insight. If a bill passes that taxes every person $1 and benefits a few elites by a few million a year it will pass every time. This is because the opportunity costs of organization far outweigh the benefits for the average person, yet the elites are highly motivated to organize. I really think this basic insight from Petri immediately explains the major reason for the accumulation of corruption of political systems over time.
  3. Apathy.
  4. False beliefs or lack of true beliefs: They never knew about Hayek’s insights or consider the insights false. Rational ignorance plays a role here.
  5. Emotional response rather than logical response. (Patri Friedman thinks this is a major driver.)

I also think two smaller groups of people would be the people who just plain never thought about that before (or never thought about it like that), as well as the people who actually agree and are trying to start new countries. Patri Friedman, as in the link previous, thinks that another large degree of resistance is emotional.

In conclusion we have shown that the belief that the problem of knowledge applies only to economic phenomenon is unjustified and theoretically plausibly wrong, although there is a severe lack of data which might prove that assertion outside of theory. We have also uncovered several of the reasons which preclude development of alternatives. In another post I will discuss how we might overcome those preclusion.

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 9, 2013

Defining Conservative Economics

This article will define conservative economics.

Conservative economics is the same as free market economics, which is also called capitalism or free enterprise. Fiscal conservatism is one example of economic conservatism, but fiscal or budgetary policy comprises only a portion of a government’s ability to manipulate the economy. Conservative economics refers to both fiscal conservatism and free market monetary policy.

Somewhat confusing is the fact that conservative economic policy is not the only economic policy used by conservatives. This is because conservatism refers to a wide array of ideologies including social conservatism and others. A social conservative may refer to himself simply as a conservative, but if he advocates oil subsidies then does not support conservative economic policy. This is something to be very careful about because it happens all the time. Use of a liberal social policy in conjunction with conservative economics amounts to libertarianism.

Republicans are not always conservative and vice versa, but there is a correlation. Therefore this Fairfax County Republican Party page which includes a platform statement is useful for demonstrating what conservative economics often include for specific policies. The page states:

“The Committee adheres to the principles of the Republican Party including lower taxes, limited government, individual responsibility, strong families, free enterprise, and a strong national defense. All who believe in these principles are encouraged to become involved and assist in electing candidates who will work for these principles.”

Those are generally conservative policies, but note that some are socially conservative policies and others constitute conservative economic policies. For example, strong family policy is a social policy.

In my last article I identified 5 schools of economic policy which all essentially lead to conservative economics.

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 8, 2013

5 Sources for Conservative Economics

This article covers 5 books I would recommend for purposes of understanding conservative economics, as well as some other sources.

I am enrolled in a class called Intro to Public Policy at George Mason University. I have enjoyed the class very much so far. We discuss both practical and theoretical ideas with regard to public policy and naturally we have ended up discussing the interaction of markets and politics at great length. The professor had us read a well known book on the topic called The Market System by Charles Lindbolm. In researching this article I found that the book is actually freely available on the web here. You can also read an Austrian criticism on the book here.

Eventually the professor and I agreed that the book leans somewhat to the left and he kindly invited me to recommend some materials which might be more representative of conservative, capitalist and laissez faire economics. To that end I will focus the discussion on a recommendation of 4 books in this article, but I will touch on numerous smaller articles and even a some video as well.

His only request was that I select some relatively up to date texts. He wanted something newer than Milton Friedman’s work Free to Choosewhich he recognized as a classic but felt was now a bit dated. Lindbolm’s book was printed in 2001 so my recommended texts will all be newer than that. I am choosing a moderate Austrian text, a far-right Austrian text, a centrist Chicago school text and a far-right text which is also descended from the Chicago school, but it is so far right that if you go to Chicago and mention it to them they will probably pretend like they don’t know what you are talking about just to avoid conversation.

In order of most ideologically centrist to most ideologically extreme-right:

1) The Virginia School of Public Choice Political Economy

The Virginia School is really where modern Public Choice Theory originated. Gordon Tullock is the father of the science and has written many great books on the subject, but unfortunately they are all dated according to the standard we are using. Interestingly, he taught for a long while at George Mason University and GMU is one of the great incubators of PCT. Dennis Mueller is another important figure in Public Choice Theory and he has appropriately been both President of the Southern Economic Association and also a long time professor in Austria, earning the title of Professor Emeritus in 2008. Mueller single-handedly shows the very appropriate web of links between the South, conservative economics, public choice political philosophy, Virginia and Austria. He also has a current book! I am happy to recommend Public Choice III, the book which marks the furthest left you can go and still be an economic conservative. If you would like to fork out nearly $500, he also edited the extremely pricey and extremely awesome The Economics of Politics, a two-volume anthology of political economy in history and theory.

2) The Hayekian Tradition of the Austrian School of Economics

The Austrian school is a now relatively mature school of economics which has undergone several internal fractures over time. Hayek’s brand of Austrianism, which is a actually a little left of mainline Austrianism, is about center-right on the American spectrum, putting it at right about the same spot as Public Choice Theory. For example, The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute among others are influenced by this brand of Austrianism. Hayek’s popularity is perhaps nowhere better demonstrated than in a well known YouTube “Epic Rap Battle of History.” Part 1 is shown below:


Hayek is notable among Austrians in that he supported some government intervention, but in a very peculiar sense. He thought that markets could essentially handle anything and should not be interfered with at all, but he thought that governments had to conduct certain nightwatchman duties to ensure that markets could form. This would be essentially limited to police and military, with a few other minimal services. While this may sound like an obvious idea to a non-economist, there is a surprising lack of carrying on of this tradition by modern economists. I would say that Thomas Solow is probably the only person I can think of who both maintains an overall Hayek-esque attitude and also writes with authority on the subject. While the book is rather long, I would have to recommend Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy.

3) The Rothbardian Tradition of the Austrian School of Economics

The most extreme brand of Austrianism which is still large enough to have a recognized school of scholars is the Rothbardian School. As mentioned in this article, this is the school of economics which Ron Paul advocates. For this job I would recommend Thomas DiLorenzo’s work Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government. First, the book is very current. It was published in 2012. Secondly, the Rothbardian School makes a vast volume of interesting and unorthodox claims and as such a proper treatment would usually require reading several different books. DiLorenzo’s approach is to take a non-technical and light-depth survey of the whole field rather than a deep economic look at a particular part of the field. Finally, his book is available entirely free through the Ludwig von Mises Institute at this link.

4) The  Kind of Chicago School of Anarcho-Capitalism

When I say Kind of Chicago School, don’t be fooled. This school has some serious brain power behind it in the form of David Friedman, a theoretical physicist, law professor and the son of the great Chicago School economist Milton Friedman. David’s son, born in Virginia, has contributed to the field as well. The reason I call it Kind of Chicago School is that Chicago as a whole has moved left of Milton Friedman in what is now called Modern Monetary Theory and simultaneously diminished in repute. They do not accept David’s ideas and David does not teach there, nor does David teach economics at all on the university level. On the other hand, David’s ideas are clearly derivative of his father’s. David’s book The Machinery of Freedom is a legendary work in the field and is freely available but dated. At the risk of recommending a book I haven’t read yet, Edward Stringham is yet another GMU alumni and also a known and current propagator of anarcho-capitalism. One of his books, Anarchy and the Law, the Political Economy of Choice is reputed as comprehensive (over 700 pages) and highly rated (5 stars on amazon). It is also said to be written in a fashion much clearer than David writes. Here is a short video where David somewhat introduces the concept:

5) The Real Chicago School of Economics

Thomas Sowell is a powerhouse of conservative and libertarian thought with a knack for not sounding as crazy as Friedman’s lineage, at the potential cost of failing to carry his own ideas to their logical conclusion. This very center-right school should still be taken note of because, alongside Public Choice, it is the one of the most popular schools of thought. Gary Becker is another big Chicago guy and specializes in family and behavioral economics which is a big field these days. Books I would recommend from these guys include Sowell’s Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy and Becker’s Social Economics: Market Behavior in a Social Environment.

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 7, 2013

Easy Activism

This article will cover 3 easy methods of activism. They can be used for political purposes, marketing, teaching and anything else that involves calling people to action.

The 3 methods are online activism, activism through guest calling radio shows and conversation tips for personal conversations, which is sometimes called “canvassing.”

Online Activism

Tom Woods is a great writer and teacher in the liberty movement. It could be mere coincidence, but after a quick discussion with him via social media today he uploaded a radio episode to YouTube which is something I had requested. See the pictures below:

A similar encounter occurred in a discussion with Bryan Fischer, the well known conservative talk show host of Focal Point With Bryan Fischer on AFR Talk:

As you can see I simply took a few seconds out of my day to make a call to action in the comments section of things they posted. Wording is key here. Do not be aggressive and find people to pitch to where it will result in a mutual benefit. Tom Woods promotes alternative education so I pitched him on Degreed. Bryan Fischer is a social conservative leader so I pitched him on ID.

This kind of online activism works with all manner of online media including forums, Reddit, blogs and so on, but I have noticed that it works particularly well with social media such as Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Twitter and YouTube.

Calling In To Radio Shows

Speaking of Brian Fischer, calling into radio shows is a great method of activism as well. In all these kinds of activism be sure to look for key players to pitch to. If you convince a nobody that you have a great idea, you have just convinced nobody that you have a great idea. One problem with the radio method is that radio shows worth calling usually have far too many calls to squeeze in to the limited call taking time they allot. Use this method if you have a show you like and would listen to anyway. That creates a twofold benefit. First, if you like the material the show usually puts out it’s more likely that the usual audience of the show will be somewhat like you and therefore may be sympathetic to your ideas. Secondly, if you call and don’t get in you would have listened anyway so it’s not such a waste of time.

Word of Mouth Activism and Canvassing

First try to gauge the other person’s sensitivity level by asking a general question related to your specific call to action. For example you might ask, “What do you think about politics?” If the answer is, “I don’t like to talk about that” then take that into consideration and end the conversation quickly. You can still put in a related call to action as you wrap up. You might say, “Oh ya I understand. It is a sensitive topic isn’t it? I just bring it up because I was reading [insert book title here] yesterday and I thought it was pretty interesting. You should check it out you might be surprised.”

If the person is comfortable talking more directly then don’t shy away from getting to your point, but try not to be aggressive either. “So do you vote Democrat? Why…?” Be open minded and actually listen to what they have to say. Make your call to action and get a definitive answer. Turning questions into a simple yes or no makes things simpler many times. You might ask, “So will you meet me there at 6 pm next Monday?”

Lastly, be sure never to set yourself up as the final authority or you will have your bluff called. Rather, try to talk someone else up and you will be recognized as someone who thinks highly of others rather than yourself. Additionally, talking other people up can be used as a tactic to motivate action. You might say, “I know a good deal about this product but the guy I work with in the company actually invented our product. He’s wicked smart and surprisingly nice. You should come meet him next week. He can probably tell you a few interesting details I missed.”

I would also note that calling people to commit an easy action is usually more likely to be effective than calling them to conduct a difficult action. Getting an email is usually easier than making a sale and so on.

I hope this helps!

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 6, 2013

Secession Arguments

This article addresses certain ways secession might be done legally, but does not address whether or not that is actually a good idea.

The Texas Argument

I’m from Texas and I just want to get this one out of the way. Texas might be able to secede, but if it can it’s not due to any sort of special Texas privilege. The common argument here is that the Texas constitution provides that Texas has a special privilege to secede. Daniel Miller and the Texas Nationalist Movement are big on this. I have not found any good support for that claim. I think this article from The Blaze covers that rather well. You can read on other Texas secession movements here. Really fun reading.

The Historical Argument

This argument holds that states seceded twice before. First the US seceded from Britain and second The Confederacy seceded. The argument makes two points. First, if we did it before we can do it again. The natural problem with this argument is that it didn’t work during the Civil War and caused lots of death and problems. The second Historical Argument point is that since the US has tried to engage in secession there is precedent, and that precedent is strongly supported by a body of legal theory and so on as we will discuss later. This point is seperate from the first point. The first point is that some states are practically able to secede as shown by history. The second point is that even if we are not practically able to secede we should be allowed to legally and politically secede due to the fact that there is precedent. Many even argue that Lincoln was behaving illegally and unconstitutionally by declaring war on The Confederacy.

The Second Historical Argument, AKA The IDGAF Argument

There is a particularly crazy group of people who want to get themselves killed and they make an extreme version of the historical argument. They say that legal theories aside, the only way secession actually works is through rebellion. For example, it was illegal for the US to originally rebel against the British but they did it anyway and won. To reference Texas again, where we find a surprising number of these folks, Texas gained independence from Mexico by illegally and successfully revolting. The IDGAF Argument holds, therefore, that it doesn’t matter if it is legal or not, a state can simply illegally rebel to obtain independence. I suppose this is true, but really? If you’re going to have a rebellion that you think might actually succeed, pick somewhere besides the US.

The Nullification Argument

This argument holds that secession is the equivalent of “nullification writ-all.” The argument is that a state can nullify federal law under what essentially break into two circumstances. The first circumstance is that the federal law violates the federal constitution. In that case the state can supposedly “nullify” or ignore federal law. The key issue here is the question of who gets to interpret the constitution. It really is the Federalists vs the Anti-Federalists all over again. The new federalists who support empowering the national government would use the classic argument that of course the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution! Duh! Chief Justice John Marshall made this true through his ruling on Marbury v. Madison which established the principle of judicial review.

“Not so fast!” Quip the new anti-federalists, as perhaps typified by Tom Woods. This group would say that John Marshall’s attempt to give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review was itself unconstitutional because The Constitution and The Bill of Rights do not give the federal government any such power, but expressly guarantee all other powers to the states and the people. Therefore the ability to render a law constitutional or unconstitutional is in the hands of the states and the people.

The other condition for nullification is altogether different. Some states such as Virginia, but not all states, have in their own constitutions particularly clauses which allow them to “retain” powers which the federal government violates. If the government says Virginians must eat soap, but the Virginia constitution says that only Virginia has the right to tell its citizens whether or not to eat soap, then by the Virginia constitution those powers will be retained to the state. This is another form of nullification.

The Argument from Freedom of Assembly

This argument holds that a state is simply an agreement of association between people and the federal government is the same. Because the Bill of Rights protects the Freedom of Assembly, it is argued, then the states and people can voluntarily dissolve these agreements. There are three problems raised by opponents of this argument. The first is that freedom of assembly may not include freedom of dis-assembly. The second argument is that the right to dis-assembly does exist, but it must be done through amendment to the constitution or through a constitutional congress process, both of which are practically difficult. The final, and most scary I would say, objection opponents raise is to claim that freedom of assembly is not absolute. It is a conditional freedom which may be violated if the federal government has good enough reasons. Things slip quickly down the slope from there as the government is left to determine what constitutes a good enough reason.

The Moral Argument

There is really no moral argument. There are a whole family of different moral arguments. They basically all agree that if the government violates some kind of moral law then it becomes permissible or even required to oppose the government. The Founding Fathers themselves used this kind of argument. My objection to this is that the US has become so ideologically heterogeneous that any deeply moral argument will not, I don’t think, gather enough support to be useful.

I do think there is a distinction between a deep moral argument and a shallow moral argument. A deep moral argument would be one made from a particular religion, or even from a particular interpretation of a particular religion. It would be very deep and convincing for a small number of people. A shallow moral argument would use moral arguments that are consistent with a large number of religions and therefore a large number of people might support it. I think a good example of a shallow moral argument is the Non-Aggression Principle used by libertarians.

My objection to shallow principles like this, however, is that I am not convinced anyone would be willing to lay down their life for a shallow principle. So I see a lose-lose choice for the Moral Argument these days. Perhaps there is some argument out there which can generate sufficient power for organized resistance at a level that would overcome the US’s ability to enforce but I’m skeptical.

The Ultimate Problem With Secession is The Reverse IDGAF Argument

In conclusion, remember the argument where some people don’t care about law and politics? They say that it comes down to who has the power of force. Whoever can enforce the law is the real sovereign. This argument is ultimately true, but it cuts both ways. This argument is actually the primary problem with any argument for secession.

Let’s say the arguments for nullification and others are hypothetically all correct. In this situation the states and people should be able to secede. Unfortunately, contrary to what should happen is what could happen. If the President doesn’t agree with the people, the states, or even the other branches of the federal government he can simply choose to enforce laws otherwise.

Posted by: John Vandivier | October 5, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill allowing more than two legal parents

[From John: The slippery slope is not a fallacy but a matter of reality when it comes to certain issues like modifying the legal definition of marriage and parenthood. Family structure is a foundational institution in any society and the nuclear family is the optimal arrangement of that structure. Societies are also chaotic systems in certain ways which means that if one wrong structure is nudged the wrong way, much like nudging gravity a little bit, it can result in dramatic changes.]

Older Posts »