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  • Archive for the 'Tradeoffs' Category

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Christopher Hitchens:

    Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

    This wears well.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Quotations, Rhetoric, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    SWOT Analysis of Boston Marathon Bombing

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2013 (All posts by )

    Negative items (weaknesses and threats) first.

    Overconcentration of political belief systems by geography and especially by vocation, notably in journalism; the corresponding threat is misdiagnosis of motivation and identity of perpetrators.
    This was on full display over the past week, and although the most prominent examples were instances of the amazingly robust narrative about a supposed right-wing fundamentalist Christian underground, the persistence of which reveals a great deal about the mindset of the “liberal” bien-pensant, they’re not the only ones who have this problem. Claiming that people in Boston are cowering under their beds and wishing they had AR-15s, or casually accusing various (and singularly unimpressive) American politicians of being Communists, isn’t much better than fantasizing about entirely nonexistent WASP terrorists. And there has already been at least one wild-goose chase in recent years, the nationwide Federal investigation to find the co-conspirators of Scott Roeder in the assassination of George Tiller. He didn’t have any, and was known very early on to have acted alone. Your tax dollars nonetheless went to work; see also “memetic parasitism,” below.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Top-Down Failure, and the Alternative

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th April 2013 (All posts by )

    Wretchard discusses recent notorious Type II system failures. The Colorado theater killer’s shrink warned the authorities to no avail. The underwear bomber’s father warned the authorities to no avail. The Texas army-base jihadist was under surveillance by the authorities, who failed to stop him. Administrators of the Atlanta public schools rigged the academic testing system for their personal gain at the expense of students and got away with it for years. Wretchard is right to conclude that these failures were caused by hubris, poor institutional design and the natural limitations of bureaucracies. The question is what to do about it.

    The general answer is to encourage the decentralization of important services. If government institutions won’t reform themselves individuals should develop alternatives outside of those institutions. The underwear bomber’s fellow passengers survived because they didn’t depend on the system, they took the initiative. That’s the right approach in areas as diverse as personal security and education. It’s also the approach most consistent with American cultural and political values. It is not the approach of our political class, whose interests are not aligned with those of most members of the public.

    The Internet is said to route itself around censorship. In the coming years we are going to find out if American culture can route itself around the top-down power grabs of our political class and return to its individualistic roots. Here’s hoping.

    Posted in America 3.0, Human Behavior, National Security, Political Philosophy, RKBA, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 7 Comments »

    Google Reader: The End

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 14th March 2013 (All posts by )

    Google will discontinue Reader, their online newsfeed reader for RSS and Atom, on July 1, 2013. Reader users must find a replacement.

    Google is killing Reader as part of a spring cleaning ritual where products with little following are sacrificed:

    We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.

    Finding a Reader replacement is complicated by why Reader’s usage declined: those who used newsfeed readers to follow blogs and other web syndicated content now use “social media” like Facebook, Twitter, or even iTunes. A small minority even use Google Plus, Google’s most recent try at “social media”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Internet, Tech, Tradeoffs | 3 Comments »

    Prohibition: 16 Results

    Posted by leifsmith on 24th December 2012 (All posts by )

    When a law bans exchanges wanted by everyone directly involved a number of things happen:

    1) The exchanges continue;

    2) Prices of the banned items rise and wars to control turf begin;

    3) New criminals are created, including many people who are ordinary good people (like colored margarine seekers);

    4) New enforcement agencies and staff are created;

    5) New jails are built and new jailers are trained;

    6) Laws, lawyers and lawsuits proliferate;

    7) A new branch of law and its practitioners prosper and support further extension and complexification of regulations;

    8) A portion of the entire apparatus of enforcement and punishment is progressively corrupted;

    9) New agencies and staff are created to discover, eliminate or suppress the corruption;

    10) Many begin to support ever more drastic suppression and punishment;

    11) A profitable subliminal partnership emerges unifying the interests of violators and enforcers as the profits from the illegal trade are negotiated and distributed among them;

    12) The business engages all of the following: bad people buying and selling, good people buying and selling, police, judges, academics, enforcement trainers and suppliers, prison builders and suppliers, staff to support all of this, journalists to cover it, media organizations to sell the coverage;

    13) Completely uninvolved people are caught in crossfires, including taxpayers;

    14) The costs of controlling the new flourishing evil continue to grow seemingly without limit;

    15) The vast network of beneficiaries of the law applaud and lobby for its continuation, vilifying all opposition;

    16) Everyone gets more and more discouraged and inclined to hate all humanity. This list is probably too short.

    However all of these bad things may be balanced by the fact that creative people are engaged in producing media based on the things that happen because of the prohibition, and by watching and reading we all learn delightful new things about how the world works. (channeling Voltaire).

    It is not enough to simply ban exchanges that have consequences we don’t like. The costs of doing it should be compared with the costs of not doing it. Those costs usually dwarf the costs that would arise from unhindered transactions.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, Political Philosophy, Society, Tradeoffs | 25 Comments »

    Rousseau, A Golden Past, & the Academic as Luddite

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2012 (All posts by )

    This was a comment that got out of hand. It is not a great point, but I do think that some of the academic response to – well, everything – is at once more complicated and simpler than sometimes posited here.

    Sure, academia is turf building – and this really didn’t happen until faculty moved from teaching 3-5 classes at all levels to only teaching upper level and teaching 1-2 a semester. (And we probably don’t want to get into “Studies” and “Centers”.) You don’t have time to build turf with the old loads. We certainly don’t at our jr college, where everyone but administrators teach 5, all teach mostly freshmen, and even departmental administrators (to departments of 100 in schools of 13,000 students) teach a class or two and have no secretaries. (I will say that we are an unusually hard-working or, perhaps, an unusually hard-worked campus, but we appreciate one another. We have to – nor do we give “walks”: if we are in the hospital, someone covers.)

    Research university faculty sometimes loses its ability to communicate with generalists, let alone freshmen. Intense publish or perish standards sometimes led to superficiality and new theories for the sake of “newness.”

    I would argue, though, that Schumpeter’s theory, as I understand it, does have remarkable relevance. So does modern criticism’s alienation from the Scottish common sense guys and alignment with Rousseau: they are Luddites who fear change. The word progressive to describe such thinkers is preposterous.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Markets and Trading, Tradeoffs | 1 Comment »

    The Apocalypse – the fear we always have – and Fogel – the cheer we might consider

    Posted by Ginny on 12th July 2012 (All posts by )

    Well the apocalypse may be near. But our generation has been lucky. Maybe we’ve taken from the next – but time and space aren’t zero sum either – we can explore both, fill both.

    I haven’t digested Robert William Fogel’s Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100 (his tables alone are beyond me – besides much else). Still, reading him, I pause in delight and gratitude. The very concepts of “premature death,” “wasting,” and “stunting” open windows – time becomes different much as Amerians in the mid-nineeenth century saw their horizons recede & enlarge. It stretched their limbs & imaginations: leaving from St. Louis, they knew some of that land would be theirs – earned by sweat as it never could be in the still feudal worlds some came from. Space liberated them. Fogel describes an enlargement of time – time for us, time with and for our children. He also describes productivity, consciousness – the energy to live fully in that time we’re given (the image of French peasants hibernating in the winters to save food doesn’t leave my mind).

    Time is a recurrent literary theme, its fleeting nature the tension of carpe diem. Man’s time countered by redeemed time permeates Eliot’s Quartet, is a mystery in Wallace Stevens and an ache in Frost. Foolishly, we think we can endlessly revise, all is revocable – this permeates Prufrock’s rather inadequate approach. Franklin tells us time is the stuff life is made of – use it. Well, yes, but did he mean what we do? Is it that disconnect that leads us to fragmented training? Dalrymple notes a shallow approach to time (and history) creates a different art.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, History, Lit Crit, Tradeoffs | 3 Comments »

    (A) Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th July 2012 (All posts by )

    Wretchard:

    But though they may hate the Pax Americana, the Greens probably can’t live without it. Can’t live without the Ipods, the connectivity, the store-bought food, the cafe-bought lattes — all the ugly things made by private industry. And by paring down the redundancies in the system as wasteful and unsightly; by reducing the energy reserves of the system in favor of such fairy schemes as windmills and carbon trading the Greens have made the system far less robust than it could have been. Because they are never going to need the Design Margin. Ever. Until they do.

    Posted in Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Leftism, Management, Quotations, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 14 Comments »