Looters tend to be ingrates

Taken from a review of Tyler Cowen’s Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero

“How is this tweet, from “Dina,” for showing lack of gratitude toward business? “If you think about it. People with glasses are literally paying to use their eyes. Capitalism is a bitch.” Shortly after it was posted, it had accumulated 257,000 likes, surely with more to come.”

It’s both more and less than a lack of gratitude. Big Rock Candy Mountain would not impress her.

I wonder about her reaction should she ever hear of Iron Lungs, or Polio vaccine. Or, for that matter, food stores.

“Dina, here’s a free, live sheep. It’s your food and clothing supplement for the next quarter. Otherwise, you just get subsistence quantities of basic protein paste and three yards of poor quality burlap salvaged from potato sacks.

Other people’s labor supplied the sheep (as well as the protein paste and burlap) so you can learn to how to butcher, preserve meat, tan hides, and sew. And to make your own knives, saws, sewing tools, refrigerator, and electricity. People are literally paying you to learn existentially valuable skills.

After you’ve acquired those skills, you’ll need to work on how to raise sheep. Society can’t afford this gift indefinitely.

After that, you could look into creating a global transportation system to ship any excess sheep to Venezuela. We hear people there would literally pay for them.”

Justice among the socialists

A New York City high school which produces makers is under attack by looters.

No Ethnic Group Owns Stuyvesant. All New Yorkers Do.
-Boaz Weinstein

“Admission to Stuyvesant was and remains determined by a single test available to all middle school students in the city. There are no soft criteria for admission: no interviews, no favoritism for legacies, no strings to be pulled. It’s all about whether you do well on the test, which best determines whether or not you can do the academic work.

You would think that Mayor Bill de Blasio would celebrate Stuyvesant as the crown jewel of the city’s school system. Instead, he has announced a plan that will destroy it in all but name.

This month, the mayor said he would seek legislation that would eliminate the test completely. Instead, he’d guarantee automatic admission to Stuyvesant — and the seven other specialized high schools in the city — for the top students at every middle school, regardless of their abilities.

The mayor says he is trying to address what is undoubtedly a heartbreaking problem: the gross underrepresentation of black and Latino students at Stuyvesant and schools like it. In 2016 black and Latino students constituted 44 percent of the kids who took the test (and 65 percent of the New York City school population). Yet they make up just 4 percent of Stuyvesant students and 15 percent of students at the specialized high schools overall.

But the mayor’s solution is no solution at all.

For one thing, his plan seems purposely oblivious to his administration’s utter failure to prepare students across the city for the admissions test — and for a school as challenging as Stuyvesant. In nearly one quarter of the city’s public middle schools, zero seventh graders scored at the advanced level on the annual New York State Mathematics Exam in 2017. Mr. de Blasio would send the top 7 percent of students at every middle school to the specialized high schools, but at 80 middle schools — or one out of every six — not even 7 percent of seventh graders passed the state math exam.”

Mayor de Blasio is insisting on equal outcomes for Middle School students. Never mind if there aren’t 7% of a school’s graduates who are even competent (much less excellent) in math, he’s going to insist they be placed in a group where they will certainly struggle. If the school system for which the Mayor is responsible produces innumerate graduates, he’ll just lower the definition of numeracy.

I’ll bet vanishingly few of those 44% taking the entrance exam were students at the 80 schools where not even 7% can pass the state math exam. Graduating with no math competence is the problem, and throwing those kids into an advanced program is doing them no favor.

It’s not a numeracy problem to the Mayor, it’s a melanin content problem. The breakdown of the freshman admittees at Stuyvesant:

      Asian     — 613
      White     — 151
      Hispanic — 27
      Black      — 10

I wonder how the 37 black and brown students who passed the entrance exam feel about Mr. de Blasio’s proposal. They represent 4.62% of the freshman class. We know that 44% of the aspirants who took the test in 2016 were black and brown. That means over 10% of them passed. Will the 3% who made it based on a meritocratic exam be denied admittance in favor of the new “7% from all” social justice rules?

Before those 37 graduate from Stuyvesant, dozens of kids who don’t know what a square root is may be their classmates.

One consequence is that few, if any, outcome equal, square-rootless admittees will succeed. Another is that resources will be diverted from those who could do the work, and some of them will fail when they could have succeeded. So, how long do you think it will be before de Blasio’s Equal Outcome parameters will also be applied to Stuyvesant graduates? Stuyvesant diplomas will become certificates of participation. The equal outcome will be pre-ordained graduation, whether earned or not.

If de Blasio is successful, the vast benefit this school brings to us all – equal opportunity for everyone to become better, happier, and wealthier by standing on the shoulders of merit – will vanish.

The arc of equal outcomes bends toward the lowest common denominator. A term with which Mr. de Blasio’s new Stuyvesant students will be unfamiliar.

That’s what he wants. Any other result promotes the idea that people are not interchangable parts to be arranged in life by Government whim. De Blasio’s utopian project cannot tolerate that.

Looting and Freedom

Whether political freedom or economic freedom is more important is a moot question.

The most basic property right is self-ownership. To the degree that right is compromised, so is freedom. A commenter at the linked article above noted this:

“I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor, and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means’.”

   – Franz Oppenheimer, The State. New York: Free Life
      Editions, 1908 (1975), pp. 24-25

Beyond the unabashed wealth redistributionism of a Bernie Sanders, ‘unrequited appropriation of the labor of others’ includes all forms of rent-seeking: Regulation favoring entrenched business (from tariffs to requiring hair braiders to take hundreds of hours of training, to subsidies for solar panels, movies, art, mortgages, etc., etc., etc.); union shops; civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain; and zoning laws.

We may agree politically to give some portion of some of those freedoms to the State, but we will, by definition, be less free; and bureaucracies will always take more than is granted.

Principled resistance to the looting is a requirement of freedom.