Friday, June 27, 2014

Trends that Tell Nothing, But the Trend…

Richard Florida and his team are at it again, pointing to correlations and assuming causations. 

High-School Dropouts and College Grads Are Moving to Very Different Places

Cities like Washington and San Francisco are gaining the highly skilled but losing their less-educated workforce.
While I suppose I could live anywhere, my career somewhat demands that I be near either cities or at least college towns. It isn't that I love or even like cities — I don't — but I like being employed. I don't like the noise, light, or other pollution of cities. Employment: it beats the alternative. Don't imagine cities are "attractive" to every migrating household. No, they simply are where we must go, and we must demand higher and higher salaries to afford those very cities, pushing the inequality gap wider and wider. 

Want to live near the great university where I work? Expect to spend $700K or more on a little, old, problems-included, house. Invest another $100K or more in renovations. Gentrification? It means, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." 

Add to this the trend of like-marries-like, and you get two college-educated people living together. That pushes us even more towards cities with sufficient jobs. 

Curiously, the biggest metros are losing people, something Florida glosses over. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are experiencing an exodus. Clearly, you cannot claim the "biggest" metros are growing, but that's what Florida claims:
Larger metros have the edge in attracting and retaining college grads. The size of the population was positively correlated to the net growth in the number of college grads (.30)
It would be more accurate to state that large metros, but not too large, seem attractive. I'm sorry, but there's a point at which a city is so big, it seems to fail. It might be geographically too large (Detroit) or the population is too large (New York) or some mix of both (Los Angeles).

Really, it is simple: I need a job. I go to where the job is, if I can afford to relocate. Young people, educated people, those with the means, can move. The poor cannot go chasing jobs easily, even though that might seem "reasonable" to some elites. Sorry, but moving from East L.A. to Charlotte isn't easy unless you have the financial means and no obligations to remain in L.A.

Florida is obsessed with his "Creative Class" and "liberal tolerance" theories. They might have merit, but he might also be overlooking basic economic sorting. If I can follow opportunities, I will. No matter where those might be.

Are Florida's team and their correlations accurate? Certainly, but models don't explain, they only can illustrate the data. The explanation is likely more complex than (paraphrasing) "Educated people seek out wonderful artistic cities with socially liberal views."

I sought a job. I doubt I'm alone.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Libertarians (small 'l') Need to Speak Up

We will always have articles accusing "libertarianism" of being everything from "fascist" (huh?) to "right-wring" to "juvenile." Those advocating for classical liberalism will be linked to racists, plutocrats, crony capitalists, and other perversions of limited government and negative rights. (I still hate the "negative" rights label, inherently a rhetorical device that insults various philosophical and political schools of thought.)

When I read "Somalia is a libertarian paradise," I know the comment poster is either ignorant or intentionally lying. The basics of classical liberalism include:

  • Rule of law, with an egalitarian legal system;
  • Enforced contracts, protecting parties in transactions;
  • Property rights beginning with the individual's ownership of self;
  • Limited, effective, and reliable government.

Now, for the sad reality that libertarians in the United States need to address: there are horrible people who will hide behind "freedom" to be the jerks they are.

A bigot doesn't want to be told, by legal dictate, that all customers must be served. A crony capitalist will favor lower taxes (not really a "libertarian" ideal, by the way) and oppose (some) regulations. A gun-rights advocate will ignore history, context, and talk about "Constitutionally limited government" and "freedom."

You can't advocate for smaller government, simple laws, and personal freedom without the loonies rushing to join you. Therefore, libertarians with some knowledge of economics, history, and philosophy must speak up and explain that libertarianism comes in both left and right variations (whatever that means) and represents a focus on the individual over the collective.

I am for small government. And I know that sometimes jerks will abuse the freedoms I support. That fact compels me to speak out against hatreds and intolerance, even if I don't support regulations mandating decency. Bigots wrapped in the Constitution dishonor liberty and freedom. The American Civil Liberties Unions used to know this, which is why they defended the rights of some horrible people (Skokie, Illinois, comes to mind).

Government shouldn't care who you marry, what you ingest, where you worship, or any other personal choice that doesn't directly affect others. I'm not a fan of any legislated bigotries nor any legislated tolerance.

We already have a Fourteenth Amendment. Section 1 states exactly what we need:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There you are: "equal protection of the laws" seems to apply to all laws, and all people. I don't understand how that simple language doesn't make racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, et al, laws and treatment illegal. "Constitutionalists" out there, it's pretty clear that you cannot discriminate or restrict basic rights. Get over it and start reading the Constitution beyond the Tenth Amendment.

Neither the Republican nor the Libertarian Parties in the U.S. represent the "libertarianism" or "classical liberal" views I embrace. But, the Democratic Party with its faith in government-based solutions is, at least on many issues, also far from my views. Like many, I find myself without a political home, convinced our two major parties are more interested in slow evolution of the status quo, more often reacting to social changes after-the-fact instead of either party actively promoting individual liberty accompanied by responsibility.

The GOP leadership won't stand up to religious moralism, ahistorical gun-rights zealots, corporate interests, xenophobes, and so much more. It's why I cannot and will not support the Republican Party. If you read, from cover-to-cover, the works of Adam Smith and the utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, you find something more nuanced that political voices promote. F. A. Hayek was not Ayn Rand, either.

In advocating for simple laws, meaning clear, equitable, and enforceable, I am not advocating for lawless anarchy. Nothing disgusts me more than the common strawman that somehow libertarianism is anarchism. It is not. A simple, tiered progressive tax system with no exemptions, no special treatments, is not anarchy. It's easy to enforce and doesn't let any individual game the tax laws.

You can support maintaining roads and bridges without being a wild-eyed socialist. Pragmatism alone suggests roads are a good thing. Someday, we might have electric cars, powered by solar energy, but we'll still have roads — they aren't going away. And asking people who use the roads to pay for them is simplistic.

A capital-L Libertarian I know complained about his taxes supporting bridges he doesn't use. That's an example of intentional ignorance. He might not use the bridges around where we live (unlikely, unless he never travels), but almost everything he needs to live a comfortable life is transported over those roads. The clumsy rhetoric of Elizabeth Warren aside, we do rely on shared infrastructure and it must be paid for. But, that does not mean we can or should build pointless, ineffective, inefficient, infrastructure simply to create busy work.

I do not support California's high speed rail system. Why? Because transit within metropolitan areas stinks and should be addressed first. If we must pay for transit, we should subsidize workers getting to their daily jobs. High-speed rail won't do that. Just try to get from one side of Los Angles to the other, especially East to West. The bus lines and light rail are a mess. Fixing that would help far, far more people earn livings, pay taxes, and rise economically than building high speed rail might do.

Being a "libertarian" doesn't mean you give up sanity in the name of some perceived rights and self-sufficiency that never was.

Gun rights? Didn't any members of the NRA listen to or watch "Gunsmoke" or maybe read some Western history? Guns were banned, yes banned, in many small cities in the West. You turned them in as you entered town and retrieved the gun as you left. It was understood that you needed a gun out in the country, where lawmen weren't within cellphone range. But, nobody assumed you had a right to carry a sidearm in town. Dodge, Tombstone, Wichita, and even Houston banned sidearms in town. It was assumed you could trust the lawmen of the Old West to protect you in a city, and that everyone was safer with only a few guns in town. Beyond the city, you might need the gun for wild animals, highwaymen, rustlers, and general scoundrels. Also, you could have a rifle at home in most cities of the West. I suppose that's because you didn't walk around with the rifle.

As I have stated, repeatedly, I don't support the Democratic Party, and have no home elsewhere. I believe in capitalism, limited government, and meritocracy. I don't support government solutions to most problems. I never trust any large organization to do what is best for individuals.

Being pragmatic and an (almost) classical liberal is frustrating. But, such is life.

Read the following (yes, I realize they are imperfect):

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/libertarianism/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/smith-moral-political/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friedrich-hayek/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

Thursday, June 12, 2014

THEY are Evil… Ruining the U. S. of A

Over on Politico, the divisions we know exist are examined yet again, this time in a new Pew poll.
Pew poll: Polarization highest in recent history
Two decades ago, “a lot of Democrats and Republicans said they didn’t really like what the other party was doing, but they didn’t downright worry about them and see them as a threat in the way that we’re seeing from a lot of people today,” said Michael Dimock, Pew’s vice president for research.
On Facebook, my political friends are increasingly intolerant of other views. It is best to be neutral and ignore the political, or you risk having to choose sides when neither "side" is of much interest. The hatred, the name calling, the complete intolerance for "them" and a conviction that "they" are destroying this country is… destroying this country.

As a classical liberal, I'm the definition of a radical moderate. Leave me alone, and I'll support your right to be left alone. Let me be a heath-conscious, exercising, non-smoking, rarely-drinking, salad-eating nut, and I'll fight for your Big Gulp and Golden Corral fried food bonanza. Let me be with my wife and cats, and I'll fight for your right to live with any adult(s) you want. Just let me be free, too.

Republicans are not evil. Democrats are not evil. Politicians, however, of all parties… they are by definition narcissists convinced they know what's best and what must be right for everyone else. You can't be in politics and not believe, without question, your ideology. Most of us, though, are more ambivalent.

Politicians end up hypocrites, became they slip into the "ends justify the means" mindset. Decry whatever "they" do, while you have "no choice" but to do the same. Sorry, but politicians aren't most of us.

Most of us are moderates, but we're not as politically active nor are we as politically motivated. I have to admit, I can't tell you much of anything about how local governments work where we now live — though I understood California's system well enough. I can't (or choose not to) invest the time and energy to figure out the county, borough, city, township, divisions. There are boards that cross boundaries, and yet other board with other boundaries. I just don't want to invest months trying to understand who serves on what tiny little board.

Do you attend even two or three public board or council meetings a year? I don't. Should I? Probably, but politics is messy and I don't care for choosing sides every day. (Even "non-partisan" boards are highly partisan.) I don't want to hear how horrible and un-American "they" are.

It doesn't take a poll to reveal how far apart we are, with the political divides often measured in terms of miles from urban cores and Zip Code population densities. Plenty of studies bear out the urban-suburban-rural differences.
Three quarters of consistently conservative people said they’d “prefer to live in a community where the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away.” Seventy-seven percent of consistent liberals said they’d prefer a community where “houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.”
I find that curious, since my neighbors are more socially conservative than I am, but I have no desire at all to live in a city. We don't have children, but even when I was growing up in the country I would ride my bike to school. Excuse me, but "several miles" isn't a big deal if you're willing to ride a bike or walk a little.

My wife and I like our garden, our flower beds, and our privacy. But, we won't be joining a local church, attending the NRA gun fest (or whatever it is called), or listening to country music.