Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog

Last Week in Weird

Batten down the hatches — there’s a whole new year of weird a’comin’!

Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s certainly not the U.S. government’s multi-billion-dollar, super-duper secret "Zuma" satellite. Because that’s at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.


Evil, that's your name.

Last Week(s) in Weird

What astonishing coincidences!

Klaus Eberwein, former head of Haiti’s Economic and Social Assistance Fund (a government bureau designed to tax-and-spend prosperity into existence, which has worked exactly as well as one would expect), killed himself this past week, shooting himself in the head in a motel room in South Dade, Florida. This coming Tuesday, he was expected to testify before the Haitian senate’s "Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission."

What do you suppose he was going to say to the commission?


You're doing it wrong

Last Week in Weird

By fire be purged

There are just so many things we take for granted that we really should remember to thank the government for. After all, without the government, who would build the roads? Without the government, who would remove the snow from the government roads? Without the government, who would put out fires? Without the government, who would block the road when a government snowplow catches fire outside the fire station, and the fire department isn’t equipped to deal with it?

Wait, what?


"How do you spell that? I dunno, 'Jeh?'"

Last Week in Weird

With thunderous applause

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past few months, it’s that you just can’t trust them Russkies. I turned my back on them for one minute, and bam! They stole all of my elections. If you’re anything like me — and you know you are — you’re sick and tired of having your precious, hard-earned elections stolen by the Reds, but what can you do about it? Nothing, that’s what! Oh, if only someone from the government were here to help!

Citing increasingly sophisticated cyber bad actors and an election infrastructure that’s "vital to our national interests," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is designating U.S. election systems critical infrastructure, a move that provides more federal help for state and local governments to keep their election systems safe from tampering.


What's another trillion on the bonfire?

Last Week in Weird

Pretty soon you’re talking real money

If you’re anything like me — and you know you are — you stay up nights worrying that the United States just doesn’t spend enough money on its military. America is only just barely spending as much money as the entire rest of the world combined; how can we possibly expect to be kept safe in the face of the overwhelming existential threat of border skirmishes thousands of miles inland on the other side of the ocean? Clearly our wonderful armed forces require a major overhaul, and I’m pleased to report that it’s only projected to cost a trillion dollars to do so. What a relief!

The price tag to rehabilitate the military after about 15 years of war and relentless overseas operations would be about $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee…

A $1 trillion increase would require obliterating spending limits passed by Congress and doling out an average of an additional $100 billion each year on the military through 2027.

Oh, a trillion dollars spent over ten years would average a hundred billion a year? I had no idea! Since I was educated in the government schools, this kind of complex mathematical operation vastly overwhelms my tiny peanut brain. Thanks for helping, Stars and Stripes!


Why Socialism Is Impossible

Libertarians traditionally do a terrible job of explaining why socialism can’t work. Which is to say: we’re great at explaining it to other libertarians, but we think we can talk to our Bernie Sanders-supporter friends the same way. If you’re talking to someone who doesn’t already understand the problem, and you just say something like "in a socialist environment there can’t be market prices," you have to realize that person will think that’s a feature, not a bug. Most of us libertarians know about the socialist calculation problem, but to the wider audience it’s pretty esoteric stuff; it’s not just plainly intuitive to most people that the absence of market prices causes discoördination in production. Either way, it seems like ultimately you have some guy deciding what products, and how many, to make. Can’t we just put those successful entrepreneurs — the Bill Gateses and Jeff Bezoses of the world — in charge of the planning boards and have it work just fine?

This, of course, is where libertarians tend to fall down. We’re great at extolling the virtues of the entrepreneur, but, in a very significant sense, we miss the most important element: what’s critical about entrepreneurs is not that they make amazing, successful things, but that they’re able to fail in a controlled manner. When a product fails on the market, only the entrepreneur and those closely connected to him suffer, which is important for two reasons: first because it means that random people, uninvolved with the failed project, don’t have to bear the cost of the failure, and second because, by concentrating that cost on the people responsible, the failure is made immediately apparent, and the pressure to cease failing is substantial. Amazon’s Fire Phone, by all accounts, was a neat piece of technology, but nobody cared enough to buy one, and Amazon cut it loose after a few months of disappointing performance. Microsoft’s Windows 8 suffered a similar poor reception, which encouraged the company to proceed in a new direction (and quite swiftly!) with its replacement. While the successes are, of course, the ultimate goal of the market economy — the production of goods and services people want — the only thing that makes those successes possible is the market’s robust failure mechanism. When governments attempt to "soften the blow" of failure by socializing the losses, that not only creates a massive injustice (as innocent people unconnected to the failure are now forced to pay for it), but it also encourages businesses to linger in failed products and failed practices longer than they should.