Excellent Article On Concealed Carry

I had been planning on writing a long article to explain what it’s like to carry concealed to all my friends who have no experience in the practice or its associated culture. That actually described me for most of my life, since I didn’t grow up around guns or shoot my first gun until well into my 20s. However, a friend posted this article from Harper’s, and now I don’t need to write mine. It’s a long but excellent piece that matches almost exactly what I would have written.

I agree strongly with 2 of the 3 conclusions that the article draws:

  1. We should allow people to carry concealed, and in more places than we currently do.
  2. We should make the training requirements for concealed carry much more rigorous
  3. I plan on continuing to carry concealed (where it’s legal), although the author has decided it’s not worth the trouble for him.

In any case: go read it.

The Surreality of American Politics

German remains at Verdun.

It’s hard to overstate the visceral impact of World War I on the nations who were scarred by it. Part of the shock came from the staggering casualties. In countries where fighting took place, over 16% of the entire population was killed (Serbia), with even  major nations like France and Germany lost more than 3 or 4% of their populations. The scale of the devastation was compounded by the sense that modernity itself had betrayed civilization, however. Prior to World War 1 disease was always deadlier than human weapons, but this changed in World War 1. With newly invented weapons science–the guiding light since the dawn of the Enlightenment–had betrayed an entire civilization. The governments, churches, and other modern institutions that created and perpetuated the war without any ability to foresee it’s true cost cast centuries of political and philosophical progress into doubt.

An example of surreal art: The Elephant Celebes

Surrealism (along with its progenitor Dadaism and its successor Postmodernism) was the reaction to this horror. With it, Western society recoiled convulsively from the core conceit of modernity: the supremacy of  logic and reason. The Surrealist Manifesto advocated expressing thought in the “absence of all control exercised by reason” and took as its core article of faith “the omnipotence of dream.” When confronted with the War to End All Wars, the surrealists decided that if reality had become the the ultimate nightmare, any and all dreams and hallucinations were superior to reality.

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Understanding after Tragedy

When I realized the scope of what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I posted the news to my Facebook feed to get the word out and called for people to hold off on the political debate out of respect for the tragedy. That’s not what happened, and even after getting used to the fairly rapid news-cycle in the wake of the Virginia Tech and Aurora shootings, I was shocked and dismayed at how quickly the two sides squared off and began attacking each other. 

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WSJ Lets You Balance the Budget

So the fiscal cliff is looming closer and closer, and a new poll shows that “Americans clearly want Washington to solve its looming budget crisis, and they clearly reject almost every option to do that”. It sounds like typical voter stupidity at first, especially since a lot of the options on the table are not only palatable, but probably should be enacted for their own sake. The article lists: “raising taxes on everyone, cutting Medicaid or Medicare spending, raising the age for Medicare, or taking away tax deductions for charitable contributions or home mortgage interest,” and the last three all seem like no-brainers to me.

Before you start to feeling too smug, however, you can head over to the Wall Street Journal and try your hand at balancing the budget on your own. You start with the $1,102,000,000,000 10-year deficit and a menu of choices for raising taxes and cutting discretionary and entitlement spending. 

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How Much More Should the Rich Pay?

Last week I wrote a couple of posts about the Hardy Boys and magical ponies, although actually they were about marginal vs. average and statutory vs. effective taxation. Today, we get to the good stuff: how much more should the rich pay? It makes sense to start, however, with how much they already do pay.

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Statutory vs Effective Taxes (and Magical Ponies)

When Mitt Romney made that infamous “47%” remark, it didn’t take long for people to shoot that full of holes. But, in my previous post on taxation, I also said that the idea of corporations getting away with not paying their fair share was also dumb. You might ask “Why’s that?” I’ll assume that you did ask, and give you the answer in this post. With magical ponies. 

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Marginal vs Average Tax Rates (and the Hardy Boys)

I’m going to write about taxes. Probably not the smartest move if I want to attract more readers (which I do), but I’ve got two things going for me. First: I’ll shamelessly target nostalgia with some gratuitous Hardy Boys references. Secondly, I’m betting that a lot of people are as tired of hearing bumper-sticker political arguments as I am. Topics like marginal vs. average tax rates or statutory vs. effective taxation might not sound thrilling, but you know what’s even less thrilling? Listening to your relative tell you that he’s going to “go Galt” if he has to keep supporting that slacker 47%. Or maybe hearing your high school buddy argue that it’s criminal for corporations to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. (If you don’t know why one or both of those is stupid, just keep reading. Soon you will.) 

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Red Mars – An Accidental Tyranny

I did not like Red Mars (by Kim Stanley Robinson or just KSR) very much. I was pretty clear about this in my Goodreads review, where I gave the book a solitary star. I got a couple of responses to that review, and they asked me to go into more detail about the problems I had with that book. So, in this post, I shall. Along the way I can promise fun with economics and political philosophy for everyone!

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Compassion vs. Price-Gouging

In most cases where the the politicians debate about policy they can usually cite a bevy of economic experts, academic papers, and think-tank research to bolster their respective positions, but there are some issues where the experts pretty much all agree and the politicians don’t want to hear it.

One fun example is the tax plan NPR asked 5 economists to create that–though it reflects pretty unanimous economic consensus–is a political non-starter with either the Democrats or the Republicans. (Hint: removing the mortgage interest tax deduction doesn’t make anyone happy.)

Another example that’s like that is price gouging.  

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