Unsustainable Pseudo-thinking

One of the fashionable thought-killing words offered by the cliché-recycling movement is “sustainable.”

In the common tongue, as spoken by many, many environmentalists, this term implies that we will run out of all our stuff pretty soon unless everybody on the planet (except maybe Al Gore) is put on a strict low-consumption regimen.

The environmental movement has adopted the color “green,” but “drab-gray” is what comes to mind when I’m told that we must treat economic goods as existing in a fixed quantity, only to be skimpily apportioned (by regulators), never massively expanded (by profit-seeking producers, as they’ve done whenever free to do so).

In fact, as economist and Cafe Hayek blogger Don Boudreaux argues in his article “Unsustainable Platitudes,” market actors tend to swiftly counteract shortages that occur in a market context. When supply of a good slumps for whatever reasons, prices for it rise. Rising prices yield predictable effects. That is, they

  • nudge customers to economize; and
  • entice profit-seeking producers and vendors to create more of the good, or
  • provide good-enough (or better) substitutes for it,
  • or both.

This is Economics 101, teachable in one lesson.

The Wall Street Journal saw fit to quote Boudreaux, provoking the ire of enviro-cliché aficionado Joshua Holman. He contacted Boudreaux to accuse him of “[emitting] word pollution . . . to block the work of the many activists struggling to save our planet from overuse, exploitation and destruction.” In reply, Boudreaux suggests that reality “cannot be grasped, and it certainly cannot be improved, with slogans.”

Slogans do have their place. They’re just not a sustainable substitute for reasoning.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Registering Dissent in Russia

Russian politics — does it consist in anything but the progressive unraveling of what modest liberalization of civic life the Russians benefited after the crackup of the Soviet Union?

The latest assault on liberty? The government targeting of Russian bloggers. The most popular ones — those with 3,000 or more daily readers — must now register with the government or risk being shut down. As Bloomberg’s Ilya Khrennikov puts it, “Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking names. Potentially thousands.”

The registrants must supply real names, real addresses.

Mother Russia says it’s doing this to combat inaccurate or defamatory information — i.e., opinions it dislikes; i.e., any too critical of the government. Putin already has authority to shut down “extremist” web pages sans judicial oversight. The new law tightens the noose.

It seems there’s little we can do about this in the West except express our sympathy for Russians fighting the commissars.

Well, one other thing, at least; and not so little. Western tech firms can refrain from abetting such repression the way Yahoo did when, several years ago, it turned over user info on Chinese dissidents Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao to the Chinese government and thus enabled their imprisonment. Facebook, Google+ and other hosts of Russian-language blogs can flatly reject demands to censor or delete these blogs — or to supply the Russian government with identifying info on the authors.

Obviously, predictions of the end of history have indeed proven premature. We’re not all liberal democrats now.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: First Step for Ferguson

On Townhall this weekend, a frank and honest discussion about . . . what’s really behind the problem in Ferguson.

It isn’t race.

The title refers to a first step at some resolution of the underlying problem, mentioned in Friday’s Common Sense and Saturday’s featured video.

Click on over to Townhall for where those on the left (Eric Holder) and right (Bill O’Reailly) go wrong about the blame for the Ferguson debacle. Come back here to load up on information.

Video: What We Can Do Now to Help Ferguson

A practical proposal that will solve some of Ferguson’s (and the nation’s) problems:

Yes, there is something practical for you to do now:

* Click “Like,” at the very least, and pull down from the page’s “Like” icon the menu to select “Get Notifications.” Thanks!

Candid Cameras for Cops

Should policemen be required to wear cameras?

Some already do. The rationale for the proposal is this: when police wear cameras that — with a few carefully defined exceptions — must be on whenever officers are on the job, they do their jobs better.

With respect to the furor in Ferguson, Missouri, a big question is what exactly happened there the day a cop shot and killed Michael Brown.

Officer Darren Wilson claims self-defense; he and eyewitnesses disagree about details.

It would have been helpful to have video of what happened. (We do have video of an immediately preceding incident: of Brown, a large man, robbing cigars from a local store and shoving the protesting store owner, a much smaller man.)

Or consider another case I’ve discussed, that of Eric Garner, the New York City cigarette seller killed by an officer’s chokehold despite Garner’s repeated insistence that he couldn’t breathe. That death was recorded on a bystander’s cell phone. What if it hadn’t been? The shock has spurred renewed calls to begin outfitting NYPD with cameras.

But there’s no reason to limit pilot programs to the Big Apple.

Some police work, like meetings with confidential informants, cannot be recorded without making the work impossible. But cops who are on the beat, entering a home, stopping motorists and the like should be recorded while doing these things. With appropriate safeguards against “malfunction,” the cameras could both prevent unnecessary violence and support officers who are in fact justified in using deadly force.

Until the advent of universal peace and harmony, let’s give the cameras a try.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Nothing to Sneeze At

I don’t believe everything I read. If I did, I’d believe seven incompatible things before breakfast, and by lunch I’d suffer a nervous breakdown.

From a cognitive dissonance overload.

There’s a story just out: A Tennessee teen was allegedly suspended from school for saying “Bless you.”


I don’t want it to be the case that even the people whose policies I generally oppose — in this case, public school administrators (I think the government school system needs to be opened up, competitive) — can be this outlandishly foolish.

The story comes out of CBS Charlotte. One Ms. Kendra Turner, a senior at Dyer County High, says that she offered a “Bless you” after a classmate had sneezed. And then her teacher reprimanded her, saying (in Ms. Turner’s story) “we’re not going to have godly speaking” in the classroom, and the student protested that it was her “constitutional right.”

The disagreement went to an administrator, and the young lady was booted out of school. The school claims the girl was “disruptive,” which hopefully means something other than saying “Bless you.” The girl’s pastor is concerned, and suspects a very touchy, irreligious teacher.

The story seems preposterous. And yet similar stories elsewhere have been confirmed, usually about non-existent, symbolic guns. The degree of intolerance amongst today’s cultural vanguard (which includes teachers) for unapproved practices astounds.

There’s almost nothing more innocuous than a “Bless you,” or even a “God bless you.” It’s so traditional it’s hardly even religious.

But this story does have a ring of plausibility. Why? Because there is no level of absurdity — no breach of common sense — that a zealot won’t contemplate.

Especially a zealot in America’s intellectually bankrupt public schools.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

What’s Going On Here?

Sometimes asking “What’s going on here?” (repeatedly) can keep a problem in the public eye — when many who should know better would rather sweep it under the rug. In this case, the problem is $1.6 million unaccounted for in recent Penn Forest Township budgets. The Tennessee township’s annual budget is only $4 million or so.

Former supervisor Paul Montemuro is one of those chastising the current board of supervisors. If they’d “just agree to conduct the forensic audit of the couple of years leading up to 2008, I would shut up,” he says. The board approved that audit in 2012 but has not followed through.

Another fellow not shutting up is township auditor Matt Schutter, elected last November as a Libertarian. Throughout 2014 he has demanded that the audit go forward and township spending be fully accounted for, and has also asked the state attorney general to launch an investigation.

Schutter tells Common Sense that despite sundry harassment, he won’t relax the pressure any time soon. “The board in July meeting voted that no one of the public can speak in a supervisors meeting about the money,” Schutter explains. “At the August meeting, I informed them that they were violating the First Amendment.”

He then formally advised the supervisors that he would pursue further legal action (“under 42 USC 1983!,” pertaining to civil action for deprivation of rights) if they continue violating their oaths of office.

Let’s send about 535 guys like this to Congress.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.