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Belmont Club

A Valentine from Maxwell’s Demon

February 14th, 2014 - 1:16 pm

Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they had believed they had.

So begins the most famous of James Hilton’s novels, The Lost Horizon. Today of course, we know — at least we are told — that there is no Shangri-la. The most astonishing thing about the 1933 bestseller is the realization that people once longed for a place where they could pursue happiness away from the dictates of bureaucrats. But people in those days were living in the lengthening shadow of Fascism so their desire for escape was understandable. We who live in a more enlightened age have no need of such crutches.

We’ve got everything we need — dozens of “positive rights” and more to come. For the uninitiated, “positive rights” are different from the old American kind in that they define what government must do to you instead of enumerating what government cannot do to you. Strange that people once thought that individual freedom was desirable.

Thus our modern paradise is not some mountain valley but a place where we can collect government benefits. Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein, writing in the New York Times, inform us frankly that “All Rights Are Positive … Liberty Depends on Taxes.”

The opposition between two fundamentally different sorts of claim–between “negative rights” such as those granted in Roe and “positive rights” such as those denied in Maher–is quite familiar. But it is anything but self-evident. It does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, for one thing. It was wholly unknown to the American framers….

Upon inspection, the contrast between two fundamental sorts of rights is more elusive than we might have expected, and much less clear and simple than our Supreme Court has assumed. … The financing of basic rights through tax revenues helps us see clearly that rights are public goods: taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being. All rights are positive rights.

Unfortunately due to the workings of Maxwell’s Demon all Positive Rights cost money. Maxwell’s Demon, for those who’ve forgotten, was a hypothetical arrangement whereby a process can get a free lunch by simply using information to sort things out. But it’s long been shown that information provision needs energy too and therefore also costs money, as the contractors for Obamacare will testify.

And so alas, do Sunstein’s rights. The need to provide ever-increasing positive rights — for our modern Shangri-la — requires more and more money. This has spurred European Union officials to propose seizing personal savings to fund additional investments in our paradise on earth.

(Reuters) – The savings of the European Union’s 500 million citizens could be used to fund long-term investments to boost the economy and help plug the gap left by banks since the financial crisis, an EU document says.

The EU is looking for ways to wean the 28-country bloc from its heavy reliance on bank financing and find other means of funding small companies, infrastructure projects and other investment.

“The economic and financial crisis has impaired the ability of the financial sector to channel funds to the real economy, in particular long-term investment,” said the document, seen by Reuters.

The Commission will ask the bloc’s insurance watchdog in the second half of this year for advice on a possible draft law “to mobilize more personal pension savings for long-term financing”, the document said.

Like Sunstein said: liberty depends on taxes.  And where the EU goes their American imitators are sure to follow. Which brings us of course from Shangri-la to the subject of Valentine’s Day, which happens to be today. Valentine’s Day is one of those vestigial Christian holidays which cries out for re-examination. In its original conception, Valentine’s Day celebrated the individual and God. It should discarded in favor of a celebration of the collective.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards says "be my Valentine"

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards says “be my Valentine”

We can always use one more Positive Right, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s than Free Abortion?  (Though Maxwell’s Demon guarantees it isn’t really free).  This equivalence between money and positive rights means that for those who still believe in Shangri-la should avoid the Himalayas. Try the Grand Cayman Islands. The tax lawyers are much better there.

Parenthetically, James Hilton wrote one other bestseller. It was titled Goodbye, Mr. Chips about the life of a mediocre master of Greek and Latin in a small boys school in England. Though set far from the Himalayan mountains, it is also about the stubborn search for a Shangri-la. The inward one we carry inside us, furnished about with the love that we lose, the memories we have yet to lose and the dreams that we stubbornly revisit, despite the best efforts of the positive rights crowd to make us forget.

And as for Conway …

We sat for a long time in silence, and then talked again of Conway as I remembered him, boyish and gifted and full of charm, and of the war that had altered him, and of so many mysteries of time and age and of the mind, and of the little Manchu who had been “most old,” and of the strange ultimate dream of Blue Moon. “Do you think he will ever find it?” I asked.


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Top Rated Comments   
Sunstein's just full of it. Negative liberties do not "depend on taxes." The government does not need money to avoid censoring my speech, infringing upon my religious beliefs, searching my house, taking my gun, etc. It can comply with every one of those for free. In fact, it takes money for the government to violate my rights.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Positive rights" is code for "a set of ambitions and social policies". Even when admirable, there is no sense in which ambitions and social policies are properly called rights.

Case in point. Man with hairy back goes into a barbershop and asks for a back shave. The barber says "sorry sir, we don't do back shaves." Hairy man gets mad and claims his human rights have been violated. He accuses the barber of "hirsutophobia".

Now the man with the hairy back has an ambition - to get a back shave. The barber has a right - to decline to satisfy the hairy man's ambition. Next thing you know, along comes a social engineer and makes it government policy/law that the hairy man's ambition must trump the barber's right. Social engineer forces the barber to shave the hairy man's back, loudly condemns the barber for "hirsutophobia" and says he must give back shaves to whomever wants one, or else go out of business.

Ambitions and social policies, admirable or not, coercively enforced or not, are not rights. Human rights are liberty,property,security and resistance of oppression. The nasty thing about today is that ambitions and social policies are being coercively enforced to replace natural human rights. That way lies total darkness.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard describes the stubborn search for a Shangri-la. The inward one we carry inside us, furnished about with the love that we lose, the memories we have yet to lose and the dreams that we stubbornly revisit . . .

From St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IV: "Blessed are those who love Thee, and who love their friends in Thee, and their enemies also, for Thy sake; for they alone lose none dear to them, if all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. And who is this but our God: the God that created heaven and earth?"

Happy Valentine's Day to Wretchard and all BCers-- may you all find that 'inward Shangri-la' 'in Him who cannot be lost.'
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (40)
All Comments   (40)
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John Kerry is out making a fool of himself (an easy job).

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/02/16/secretary-state-kerry-lashes-out-at-climate-change-skeptics/

JAKARTA, Indonesia – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday called climate change perhaps the world's "most fearsome" destructive weapon and mocked those who deny its existence or question its causes, comparing them to people who insist the Earth is flat.

In a speech to Indonesian students, civic leaders and government officials, Kerry tore into climate change skeptics. He accused them of using shoddy science and scientists to delay steps needed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at the risk of imperiling the planet.

A day earlier, the U.S. and China announced an agreement to cooperate more closely on combating climate change. American officials hope that will help encourage others, including developing countries like Indonesia and India, to follow suit.
...
Also in the Jakarta speech, Kerry said everyone and every country must take responsibility for the problem and act immediately.

"We simply don't have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation," he said, referring to what he called "big companies" that "don't want to change and spend a lot of money" to act to reduce the risks.

Kerry later singled out major oil and coal concerns as the primary offenders.
...
"Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits."


First, create a crisis mentality, then do not let a crisis go to waste. We've seen this act before.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the government needs to pay for abortions because abortion is a right, when will the government start paying to arm poor people and the homeless?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Valentine is a modern pagan god of boxed chocolates, jewelry, and now abortions.

Saint Valentine was a martyred priest who married chaste, heterosexual couples.

Evangelize America. Insist on calling Feb. 14 Saint Valentine's Day.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
The publicly funded sector of the society, and their hired pseudointellectual thugs like Sunstein, are always trotting out that old chestnut from O.W. Holmes.

"Taxes,'' Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed, ''are what we pay for civilized society".

But tell me this - what was the overall level of taxation at the time Holmes wrote this, versus now?

I'm guessing that Homes never dreamed of this level of confiscation, and in his time the quality of government service provided to the private sector was much higher and a lot less full of surly entitled attitude than today.

I'm convinced that if Holmes could have foreseen the cost and intrusiveness of our current public sector he would never have uttered or written those words.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sunstein's just full of it. Negative liberties do not "depend on taxes." The government does not need money to avoid censoring my speech, infringing upon my religious beliefs, searching my house, taking my gun, etc. It can comply with every one of those for free. In fact, it takes money for the government to violate my rights.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cass Sunstein is an immigrant from Massachusetts doing a job Americans just won't do.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
The public sector work force, much of the law profession, grant and subsidy recipients - all of them will do literally anything to keep the gravy train of magic checks coming. Their "positive right" to a comfortable income for an easy-to-do job guaranteeing the "positive rights" of others.

By that, I truly mean ANYTHING. Confiscating saved wealth of private citizens is just the beginning. The next step will be herding private citizens off to be tortured to death in concentration camps, if they feel they can get away with it.

All these years of focusing on welfare recipients got us off the trail of the real problem. Yes, the bloated welfare class is a bad thing. But the far greater danger is the government apparatus that maintains people in that state in order to "justify" an income doing something unproductive where they don't have to work very hard and can retire early.

A similar dynamic has occurred with the regulatory environment. The regulations are bad, true, but the people in the regulation industry are the real danger.

How much money actually goes to the end user and how much stays in the pockets of those who populate the government infrastructure of the welfare state? All of the people forming that infrastructure would send private citizens to the Ted Kennedy Memorial Reeducation Kamp to die of slave labor if in the process nobody touched their precious government funded income stream. Your local community college professor, the mousy public librarian who lives on your street, the local 911 dispatcher, the shovel-leaning public works guy, the paper shuffling mid level bureaucrat at NMFS or HUD or NASA, all of them and more, would literally kill you to live in comfort off of wealth stolen from you that you worked so hard to produce. If you believe otherwise you are fool of the highest order. The fact that it hasn't happened (yet) here doesn't mean that it never can.

Confiscating the money you have saved is only the first step.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
How much money actually goes to the end user and how much stays in the pockets of those who populate the government infrastructure of the welfare state?


Rule of thumb: administration comprises roughly 15% of the costs at each level, leaving 85% of what is left for distribution to the next level. At least back in the 1980's. Given the growth of the Adminisphere -v- operations at all levels of governments, it is surely larger. One can recalculate as needed if more data is found, and while welfare is noted, consider ALL government grants; education, energy, etc. similarly.

Take Welfare:
100% appropriated or Continuing Resolutioned by Congress.

85% left after deducting for Federal Cabinet level.
72.25 % left after Federal Regional level
61.4% left after Federal-State level
52.2% at the State level
44.37% at the State-regional level
37.71% at the County level where most benefits are handled
32.05% actually distributed to the needy.

This assumes no corruption at each level, and it is noted that in large urban areas there is frequently another level, AND especially anywhere the Democrats are involved there is massive corruption.

Subotai Bahadur
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
SB, it's even worse than you think.

Throughput for food aid in Sub-Saharan Africa is five percent. FIVE percent. And the donor nations know it.

IOW, it is actually a subside for the tinpot dictators and warlords who infest the Dark Continent. The Leftwing Nutters don't give a rat's hairy posterior for the poor, the starving: they want to bleed the West.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>President Obama will pitch a new $1 billion climate change resilience fund during a visit Friday to California.

The fund, which would need to be approved by Congress, is intended to help communities dealing with negative weather that's the result of climate change.

Obama is touting the fund during a trip to California, which has been devastated by a drought that is threatening the Central Valley's agriculture production and has led Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to call on Californians to conserve water.

During a call with reporters on Thursday evening, the assistant to the president on science and technology, John Holdren, said, without any doubt, the severe drought plaguing California and a number of other states across the country is tied to climate change.

"Weather practically everywhere is being caused by climate change," Holdren said.

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/198394-obama-to-announce-1b-climate-change-resilience-fund<<;;

"Weather practically everywhere is being caused by climate change," Holdren said. -- Give the man a cigar.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
So the lesson of the EU is that there is a lot of ruin in a lot nations?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have the right to take what we give you.

It depends on who the "you" and the "we" are. If "you" is a subject and the "we" are the rulers then it is an oligarchy. If the "you" is the government and the "we" are the people as individuals then it is a republic of liberty.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Negative rights also extract a cost. They are a tax on the power of government. That is why they come at an unconscionable price to those on the left.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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