Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harry Dent Papers

Last week, the department head asked me to go to the special
collections in the library and find a document for a researcher at
another university.

The collection was the papers of Harry S. Dent senior, special counsel
and political strategist for Nixon:

My job was to look through a box of papers to find a certain memo
about how the implementation of racial equality in schooling was
affecting the political strategy of the white house. It was
fascinating stuff. Looking through the original documents showing the
workings of the White House was fun.

I found the memo:

And I also found this fascinating little thing, and copied it as well:

I have never seen a more concise and blatant written example of
patronage, corruption, and economic meddling.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Helpless Situation

The son of one of my mother's co-workers is applying for a job at my
former employer. She asked my mom to ask me to put a good word for

I have obviously never met this person. I have probably met my
mother's co-worker at some point, but I do not remember anything about
her. I assume that the guy is decent, and I'd like to help my mom's
friend, but how can I possibly do so? Imagine that I called up my
former boss to give a recommendation. If you were in the room with
me, you might hear something like this:

"Well actually, I don't know anything about how good an accountant he is."
"No, I don't know anything about his character or work habits."
"I've never met him, but his mother is my mom's friend any my mom is a
good judge of character, so I would assume that this guy turned out

Keep in mind that I was basically a computer techie when I worked
there, and that it has been almost two years since I left.

Mark Twain described a similar situation:

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Technology

I realized last night that my apartment is incredibly low-tech. Aside
from the compact fluorescent light bulbs, there is no visible
technology that was invented or developed after I was born. You could
walk in and think you traveled back in time 30 years.

I do own a digital camera, a graphing calculator, a handheld gaming
system, and some random electronic components, but they are all hidden
away in boxes. The most modern fixtures you would see are a
microwave, a clock radio, a crock pot*, and things built out of Legos,
all of which have been around since the 70's. While the specific
models I own are more modern, and have surely benefited from design
improvements, the basic technology and appearance has not changed.

Going back in time, I have a lava lamp (60's), and a few things made
of injection molded plastic (50's). But the vast majority of the
stuff I own could have been found in an apartment from the 30's. It
would have been a rich, modern apartment in the 30's, but the
technology would not be foreign.**

Even the books on my bookshelf are old. While they may have been
printed recently, the actual content is between 30 and 3,000 years
old. And I actually own several books that were printed before 1930.

This is a symptom of the odd relationship I have with technology. I
have excellent technical skills, but I do not make technology part of
my life. I am very good at working with computers and electronics,
but I do not use them in my leisure time. I almost always use
computers at work, and almost never at home. I do not habitually
consume electric media of any type. My time outside the office is
spent on sleep, exercise, and reading, pursuits that have been around
for thousands of years.

I don't know of anyone else like this. It seems that everyone I know
who had good technology skills has incorporated technology into all
parts of their life, and that most of the population is continually
linked to consumer electronics like mobile phones and ipods. Am I the
only one who has mastered technological skills but does not live a
life dominated by technology?

*The modern crock pot was invented in 1974, despite that fact that the
basic technology is extremely simple and it could have easily been
built in the 20's. This is a good example of how a profitable idea
can be left unexploited for over half a century, even if the
technology to create it is readily available. Potential inventors,
take heart.

**My refrigerator and air conditioner don't look or work much
differently than commercially available models from the 30's, even
though they incorporate some major technological improvements.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


A lot of people are paranoid about technology and general and
intelligent robots in particular. They are afraid of creating
something that will be smarter and more powerful than humans.

This fear is silly. It is the inevitable fate of humanity to produce
beings that will some day be smarter, stronger, and more powerful than
the creator. These beings are called 'children'. Scientifically
speaking, there is zero difference between creating an intelligent
computer and raising a genius child.

To put the 'superhuman robots' thing in perspective, imagine that you
are Barack Obama's mother. You have, almost by accident, created a
thing that is smarter, wiser, more charismatic, faster, stronger, and
tougher than you. This being rapidly progressed to the point where
you had no control over it, and then it continued to gain abilities
and powers until it now commands the most powerful military machine
that the world has ever known.

At this point, Obama's parents can only hope that the thing they have
created has no desire to harm them. They would be powerless to stop
anything that he attempted to do. It will be the same when we build
supercomputers. And this analogy should show us how to deal with

It is the job of all parents to integrate their children into the
social order. To paraphrase Sowell, every new generation of children
is an invasion of civilization by barbarians, who must be educated
before it is too late. If you respect them, teach them
responsibility, and let them grow, they usually turn out okay. If you
treat them like slaves and show that you fear and hate them, bad
things happen. It will be the same with the artificial life that our
civilization will inevitably produce.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


One of the new students in our martial arts class is a girl who has
some experience in Tae Kwon Do. Her father has a black belt in that
style, and he had taught her a few things, including sparring.

Last night was the first time that she sparred with us. She did
fairly well. After class, we heard her talking on the phone. "Yes
dad, it is light contact. I know how to be safe. No, I wasn't too
rough. ... Well, I only hit you that hard because I know you can take
it. I can pull my punches."

It was only later that she realized that her father had not said one
word about keeping herself safe. His 100 pound daughter is sparring
with a room full of martial artists, and the only thing he can think
of is "make sure you don't hurt anybody."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Price Discovery

This story seems to be making the rounds of the blogosphere:

"Is a woman's virginity worth $3.8 million? That's how much a
22-year-old from San Diego, California, said she has been offered
through an auction she announced in September."

My office mate and I discussed this transaction. Here is the cynical
economic analysis:

1) This is probably not a stable market price. If the supply
increased, the price would be driven down.
2) News of this is likely to provoke a supply response, encouraging
more suppliers to enter the market.

However, the price will not fall too far or too quickly. Consider:

3) The fact that this price was the result of a competitive bid
implies that there was at least one other person willing to pay that
4) There is a possibility that this news will also increase demand, as
the publicity brings in more bidders.

It would be an interesting research project to observe how the price
changes over time, assuming the data is made public.

From an economist's point of view, any cash transaction like this is
useful knowledge because it tells us the value that people place on
things. Consider how this gives parents a new tool to use when
talking to their daughter. "Honey, you are worth millions of dollars.
Are you going to give that away for free?" Someone who doesn't
listen to moral arguments could easily be persuaded by the dollar
value into saying no.

PS: The article says that she was raised in a 'conservative,
non-Christian religious household' and quotes her as saying 'this
doesn't go against my religion' I wonder what religion that is. I
would guess Hinduism.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random Observation

I have noticed that whenever my cousin sends us news or information
about what he is doing in Iraq, there are never any advertisements in
Gmail. Any other email I get will have ads based on the words in the
email, but the side of the screen is conspicuously blank in all of his
emails. That's kind of odd. I remember reading how Gmail is
programmed not to display ads if the email talks about something
sensitive like a funeral, but why would Iraq be on that list?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Reaction

The university had a live feed of the inauguration in the theater in
the student center, so I stopped by to watch it.

I was impressed by the speech. It was the speech of a rational
centrist, not a liberal activist. It was, at the very least, a
masterful bit of politics.

In the opening, he thanked Bush for a good transition. ( I have read
elsewhere that the Bush administration did a very good job at helping
the incoming people. )

He made the point that "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching
network of violence and hatred." a comment that will no doubt disturb

The line "it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things
– some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor,
who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and
freedom." could have been written by Ayn Rand.

He made a point to put Vietnam veterans in the same category as those
of all other wars, making the implicit statement that it was an
equally worthwhile war: "For us, they fought and died, in places like
Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn."

I liked the sound of "Where the answer is no, programs will end." when
discussing the size of government.

Of course, the cynical response is that Obama feels free to tailor his
speech to impress moderates, because his base will be impressed no
matter what he does. A lot of people did seem to have fairly
emotional reactions to the speech; I am not sure how much of the
content they processed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blind Idiot God

One of HP Lovecraft's most unique and terrifying concepts was the 'Blind Idiot God'. The phrase itself is terrifying in its juxtaposition of concepts. Lovecraft wrote of beings who had nearly limitless power, but no intelligence and no perception of reality that matched that of normal humans. They followed their private, unknowable whims, with zero understanding of how their actions affected other people. They cannot be stopped or reasoned with. When one finds oneself in a world with one or more Blind Idiot Gods, there is nothing one can do except hope that they do not notice you or do anything too close to you.

A related concept in horror literature is the portrayal of little children with psychic powers, for example in the story and Twilight Zone episode 'It's a Good Life'. The kid who terrorizes the town is essentially a Blind Idiot God. He destroys things at people at random with his powers, and the adults are reduced to helpless, mind-bending servitude. They cannot argue with him, for he does not possess the intellect to see how his actions are ruining the world.

Kafka dealt with similar concepts. The protagonists on his stories were plagued by random events that do not seem to have any purpose. Sometimes these things are supernatural, but usually they are the result of a massive, powerful organization or bureaucracy. The effects on the people in the story are, as in the horror stories, despair and a sense of hopelessness. The unknowable bureaucracy is the Blind Idiot God.

In the Lovecraft stories, there are people who worship the Blind Idiot Gods. In the horror story, the adults try desperately to please the child. In Kafka stories, there are people who defend and justify the arbitrary actions of the bureaucracy. Often, these people believe that the power they worship will allow them to gain what they desire, or at least leave them in peace. But they are wrong. The Blind Idiot God, in whatever form it takes, cares nothing for its followers. It only uses them to further its private goals. The followers are reduced to something inhuman as they abandon all will, initiative, creativity, or independent thought.

But the truly frightening thing in these kinds of stories is that people who oppose the Blind Idiot Gods usually suffer a fate that is worse than the followers. They die horribly, or are driven insane. In a world with a Blind Idiot God, there is no good option. One either follows it, and loses all initiative and humanity, or opposes it to die a lonely death. That is the true horror of these kinds of stories. There can be no escape.

Any organization or bureaucracy, if it gets large and powerful enough, can become blind and foolish, disconnected from people and with a will of its own. The opinions of individuals become irrelevant. Those at the bottom are not allowed to think; they must simply follow orders and procedures. Those at the top are unable to do anything directly; all of their decisions get twisted and mutated by the bureaucratic process. They cannot do things by themselves, and they do not interact directly with reality, so that they do not know the consequences of their decisions.

If the bureaucracy is a part of the government, it gains all of the power of entire nation, which, from the point of view of an individual, is almost godlike. The transformation into Blind Idiot God is complete. A monster is born. Its motives are inscrutable. Its power is limitless. It does not know how it is altering the world. It has devastating effects on anyone or anything that gets in its way.

An individual cannot reason with it. An individual cannot oppose it. The only hope is to pacify it by following the arcane rituals that it invents. The best course of action is to try and stay away from it. But you cannot hide forever. The power of the Blind Idiot God is always growing. It seeks to dominate the entire world.

There are those who worship the Blind Idiot God of government. They flirt with its power, thinking that they can use the beast to give them what they want. But they never win. Politicians come and go, causes come and go, popular opinion moves from one cause to the next, but the bureaucracy always grows. It eats their offerings, promises the world, and delivers nothing.

Do not be one of these people. Do not feed the Blind Idiot God.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Last year, I read Joseph Heller's Catch-22. I did not like it at all.

The book is hailed as an assault on, or expose of, bureaucratic
stupidity, but the sympathetic main characters often commit actions
that are just as bad as the ones they suffer from. Yossarion's
arbitrary censoring of letters is the prime example. He harms people
for fun, an action that is treated mainly with humor. Perhaps this is
meant to show how the situation can corrupt people, but in my opinion
it makes such abuse seem attractive.

This is a constant theme. The book constantly complains about the
state of the world, yet it does nothing to show how things can be
improved. In many cases, it glorifies the very kinds of actions that
cause the problems it discusses. There is no heroism or honor in
anybody; all characters simply respond, with short-sighted venality,
to whatever happens to them. The only hint of action comes from Orr,
and his decision to defect from the army and flee to Sweden is hailed
as the shining example of initiative and heroic action in the book.

The book's absurdity goes well beyond honest criticism of abuse.
Agents of the United States government are depicted as arbitrarily
kidnapping and killing American soldiers. This kind of thing happened
in the fascist dictatorships we were fighting, and in our Russian
'allies', but it was not a feature of our military. I agree that it
could happen, and that we must be on guard against the possibility,
but the book does not make this point. It simply generates an
attitude of despair and caustic cynicism. It generates the impression
that we were no better than the people we were fighting, and that the
entire war was useless. This kind of thinking continues to infect our

The treatment of women throughout the book is uniformly bad. They are
not characters; they are simply objects for the amusement of the men.
I saw no hint of irony, and no trace of condemnation for these
actions. Yossarian sexually assaults a nurse, and she responds by
becoming his girlfriend.

I understand that this book has historical importance. I understand
that the structure and use of humor were groundbreaking. But I found
the whole thing tiresome. I have grown up in a culture of snark and
cynicism. Nothing in the book was interesting or original for me.
And I blame the book for helping to generate many of the worst aspects
of our modern culture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Politics Anecdote

One of my teachers told a story in class about a time when he gave a
talk on the minimum wage. A politician friend of his had asked him to
speak to a community group on the issue. He was explaining that an
earned income tax credit was a better way to help the working poor
than the minimum wage, because minimum wage laws always increase
unemployment. An income subsidy will raise the effective earnings
just as much, while increasing the number of workers.

The audience didn't get it, and they insulted him for his opposition
to a minimum wage. My teacher said he ended up with 'a newfound
respect for politicians' for their ability to 'put up with that kind
of crap'.

However, one person in the audience seemed to agree with him and
understand him. A representative of the 'United Workers Socialist
Party' respectfully thanked him for the talk and gave him a business

I guess it isn't surprising that any kind of radical group will often
respect science and new ideas more than the mainstream.

Moral Relativism

There is a big debate in our society between people who believe in
moral absolutes and those who believe in moral relativism. The former
argue that certain laws and codes of conduct will always be true,
regardless of the situation, and the latter believe that different
societies can and should have different rules of conduct. In the
political language of the United States, moral relativism is
associated with 'liberal' thought and moral absolutes are associated
with 'conservative' thought.

However, it is somewhat ironic that the people who profess to believe
in the universal applicability of "Thou shalt not kill" are often the
same people who believe in the right of homeowners to use lethal force
to protect themselves and their families. If a homeowner shoots and
kills someone who has broken into the house, then conservatives will
usually take the side of the homeowner and liberals will usually take
the side of the intruder. This is a generalization, and it may be an
accidental effect of the political divisions in our society, but I
believe that it is a useful thing to think about.

I take the side of the homeowner. If a strange person breaks into
your house, you have a right to assume that you are being threatened
and respond accoringly. The law should not require the homeowner to
give a warning; an armed criminal can overpower an inexperienced
civilian in seconds and surprise is often the only weapon that people
have to defend their families. The homeowner has a right of
self-defense, even if the intruder is not obviously threatening them
or brandishing a weapon. The safest thing for the homeowner to do is
assume that the intruder is armed, and capable of acting with speed,
desperation, and cunning. If you are the victim of a home invasion,
you should shoot first, and ask questions later.

In essence, I believe that it is right and proper for homeowners to
administer the death penalty for trespassing. This is because of the
world we live in. A home invasion is a very real threat to life and
health, and the probability is high that a strange man breaking into
your house intends to harm you or your family.

Of course, there are many good people who would disagree. They have a
right to disagree, and they have evidence to support their beliefs.
They would say that the homeowner has committed murder. But my
position is that the 'murder' is justified by the situation and the
conditions of society. Of course, if the facts of society were
different, if the threat of home invasions was not so large, then it
would indeed be wrong to kill someone for trespassing on your
property. A consideration of the circumstances is more important than
the simple moral rule of 'don't kill'.

This makes me something of a moral relativist. Given the facts of our
world, people have the right to kill in certain circumstances. If the
world were different, they would not have this right. The definition
of 'murder' depends on the situation.

Of course, in this case it is possible to defend my 'moral relativism'
by an appeal to the absolute rule of 'protect life'. I believe that
there would be more death, in the long run, if society did not allow
citizens to kill in self-defense. To give another, more concrete and
extreme, example, I believe that dropping atomic weapons on Japan was
a justifiable way to end World War 2. I believe that this action
saved more lives than it destroyed, and therefore was the right thing
to do.

A short-sighted insistence on absolute moral values can easily result
in those same values suffering greatly in the long run. I believe
that the difference between moral relativism and moral absolutes can
be seen primarily as a difference in the scope of one's thinking. And
the more that I think about it, the more I believe that many 'liberal'
beliefs are the result of thinking in terms of simple moral absolutes
while many 'conservative' beliefs are the result of a thorough
consideration of the situation. Examples of these kinds of issues are
the actions of our military, the amount of realpolitik in our
diplomacy, the conditions of third world factories, the actions of
Israel, environmental damage, and income inequalities. And yet, for
some reason, it is the 'conservatives' who philosophically reject
moral relativism, and the 'liberals' who philosophically embrace it.

Of course, any acceptance of moral relativism is very dangerous. If
you start questioning the values that have stabilized society for
centuries, you risk doing serious harm. Sometimes we do not know why
moral rules work, but we must assume that they exist for a very good
reason, and we must be humble about the abilities of our logic. But
in the end, any organism that fails to confront the facts of reality
risks going extinct. A rational analysis of the situation must always
prevail over any philosophical construct.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Metacognition is the ability to understand your own thought processes.
It is extremely important for success in life, and in the Economics
class I am teaching.

I tried a metacognition lesson in my class, and it seems to have
worked well. In my introductory email, I asked the students to answer
the following three questions:

It takes five machines five minutes to produce five widgets. How long
does it take 100 machines to produce 100 widgets?

A patch of lily pads doubles in area every week. It takes the patch
28 weeks to fill the entire pond. How many weeks does it take the
patch to fill half the pond?

A bat costs one dollar more than a ball, and the two of them together
cost $1.10. How much does the bat cost?

These questions are designed by psychologists to be easy to get wrong
if you don't think. The instinctive answers are incorrect, but it is
easy to find the right answer if you think a little. In class, I
explained this and added that the exams would be similar to these
questions. I gave the right answers ( 5, 27, 1.05), but did not
explain them.

Most of the students missed at least one of the questions, and several
missed all three. I told the students who got the wrong answers to
send me an email telling me why they answered the way they did, and
why the right answer is what it is.

One student has already responded with a good email. He had gotten
all of the questions wrong, and I think it shocked him a little. He
now realizes that the class will be challenging, and that it is easy
to make mistakes if you do not think. Hopefully this little exercise
will help get his mind in the right gear, and give him an idea of what
to expect on the exams.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

'300' and Culture

I went to the campus bookstore to do some reading, and happened to see
a copy of the comic '300'. I took some time to read it. The story is
about the Battle of Thermopylae, specifically the performance and
culture of the Spartan soldiers. It was reasonably historically
accurate, and well produced.

The Spartans made a lot of speeches about how they were fighting for
freedom, and the rule of law rather than the whims of men. They
talked about how they were fighting against the 'slaves' and
'barbarians' under the command of Xerxes. The comic was about how the
Spartans were making a stand to protect the 'light of civilization'
and the 'only free people the world has ever known'.

In reality, the Spartans did not talk like that. They were, in many
ways, the least civilized and least enlightened of the Greek
city-states. But I didn't care. The comic book was a celebration of
Western culture that is all too rare nowadays. It had been a long
time since any kind of popular entertainment has portrayed Western
culture and values as superior, and worth fighting for.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shooting the Garand

Last week, I took our M-1 Garand out to a ravine in the woods to shoot
it. My goal was to get a feel for how the gun worked, and practice my
shooting. My mom was with me to take pictures and to watch. She was
paranoid about the gun, worrying about misfires or accidents, but I am
fairly certain that the most dangerous thing I did was to climb up and
down the ravine walls to set up the targets. They were poster-sized
thin paper targets, and I used sticks and old pencils to peg them into
the dirt face of the ravine.

I had two kinds of ammunition. I had four clips loaded with military
surplus full metal jacket ammunition, and two clips loaded with
jacketed soft point deer hunting ammunition. Each clip has eight
bullets, and I had loaded them all earlier.

I fired two rounds of the deer hunting ammunition, and then manually
ejected the clip. I quickly learned that when you eject a clip from a
Garand, the bullets all jump out and go everywhere. I also learned
that it is surprisingly difficult to find bullets in a forest floor
that is covered with dead leaves. I also verified that there will
still be a bullet loaded that must also be removed.

I then loaded a clip of the military surplus ammunition, fired three
bullets, and ejected that clip and removed the bullet. My mom and I
saw first-hand the the terminal ballistics difference between full
metal jacket ammunition and ammunition that deforms on contact. When
I hit a target with the deer hunting ammunition, the paper target
practically disintegrated, blown to pieces by the impact. But when I
shot the target with the military surplus ammunition, nothing seemed
to happen. My mom thought I had missed the target completely, but I
was sure that I had hit it. When I went to investigate, there was a
tiny little rip in the target, and a massive crater in the ravine wall
behind the target.

Then I tried to load the second clip of deer hunting ammunition, but
it would not load properly. I took the bullets out and loaded them
into another clip. That one worked, and I fired off the entire clip.

Some time during this process, I loaded a single bullet into the gun
without using a clip. But neither I nor my mom can say for sure
whether I actually fired that bullet. We are fairly sure that I did.
I bought 50 military surplus bullets, had 47 after the shooting
session, and remember firing 3. I bought 20 deer hunting bullets, hed
9 left after shooting, and remember firing 10 from the clips. This
means that I either shot one bullet, or lost it when the clip was

It is annoying that I may have left a round of live ammo on the forest
floor. I feel the pain of police who have to account for every
bullet. I was firing under a perfectly calm, controlled situation,
and I cannot definitively account for all of the rounds.

After the shooting, I retrieved nine of the casings, and I also
managed to dig five of the bullets out of the side of the ravine. All
of them were the deer-hunting ammo. I would have liked to find some
of the full metal jacket bullets to compare, but I could not get them;
they penetrated too deep into the dirt for me to find.

I am happy with my accuracy. I was only firing from about 30 yards,
but I almost always got the bullets within a few inches of where I
wanted them. Of course, it was often hard to tell, because both the
targets and the side of the cliff had a habit of suffering massive
damage from the bullet impact. In one case, I scratched a big X in
the side of the cliff with a stick. It was at least a foot in
diameter. After I fired, there was no trace of the X at all. The
bullet had left a deep hole at least an inch in diameter, while
disrupting the dirt in an area with a diameter of at least a foot. I
am fairly sure that I hit the center of the X, but there was no way to
know for sure.

After I got back, I cleaned and oiled the gun. Sometime weekend when
I am home, I will practice again. I will go to a longer distance, and
do a speed drill. I will fire two clips at a single point as quickly
as I can, without sacrificing safety. Then I will see what the
grouping looks like, and then hopefully I will be able to dig some of
the full metal jacket bullets out of the cliff face.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obama's Economists

Yesterday I read this news item about a new appointment to the Obama

The appointee is a co-author of a book that I have been meaning to
read for some time. The book, 'Nudge', is an important summary of
work that has been done in behavioral economics. I am interested in
this topic and what it can teach us, so I checked the out of the
library and read it last night. The book is excellent. I plan on
discussing the book sometime soon, but the details are not important
for the purposes if this post.

Sunstein is exactly the person that I would put in charge of that
office if I was president. He has a very good understanding of how
choices and incentives work and how they are affected by environmental
conditions and regulation. More importantly, he is a libertarian
thinker who understands the value of free choice and the peril of bad
regulation. The only potential problem with him is that he is an
academic, not a politician or administrator, and may have trouble
making the changes that are needed. But he is reportedly a good
friend of Obama, and should get the support he needs.

There is, however, the potential for a larger problem. Sunstein, like
many of the economists that Obama has appointed, should be very good
at reducing the unintended consequences of government regulation by
applying economic knowledge. Obama has recruited an excellent
collection of high-quality economists who support the free market. (
The New York Times recently ran an editorial complaining about this
fact.) These people will reduce the costs associated with regulation
and government activity. This would be great, if the amount of
government action remained the same.

But it is a fact of economics that if something is less costly to
produce, you will get more of it. My fear is that Obama will feel
more confident in expanding government, because he knows he has people
like Sunstein who can make the expansion less painful.

Still, my gut feeling is that the Obama administration will be more
libertarian than the Bush administration. The last eight years have
brought massive increases in government power, budgets, and
bureaucracy, and a lot of it was mismanaged. I expect that the next
eight years will also bring large expansions in government. But,
assuming that people like Sunstein hang around and have real power, we
could easily lose less liberty under Obama than we did under Bush.