Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 12, 2013

List of Links for Friday

Lacar desde bandurrias

1. On North Korea, Gene Healy at Reason thinks that we should withdraw US troops from South Korea: “After six decades of U.S. forces serving as a ‘tripwire’ designed to deter the DPRK, it’s past time to start bringing our 28,500 troops home.” I think Healy underestimates (or doesn’t care about) the signaling value of having those US troops in South Korea; they are a form of reassurance to the South Korean people. If the US troops come home, then South Korea would likely invest in more military firepower for itself, including (perhaps) seeking to develop its own nuclear capability. So, bringing the US troops home from South Korea is probably bad for nuclear nonproliferation. Also, a larger South Korean military, while sending a signal to North Korea, could also make Japan nervous.

Meanwhile, Prof. David Kang (University of Southern California) thinks we’re collectively overreacting: “The Media Coverage of the Korean Crisis is Inflammatory.”

2. When statesmen (and stateswomen) die, old arguments become current again. Thus, the passing of Lady Thatcher leads Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns & Money to revisit Falklands War.

3. On the topic of Margaret Thatcher, British expat Andrew Sullivan has an excellent retrospective post on British politics and the political and social climate within which Thatcher had to work. I don’t read much Sullivan these days, but this post is worth reading in full. An excerpt:

No culture I know of is more brutally unkind to its public figures, hateful toward anyone with a degree of success or money, or more willing to ascribe an individual’s achievements to something other than their own ability. The Britain I grew up with was, in this specific sense, profoundly leftist in the worst sense. It was cheap and greedy and yet hostile to anyone with initiative, self-esteem, and the ability to make money.

…Yes: the British left would prefer to keep everyone poorer if it meant preventing a few getting richer. And the massively powerful trade union movement worked every day to ensure that mediocrity was protected, individual achievement erased, and that all decisions were made collectively, i.e. with their veto. And so – to take the archetypal example – Britain’s coal-workers fought to make sure they could work unprofitable mines for years of literally lung-destroying existence and to pass it on to their sons for yet another generation of black lung. This “right to work” was actually paid for by anyone able to make a living in a country where socialism had effectively choked off all viable avenues for prosperity. And if you suggested that the coal industry needed to be shut down in large part or reshaped into something commercial, you were called, of course, a class warrior, a snob, a Tory fascist, etc. So hard-working Brits trying to make a middle class living were taxed dry to keep the life-spans of powerful mine-workers short.

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.

Perhaps in future years, her legacy might be better seen as a last, sane defense of the nation-state as the least worst political unit in human civilization. Her deep suspicion of the European project was rooted in memories of the Blitz, but it was also prescient and wise. Without her, it is doubtful the British would have kept their currency and their independence. They would have German financiers going over the budget in Whitehall by now, as they are in Greece and Portugal and Cyprus. She did not therefore only resuscitate economic freedom in Britain, she kept Britain itself free as an independent nation. Neither achievement was inevitable; in fact, each was a function of a single woman’s will-power. To have achieved both makes her easily the greatest 20th century prime minister after Churchill.

4. Also, see this post: “Remembering My Moment with Lady Thatcher.”

5. Megan McArdle on Bitcoin, governments, and the liquidity of digital currency (emphasis added): “Look at tax havens, which are starting to cave under pressure from countries with stricter banking laws. This has been a bit of a surprise, given that in many places, selling secret bank accounts is basically the entire economy. But under examination, it makes sense: bank secrecy laws don’t do you much good if other countries have banded together to make it impossible to transfer money into or out of your country. On net, the digital era has made it easier, not harder, for governments to control the finances of their citizens.

6. Chris Blattman on standing desks. See also this post, which connects standing desks to Hemingway.

7. On the subject of Hemingway, see this post by Robert Bruce: “What Hemingway Can Teach You About Web Writing.” A taste (emphasis in original):

Short sentences are swell. This doesn’t mean you need to write like a second grader: “I like vegetables. They are nice.” The point is that a sentence riddled with 8 commas, a semicolon, and a couple of em dashes doesn’t make for a pleasant web reading experience—even if it’s grammatically sound.

Short paragraphs are even better. I’m amazed at how many websites with great content choose to format a 600ish word article into four long paragraphs. In web speak, those are “walls of text,” and they are painful to read. There’s no quicker way to lose a reader than to have giant blocks of text on your page. Your eyes need a break. Paragraph breaks are your friend. Use them!

8. Unfortunately, the Alabama legislature appears to be taking steps to undermine its recent eminent domain reform laws. Sad, but not too surprising.

9. Good news: “a bill called the ‘Don’t Shoot My Dog’ law is making its way through the Colorado State Senate. The bill would require police officers to undergo training on how to deal with dogs.” As Prof. Bainbridge says, “It’s about damned time.” I agree entirely.

10. A photo gallery of Ten Of the Strangest Homes In the World, including a very narrow house in Poland, a slide house in Japan, a 1 square meter house in Germany, and a converted church in the Netherlands. (H/T: Chris Blattman.)

Image Credit: Lake Lacar, Argentina. Photo by “Albasmalko,” March 2007. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


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