Category Archives: Political Commentary

The Value Of Argument

Kids, would you please start fighting?

The Wright brothers weren’t alone. The Beatles fought over instruments and lyrics and melodies. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony clashed over the right way to win the right to vote. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak argued incessantly while designing the first Apple computer. None of these people succeeded in spite of the drama — they flourished because of it. Brainstorming groups generate 16 percent more ideas when the members are encouraged to criticize one another. The most creative ideas in Chinese technology companies and the best decisions in American hospitals come from teams that have real disagreements early on. Breakthrough labs in microbiology aren’t full of enthusiastic collaborators cheering one another on but of skeptical scientists challenging one another’s interpretations.

If no one ever argues, you’re not likely to give up on old ways of doing things, let alone try new ones. Disagreement is the antidote to groupthink. We’re at our most imaginative when we’re out of sync. There’s no better time than childhood to learn how to dish it out — and to take it.

Beyond the danger to free expression, this is a large part of the danger of political correctness and groupthink on campus.

Corporate Taxes

I’ve been saying this for years as well:

corporations don’t pay taxes — they collect them. Any taxes are actually paid by customers (higher prices), employees (lower wages), shareholders (smaller returns), etc. The ideal corporate tax rate is therefore zero, but politically that would never fly. Instead we have a tangled mess of corporate tax law, which benefits large corporations with their armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Small corporations which can’t afford all that are put at a competitive disadvantage, not to mention sole proprietorships which pay through the nose on everything.

But since we can’t get an ideal corporate tax rate, a flat and transparent corporate tax would be the next best thing. Our current system is the worst of all possible worlds: It diverts resources and manpower away from investment and innovation, and stifles entrepreneurs to the benefit of established interests.

On the other hand, our system creates endless possibilities for corruption and graft. So it has that going for it. Which is nice for Washington.

One other point: People are saying that most of the benefits of the tax bill go to the upper percentage. Ignoring the fact that you can’t cut taxes without cutting them on the people who pay the most taxes, cutting corporate taxes in fact effectively reduces indirect tax costs for all the people above, who are in all income brackets (particularly the employees and customers). As I wrote years ago, we can’t cut taxes, we can only cut (or increase) tax rates.

Military In Space

Nothing really new here for people who follow this sort of thing, but here’s as good an overview of Pentagon plans as you can get without a clearance. I think that if BFR and Blue Origin’s vehicles come to be, they’ll dramatically open new capablities and change a lot of doctrine and strategy.

[Update a few minutes later]

This seems related. A new report, titled Escalation and Deterrence in the Second Space Age. Looks interesting.

[Via Leonard David]

About That Federal Climate Report

It’s “the usual mix of half truths, exaggerations, omissions and outright lies.”

In other words, what we’ve come to expect from government climate reports.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Oops, Naomi Oreske caught with biased numbers on “Exxon knew.”

Gee, it’s almost as thought they have a political agenda.

Scott Pace

Lee Billings has an interview with him. This is Scott’s (whom I’ve know well for 35 years) standard response when asked about SLS:

Heavy-lift rockets are strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers. There are some people who have talked about buying heavy-lift as a service as opposed to owning and operating, in which case the government would, of course, have to continue to own the intellectual properties so it wasn’t hostage to any one contractor. One could imagine this but, in general, building a heavy-lift rocket is no more “commercial” than building an aircraft carrier with private contractors would be.

He never explains how a rocket that almost never flies, and costs billions per flight, if and when it does, is a “strategic national asset.” It seems more like a liability to me, in the modern age of commercial spaceflight.

[Update Tuesday morning]

More thoughts from Eric Berger.

[Late-morning update]

NASA’s safety Kobayashi Maru.

This is insanity.

[Update mid-afternoon]

Bob Zimmerman righteously rants. I really find it hard to believe that this thing will ever fly with crew.

The Middle East

Things are heating up there, and I don’t think it’s being covered much, particularly given all the coverage of the Texas shooting. First, the Huthis fired a Scud missile at Saudi Arabia from Yemen, which the Saudis shot down, and are blaming on their puppetmasters in Iran, declaring that it may be an act of war.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Prime Minister has resigned. In Riyadh. Because he fears for his life and that Iran is now effectively in control there. And there’s a huge shakeup going on in the House of Saud. The ancient rivalry between the Arabs and the Persians may be reaching a boiling point.

All this as Israel has been engaging in the biggest war games in almost two decades.

But nothing to worry about. No more peaceful, stable region in the world, historically, than the Middle East.

[Update a few minutes later]

And the deputy governor of Asir province was killed in a helicopter crash. Could be a coincidence, but there’s a lot going on over there.