Several of the Republican presidential contenders were recently asked the question: how much is 2 + 2? Here were their answers:

Romney: It used to be 4, but now it’s 3 here in Iowa, though next week in New Hampshire it’ll be 5.
Gingrich: It’s whatever I say it is
Bachmann: It’s 6, has always been 6, and even though the liberal media have accused me of once saying it’s 8, I never said that
Paul: It’s irrelevant, because once we get rid of the federal government, we can create a new number system
Perry: Um, uh, give me a minute



Well, I’ve pretty much lost interest in twitter.   But I’ve started a new blog:   This is an ongoing journey through history, sociology, economics, anthropology, neuroscience — all the different ways of looking at human behavior.  The idea is to figure out where the world should be going — increasing fairness? — and what it would take to get there.   I’ll recommend those books and other resources helping in that search.

Now on twitter:  @ericbalkan

IBfT: Welcome, Prof.  Can you tell us something about the Dogo Institute?
MvF: The Dogo Institute, advocates of dog-eat-dog capitalism, was founded to sugar-coat libertarian theory, which sane people would otherwise find hard to swallow.
IBfT Do you rely much on the writings of noted economists?
MvF: Only the right economists.  Those who understand that economics is the study of how you want the world to be, rather than how it actually is.
IBfT: Would you expound on your claim that freedom should be the primary goal of society?
MvF: We mean, for instance, that everyone can pick whatever job they want to do, whether it’s a plumber or something that takes less intelligence, like being US President.
IBfT: But in the real world, aren’t choices limited by circumstances?
MvF: Oh, that doesn’t matter to the Institute, because at the Institute we all live in a fantasy world, where everyone is free to choose whatever they want.
IBfT: I see.  Another question that’s come up:  what happens when there’s a conflict in the concept of freedom, like when an employee excercises freedom of speech in talking about starting a union, and the corporation he works for exercises their freedom to fire him for it?
MvF: Easy answer: property rights are more important than freedom. While an employee works for an employer, he’s property.  If he doesn’t like working there, he can put his stuff in a cardboard box and start over again somewhere else.
IBfT: Who does libertarianism appeal to?
MvF: Primarily the rich, and those who think they would become rich if only liberals wouldn’t get in the way.  And, of course, those who don’t have children.
IBfT: Because children need to be protected by society, which doesn’t work when you use a for-profit model?
MvF: Libertarianism deals with children easily, by treating them either as adults or as the property of their parents, however we feel like doing it at the moment.   Remember, llibertarianism describes a fantasy world, so we don’t actually have to deal with real situations.  In our fantasy world, the free market can deal with any problem, so if the free market can’t deal with something, it must not be a problem.
IBfT: Like global warming.
MvF: Exactly.  In our world, global warming doesn’t exist.  It can’t exist, because if it did, our entire every-man-for-himself model would collapse.  Remember the Institute motto:  “You can’t change our minds with facts!”
IBfT; Thank you, Prof.

IBfT: Welcome Mrs. Burton.  I understand you head a group advocating war as a first instrument of national policy.
Mrs. Burton:  Correct.  Most Americans are not looking any further than Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe Iran and Venezuela, in thinking about war.  But the same policies that have led to our success in Iraq can also be used against other countries, such as France.
IBfT:  France?
Mrs. Burton:  France has weapons of mass destruction, they have Moslems, the people there don’t like Americans….  I was recently in Paris and a Frenchman there was entirely rude to me.  Seems like enough cause for war, I would think.
IBfT:  But, but….
Mrs. Burton:  What, you think we can’t beat them?  That’s the same kind of defeatist attitude that’s hampered our glorious efforts in Iraq.
IBfT: Well, I’m not sure how to respond to that.  What about Iraq?  I guess you’re opposed to any kind of pullout?
Mrs. Burton: Of course.  If we were to pull out, all our brave soldiers would have died in vain.  That’s why we’re advocating the resumption of bombing in Vietnam.
IBfT: Vietnam?
Mrs. Burton: Pres. Gerald Ford was wrong to give up on Vietnam.  Americans should never give up, never surrender.
IBfT: That was a spoof line in a movie….
Mrs. Burton: It’s never too late to correct a mistake.
IBfT: That’s what most Americans are saying about Iraq….
Mrs. Burton: The only way for Americans to feel safe in the world is if we kill everyone we don’t like.  We fully support John McCain’s policy of shoot first, talk later.  Talking should always be from a position of strength and there is no stronger position than when your opponent is dead.
IBfT:  Hmm, well, do you have any final thoughts for us?
Mrs. Burton:  Bombs away!

IBfT: Welcome Mr. President. Glad you could come. I understand that you’d like to announce a personal development.
Mr. Bush: Yes. As you know, I’ve been often accused of not caring about people. Well, people other than my campaign contributors. But I’m here to announce that I’m making a personal sacrifice. I’ve decided to place my name on the national brain transplant donor list.
IBfT: Oh, was that your idea?
Mr. Bush: Actually, it was that Irish guy, Sen. O’bama. He suggested that, as I haven’t been using my brain, I might as well donate it to someone who would. Of course, I haven’t actually needed a brain in this job, as Karl Rove has had a big enough brain for both of us. Ever notice the size of his head?
IBfT: But isn’t it true, sir, that you are not in fact the original owner of your brain? I have it on good authority that Dick Cheney had ordered you a brain transplant back in 2000, and that since then you’ve been using the brain of one of Ronald Reagan’s associates, a fellow names Bonzo, I believe. Were you going to be honest about this to the new recipient?
Mr. Bush: “Let the buyer beware”, heh, heh. I admit I’m really not at all curious about who would want this brain, Tree. Can I call you Tree?
IBfT: Um, OK, if I can call you George. I would think you would be more curious, George. But I guess that was a different monkey.
Mr Bush. Of course I am curious about what I’ll do after I leave office. I will need to find another brainless activity to keep me occupied. I’m proud of all the pencils I sharpened while in that strangely shaped office in Washington. Maybe clearing brush on my ranch. You know there’s so much brush there, I’d really like to drop a nucular bomb on it to get rid of it once and for all.
IBfT: I’ve heard that Dick Cheney has it trucked in, so as to keep you away from Washington as much as possible. Anyway, whatever you decide to do, I know I speak for every American when I say we hope that this time it’ll be something that keeps us out of trouble.