Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Middle Way, Part 4 (Fanatics vs. Fundamentalism)

Lou Marinoff makes an excellent distinction between fanatics and fundamentalists that all too many people do not make. We typically refer to Osama bin Laden as an Islamic fundamentalist, which groups him in with various Chrstian fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson. However, "It is primarily religious (and also political) fanatics who cannot tolerate beliefs that differ from their own. Fanatics are dangerously and sometimes violently intolerant of others' beliefs, while fundamentalists are passionately wed to their own beliefs but normally pose no threat to others who believe differently" (63). Having been rasied around -- and as -- a Christian fundamentalist, I can attest to this difference. I heard my pastor and my family complain voiciferously and constatntly about people doing this or that, or belieivng this or that. But the worst that any of them were ever going to do was sign a petition or vote for or against something. In the end, they were actually tolderant of the things they opposed, because they lived and let live. That did not mean, though, that they did not think they did not have the right to voice their opinions.

And this gets me to another point that needs to be made. Fanatics cannot stand for someone to disagree with them. Thus, they take action to silence their opposition thorugh various forms of intimidation. There are people out there who are free speech fanatics -- meaning, they think that they should have the right to say anything they want without anyone saying anything to or about them or their ideas. The attitude can be summed up thus:

Fanatic: "I believe that we should do X."
Opposition: "No, I think X is a bad idea."
Fanatic: "Opposition is infringing on my freedom of speech to say that we should do X!"

Pick your favorite cause and plug it into X, and you have probably heard someone make the above argument. It is not enough that they are free to say what they want, but others should not be free to criticize them for having said it. That is a form of fanaticism that in fact undermines the freedom of speech.

So fanaticism does not have to be theological in nature. But I do suspect that it is always religious in nature. Marinoff hints at this in the paragraph that ends the short section the above was excerpted from when he says, "Religious reform itself has now reached the other extreme [away from fundamentalism] in the West, whose societies -- from South America to North America to Europe -- hve become so liberalized that millions now have no religious faith whatsoever. This leaves them extremely vulnerable to moral anarchy on the one hand, and to political crusades on the other" (63). In other words, it has led to post-hippy, postmodern anarchy and libertinage -- or to various forms of secular-government religions such as national socialism, fascism, and communism. For many government is now their god. We saw this particularly strongly among the existentialists who, upon embracing atheism, became supporters of Naziism (Heidegger was a lifelong member and never recanted his membership in the party) and communism (Camus, de Beauvoir, and Sartre were all communists, at least for a while). Nietzsche warned against this, pointing out that people did not truly embrace atheism and all that it truly meant, but that they continued to act as good Christians or Jews, only transfering their loyalties to other entities.

What we seem to see now in the United States is a combination of moral anarchy and devotion to government as god among a certain element of the Left. There are people who don't want anyone to judge them for anything they do, but at the same time support the creation of an extremely large, controlling government. They seek to cut all natural social bonds, eliminate all natural social hierarchies, and support the government as the one, true and only social organizer. It's a very unnatural top-down yet egalitarian system. But it is a system conceived of by people who, to paraphrase Nietzsche, cannot conceive of a being greater than themselves. They naturally imagine themselves in charge of the very entity they worship.

WIth a natural set of social systems, we see decentralization and moderation at work. People join various social systems -- churches, neighborhoods, jobs, clubs, etc. -- and there is a natural hierarchy that forms. There is me, and I am in a family, and my family and I are in a neighborhood and go to a church, and each of those are imbeded in a hierarchical organization themselves: the community is in a town, in a county (two in the case of my town) in a state in a nation in a larger culture (the West) in a globalized world; the church is a member of a diocese, etc. As a member of diffferent groups, I am forced to get along with different people. There are people of different ethnic groups in my neighborhood and in my church (and in my family, actually), etc. I am friends with people of different religions and ethnicities due to the different organizations I have been a member of, or because of the places I hang out at. All of which contributes to moderate behavior (it's hard to hate people you know very well, after all). We live moderate lives by acting as we naturally act -- as social mammals -- while struggling against the unfortunate side-effect of evolving as a social mammal, which is hatred of those not in our tribe. We do this not by eliminating social behavior, but by expanding our notion of who is in our tribe. But all of this undermines government-fanaticism, and that is why anti-social efforts have been underway of late: anti-touching rules and even laws, etc. are becoming popular of late. It is part of a kind of fanaticism we have to fight against just as much as we fight against religious fanaticism.

But we have to remember: fanaticism and fundamentalism are not one and the same thing. We have to know that if we are going to fight effectively against fanaticism and make the world safe for moderation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nader Sues Democratic Party

Good for Ralph Nader for suing the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign for what he believed were actions taken by them to keep him off the ballot to prevent his "taking votes away" from Kerry. The rules we have on the books in many states make it too easy for the two main parties to keep the elections to themselves. This is anti-democratic! So I hope Nader succeeds, so the American people will have more options. Some new ideas and untraditional candidates might also get people interested in participating in their government for a change.

But let's look forward to the future Presidential debates. It should be law that any candidate who can get his name on the ballot in all 50 states should be allowed in the debates. The current rules are designed merely to make it so that only the Republicans and Democrats are invited. My proposal has the benefit of solving the problem (really, excuse given) of letting everyone "running" on the ballot. I agree we should not necessarily let in every crank on the ballot in a state or two -- but if someone can manage to get on the ballot in every state, then they should be considered a serious candidate.

On the Origin of Law

Laws (all laws in general, including laws of the universe) emerge from the interactions of the elements of the system. With humans, it is interactions within a social system that first give rise to custom-laws, which then develop into government-laws. Government laws are written down codes that have developed in the society at large. Nobody is actually inventing new laws ex nihilo, but rather observe laws emerging, then give then a name. I think if we truly understand the origins of laws, we will be able to more fully understand their role (and what their role should be) in our lives. Should every custom-law be turned into a government-law? Which custom-laws should be? Which should not? Are there some laws that are created in order to create new custom-laws? Are bottom-up laws better (or always, or necessarily better, if they are better) than top-down laws? (My own opinion: they are. Why? Because of the nature of complex systems. Though this does not mean that we don't need the occasional top-down corrective of bad bottom-up custom-laws.)

What does it mean for the understanding of law and justice if we take a complex systems approach to understanding the origins and consequences of law?


Everyone should read this and take it to heart: Education and Discipline

Unless we realize that letting children -- all students, if you are a teacher of any sort -- have their way no matter what, we will continue to have the kinds of societal problems we have been having.

Discipline and disciple (which means "pupil") have the same roots for a reason. Without discpline, you cannot be a pupil, you cannot be a student, you cannot learn. Proper discipline, especially self-discipline, is what gives us true freedom. Liberty is not libertinage. Freedom is not chaos. Freedom is the golden mean between order and chaos -- it is arrived at through discipline.


After President Bush suggested that we need to be afraid that Iran getting nuclear weapons could lead to World War III, Denis Kucinich said, "I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health." I suppose, then, that we should also start asking questions about the mental health of French President Sarkozy, who said that a nuclear Iran would mean war. I wonder what Kucinich thinks the Iranians are going to do with a nuclear weapon if they were to get one?

Monday, October 29, 2007

America: A Prophesy

Unless we realize that school is for educating our children, meaning they should not be in charge of them in any way, shape or form;
Unless we realize that universities are there to provide students with a liberal education and are not places where they should even think they are buying a degree just to get a job;
Unless we realize that anything worth having is worth working for;
Unless we realize that we need to all grow up and take responsibility for our actions, thoughts, and education;
Unless we realize that most of us are selfish and petty and have no actual problems -- especially compared to the vast majority of people in the world;
Unless we reestablish and enforce the hierarchy between teacher and student;
Unless we provide students with a moral education;
Unless we stop preventing intelligent, educated people from serving on juries;
Unless we stop avoiding hiring people because they are "over-qualified";
Unless we stop excusing bad behavior;
Unless we realize that we are all in this together;
Unless we realize that the dominance of one way of thinking is cancer, but the dominance of pure plurality of thinking is isolating;
Unless we stop thinking that social issues, international issues, economic issues -- issues concerning government and who we elect -- aren't important;
Unless we take this world seriously;
Unless we take threats to our society seriously;
Unless we take our arts, literature, and culture seriously;
Unless we take beauty seriously;
Unless we take history seriously;
Unless we take truth seriously;
Unless we take justice seriuosly;
Unless we take virue seriously;
Unless we take love seriously;
Unless we reward the good and the deserving and let the bad and the lazy to be punished by the world and society and living itself;
Unless we stop letting the inmates run the assylum;
Unless we start standing up for what we know is right;
Unless we take risks to do what's right . . .

America is doomed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Middle Way, Part 3 (al Qaida vs. moderation)

Marinoff makes a striking point about what it was al Qaida attacked on 9/11. We have heard they attacked us because of our freedoms (partially true, as we will see), and we have heard that they attacked us because of our excesses -- specifically our opposite excesses to their excess of abstinance. But if we had been attacked because of our excesses, we would have likely seen much different targets. Marinoff points out that "extremes of religious and political authority do impose abstinences on everyone, precisely because they will not tolerate moderation. That is why al-Qaida did not target the French Quarter of New Orleans on 9/11. They were not attacking their opposite extreme, namely excess consumption of alcohol; they were attacking something much more important, namely the culture of moderation, which tolerates both extremes" (61). Indeed, the French Quarter at Mardi Gras is an excellent example of numerous extremes. When I went there during Mardi Gras, at one end of the street was a gay bar with numerous gay men out in the street, many of them wearing assless chaps. Going up the street, I saw people in various levels of undress -- including women who were for all intents completely naked. And at the far end of the street, I sawa solemn procession of Catholics carrying a huge wooden cross marching slowly into the crowd. If al-Qaida were truly interested in attacking American excess, and getting a few devout Christians to boot, Mardi Gras in New Orleans would have been the place to do it.

So excess is not what they were attacking. Marinoff explains further: "The virtue of moderation tolerates extremes that are voluntarily chosen, but which do not seek to impose themselves forcibly on others. But moderation cannot tolerate those who use moderation as a weapon against itself. Extremists do not attack our vices; rather, our virtues, such as moderation in the liberty, trust, and tolerance we accord to our fellow travelers. Moderation and tolerance themselves were the primary targets on 9/11, as they are in all such suicide bombings, big or small" (61). Their goal was to push us toward extremism. Their war is against moderation and tolerance. Thus, if we remember Aristotle's golden mean of virtue, we see that their war is against virtue itself. More, it is a war against life itself -- the middle way between death and cancerous growth. They seek to be a cancer on the world, to make everyone like them -- their method is death.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Unfair Sex Conviction Overruled

Genarlow Wilson has been freed by the state supreme court of Georgia, declaring his conviction "cruel and unusual punishment." And what kind of sense was there in the first place to bring charges against a 17 year old boy accused of having oral sex with a 15 year old? Weren't both of them underaged? Much has been made of the fact that this young man was an honor student, a football star and his high school's homecoming king and that he had been offered scholarships by several elite colleges before his conviction. But this conviction would be unfair even if none of that were true about him. But since it is true, and since he did lose out on such scholarships, I think the only fair thing would be for this prosecutor, who misused the law in Georgia -- according to the very lawmaker who wrot ethe law -- to pay for this young man's college education for as long as he wanted to go to college -- even if it led to a PhD., an M.D., or a law degree.

The Middle Way, Part 2 (American Denial)

Lou Marinoff observes in "The Middle Way" that China is on the ascendant, and that Americans seem not to be prepared for it. While I do not necessarily agree that a good Chinese economy is necessarily bad for the U.S. economy (again, the economy is not a pie divided up so some get more only when others get less, but is growing), he is right in saying that "Americans are already steeped in denial regarding the internal deficiencies contributing to their nation's decline -- not only in global public opinion, but crucially in cultural assets -- which means they are not prepared to reverse the damage" (38).

I do not think that Marinoff is saying that we should do everything we can to get everyone to like us. People who do that are not psychologically healthy, and we should not expect a country to do that either. However, it is a sign of some kind of sociopathology when you go out of your way to make people mad. Did the Congress really have to bring up for a vote the resolution against Turkey regarding the Armenians in WWI? Does the U.S. absolutely need anti-missile weapons in Poland and the Czech Republic? These are unnecessary annoyances and provocations. Further, our country needs to avoid the appearance of impropriety -- we need to not only not do some things, we need to make it clear we don't do them. This is why I'm in favor of transparency in most things regarding government. We would go a long way toward improving global public opinion if we were consistent in doing what we say we believe in.

This then brings us to the issue of cultural assets. I think if we give an honest assessment of most of the cultural products of most cultures, we will find far more pop culture than high culture. In fact, what may have been one culture's pop culture can become another one's high culture. Plato seemed to think that tragedy was mere pop culture for the hoi poloi -- his student Aristotle gave us the opinion we now hold of it as being the height of theater. So we do want to be careful about such divisions. But are we creating a public that truly appreciates good art and literature? The cultural elites love works by authors like Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon -- works which I myself like, but recognize that to be on the fringe of what the average human being can understand -- while the real best sellers are Christian Romances. There is a huge disconnect between the two that make students think art and literature have nothing to do with their lives and the real world. Our art is in the same situation, as is philosophy. How many people think that philosophy is something that can or should have an impact on our lives? This is because philosophy has turned into something that can noly be accessed by those who have Ph.D.'s in philosophy. This is exacerbated when postmodern philosophers insist that what they do has no value or purpose. If this is the case, why study it? And, if we look at it from a university standpoint, why fund it? Thus, our universities are turning into trade schools, and our students go in expecting to learn a trade and that the purpose of a degree is to get oneself a job. The "liberal" part of liberal education is going out the door, and nobody is making a single objection to it going. But without a liberal education, what will we be but workers in a machine? We will not have the freedom that only liberal education can teach. Literature gives us new worlds to experience. Art lets us see the world in new ways. Philosophy teaches us to know ourselves to live a better life. Or, at least, they once did. Now they are specialist fields as inaccessible to the public as is quantum physics. And that is the real problem: we deny the average citizen access to his own cultural assets. We treat them as something that belongs to an elite. The rest get bread and circuses. This is a dangerous division.

We should count ourselves fortunate that on occasion someone -- typically a filmmaker nowadays -- attempts to bridge this gap. But even so we typically see a gap between what the educated critics like and what the public likes. Why don't people think it is possible to have a work that is both entertaining and beautiful? We need cultural products that tap into all aspects of who we are as people: they should be entertaining, beautiful, intelligent, and emotional. Indeed, let me go back to one of the things in the list in particular: beauty. It seems that it is beauty which we are missing in our lives. And it is beauty which is the Middle Way which Marinoff seems to really be getting at in his book. The Golden Mean is a principle of beauty. This is why Aristotle, in talking about virtue as a mean between two extremes also says that virtue aims at the beautiful ("to kalon," typically translated as "the good" or "the noble"). It is beauty which is missing in America -- and in the world at large.

But there is a great deal of confusion about what beuaty is, so let me supply a list of what, together, constitutes beauty:

Beauty has the following features:

Complexity within Simplicity
Emergent from Conflict
Evolutionary (changes over time)
Generative and Creative
Hierarchical Organization
Reflexivity or Feedback
Scalar Self-Similarity
Unity in Multiplicity

The following agonally unified opposites also constitute beauty:

Native – Foreign
Light – Shadow
Logos – Eros
Emotion – Intellect (Reason)
Conscious – Unconscious
Soul – Technology
Feeling – Thinking
General – Specific
Universal – Particular

I am convinced that there is a strong relationship between things that are evolving, growing, self-organizing, and emergentist and beauty. Thus, let us look at the features of self-organization and see why:

Cohesion (digital-analog)
Downward Causation
Feedback loops, Circular causality
Relative Chance
Globalisation and localisation
Unity in Plurality (Generality and Specificity)

Emergence has the following features:

Synergism (productive interaction between parts)

When our cultural assets contain the above features, our culture will be healthy. When our government, our economy, our society and our selves have these features, then each of them will also be healthy. This is the true Middle Way. But you cannot cure a sick patient who denies that he's even sick.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Future Human Evolution

This is one of the dumbest things I've heard of, for many reasons.

While there does seem to be some evidence of the division into "gracile" and "robust" forms in primates, Oliver Curry mistakenly says that chimpanzees split into robust chimps and gracile bonobos. This is not true. The common ancestor of humans, chimps and bonobos split into the descendants of chimps and a second group that itself split into the descendants of the bonobos and the descendants of the humans. We can see this in the fact that we are more closely related to bonobos and that we share some anatomical and behavioral features with bonobos, though many of our behaviors more closely resemble chimps, while bonobos physically resemble chimps more. So the evolutionary picture is more complex than Curry suggests.

The next bizarre statement, from an evolutionary point of view, is that "human evolution will reach its peak in about the year 3000." I don't know what this could possibly mean. Evolution does not have "peaks" in the sense that a species is as good as it gets. Species are always adapting to their environments. Humans are a strong generalist, and we are thus highly adaptive to practically every terrestrial environment. This leads into the nonsense about genetic regression. There is no such thing as genetic regression -- there is only more or less adaptive species to their environment.

This then leads me to the issue of evolution itself. When a species is as mobile as our own -- especially in the modern world -- natural selection as adaptation to the environment no longer occurs. What we have now in control is population dynamics, where a genetic change spreads rapidly and evenly throughout a population after a few generations. Now, Curry mentions sexual selection. But I see no evidence for differences in sexual selection. All the studies that have been done my evolutionary psychologists show that people universally find the same general proportions physically attractive. Globalization is, again, even eliminating many of the cultural differences that may (as unlikely as that is, since those differences were never actually substantial) have contributed to sexual selection. The elements contributing to intelligence, as I noted in a previous post, are so numerous as to make it difficult to determine what combinations are best.

This is not to say that over the time span he mentions -- 100,000 years -- that human evolution won't occur. Sure by then we will have colonized the moon and Mars, perhaps even the stars. And one would expect those isolated populations to evolve. But to keep things more down-to-earth, Curry fails to mention another type of evolution. It is a more important kind, and it is the kind that gave rise to human intelligence itself. And that is the evolution of more complexity. It is possible that certain people might evolve to have more complex minds -- perhaps as much more complex than humans as humans are over chimps and bonobos. It is unlikely they would appear to be physically any different, as the difference would be in the minds of the people who emerged into the more complex forms ot thinking. This kind of evolution seems more likely, and it seems more immediately likely. And if Claire Graves, Don Beck, and Christopher Cowan are right, it may have already happened in a small group of people. That is a much more interesting kind of evolution in my book.

Iran and War

Democrats are worried that the sanctions and declaration of the Iranian army as a terrorist organization are preliminaties for justifying us starting a new war. They needn't worry. These are merely provocations to get Iran to make the first so that we won't have a choice but to go to war with them, since they will have made the first military move. Bush doesn't intend to start it -- he intends to get them to start it.

Turkey and Iraq

What if Turkey invades Iraq? Turkey is a fellow NATO country, but since we have set up and are supporting the Iraqi government, shouldn't we support and defend that government? We should perhaps be thankful that Turkey has not yet been allowed in the EU -- because what would the consequences be fore the U.S. to have to fight a member nation of the EU? And if we end up having to go to war with Turkey, who in the Middle East cold we be friends with? This is looking to head toward a real disaster.

Obama and the "Reformed Gay"

The latest controversy surrounding Obama highlights a disturbing element in American politics. Why is it that Obama thinks he can campaign with someone who offends homosexuals? Is it because he knows that no matter what he does, most homosexuals will still vote Democratic? Perhaps this explains why you can't find too many Democrats supporting too many gay rights initiatives, including gay marriage.

We see this pattern repeating itself in American politics. If gays are going to predominantly support Democrats, no matter what, then 1) why should Republicans do anything for them, since there is no way they are getting gay support, and 2) why should Democrats do anything for them, since there is no way they're not getting gay support.

Let's repeat this:

If African-Americans are going to predominantly support Democrats, no matter what, then 1) why should Republicans do anything for them, since there is no way they are getting African-American support, and 2) why should Democrats do anything for them, since there is no way they're not getting African-American support.

If Hispanics are going to predominantly support Democrats, no matter what, then 1) why should Republicans do anything for them, since there is no way they are getting Hispanic support, and 2) why should Democrats do anything for them, since there is no way they're not getting Hispanic support.

Fortunately for Hispanics, the Republicans still think they are in play. But if and when it becomes obvious they are not, don't be surprised to see Republicans stop being concerned with Hispanic issues. Cubans are predominantly Republican, so we see Republicans more than Democrats supporting Cuba-American positions regarding Cuba -- including trade barriers, though most Republicans have to know that trading with Cuba would have had the actual result the Cuban-Americans desired.

If different groups let each party know they were not party-loyal, they might get more of what they want done. This is a purely pragmatic argument on my part, as there are many things I don't think should be done, regardless of who supports it. But those issues are for future posts.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ethics and Flip-Flopping

When Mitt Romney suggested that the President should provide a positive example of family values for the country, and that he didn't think the Clinton family was up for the job, the response was Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson was, "Hillary Clinton needs no lessons on character from a man who switches his positions on a daily basis."

Really, Wolfson is comparing Romney changing his mind on the issue of abortion (which I believe he has done but once) to cheating on one's wife?

This gets us into the entire issue of flip-flopping. Is Romeny's change of opinion on abortion a 'flip-flop'? Not really. If you change your mind because you have learned more about an issue, then that should be commendable. You have learned more, and now you realize you were wrong in the past, and are willing to change your mind rather than bull-headedly sticking to your guns. If you change your mind based on the audience you are speaking to, then you are a flip-flopper. A thoughtless consistency is just as bad as inconsistency in my book. I prefer someone who shows the capacity to learn and the willingness to change their mind when faces with facts.

Certainly changing one's mind on something is not the same as adultery. Not in anyone's book (except, aparently, the Clintons').

The Middle Way, Part 1 (Poverty, India, and the West)

I am currently reading Lou Marinoff's book "The Middle Way" -- which I highly recommend based on what I've read so far. I thought I would comment on things as I ran across them. So let's start in order, meaning we're going to have to start with something that is insightful, yet wanders off into being wrong, despite starting off in the right place. He is talking about where the West and Indian Civilization clash:

"Dire poverty in India and its neighboring states, afflicting hundreds of millions of people, is proving inescapable not only because of endemic corruption and socioeconomic rigidity in thse nations. But in addition, enormous agricultural subsidies paid to farmers in the affluent West, in tandem with prohibitive tariffs imposed on produce from developing nations, impede many of our Indian counterparts from bettering their lives. So the West's affluence depends partly but far from wholly on India's poverty."

Marinoff is completely correct right up to the last line. He makes the false and, quite frankly, anti-economic, assumption that subsidies and tariffs enrich the West. They certainly have the effect he attributes to them when it comes to India -- however, he does not realize that subsidies and tariffs are themselves overall impoverishing to the country using them.

Let's take a look at subsidies. A subsidy is a government payment to a business to support that business. This is done for two reasons: to keep unprofitable businesses in business, and to drive down the price of the goods produced by that business. The first reason results in government rewarding people for making bad decisions, thus encouraging people to continue to make bad, irresponsible decisions. The market rewards good decisions, encouraging people to make good, responsible decisions. The second reason, to drive down prices, is something we should look at in more depth, as it is the aspect of subsidies Marinoff is talking about.

Let's create a simplified economy. Let's say we have 100 taxpayers, 10 bureaucrats, and 1 subsidiezed businessman. The taxpayers all make $10,000 each, as do the bureaucrats. The businessman is making a product at $1000 each that all 100 taxpayers want. The businessman is subsidized 10%, meaning his product will be sold at $900 now. Are the taxpayers buying this product better off? Well, the bureaucrats all have to be paid, so to pay the bureaucrats and get enough money for the subsidy, the taxpayers will each have to pay $1100 in taxes in order to give $10,000 to the businessman so he can sell his product to them for $900 instead of $1000. In other words, it will actually cost the taxpayers more for the product + the subsidy than it would have for the non-subsidized product. The net loss is $100. And even if we could magically transfer the subsidy without any money going to bureaucrats, the price for the product would be the same -- all we have is an accounting trick of the sort that results in Enron-like scandals.

Supporters of subsidies will point out that we have to do this to get the businessman's price below overseas competitors'. In other words, to get the price, say, below $950, we subsidize. Thus, we end up with a net loss of $50 for each of the taxpayers. So who is better off here? Certainly not the taxpayers/consumers. The inevitable argument is that the businessman is not working in a bubble, and that someone is paying wages to the taxpayers/consumers, meaning someone must hire them. Fair enough. But what people fail to mention is the underlying assumption that the economy is a finite pie, and to make money, others have to lose money -- and this is simply not true. If the businessman can't make money selling what he was selling for $1000 each, he's not going to just give up and crawl off into a cave somewhere and die. No, he's going to go find something else to make that can make him money. Or he'll try to find a way to bring his costs down. But if he's receiving a subsidy, why should he bother to do either one of these things?

In other words, subsidies stagnate the economy where they're used, they impoverish the consumers, and they reward bad business behavior. Now tell me, how is this making the West more affluent? There is no denying our affluence, but, as Henry David Thoreau pointed out in "On Civil Disobedience," "Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads." Indeed, if any outside group of people were to try to impose on the U.S. economy much of the anti-economic laws our governments have imposed on it, we would declare it a terrorist act. Yet we tolerate it from our legislators. It is incredible just how wealthy we have become despite the subsidies and tariffs.

Which, of course, gets me to the issue of tariffs. Tariffs act in a way opposite to subsidies, but have the same effect. A tariff is a tax on imports, which of course drives up the price of those imports, making them more expensive for consumers. And, as everyone who has taken Econ. 101 knows, if the price of something goes up, fewer products are sold. Now I am sure that someone will object that we could take the money from the tariffs and use them to subsidize. Let's look at that. Say Import costs $900, but Homebilt costs $1000. If we subsidize Homebilt $100 by taxing Import $100 (we'll ignore the pay the bureaucrats are making for now), then IMport will cost $1000, and Homebilt will cost $900. But wait a minute: how are we supposed to collect taxes on Import if nobody will buy Import now that it costs $100 more? You can't collect sales taxes if you're not selling anything. Which means you won't have the money to give to Homebilt. So, if we are going to have the subsidy, we will still have to get it from the taxpayers, since it is impossible to get it from Imports. Now if we try to solve this problem by making the tariff $50 and the subsidy $50, then what have we really gained? And if human nature is any guide, we still have the same problem, as tribalism will cause people to choose Homebilt over Import if they cost the same, meaning the tariffs still won't pay for the subsidies.

In other words, we are impoverishing ourselves to impoverish places like India. And for what? To help a few incompetent businessmen in our own country? The fact of the matter is that even if (and this is a big if in my mind) we are purposefully impoverishing places like India because we think it will make us rich, then we are incredibly stupid and do not understand the nature of economy. The U.S. will only become wealthier as India and China and Africa and the Middle East and Central and South America become wealthier. Economic growth causes economic growth. We're not dividing up a pie. We're dividing up rapidly breeding rabbits.

One final note: it is not poverty which is historically unusual. It is wealth. Only when we realize this will we be able to do anything about poverty.

On Gun-Free Zones

"Students Strap On Empty Holsters to Protest Gun Restrictions on Campus" --,2933,304806,00.html

Good for them. Perhaps I'm not the only one who has noticed that there is a correlation between mass shootings and the fact that the locations of every one of the mass shootings have taken place at "gun-free zones." When we advertise a place as being a gun-free zone, we are advertising to fanatics that this is a good place to kill a lot of people without having to face any immediate consequences.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Politicizing Disaster

Harry Reid should stand out on the corner holding a sign that says, "Will Politicize For Food." To promote his energy bill, Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming.” What a load of nonsense. The nonsense lies not in the question of global warming, but in the fact that the Santa Ana winds have nothing to do with it, but have to do rather with the geography of the region. Is Harry Reid blaming the mountains that push winds coming out of the east down, causing them to heat up, on global warming? Give me a break! The mountains and a weather system that is not uncommon in the US is to blame. What is happening would happen even if we entered an ice age -- the mountains are still there, and don't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. Thus, Reid is either an ignorant fool or he's taking advantage of over a million evacuees, many of whose homes have burnt ot the ground, for political gain on an issue that has nothing to do with the fires.

Along those lines, Senator Barbara Boxer should be ashemd of herself for the same reason, saying the fires have gotten out of control because we're in Iraq.

The real reason for the fires is a combination of a natural phenomenon that I at least have heard of all of my life and poor forestry management driven by environmentalists who have no understanding of what they claim to be protecting. Many of the forests in the U.S. are maintained by periodic fires that clear out the brush and keep the forests open. But ironically anti-forest fire policies have made the situation such that we get what we are getting now. Unless we address the real problems, and stop with the distracting politicization of this terrible situation, we're going to keep seeing this problem.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006

Everyone needs to support the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, "a Google-like search tool that will allow taxpayers to hop online and see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent on federal contracts, grants and earmarks" (,2933,304224,00.html). Write your Congressman and tell them to support it. Write your favorite (and not-so-favorite) Presidential Candidate to not just express their support, but sign the pledge to aupport it. Sen. Barack Obama, Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinch and Mr. John Cox have all done so. Good for each of them! We should support as much transparency in all levels of government as is humanly possible.

Fortune Favors the Bold; Markets Favor the Meek

I stole the above headline from EconLog. I've been thinking a lot about this headline separate from the actual contents the follow it on EconLog.

The first thing I would like to note is that it is true. This is how the meek have inherited the earth -- through the free market system. The markets favor those who are easy to get along with. If you want a job, just show the potential employer that you are a "team player," meaning, you will do anything he wants when he wants it. The more social you are this way and the more submissive, the more likely you are to get the job. Now, this can all be a facade just to get your foot in the door so you can then be bold and shoot up in the company -- but it can't be a complete facade. You still have to continue to act meek and to play all the games necessary to succeed. And there's no getting out of the game. In every job and potential job there is a game. The most onecan hope for is to be involved in the occasional rule change.

Here's another way to word the headline: "Fortune favors the idealist; markets favor the pragmatists." In this case I am refering to social pragmatists. One can be a social pragmatist and still ignore physical reality. Those who go along to get along, who try to fit into whatever the social melieu of the company or organization is, are social pragmatists. Those who may think there is right and wrong, and that one should always come down on the right, and those who may think there are better ways of doing things than the boss, are typically advised to keep their mouths shut -- you may win, in which case you become the hero; but you may lose everything you worked for as well.

If this all sounds pessimistic, well, it is pessimistic in a sense. But it's not necessarily bad. The vast majority of people are "the meek" and are social pragmatists -- and thus the free market favors them. This is why people are generally better off in a free market system. But at the same time, I am coming to understand the objections to the market by Nietzsche on precisely this issue. Nietzsche, of course, did not favor the meek. He favored the bold -- and good fortune. I can thus understand where his objection to the free market system comes from. This does not mean, of course, that I agree with Nietzsche (with whom I agree more often than not) in his opposition to free markets -- but that disagreement would only occur if we are to understand Nietzsche's objections to the free market as objections in the sense most people mean it by, and not in the way Nietzsche means it when he attacks something: as a way to strengthen it. If we understand Nietzsche's opposition this way, we then have to ask: is this disfavoring of the bold by the markets harmful to the markets?

It certainly suggests that it is harmful to the bold, for economics tells us that if the markets do not favor something, it will soon cease being offered. And where would that place the free market system? Can it truly exist without the bold?

Of course, if fortune favors the bold, we shall perhaps never be rid of the bold, as we shall never be rid of fortune. But where's fortune when you need it? My own boldness keeps getting in the way of my success in the market -- how ironic, then, that I continue to support it. What can I say, I'm just not selfish enough to want to do away with it for my own sake, and thus harm so many millions of meek. And what does that say about myself? Am I bold or meek? Or boldly meek? Or meekly bold? Or maybe I'm just so stupid as to not know when to stop fighting for what is right. Sadly, it doesn't seem to pay the bills.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Liberals, liberals, and liberals

I see a problem with the way the word "liberal" is used. We talk about how liberals have historically opposed fascism and communism, but which liberals are we talking about? Are we talking about liberals as classical liberals, which by definition support liberty? I'm certainly one of those. Or are we talking about liberals as the modernist Left, whicih supports communist ideas and helped to create the modern socialist and welfare states? Or are we talking about liberals as the postmodern Left, whose ideas were in no small part developed by the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, giving us ideas such as political correctness? One of these has historically opposed fascism and communism. I can't say the same for the other two.

The Economic Pie Metaphor

Too many people think of the economy as being a pie. If the economy is a pie, then the socialists are right that it is unfair that the rich have more, because they had to take it from someone else. This would mean that every economic transaction would result in one person being better off, the other person being worse off. But the pie metaphor is simply incorrect. Economies grow, and it is the element of growth that is completely ignored in the pie metaphor. In a true economic exchange, party A has something of value (object 1) to party B. Now, if party B wants to get object 1 from party A, they have to offer something to party A that is more valuable to party A than object 1 is to them. Naturally, party B will choose something that is also of less value to him than is object 1. As a result, party A will get something of more value to him than was object 1, and party B will get object 1, which he considered to be more valuable than what he exchanged for it. This economic exchange boils down to : "If you do something good for me, I'll do something good for you." Both parties are better off after the exchange. Wealthy people in a free market are wealthy precisely because they engage in more of these exchanges than do other people. They dedicate more of their time to economic exchanges.

One problem I oftentimes see when people make anti-economic arguments is an objection to certain kinds of exchange. There is the assumption that they know more than the two engaging in the economic exchange what has what value. The assumption is that things have an inherent value, making economic exchanges absurd. This would mean that you are either exchanging things of equal value, in which case nobody is better or worse off, or something of high value is exchanged for something of low value, in which case someone is better off. The assumption here, then, is that the rich are good at tricking people into exchanging something of high value for something of low value. But things do nt have inherent values -- we give things value. And it is arrogant of someone to decide that they know better if something is of value to you or not. Such people are elitists -- those who favor free markets are in this case the true egalitarian thinkers.

The pie metaphor implies another kind of exchange: "Unless you do something good for me, I'll do something bad to you." This is the kind of exchange government engage in -- and those who support government intervention do recognize this, only they assume that all exchanges are like the government's form of exchange. The presumption then is that since all exchanges are of this sort, we might as well put the government in charge of them. This kind of exchange has the effect of enforcing the pie metaphor, since inevitably one is exchanging something of more value for something of less -- this results in "negative growth". If we balance out growth with negative growth, we end up with a non-growing economy, and then we do indeed have a pie that gets divided up.

Fortunately the U.S. economy is not quite in that situation. Thus, the rich get richer by making everyone else better off as well.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Comrade Clinton

Don't be fooled that Hillary Clinton says in the same speech as the following quote that she supports free markets. Pay attention to her rhetoric. She's smart enough n ot to come right out and attack the free market directly. No, her approach is to use phrases like "shared prosperity" and to say things like the following: "We're not coming to you, many of whom are well enough off that actually the tax cuts may have helped you, and say "we're going to give you more." We're saying, "You know what, for America to get back on track and be fiscally responsible, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." " Did you read that last sentence? She is talking in the context of the tax cuts which resulted in a growing economy and more tax income (it's the spending that got out of hand, not the amount of revenues coming in going down too much), but look at that last sentence. What group uses rhetoric like "the common good"? And that's pretty direct: "we're going to take things away from you." I have little doubt that she will live up to her word on that.

Poll II

You Are a "Don't Tread On Me" Libertarian

You distrust the government, are fiercely independent, and don't belong in either party.
Religion and politics should never mix, in your opinion... and you feel opressed by both.
You don't want the government to cramp your self made style. Or anyone else's for that matter.
You're proud to say that you're pro-choice on absolutely everything!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Your Political Profile:

Overall: 70% Conservative, 30% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Ethics: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Colbert candidacy illegal?

We all know that Stephen Colbert's candidacy is a joke -- but still, if he wants to run, as a joke or not, he should be allowed to do so. That having been said, the Colbert candidacy seems to be exposing some election laws that I would consider to be questionable under the 1st Amendment. Brit Hume's Political Grapevine on Fox News reports that "the entire production cost of his show could be considered an illegal "in-kind" corporate donation — and he could be cited for using network employees on campaign activities." The first certainly violates the Constitution, if we take seriously the Supreme Court's ruling that money = speech. The second part makes no sense to me at all -- what difference does it make to anyone what your employees are doing, so long as you are paying them?

Campaign finance has historically constributed, and continues to contribute, to increased political corruption in the U.S. More and more restrictions have in fact resulted in more and more problems and indirect help for the candidates, etc. If we had a simple law that you could donate anything you wanted, whether you were a private individual or a corporation, to whomever you wanted, but all donations had to be completely transparent, almost all of our money corruption would be gone. People need to know who is buying you off.

But there seems to be something else going on as well. The election officials are telling Colbert that he cannot continue making a living if he wants to run for office. How many of our election laws make it practically impossible for one to work? The result of this is that we no longer have the "citizens legislature" this country was intended to have -- where being in Congress was a part-time job. What we have now is a professional class of legislators -- the complete opposite of what the Founding Fathers wanted. And we have gotten the kind of government one expects from having professional legislators: one completely disconnected from the real world.

We need to return to the citizen's legislature. Not only should politicians be allowed to keep whatever job they have -- I would go a step further and require they have another job. Next, the Congress should not be allowed to be in session more than 100 days a year. They can all fly in on weekends, meet for two weeks during summer break, and even use internet teleconferencing to meet. With modern technology, Congress doesn't have to meet in Washington, D.C.

So I hope that Colbert continues with his joke -- and I hope too that Colbert sues the government for attempting to violate his 1st Amendment rights by attempting to enforce illegal and ill-conceived election laws.

Drought in Georgia

The drought in Georgia is causing Atlanta to panic. The typical governmental solutions are being used: banning watering lawns, etc. So of course the main source of water for Atlanta is 15 feet below average and they may in fact have only a few months of water left. What Atlanta (and it seems no other city) has tried is this: raising the price of water. If you have a shortage of something, the price of that thing should go up, since the supply is down relative to demand. Raising the price will reduce demand. If there were a free market in tap water, this wouldn't be an issue, and I wouldn't have to be on here talking about something that is obvious to every Econ 100 student within the first week of class. But since this is something regulated or directly controlled by governments across the country, we do have to talk about it. Why won't politicians allow prices to go up? They don't want to hear complaints. I guess it's better to let people not have water rather than lose a vote or two. That's because our leaders 1) are cowards, even in the face of a crisis (which wouldn't be a crisis if it weren't for them, by the way) and 2) are too ignorant of economics to have been elected in the first place.

You may guarantee that if there is a shortage of something, it is because the government interfered with proper pricing. When the price of something is too low, people use too much of it, and supply goes down too quickly. Atlanta has a water shortage because the government has kept the price of water too low. Raise the price of water to reflect its true value, and there would be no water shortage looming on the horizon.

And don't give me this nonsense about it harming the poor more than the rich. Such arguments come from people who are merely envious of the rich and would prefer that the poor not have water so long as the rich don't either. I know this to be true because this is going to be the outcome of such a policy, and everyone with even half a brain knows it. So you have to wonder what the true motivation of such people really are (well, you might wonder -- I don't).

Friday, October 19, 2007


In his book "On Intelligence," Jeff Hawkins says that intelligence is the ability to detect and predict patterns. I would go a step further and say that the isgnature of human intellligence is the ability to then create new patterns. If we look to what it is that IQ tests test for, it is pattern recognition. The more complex the patterns are that one can recognize, the more intelligent a person is said to be. Of course, there are many kinds of patterns, and some people are better at picking up some kinds patterns than they are at others. Thus there could be social intelligence, emotional intelligence, psychological intelligence, artistic intelligence, literary intelligence, memory-intelligence, mathematical intelligence, etc. Some patterns, like those in math, are extremely simple patterns -- so simple that math is difficult for many people.

So we see a variety of kinds of intelligence. We should also then expect that, with the way we measure IQ, we should see differences in IQ based on the complexity of a society one finds oneself in. People in more complex societies, cultures, and sub-cultures would then test as having higher IQs than do those in less complex societies, precisely because those in more complex societies would be more likely to encounter and have to recognize more complex patterns. Complexity in a society (or in a person's mind) is something that emerges over time. Some places, due to any number of factors, have more complex soceties than others. When an environment changes, a society can and oftentime will react to become mroe complex. This helps to make sense of the fact that IQ has steadily gone up in Western countries throughout the 20th century (it doesn't appear to be the case only because by definition 100 is average, meaning they have had to modify the tests). Obviously, evolution could not be working quite that fast, to make people at the end of the 20th century smarter than those at the beginning. However, I think we can all recognize that Western culture and society have gotten more complex over that same period. People living in the more complex societies, being exposed to more complex patterns, would naturally be able to detect the more complex patterns associated with high IQ. This also makes sense of the fact that IQ can and does oftentimes go up as a person gets older. Some children can see complex patterns right away and easily. Others learn to do so.

Is there a genetic component to IQ? Undoubtedly. But with 1/3 of our genes being expressed exclusively in the brain, good luck figuring out what combinations make for high intelligence. Also, the massive shifts and migrations of people throughout history and pre-history, along with the bottlenecking that occured several tens of thousands of years ago to make us almost genetically identical, makes any racial component to IQ so unlikely as to be almost laughable. Intelligence comes about through the interaction of genes and environment, and the more complex the environment is, the higher the IQ of the people in that environment. As noted, social-cultural-environmental differences are accidents of geography as much as anything, as Jared Diamond observed in "Guns, Germs, and Steel." As the world becomes more complex, other cultures around the world will respond to that complexity -- sometimes by lashing out, sometimes by becoming more complex themselves. But we have to recognize that this is where the differences lie: in our psychosocial complexity. It is that component to IQ that is variable among groups, not genes. The world we live in, and how complex we think the world is that we live in, makes a difference. Individual differences, rather than group differences, may be another matter, as different individuals may be better or worse at detecting patterns, or certain kinds of patterns. And there is certainly a difference in ability to create new patterns. Artists, poets, and musicians aren't all that common, after all. But my guess is that they are also less common than they could be.

Shame on Rep. Stark

Pete Stark should be ashamed of his comments that American troops are being killed for the President's amusement. When comments like these are made, the only intention is to shut down any sort of rational argument. If Starks truly believe them, he would have introduced articles of impeachment, as such a President would not be fit for service. So why would Starks make such a comment? To impress his buddies at At the very least it shows that he has no rational argument against the war -- which only shows he's stupid as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good Riddance

I hope the reports are true and we can say good riddance to Dennis Hastert. He was a disapster as Speaker of the House, running off every Republican of principle to leave us with the namby-pamby group of centrist "pragmatists" we're now left with. Hastert took a Republican majority created on principles and managed to piddle it away. We have to blame Newt Gingrich too for resigning over practically nothing -- so what if a few House seats were lost? Hastert lost the entire House.

Can we PLEASE get the revolutionaries back in office? Or at least running? Let's get back to cutting spending -- and I mean real cuts, and not merely cuts in growth of spending.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Socialized Dentistry

In England it has been reported that 6% of the people, unable to see a dentist under the dreamy socialized system in England, have resorted to do-it-yourself dentistry, pulling their own teeth and fixing cracked crowns with glue. I'm waiting for the anecdotes of such things happening in the U.S.

With any sort of nationalized health care, we can expect to see the kind of results we see in government-run education. People receiving less and less as more and more money is thrown at it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Value of the Presidency

The U.S. last year spent $3.3 billion on mints and gum. So far this year all of the candidates for President have spent $3 billion. Anyone who tells you we spend too much on Presidential campaigns is an idiot. Surely the Presidency of the United States is more valuable than gum.

The Gay Gene?

There is a new study being conducted looking at gay siblings in an attempt to find a "gay gene." A short piece on this can be found here.

Since what we are talking about is a behavior, let me suggest that no gay gene, per se, will be found. Behavior comes about from a complex interaction between the genes and the environment as mediated by the brain and its structures. Part of this will also be affected by such things as pheromone sensitivity (there is some evidence that there is a connection between male sensitivity to male pheromones rather than female pheromones in gay men). And since only rarely is there a one-to-one correlation between genes and much of anything in the body -- and zero one-to-one correlation between genes and behavior -- there will be no single gene found. This does not mean that the research is pointless, however, as we may find what gene groups are involved in this particular behavior, which may shed insight not only on homosexual behavior, but behavior in general.

There will be those opposed to this, and for two very different, separate reasons. There will be those opposed to this because they think that if we find a gene or set of genes, that that means homosexuals are somehow genetically inferior or are mutants or some such nonsense. This is actually a subset of those who think genes have nothing to do with human behavior. Such people deny the fact that evolution created human beings, including our behaviors. Thus, they are in fundamental agreement with the next group who will be opposed to this: those who think that being gay is a choice, so looking for a gay gene is pointless. I never quite got this argument, as it assumes that people would go out of their way to do something that in many cultures throughout history would get them killed or imprisoned. Even in permissive ancient Athens, Aristophanes made fun of the flamboyant behaviors of several homosexuals. From a tribalist point of view it makes sense to encourage everyone to reproduce, but that is less of a concern today (with over 6 billion people). However, our closest relatives, the bonobos, are behaviorally bisexual, which contributes to strong social bonds and reduced aggression within the troops. It seems that humans evolved with this tension in place: a use of sex to reduce social aggression combined with a recognition that sex is tied to reproduction, and reproduction is tied to tribal survival. Psychologically, this has resulted in a tension between non-reproductive sexual acts and the need to reproduce that resulted in a very high percentage of homosexuals being artists of various kinds. This solved the problem by the person reproducing their minds in a more direct fashion. My guess would be that those of us who are heterosexual and artists have an extremely high reproductive drive that cannot be satisfied by only reproducing ourselves by half.

Those against homosexuality, who think it is a choice, are afraid of there being genetic evidence for it because they mistakenly believe that the natural = the good, and that does not necessarily follow. But they will not be able to make the argument that homosexuality is unnatural any more -- though there is sufficient evidence from bonobos to bighorn sheep that homosexuality is certainly natural. When I point this out, opponents of homosexuality then suggest that we are supposed to be more and better than the animals. The argument goes thus: homosexuality is unnatural, unless it is natural, in which case, we are (and should be) unnatural.

I have also heard the argument that while it may be true that someone may have a tendency, people still have a choice of how to behave. Granted. But if that is true, then why not choose to engage in homosexual behavior if you are a heterosexual? If it's that easy, then you should at least be able to imagine yourself having sex with someone of the same sex if you're heterosexual. If imagining such a thing does nothing for you, perhaps it is because you really don't have that much of a choice of how to behave. Or at least, you will be denying who you, fundamentally, are, and that has been shown to lead people to psychological trouble.

Arguments about pedophiles are, of course, only straw men people put up once they fail at everything else. In the end, we are talking about the willing participation of two adults -- and that is nobody's business.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Liberal Values?

The modern Left (liberals in the U.S.) is postmodern. Postmodernists say there are no values (or that there can be no hierarchy of values). So isn't it an oxymoron for someone to say that they have Left-wing or liberal values? Wouldn't this come into conflict with their postmodernism?

Reason Magazine Congratulates Al Gore

The editors over at Reason Magazine are perhaps a little more generous toward Al Gore than I have been regarding his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Their comments can be read at the following:

They do point out, however, something I have obliquely mentioned as a true solution to any and all environmental problems: eliminating the commons. Which is to say, we need to turn every piece of land and water into privately owned property. Air pollution, too, is a commons problem. The tragedy of the commons problem demonstrates that it is only supporters of the free market who are true greens, if results is what you are looking for. Those, like Gore, who wish to turn even more of the planet into commons in fact, then, support further environmental devastation. I assume that this is out of ignorance on their parts -- assuming Gore and the other socialist greens are sincere about being green rather than about being socialist.

Oh, the Irony!

In Al Gore's "The Assault on Reason," Gore begins his book, "Fear is the most powerful enemy of reason. Both fear and reason are essential to human survival, but the relatinship between them is unbalanced. Reason may sometimes dissipate fear, but fear frequently shuts down reason." Oh, the irony of this statement coming from Al Gore, whose version of environmentalism is pure fear-mongering. He points out, correctly, that our Founders "knew that, under the right circumstances, fear can trigger the temptation to surrender freedom to a odemagogue promising strength and security in return." Isn't that exactly what Gore has been doing? Is this a confession piece? The first several pages could be read as, "And this is why I use fear when talking about the environment."

I particularly love this line, which is true, by the way: "Demagogues have always promised security in return for the surrender of freedom" (25). Bush is promising security from terrorists. HIllary Clinton is promising security from material wants and personal responsibility for our actions. Lou Dobbs is promising security from illegal aliens. And Al Gore is promosing security from global climate change.

ANother great line is this, which, again, I completely agree with: "When errors of fact and judgment are no longer caught and neutralized by the nation's immune system, it is time to exampine the problem and to work toward good health in our political discourse." I love that ths observation is coming from someone who recently has a judgment against him regarding "errors of fact and judgment." They were caught, alright, but sadly, not neurtralized. Nonetheless, I would like to welcome Gore to a new, small part of the nation's immune system. I'm sure he will not be pleased.

Krugman on Those Against Gore Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

The neosocialist who sold his economist's soul to the left for some demagogic power, Paul Krugman, says he knows why we who oppose Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize oppose Gore getting it (his piece can be read at ). Now, I can't speak for anybody but myself, but let's see how his thesis holds out with me. Or if his argument holds up at all.

Krugman says, "Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration." So he's accusing the right of being sore winners? I don't think anybody on the right cares a whit about Gore in this context. That's dreaming on Krugman's part -- or a sort of mirror-image projecting. I, personally, could care less because I didn't support Bush in the first place. And I haven't supported much of what he's done since (the tax cut being the exception). So this certainly doesn't explain my opposition to Gore's getting the Nobel Prize.

Krugman says, "In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. " Here we see a logical fallacy. Krugman is making an appeal to authority, which proves nothing. We don't know if the prize that year was given for political purposes (as the literary and peace prizes too often are), to support a certain agenda. If (for the sake of argument) the selection was made for this reason, then Krugman is making the same argument as the Christian who makes the argument, "I believe in God because the Bible says He exists." "So why do you believe the Bible?" "Because it's the word of God." Thus, Krugman proves nothing.

Krugman says, "In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved." Has it? Krugman must be basing this on all the attaacks that have happened to Americans in the U.S. No, hold it, wait, all those attacks on Americans have happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is Krugman surprosed that peole die in war? I suppose he would have argued that because more Americans died in WWII after entering it that "the resulting chaos posed a far greater danger from the United States than we faced from Hirohito and HItler." Such nonsense. You would think Krugman could come up with beter arguments than these.

Krugman says, "It’s in the interest of most people (and especially their descendants) that somebody do something to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but each individual would like that somebody to be somebody else. Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater." Now, on the first sentence, Krugman and I agree. Thus, I would welcome his condemnation of Gore and his lifestyle, since Gore is not doing any of the things he says everyone else should do. It is clear that Gore "would like that somebody to be somebody else." This is in fact one of the areas where I oppose Gore's getting the Nobel Peace Prize -- hypocrites should never get it.

Now, as for the last sentence, this shows that Krugman is ignorant both of human nature and of free markets. In opposition to what too many economists think, people do not make only narrowly selfish decisions. The Ultimatum Game in game theory shows that people are fair-minded. We think of what is best for family and friends and even country. And it has been the free market offering green alternatives that has done far more for the environment than has any government in history. Some of the most successful suppliers of electricity (in places that have had real deregulation) have been green suppliers -- precisely because they are green. People do want to live in a clean environment. In fact, if we could get complete recognition and enforcement of property rights, that would be a huge step toward being greener -- since nobody has the right to pollute your water and your property. An air pollution market would go a long way to solving these problems (then groups like Greenpeace would have to put their money where their mouths are). Krugman at least has the sense to support something like this -- though not for the reasons I give. Genetic ownership of species (esp. endangered species) would also work best (turkeys are in no danger of going extinct, unless animal rights activists have their way).

Krugman says that "the smear campaign has failed." I never relaly noticed one. I heard people making reasonable objections to ridiculous claims being made by Gore. I hear people decry his hypocrisy. I've even heard of a court saying Gore was wrong, lied, or exaggerated about at least 9 elements in his movie. But smear? It's not a smear if it's true.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gore Knows Postmodern Construction

Here's an interesting little bit I got from the traascript to Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" I found here: "I had a classmate in the sixth grade who raised his hand and he pointed to the outline of the east coast of South America, and he pointed to the west coast of Africa, and he asked, “Did they ever fit together?” And the teacher said, “Of course not! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” That student went on to be a drug addict and a ne’er do well. That teacher went on to be a science advisor in the current administration."

Now let us look at how he constructed this little story. Michel Foucault points out in "The Order of Things" that, if we want the mind to create a causal connection, all we have to do is put to sentences next to each other. When that happens, we assume that whatever happened in the first sentence caused whatever happened in the second sentence. We can see this happening in Gore's story. Here's a summary: A student asked his teacher if A were possible; the teacher replied, "Of course not!"; the student became a drug addict; the teacher has a position in the Bush administration. Though Gore could, of course, deny the causal connection (he never said, "and therefore, he became . . ."), but Foucault would point out that the minds of those listening to his story will create that causal connection all the same. The implication is that the student became a drug addict because the teacher told him his geology question was absurd. The addition that this teacher is now in the Bush administration implies, too, that Bush's policies are equally unscientific and will lead people to become drug addicts and "ne'er do well's."

I find it unlikely Gore has read Foucault -- though I could, perhaps be wrong about this. But it is likely that Gore has seen the works of Michael Moore, and Moore is known to do these kinds of transpositions to create causal connections in the minds of his audience. I would not doubt that this is where he got the idea to structure his little story this way.

Just part of the general no good Gore is up to in this movie. Since there is little doubt this movie is why Gore got the Nobel Peace Prize (oh, the shame, the shame!), I think I will spend a little time looking over what he said in it and posting my thoughts.

Line Item Veto

Every election we hear about the line item veto (something which I support, BTW) from the Republicans running for President. But then, they become President, and if any attempt is made to get it, it's half-hearted at best. My guess is that Republicans don't really wnat it, because then the President would actually be responsible for the ridiculous amounts of spending he approves of when he votes for a spending bill. Social spending went up under Bush (both of them) and under Reagan. Fiscal responsibility went out with Newt Gingrich, the only politician who has ever actually shown himself to be fiscally responsible (and forced Clinton to be as well, much to his wife's current advantage).

So I'm not holding my breath about the line item veto. Or promises of spending cuts. Ron Paul might do the latter, but is Ron Paul really going to get the Republican nomination?

New York Parents Fined for Daughter's Chalk Drawings on Stoop

This is the headline. The story itself can be found at,2933,301559,00.html

So here's the story: a 6 year old drew a flower on her own home's stoop with sidewalk chalk. This prompted some nosy, antisocial, hateful bitch to call and complain about "grafitti", prompting the city government to send the parents a note, threatening a fine.

Let's go in reverse order. First, the city presumed the family was guilty. Who here thinks the city actually followed this complaint up to find out what situation was? One can argue that they can't follow up on every single complaint, but why not? That's their job, and if they don't want to make sure that a law is bring broken -- or that it's not in fact being broken -- then they don't need to have the law on the books. And isn't there supposed to be a presumption of innocence? Whatever happened toi that? (Increasingly I am seeing governments presume guilt, which is a dangerous trend.) Therre is a huge difference between grafitti and sidewalk art made with chalk that can be washed away by the first rain.

Next, there's the neighbor. Once upon a time there were these things called neighborhoods. People knew their neighbors by at least their first names -- sometimes neighbors would get together and play cards or cook out (I do remember those days). Neighbbors would borrow things from each other. They were neighborly. They created a neighborhood. So what do we have now? Houses next to ours with anonymous people coming in and out of them. If someone new moves in, nobody bothers to welcome them.

The problem is precisely the kind of neighbor who would call to complain about the chalk sidewalk art of a 6 year old drawing in her own yard. What this woman did wasn't very neighborly, in fact undermines the social fabric of the neighborhood. There was a time, long before my time, when if people thought someone "wasn't being very neighborly," they would go and talk to that person, as a neighborhood, and let them know that they did not appreciate them being a jerk, and that if they continued being a jerk, they would be asked to leave the neighborhood. There was an acknowledgement that humans are social, that you don't interfere with people and their property, and that being antisocial undermined the community and made it so people didn't look out for each other. The consequence has been the breakdown of communities and neighborhoods, the rise of crime, and the isolation of everyone. And it's because of women like this idiot who complained -- but also because the community allows people like her to comtinue to be in the neighborhood, complaining. This is further backed up by governments who kowtow to every whim of every whiny asshole. Government too, then, undermines our sociality, or communities, our neighborhoods by doing what they did in response to this whiny idiot.

And why did this women call and complain? To be a jerk. That's the only reason. She knows the difference between a 6 year old drawing with sidewalk chalk on her parents' stoop and grafitti. And everyone in her neighborhood should let her know that they don't appreciate what she did. And they should do it openly, together, and voiciferously -- as a neighborhood.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good Intentions

Al Gore got the Nobel Prize for good intentions. All the people complaining about the fact that his documentary played fast and loose with the facts are missing the point of what the Nobel Peace Prize is about. It's not about actually bringing about peace, it's about having good intentions. Or appearing to have good intentions -- at the moment when the prize is given out. How else to explain Yasir Arafat's prize, which, if we used the same criteria for the Nobel as we do for the Olympics, should have had his prize stripped from him when he refused to accept everything he was asking for from Israel (oh, except for the one last thing he came up with precisely to undermine the agreement). And Gore too has done nothing for peace. He hasn't worked against it like Arafat has done, true, but his work ha done and will do nothing for peace.

In fact, there is good evidence that his intended solutions will in fact make the world a more dangerous place insofar as his socialist solutions will make people around the world worst off. Fewer people die in free countries with free markets, and between free countries with free markets. We have wars when we have dictatorships, socialisms of various forms (especially in their extreme forms, like Fascism and Communism), and the cutting off of trade with countries. And then we could get into the terrible track record of socilaist countries vs. free market countries. One could point to the fact that there is less polution in countries with much lower standards of living -- but the fact of the matter is that in those countries, the standards of lving are low, the death rate high, and the pollution closer to the ground so to speak. Cuba still drives gas-guzzlers from the 50s and 60s, while in the U.S. we drive hybrids (yes, we also drive SUVs, but there is at least the option in the U.S. to buy a hybrid).

The biggest dangers in the world come from countries that are either socialist, are moving toward socialism, or are emerging from socialism into mercantilism. China fits into the latter category. We can only hope she becomes a full-fleged free market soon, or else there is a good chance we will see a war as China attempts to seize the oil resevers she needs to continue gorwing. The Chinese government still does not quite get how one creates sustained and sustainable growth.

It should bother us, then, that there are those who wish to move us toward these very same, dangerous policies that have historically led the world to war. Gore supports exactly the kinds of policies that will put the world in such danger. This is due to his anti-economic thinking. The Nobel Committee has shown that it, too, is anti-economic in thinking. It is this kind of anti-economic thnking that puts the world in great danger of war.

Good intentions are not enough. The Left, if we assume them to be good people, are filled with good intentions. The problem is that almost everything they support makes people poorer, slows down economic growth, and creates the conditions for war. When will we learn this? When will we look at history and finally see this pattern prepeating itself?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hillary Comes Clean

Hillary Clinton told the Boston Globe, "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all." Shouldn't that be a warning to us all?

Gore's Nobel Prize

In an apparent effort to discredit themselves, the Nobel committe just granted Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize. For his support of the latest fad to be used by socialists to justify continued support of failed poliitical and economic policies. (Hillary Clinton has the other one: the children. But that's another post for another time.)

I suppose if there had been an Al Gore in the 70's trying to warm up the earth when all the climatologists were claiming global cooling, he would have won a Nobel Peace Prize then.

And what does global climate change have to do with peace, anyway? I suppose that if he has his way and the internal combustion engine is banned (he said it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons, after all -- so the committee may be on to something if we consider all the prizes given out to those who have been against nuclear weapons), then we won't need the Middle East at all, the U.S. and other countries can withdraw any interest in the region, and we can let the whole place implode in upon itself.

All in all, I don't see how this has anything to do with peace. I don't see any Peace Prize going to someone like Don Beck, whose ideas and work led to the peaceful transition of South Africa after apartheid. No, that was so smooth and successful, a model for the entire world as to what needs to be done to have peace throughout the world, that nobody paid it any attention. So never mind actual success. Let's focus, instead, upon unproven claims by a washed-up politician who has made some pretty bizarre personal claims in the past wo thinks sending us back to the pre-industrial age is probably the only way to save us all (when it has been the industrial age that has made life better and healthier for people around the world). Let us support someone who supports failed social and economic policies simply because he supports them to "save the earth."

The atmosphere is a complex, dynamic system. It has butterfly effects, tipping points, emergent properties, etc. So when people say that they understand what is going on and can make accurate predictions of the future, they are at least wrong, and may even be lying to us. One could go into all the complex feedback loops that affect the atmosphere, including the hydrosphere, the geosphere, and the biosphere, as well as fluctuations in cosmic rays and in the sun's temperature, but I won't do that here. The bottom line, though, is that such systems are unpredictable. They do not work in a linear fashion. And it does not matter what a so-called consensus (I wish people cared enough to look into the actual members of the "consensus" -- they're not mostly atmospheric scientists) says. The pre-Copernican consensus was that the heavens revolved around the Earth. Consensus means nothing in science. Facts do. And there are not enough facts to make any sort of realistic prediction.

This is not to say that there is not warming. There is. And it is not to say that humans aren't contributing. We are. But we do not know that it will result in anything catastrophic long-term. The Gaia hypothesis shows us that the earth system is self-regulating, ensuring continued conditions for the continuation of life on earth. We won't change that. The earth will self-regulate, and temperatures will go down. It may result in a new ice age. But we have, as a species, survived those before. And we know that more ice ages were to come anyway.

I guess the Nobel committee also didn't pay much attention to the British court that said he exaggerated and misrepresented facts in his presentation-turned-movie. I guess if you're lying for the right reasons, that's good enough to get a Nobel Peace Prize. How embarrassing. How shameful.

Al Gore and his ilk, if we are to attribute good intentions to him and not just an attempt to gain demagogic power (or perhaps more than demagogic power), have the false assumption that the world was unchanging before humans came along to change it. This is obvious in their rhetoric, when they complain about "climate change" -- as though the climate had never changed before, and all change in the climate is, therefore, bad. Thus, Al Gore is anti-change, anti-progress. He is, in fact, extremely conservative in the true sense of the term. He's afraid of the passage of time. I do not think that someone who is afraid of change should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. People such as him, who have wanted to prevent change and to bring mankind back to some other age, have been the ones to start the wars in the 20th and 21st century.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Few Observations on Oil and Alcohol

Basic economics shows that we will never run out of oil. As we use up the supply of oil, the price will go up. This will make it more economical to locate and drill harder-to-reach reserves. Higher oil prices will also result in the creation of alternatives, as it will be worth looking for and developing those alternatives. Over longer periods of time, as oil gets used up and the price of oil goes up in response to supply, less oil will be used, and more alternatives will be created, until we are completely converted to the alternatives -- sometime before we ever use up all the oil. There will eventually be a price where nobody cares to get any of the oil, and what is left will stay there. Thus, we will never, ever run out of oil. It's basic economic principles. There will be alternatives.

The car, for example, is an alternative to the horse. A plane is an alternative to either one. A computer is an alternative to the abacus, to pen and paper, etc. During the bronze age, who would have thought of iron as an alternative? The microwave is an alternative to fire. Petroleum, when whale oil became expensive due to a shørtage of whales, became an alternative. Some of these pre-existed. Some were invented later.

An alternative in the economic sense is not necessarily something that replaces another object exactly. When we run out of oil, it will become more economically feasible to come up with alternatives -- many of which, like so many things in the past -- haven't even been thought of yet.

I have no doubt that it will happen, because it has always happened. Always.

Now one may object that all the alternatives to oil have, so far, been inferior. But just because they have been inferior so far, that doesn't mean they will continue to be. Many falsely assume that the price of oil will remain constant, meaning people will continue to use it as the same rate, until it runs out, and that nobody will have any incentive to find alternatives. But, again, as the price of oil goes up as supply goes down, it will be economically viable to find better alternatives. What we are getting now is government-subsidized alternatives -- so we shouldn't be surprised at what we are getting. Things will change when market pressures create an actual demand for real alternatives. These new ways of doing things won't be done with government -- unless there is the coincidence of creating a bomb whose power source can also be used for energy production (i.e., nuclear power). I'd rather the market find a solution than to have the government bomb its way into one.

And this brings me to government-subsidized alcohol. Is it really a good idea to turn our food into fuel? That just seems like a bad substitute right on the face of it. One could argue that it's also a bad idea to wash cars, since that uses up water we could be drinking, but we need to beware of false analogies. There is much, much, much more water than there is corn. If we wash our cars, it doesn't raise the price of water enough not to drink it. But the rise in the price of corn that has already occured has resulted in problems in Mexico with availability of corn for tortillas, driving up the price of a main staple there -- among some of the poorest people. Further, it has driven up the price of meat, because corn is a food for chicken, pigs, and cows. When the price of feed goes up, the price of meat goes up. This, again, hurts the poor far more than any other group.

So, again, it is incredibly stupid to use food to fuel. And it hurt the poor. But that just means that ethanol is just another thing liberals have latched on to that causes harm to the poor. When your every economic policy harms the poor, one begins to wonder why you want so bad to make their lives worse.

Turkey, the Armenians, and Congress

There is little doubt in my mind that what happened in Turkey during WWI with the Armenian population is most accurately defined as a genocide. But does it take an act of Congress for something to be a genocide?

The U.S. is woefully short of allies in the Middle East. So why is it that our Congress seems determined to anger one of the few we have. As of today, in apparent response to a bill defining the Armenian genocide as a genocide passing the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 27-21, Turkey has recalled its ambassador. What does Congress think it is going to accomplish by doing this? Why open up an old wound?

Of course, one could argue that the Turkish government is itself being unreasonable about this: what happened in WWI happened under a different government, etc. But it was still Turks who did it, the fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers of those living. If we want to be optomistic about it, perhaps they feel ashamed of what they did, and aren't particularly in the mood to be shamed by the U.S. -- someone they thought was an ally.

To some degree governments have to be pragmatic when dealing with other governments. Why pass a law or resolution whose only purpose seems to be to insult the Turkish government? I suppose Congress wants to estrange another Middle Eastern country -- one who I would guess is showing a lot of restraint regarding the Kurds in Iraq at the present time and who may not feel like they should bother to do so or otherwise help us out in Iraq any more.

The timing of this is suspect. Are those who want us to be defeated in Iraq really this sneaky about undermining our efforts in Iraq? The only reason for this will to defeat is because of who is President. Does anyone really think anything like this, or the arguments that we cannot win in Iraq (whether you like it or not, we are in there now, and we had better decide we're going to win it), will continue if a Democrat is elected?

And BTW, anyone who thinks the Iraqi war will end if a Democrat is elected has not been listening to what most of them have been saying. Clinton has openly said she would not pull the troops out. The only candidate who has said he would withdraw the troops has been a Republican, Ron Paul.


Why do you suppose it is that Rosie O'Donnell refuses to be interviewed about her new book? Does it have something to do with the outrage she expresses when people ask her the same kinds of questions -- or, let's be honest here, far less paranoid questions -- as she asks people?

I've noticed too that Michael Moore gets all huffy and offended when anyone asks him a substantive question. Toss softball questions, and he's fine. Actually look into what he claims and challenge him on it, and he can't believe the nerve of the interviewer.

People like Rosie and Michael think their crap don't stink, that they are smarter than anyone else (here's proof that you're not, Rosie: 9-11 was not the first time that fire melted steel; how do you think steel gets made? The iron age started several thousand years ago, you know -- and steel is made from iron. I guess I-beams are just mined out of the ground), and that nothing but deference should be given to their every word, when all they are are arrogant, self-serving demagogues.

These two, and others on the far-far-far Left, are nothing but cowards. Stop being so thin-skinned and face the consequences of your statements. If you have a belief worth having, it should be worth defending.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Free Markets Held the Head of Communism Above Water, and Now This . . .

So, Canada is having to send women to the U.S. to deliver babies because they cannot handle the number of premies being born there. One wonders what would happen to socialized medicine there -- or many other places -- if it weren't for the U.S. health system.

Yes, I know that the U.S. health care system isn't perfect, but 1) it is better than any socialized system, and 2) its fauilures occur precisely where it is and because of the elements that are socialized already. Medicare and Medicaide have driven costs up tremendously -- making for a rather convenient excuse for more government interference to "control costs." When are we ever going to learn that the solution to a problem caused by government isn't more government?

BTW, didn't Castro, when he got sick, send for a doctor from Spain? I guess HE doesn't trust his own health care system to help him get well. I guess as dictator he thinks he deserves much better health care than he provides for his own people.

Al Gore for Nobel Peace Prize?

If Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace prize for his work promoting his version of the dangers of global warming, it will be consistent with many of the past winners. People are currently objecting to his winning based on the fact that he is a complete hypocrite when it comes to the lifestyle he promotes vs. the lifestyle he actually lives. But then, hypocrisy in a candidate did not prevent the Nobel committee from choosing Yasir Arafat, either. And they gave it to that impostor, Jimmy Carter. None of these three deserve to stand among the likes of MLK, Jr., Mother Theresa, Muhammad Yunis and the Grameen Bank, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela.

I beg of the Nobel committe: please, please, please don't embarrass yourself by selecting a self-serving hypocrite like Al Gore!

Carter: America Tortures

There are a few people who, when they say something, I assume the opposite to be true. Jimmy Carter is one of those people. I base this upon the fact that every single election he has ever overseen and declared to be fair has been demonstrably filled with corruption and led to the installation of a dictator. His every action in international affairs has been to support dictatorship around the world, especially if it is at the expense of the U.S. So when Carter says he knows that America tortures, I become convinced that we do nothing of the sort.

Jimmy Carter was not only one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history, but he has shown himself to be a terrible human being.

Jimmy Carter does not have the best interests of the U.S. or its people in mind. He is a national embarrassment. I include him in my list of dangerous demagogues whose ideas I find repugnant, including those of Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan. The only difference is that the last two sincerely beleive they are trying to help the U.S. Carter knows he's undermining the country. Dobbs and Buchanan are merely wrong about most things -- Carter is a traitor.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clinton's 5 G's

Guiliani in the debate today reminded us of Clinton's proposal to give $5000 to every child born. When I told my wife this, she looked at me a little puzzled, then suddenly brightened up, saying, "Oh my God! She's trying to get poor people to have more kids!" Does an extra $5000 matter much to either the rich or middle classed? No. Of course not. There will be no change in behavior. But $5000 is a lot of money to a poor person. It's something that would encourage someone who thinks it is a lot of money to have more children.

Now, I know, the $5000 is in a bond, and is for the child. For now. Because how long would it be before someone argued that such children didn't need the money later, but that they needed it now, when they are a child? It would not take long before that money was given to the parents -- and then the scenario laid out above would definitely occur. Do we really need to be encouraging poor people to have more children? Why would Clinton do something like this with such obvious consequences?

Now, who do the Democrats consider to be their constituency and voting based?

You're pretty clever Hillary -- but I'm on to you.