Sunday, December 01, 2013
I like to use the acronym FOOL, which stands for Fear Of Others’ Liberty. I think that many of us are FOOLs. I count myself a FOOL, at least to some extent.
Once you are a FOOL, then you may be willing, yea, eager, to delegate the job of constraining someone else’s liberty. We don’t all want to be policemen or prison guards, but most of us are glad that there are people doing those jobs.
If I delegate the job of constraining someone else’s liberty, then, unless I happen to be a despot, those who have the power to constrain someone else’s liberty have the power to constrain my liberty as well. That is roughly what we mean by equality before the law.Yup, we're FOOLs we are, one and all. Some more than others.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Great Divide is a series on inequality — the haves, the have-nots and everyone in between — in the United States and around the world, and its implications for economics, politics, society and culture. The series moderator is Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a Columbia professor and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank.*
This latest instructional column from the enlightened to the rest of us, How Can We Jump-Start the Struggle for Gender Equality? purports to demonstrate that something went wrong during the Vanguard's Righteous March to Parity Between the Sexes. Besides, that is, all those fussy dimorphic details which, since they are unimportant to the Vanguard are unimportant in fact.
[Starting in the 1960s, the] traditional division of labor by gender was challenged from all sides. Women’s share of the labor force, husbands’ share of housework, the integration of occupations once categorized by gender and women’s share of management jobs all rocketed upward from the 1970s till sometime in the 1990s. Women went from earning fewer than 10 percent of law and medicine degrees in 1970 to earning almost half of them by the early 2000s.
I don't think it is possible to cogently argue that, circa 1968, women were not subject to all manner of legal handicaps due to their choosing poorly as to which team they were to be conceived into. Similarly, I think that no matter how hard you might look, or no matter how many rocks you might wish to overturn, you would be hard pressed to find anyone wishing to reimpose all those petty, demeaning, senseless shackles.
Wonderful, even more indefensible nonsense for history's ash heap. Game over. Post over, sans point.
Not so fast, wonder wings. After making occupational advances across the board for two decades …
… the movement toward equality stopped. The labor force hit 46 percent female in 1994, and it hasn’t changed much since. Women’s full-time annual earnings were 76 percent of men’s in 2001, and 77 percent in 2011. Although women do earn a majority of academic degrees, their specialties pay less, so that earnings even for women with doctorate degrees working full time are 77 percent of men’s. Attitudinal changes also stalled. In two decades there has been little change in the level of agreement with the statement, “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.
There are a couple things worth remembering here. Just as Jim Crow laws were a grotesque imposition on blacks because of their race, women were also subject to nearly endless impositions because of their gender. In the early 1960s, it was difficult for women to own property, obtain credit, and were barred from many jobs. And we must give credit where it is due. Progressives were the ones taking on Jim Crow, and tearing down the equally pervasive, demeaning, and unjustified subjugation of women.
And then they succumbed to Progressivism's twin diseases: submerging individuals within the group, and rampaging hubris. Both are on prominent display in the quoted para above, and throughout the article. It doesn't matter what individual women, or men, want; only that groups adhere to Progressives' insistence upon the only equality that matters — outcome. Attitudinal changes have "stalled", because they fail to adhere to the Progressive notion of what constitutes the correct attitude.
Progressives fancy themselves as being reality based and, ipso facto, correct in their every thought and deed. Whether Creationist or Dawkinsian, there is precious little disagreement to be found that women and men have always faced very different life challenges. Yet it is the Dawkinsian Progressive who falls, and falls hard, for the belief, as religious as anything you might find in revealed texts, that evolution stops at the neck line.
According to Dr. Cohen, sociology professor and author of a coming-real-soon-now book "The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change", the blame lies with men and society. Men haven't moved into traditionally female occupations, and our society has failed to implement work-family policies oriented towards promoting gender equality.
Unfortunately for Dr. Cohen's Progressive vision, reality bites.
Here is a list of “non-traditional” (i.e., less than 25% female) occupations.
As it turns out, there are quite a lot of them, with an average female participation rate of roughly 10%. Taking a for instance, it is hard to imagine how work-family policies, no matter what they might be, differentially impact nursing and being a mechanic. Yet nursing remains overwhelmingly female, and any occupation with the word “mechanic” attached is at least 96% male. (My occupation, pilot, is 98.7% male, despite a cornucopia of job offers for any qualified female.) It appears that the other foot can be shod with the same shoe: women don't appear the least inclined to move into traditionally male occupations.
Maybe something more than stalled attitudes is involved. Maybe a great many women are concluding that, given a choice, they would far rather be nurses than mechanics. And just as many men are wondering why they would want to be primary school teachers when they could be working on cars.
If that is so, and the list of still “traditional” occupations suggests it is, then perhaps evolution didn’t stop at the neck line, and, consequently, equality of opportunity should not be expected to yield anything remotely resembling equality of outcome. Maybe, just maybe, unfair evolutionary discrimination has tilted the playing field in many more directions than just plumbing and upper body strength. Mechanical aptitude is unfairly — by Progressive standards — distributed. So why should we attribute to "stalled attitudes", or defective work-family policies, that which is far better explained by nature itself?
Which points at a fundamental objection to Dr. Cohen's urging us to imitate Iceland's family policies, and chiding "frightened traditionalists" in the US who are, poor benighted dears, averse to state-run child care.
There's even a term for it: Parity Error. So long as women are not eager to become mechanics, pilots, carpenters, masons, welders, ad nauseum, then men must do those things.
According to Dr. Cohen, If you want a society in which men are welcome and willing to be day care workers, you may need a workplace culture that accepts — or encourages — fathers’ spending more time at home with their children. To unblock the path toward gender equality, these policies may be the best ideas we have.
Until he concocts policies that encourage women to do things they resolutely refuse to do, then the best ideas Progressives have are no better than bolting a kick-stand on a tricycle.
* The reality deficits in this piece are so glaring and central that whatever Dr. Stiglitz' brilliance in economics, he is utterly devoid of skeptical moderation.
This is why socialism isn't dead, and why in our own century it may well spring back into life with a force and vigor shocking to those who have, with good reason, declared socialism to be no longer viable. It is also why Georges Sorel is perhaps even more relevant today than he was a hundred years ago. He knew that it was hopeless to guide men by reason and argument alone. Men need myths -- and until capitalism can come up with a transformative myth of its own, it may well be that many men will prefer to find their myths in the same place they found them in the first part of the twentieth century -- the myth of revolutionary socialism.I prefer to use a term other than capitalism as do most of the readers of this blog. There are even bigger problems than word usage. There is a combination of the myth of socialism and the propagation of a toxic idea meant to undermine the ability of a free society to defend itself. Dr. Sanity offers the following:
This is the challenge that capitalism faces in the world today -- whether it will rise to the challenge is perhaps the most urgent question of our time, and those who refuse to confront this challenge are doing no service to reason or to human dignity and freedom. Bad myths can only be driven out by better myths, and unless capitalism can provide a better myth than socialism, the latter will again prevail.
What are these "dangerous trends that began decades ago"? To understand what is happening in the world today, one must understand the a philosophy that has taken root in Western Civilization and brought us to this point in history--and, yes, ideas really matter; and when you are basing your society on bad ones, then you can expect bad things to happen.
The philosophy that is behind these dangerous trends is Postmodernism; and Barack Obama represents the culmination and embodiment of the perfect postmodern demagogue.
There have been prior posts on this blog dealing with Postmodernism as well as additional posts at at Dr. Sanity blog. She continues:
We can think of the four pillars--POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, MULTICULTURALISM, RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM, and TERRORISM-- as the foundation for both the socialist revival (particularly in the Western hemisphere recently) and for the rapid advancement of the Islamic Jihad and Islamic fundamentalism.
Below is a flow chart that has been adapted from Stephen Hick's book, Explaining Postmodernism (p. 173), which summarizes the evolution of these four strategies/pillars of leftist/progressive thought; and though I have written about it before, it is well worth repeating over and over again as the perfect postmodern storm that swirls around approaches a Category 5; and as reason, truth, and reality are belittled and ignored by our leaders:
The refusal to accept failure combined with the spawn of Postmodernism gives the radical left considerable ability to undermine freedom.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
In light of the horrors brought about in the twentieth century by the revolutionary myth of socialism, it is easy to sympathize with those who believe mankind could not possibly be tempted to try the socialist experiment again. If the liberal rationalist Renan was surprised that "Socialists were beyond discouragement" at the beginning of the twentieth century, how much more surprised must his contemporary counterparts be to discover that socialism is also beyond discouragement at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Yet this is a lesson that Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, under the guidance of their mentor, Fidel Castro, seem determined to impress upon us.
It may well be that socialism isn't dead because socialism cannot die. As Sorel argued, the revolutionary myth may, like religion, continue to thrive in "the profounder regions of our mental life," in those realms unreachable by mere reason and argument, where even a hundred proofs of failure are insufficient to wean us from those primordial illusions that we so badly wish to be true. Who doesn't want to see the wicked and the arrogant put in their place? Who among the downtrodden and the dispossessed can fail to be stirred by the promise of a world in which all men are equal, and each has what he needs?
Here we have the problem facing those who, like Hernando de Soto, believe that capitalism is the only rational alternative left after the disastrous collapse of so many socialist experiments. Yes, capitalism is the only rational method of proceeding; but is the mere appeal to reason sufficient to make the mass of men and women, especially among the poor and the rejected, shut their ears to those who promise them the socialist apocalypse, especially when the men who are making these promises possess charisma and glamour, and are willing to stand up, in revolutionary defiance, to their oppressors?
The shrewd and realistic Florentine statesman and thinker, Guicciardini, once advised: "Never fight against religion...this concept has too much empire over the minds of men." And to the extent that socialism is a religion, then those who wish to fight it with mere reason and argument may well be in for a losing battle. Furthermore, as populism spreads, it is inevitable that the myth of socialism will gain in strength among the people who have the least cause to be happy with their place in the capitalist world-order, and who will naturally be overjoyed to put their faith in those who promise them a quick fix to their poverty and an end to their suffering.
Earlier in the article the author states:
Instead, he argues that it is only by refusing to accept the failure of socialism that one can become a "true revolutionary." Indeed, for Sorel, the whole point of the myth of the socialist revolution is not that the human societies will be transformed in the distant future, but that the individuals who dedicate their lives to this myth will be transformed into comrades and revolutionaries in the present. In short, revolution is not a means to achieve socialism; rather, the myth of socialism is a useful illusion that turns ordinary men into comrades and revolutionaries united in a common struggle -- a band of brothers, so to speak.
Sorel, for whom religion was important, drew a comparison between the Christian and the socialist revolutionary. The Christian's life is transformed because he accepts the myth that Christ will one day return and usher in the end of time; the revolutionary socialist's life is transformed because he accepts the myth that one day socialism will triumph, and justice for all will prevail. What mattered for Sorel, in both cases, is not the scientific truth or falsity of the myth believed in, but what believing in the myth does to the lives of those who have accepted it, and who refuse to be daunted by the repeated failure of their apocalyptic expectations. How many times have Christians in the last two thousand years been convinced that the Second Coming was at hand, only to be bitterly disappointed -- yet none of these disappointments was ever enough to keep them from holding on to their great myth. So, too, Sorel argued, the myth of socialism will continue to have power, despite the various failures of socialist experiments, so long as there are revolutionaries who are unwilling to relinquish their great myth. That is why he rejected scientific socialism -- if it was merely science, it lacked the power of a religion to change individual's lives. Thus for Sorel there was "an...analogy between religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship, preparation, and even the reconstruction of the individual -- a gigantic task."
So the eternal flame of the socialist myth will continue to burn in the hearts and minds of some. It is why socialists can not tolerate competing belief systems and why they do not respect the rights of the individual or a preference for voluntary cooperation instead of coercion.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
One thing that's interesting, is that in the last 100 years, the very rich did not get that much richer than everybody else.
Russ dissects the chart:
Let’s just look at the bottom 99%, the clear light circles. Put all your biases aside for a moment. Just look at it and try to summarize what you see. I see four different eras. From 1913 until roughly 1940, it’s flat. From 1940 to 1973, it’s rising almost steadily, roughly tripling. Then for 20 years, 1973–1993, it’s basically flat. Then in 1993, it starts to rise but the increases are erratic.I would describe it slightly differently. There was a brief spike up during WWII, then things were roughly flat till around 1950 which is when Income Growth for the bottom 99% started rising steadily.
Russ wonders why the change in 1973:
When the left talks about the middle class being “hollowed out,” or stagnation in the standard of living of average American, they like to blame it on declining unionization, a fraying social contract between business and labor, or the rich hoarding more for themselves and leaving less for the rest of us via tax policy or regulation. But none of these kinds of explanations are likely to explain the sharpness in the change of the rate of growth starting in 1973. Private sector unionization has been declining steadily since 1950. I don’t think the social contract got revised in an especially tough way in 1973. And I don’t think the rich had a big confab in 1973 when they remade public policy. Was there a big change in tax policy or regulation in 1973? If there was, I missed it.His explanation? Well, I'll let you go directly to Cafe Hayek to find out the cause of flattening Income Growth for the bottom 99% starting in 1973.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I approach many narratives with skepticism, and the Antitrust narrative is one of those. When looking at Antitrust cases, I've noticed that the glorious narrative of noble "Trust Busters" courageously fighting uber-powerful, evil corporations for the benefit of the consumer doesn't hold up very well and is quite dependent on spin. In other words, the facts don't speak for themselves. The following is one example (from ANTITRUST: THE CASE FOR REPEAL by Dominick T.. Armentano):
The conventional account of the Standard Oil case goes something like this. The Standard Oil Company employed ruthless business practices to monopolize the petroleum industry in the nineteenth century. After achieving its monopoly, Standard reduced market output and raised the market price of kerosene, the industry's major product. The federal government indicted Standard under the Sherman Act at the very pinnacle of its monopolistic power, proved in court that it had acted unreasonably toward consumers and competitors, and obtained a divestiture of the company that helped to restore competition in the petroleum industry.
This account has almost nothing in common with the actual facts. It is not possible to review the entire history of the case here, but a summary of the government findings against and actual conduct of Standard Oil will serve to make the point.
The Standard Oil Company was a major force in the development of the petroleum industry in the nineteenth century. It grew from being a small Ohio corporation in 1870, with perhaps a 4-percent market share, to become a giant, multidivisional conglomerate company by 1890, when it enjoyed as much as 85 percent of the domestic petroleum refining market. This growth was the result of shrewd bargaining for crude oil, intelligent investments in research and development, rebates from railroads, strict financial accounting, vertical and horizontal integration to realize specific efficiencies, investments in tank cars and pipelines to more effectively control the transportation of crude oil and refined product, and a host of other managerial innovations. Internally-generated efficiency allowed the company to purchase other businesses and manage additional assets with the same commitment to efficiency and even to expand its corporate operations abroad.
Standard Oil's efficiency made the company extremely successful: it kept its costs low and was able to sell more and more of its refined product, usually at a lower and lower price, in the open marketplace. Prices for kerosene fell from 30 cents a gallon in 1869 to 9 cents in 1880, 7.4 cents in 1890, and 5.9 cents in 1897. Most important, this feat was accomplished in a market open to competitors, the number and organizational size of which increased greatly after 1890. Indeed, the competitors grew so quickly in the years preceding the federal antitrust case that Standard's market share in petroleum refining declined from roughly 85 percent in 1890 to 64 percent in 1911. In 1911, at least 147 refining companies were competing with Standard, including such large firms as Gulf, Texaco, Union, Pure, Associated Oil and Gas, and Shell.So, before and during the period when Antitrust action was brought against Standard Oil, prices were plummeting and Standard Oil's market share dropped significantly. Harm to the consumer was nowhere to be seen and, in fact, consumers benefited hugely from the price drop.
There are quite a number of other Antitrust cases like this that follow this "Anti" narrative. The common wisdom is often just a particularly spin and narrative which don't reflect the facts particularly well.
Saturday, November 09, 2013
In my day it was "Smokin' in the Boys Room:"
Now it's "Textin' in the Girls Room." The new lyrics would be:
Textin' in the girls room
Textin' in the girls room
Teacher don't you fill me up with your rules
Everybody knows that textin' ain't allowed in school!
Friday, November 08, 2013
Monday, November 04, 2013
In 2010, GE had profits of $14,200,000,000, of which $5,100,000,000 was earned in the United States, yet GE paid no U.S. taxes:
...low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.Other huge companies are also using hordes of lawyers and lobbyists to collude with the government to avoid taxes and let others bear the burden of funding the government:
While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less. [...]
Such strategies ... have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.And Big Government, including Obama, is definitely a willing player in the collusion:
Obama ... has designated G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, as his liaison to the business community and as the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and it is expected to discuss corporate taxes.
“He understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Immelt, on his appointment in January, after touring a G.E. factory in upstate New York that makes turbines and generators for sale around the world.
A review of company filings and Congressional records shows that one of the most striking advantages of General Electric is its ability to lobby for, win and take advantage of tax breaks.I don't mean to pick on GE. While they've been the most successful at the tax avoidance game, Big Money (Wall Street), Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Military, etc. all have been quite successful at collaborating with Big Government to fleece the rest of the country via favorable tax and regulatory treatment for these important election campaign donors. The Bigs fund the elections of the politicians and bureaucrats and the government largess is the return payment for that funding.
The solution is quite simple. First, eliminate the corporate income tax completely, especially since it only represents 6.6 percent of all federal revenue anyway. This will immediately eliminate all the current collusion and corruption. This should actually be moderately easy to get through Congress, if not right now, then eventually.
Second, institute a revenue tax (NOT income tax), on all revenues over some amount, say $10 billion, with no loopholes, and increasing rates as revenues increase beyond $10 billion. If economies of scale still favor the company even with the revenue tax, fine. If not, the shareholders will force a breakup of the company because the new pieces will then be more profitable in aggregate because each piece will be smaller and able to avoid the tax on revenue. This would help reduce the number of Bigs and their inherently corrupt relationship with Big Government.
Limiting the number of large and powerful companies would be a good thing since, to paraphrase Lord Acton, power corrupts and big power corrupts bigly.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
My wife and I visited Indonesia in the early 1990s and did a lot of hiking to visit quite a number of old temples and ruins. We were quite shocked to encounter a huge number of swastikas adorning these temples in various forms.
We later learned that the swastika symbol has been in existence for 5,000 years and that the Sanskrit meaning of the word "swastika" is "it is good." The information channel from the creators of the temples thousands of years ago to my wife and me was so intensely corrupted by the Nazi's adoption of that symbol, that our first reactions assumed some sort of virulent antisemitism, hatred, violence, and murder.
The 13 year old girls believe that the message they're sending is something like, "hey, I can dress like the popular stars of the world." The message is intended only for other girls with which they associate. They have no idea what message they are sending to the slightly older boys.
The humorous part is that these same girls at 15 or 16 are often appalled and ashamed of how they had dressed when they were 13. At that point they understand how the message of their dress was received by many others (especially the boys) and they dress much, much more conservatively. And little sisters who are now 13 get quite a talking to by their older sisters when the younger ones start dressing like sluts - the older sisters often make mom look quite permissive! This is definitely an example of how the channel transmitting the information badly distorts the intended meaning on the receiving end.
Embarrassingly, I either never knew or had forgotten what a confederate flag looked like. Like the swastika above, it has extreme negative connotations, the topmost being extreme racism towards blacks, including being pro-slavery. Unlike those who adorned their temples with swastikas thousands of years ago and couldn't possibly guess that their sacred symbol would have horribly negative connotations in the distant future, someone who waves a symbol at a political rally doesn't have that excuse. The best defense is a fairly lame one, and is that like the naive 13-year old girls discussed above, he didn't understand how poorly the message of waving a confederate flag in front of the White House would be received by a substantial majority of the citizens of the United States, including both liberals and conservatives.
That does, indeed, seem to be the excuse. Here is an excerpt of something he's written about the event in response to the negative press coverage:
"You sit behind your laptop and type articles about people you don’t know. You sit there and think you know the true meaning of the confederate flag, but in truth you only know what people have told you.Did you know that the confederate flag was flown on the USS Columbia ( CL-56) during WWII.
"You would be surprised that the confederate flag is often used as a symbol for culture and to display love for one’s country. So to sit there and say you know me is a lie. I fought for my country, My family and my friends."And according to Wikipedia, that is all true. Nonetheless, by being oblivious to how the information channel would color and deliver his message, he managed to single-handedly paint the tea party, conservatives, marines specifically, and the military in general, as racist - at least in the minds of many liberals and conservatives.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Monday, October 21, 2013
Krugtron the Invincible, Part 1
Krugtron the Invincible, Part 2
Krugtron the Invincible, Part 3
Civilizing the Marketplace of Ideas
Here is a brief excerpt from the last article:
As economists go, they do not come much mightier or more influential than Paul Krugman. A Nobel laureate who teaches at Princeton University, Krugman is also a columnist for the New York Times, whose commentaries and blog, “The Conscience of a Liberal,” are read with an almost religious fervor by liberal (in the American sense) economists and journalists around the world. He is a Twitter superstar, with more than a million followers. [...]
Krugman has been the intellectual equivalent of a robber baron, exploiting his power to the point of driving decent people away from the public sphere – particularly younger scholars, who understandably dread a “takedown” by the “Invincible Krugtron.”For those who find Krugman's columns powerful and true, the above articles won't convince you otherwise. However, they will give you a description from an excellent and concise historian of what some of us see when we view Krugman and his writings. And from there, you can imagine that if you encountered someone who looked like that to you, you'd probably ignore him as well.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
As a result, everybody can probably learn something of value by studying Sweden.
I'm no exception. What I've learned from looking at Sweden over the years is that 2 to 20 million people is a really nice size for a country. It's big enough to have the diversity of talents and desires to form a vibrant economy, yet small enough that the people have a feeling of belonging and camaraderie with their fellow citizens. It's big enough to support the necessary institutions of government and trade in the modern world, yet small enough that the government feels accountable to the citizens. It's big enough to create and accumulate wealth, yet small enough that it's worthwhile for citizens to protect their property and country from those who would use political power to take it. All of the advantages of being big enough, but not too big.
When the United States declared independence in 1776, the population was about 2.5 million, a nice size. But even at that small size, the founders focused on forming a federation, with the individual states keeping the vast majority of legislative power and a high level of autonomy, even though each state only had a few hundred thousand people.
A few hundred thousand in this day and age may be too small to support itself effectively. But what Sweden proves, unequivocally, is that 9 million is definitely not too small.
The United States has over 100 times as many people when it was founded. It has also concentrated the power in the central government. This has led to an Angry America where tens of millions of people don't have a feeling of belonging and camaraderie, don't feel that government is accountable to them, and feel like they are being taken advantage of by the ruling political class. I believe this has led to constantly rising hostility, government shutdowns, out-of-control government spending, subdued economic growth, and a desperate and hopeless feeling on the part of many that their country, and a place where they can live in peace and prosperity, has been irretrievably lost.
My belief is that if we could reduce the population of the United States to 9 million people, the vast majority of these problems would go away. 310,000,000+ people is not a manageable size. 9,000,000 people is.
Obviously, it's not possible to reduce the population, even though it would be an interesting experiment to send 300,000,000 million people to Sweden and see how it goes there.
The only possible approach is to split the country into smaller Pieces. Around 50 Pieces would work well, leaving, on average, 6.2 million people per Piece. Each Piece would be given complete sovereignty over itself. I would suggest that all the Pieces form an alliance for mutual defense and foreign relations, sort of like a mixture of NATO and NAFTA. They could call this alliance the Northern American Pieces, or NAP.
Then people could move to the Piece that best fit their ideology and way of life and that would diffuse the anger in Angry America. The Pieces would let people in other Pieces live in peace and prosperity. Divided we stand, united we fall.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
The Belmont Club
Monday, October 14, 2013
"Life is choice."That's what life is to me, anyway. While not the standard definition of human life, the dead make no choices. Someone in a coma is alive in some sense, but we don't hold them up as an example of vigorous human life. I think of someone in a coma as more "existing" than alive. To be fully alive is to make choices continually and experience the consequences, good and bad, of those choices. No choices, no life, rather mere and bleak existence, which for me, is little or no better than being dead.
The choices that form the basis for human life need not be rational choices. They can be choices made by, or for the purpose of satisfying, the lower brain. As far as I'm concerned, the usefulness of the rational, conscious portion of the brain in the vast majority of decisions is hugely overrated and often counterproductive.
"Human sociality involves something like an adaptive evolutionary arms race in the capacity to deceive and the capacity to reveal deception." Joseph CarrollI subscribe to the hypothesis that the large size of the human brain is in large part due to the huge evolutionary advantage of being able to deceive others and detect being deceived by others. Consciousness is an emergent property of that capability and is thus an indirect artifact of the tool of deception used by the lower brain to further its agenda.
A critically important part of modeling deception and therefore deploying and detection deception, is self-deception, and intelligence seems to significantly increase the likelihood of self-deception:"Building on Byrne and Whiten's concept of "Machiavellian intelligence," [in Why We Lie, David Livingstone Smith] presents a scenario for a genetic 'arms race' in human evolution between deception and detection, and its implications for the development of our big brain and its capacities. If the reader finds this something of a stretch, Byrne and Whiten's most recent data show that among infrahuman primate species, frequency of deception is directly proportional to size of neocortex." [emphasis added] Irwin Silverman
"More than 90% of professors think they are in the top half of their profession."As an indirect artifact of deception, our consciousness, the thing each of us refers to as "me," is mostly just along for the ride and is pretty much at the mercy and command of the lower brain which is where the real "me" resides.
The illusion of conscious control, while overwhelmingly strong (very possibly due to self-deception), is unconvincing when I give it careful thought. Anything our conscious mind wants to do is at best a request to our lower brain since the lower brain comes between "us" and the control of musculature via the nervous system. The opposite isn't true - the lower brain can completely ignore the conscious brain and do whatever it chooses without any interference of conscious thought. Consider the many important life situations where it is clear that our consciousness plays a minimal role. These include:
- Love: Falling in love is in no way a rational process. We don't make objective measurements and consciously decide to fall in love. It's our lower brain that determines our attraction to potential mates and then we rationalize why we fell in love after the fact.
- Sex: Need I say more? While I, of course, have always been in complete conscious control of my sex drive and have never ended up in situations that my rational self would consider non-optimal (if you believe that one, I'm better at deception than I thought), it seems that the vast majority of men and a non-zero number of women end up not infrequently motivated to do things by their lower brain sex drives that are nearly certainly counterproductive by any rational analysis.
- Acts of high stress, emotion, altruism and heroism: These pretty much happen with our conscious self just going along for the ride with little or no influence on our own actions. For these sorts of actions, there's often just not enough time for us to consciously process the situation, so our lower brain just takes over completely.
- Food: Have you ever been on a diet and found yourself eating something, like a piece of cake, that you're sure you didn't consciously intend to eat? Usually, we just sort of zone out when we do stuff like that, but next time you're in that situation, try consciously focusing on the experience. I've found it to be very odd. You might be able to fight it and win (i.e. stop yourself from eating the piece of cake), but I find it disconcertingly difficult and that it takes an enormous amount of energy.
Sartre goes into a cafe. He says, "I'd like cup of coffee, no cream."
The waitress says, "I'm sorry, Monsieur Sartre, but we're out of cream. Would you like that with no milk?"In 1992, California enacted a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists. I've always worn a helmet when riding a motorcycle and I had ridden motorcycles for tens of thousands of miles prior to 1992. Yet I remember being angry with the passage of that law. Why, you might ask, would I possibly care since I always wore a helmet anyway? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that it's because it took away a choice. Every time I got on my motorcycle, I chose to put on my helmet. That choice had been taken away. And with that choice, a bit of life. I felt a little less alive and a little more like I was just existing.
"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal." Robert Heinlein
America is angry.On one side, conservatives, tea-partiers, libertarians, etc. are angry, and while they rationalize it into different reasons, a common underlying theme is destruction of choice. A myriad of regulations and abuses interferes more with their lives, and even when the growing effect of those isn't direct, it's more and more noticeable and in-your-face every day. Obamacare is the latest insult and many consider it a direct and massive destruction of choice.
That analysis may be completely wrong, of course. They may be angry for some completely different set of reasons.
Or for no reason at all.What is certain, is that they are angry. And that they'll do anything possible to escape the pain of being angry. Including, for at least some of them, finding that a significant risk of destroying America is perfectly acceptable. The anger may or may not be rational or even rationalizable. The response to the anger, which is to destroy that which is making them angry, is perfectly rational.
This makes America's progressives angry. This anger is perfectly rational and explicable. After all, they are the majority, they have the mandate, the power, and the moral high-ground to enact programs that will make the country and the world a better place. And this relatively small minority of conservatives and their allies is getting in the way, resisting at every step, gumming up the works, and purposefully damaging the country with their temper tantrums and other reactions due to their uncontrolled anger. Who wouldn't be angry at that? I certainly would be.
Everybody is angry.What should be immediately obvious, is that there is no possibility of a rational, reasoned debate. This is about a strong difference of opinion of lower brains. This is an emotional conflict, not a conflict of reason. Even if you believe that the Democrats are completely rational, the Republicans certainly are not, nor can they be, about the intrusions of the progressive agenda into their lives. There are no solutions, within the structure of American government, that will alleviate the anger.
Can a society with so much anger survive?
Friday, October 11, 2013
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Monday, October 07, 2013
Fortunately, there's not a lot of pink in my life. The sky is blue, trees are green, and rocks are brown and grey. My wife knows that I don't like pink and her wardrobe is pretty much devoid of pink clothes. My older daughter seems to have inherited my aversion to pink. My younger daughter likes pink a lot, but does her best to keep pink in her room which works just fine for all of us.
But let's say that instead of living with my family, I was living in a house with three roommates, all of whom liked pink a lot. As with my younger daughter, as long as they mostly kept pink to their own rooms, it wouldn't be a big deal. But what if they decided, as the majority of the household, that all rooms, including mine, needed to be pink? I might try to resist somewhat, but realistically, I would simply move out and go somewhere that wasn't pink, even if other living arrangements were substantially more expensive.
But what if moving out wasn't an option? Let's say there was nowhere else to live or that the majority everywhere decided everything needed to be pink. Every day, my roommates add more and more pink to the household. Every day, my headaches and feeling of sickness get worse. There's no place to go, the roommates refuse to back down no matter what, the misery is relentless.
What would you do?
Thursday, October 03, 2013
However, I am going to throw out a suggestion for dealing with an aspect of keeping our lives away from the vandals who really need vigorous kidney punching: computer hackers. As much as I'd like to provide an easy answer to captchas (Restating the Obvious's is particularly annoying, and it isn't Harry's fault), I can't. But I'm going to throw out a way to deal with the plethora of security questions to which we are obliged to provide answers.
There are a couple serious problems with security questions.
First, depending on the question, the answer is knowable -- your high school, for instance. Sarah Palin had her personal Facebook account hacked because she picked a couple questions just like that, and then gave the true answers.
Second, if multiple people are to have legitimate access, their answers can obviously vary, sometimes insidiously. I temporarily lost access to a joint account with the other SWIPIAW because, as it happens, the spelling of female names is notoriously feminine, and there are probably a half-dozen different ways of spelling our maid of honor's first name. Then there is the problem of whose first pet, junior high school, favorite teacher, book, food, song, ad nauseum.
And you thought Great Guys was good only for reasonably high-faluting sparring.