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Supply side, Martin Gardner, and Tomorrowland

One of the problems I have with the anti-supply-side is that they repeatedly go one ambitious step too far, and you get a sense that, all along, that's actually the step that they've been pushing.

It's not just the anti-supply-siders. Another recent example is China Mieville's attack on the more unrealistic seasteaders: he takes his attack one massive step too far, using an ultra-obscure, long-forgotten (if it was ever noticed), ludicrous example of seasteading (which is itself a topic so obscure that the two-line article stub it has in Wikipedia has the comment that it should be merged into Ocean colonization, which is itself a pretty lonely topic) to launch an implied attack on libertarianism, attempting to tar libertarianism by association with unrealistic plans that in all probability very few libertarians take seriously outside of the actual utopians whose brainchild the Freedom Ship is. And these supposedly libertarian utopians may not, in fact, be libertarians, as Dave points out at the end of his entry. What might have been a valid (if not particularly interesting) critique of the Freedom Ship had Mieville kept to the modest goal of critiquing it, is invalidated by his transparent attempt to tar libertarianism with the same brush, an attempt that evidently worked with his intended audience (the jubilation of the choir at which his article was aimed testifies to this). What would have been a valid attack on a tiny and not particularly interesting target, becomes a straw man attack on libertarianism (one that dupes its intended readership, which is not, it must be said, all that much of an accomplishment). As Patri has pointed out, Mieville's attack does not even refute seasteading, never mind libertarianism. It refutes the Freedom Ship, but in that it is superfluous, since a moment's glance refutes the Freedom Ship. The Freedom Ship meanwhile remains as charming as it ever was, because it is an unmistakable throwback to the science fiction visions of the 1940s and earlier. The computer illustrations of the boat remind us of the visions of tomorrowland, which we remember and miss even today.

The anti-supply-side has a point, a limited point, which is defensible. If only they'd stick to it. The particular tax cuts did not obviously increase revenue above what it would have been without the tax cuts. Okay, that's certainly possible. The data seems to support their critique. Supply side was, evidently, oversold.

But they don't quit while they're ahead - probably because it's not really the game they were hunting. They have bigger quarry in mind. For starters, they go on to say that it's "foolish" to think supply side might possibly have been right, for such-and-such basic reason. Well, no, it's not, as JTK has pointed out. Zubon has also raised a valid point about the long term effects of tax cuts. The anti-supply-sider quote that Zubon is reacting to mentions Cheney's comment about the long term effect of a tax cut, misidentifying it as yet another expression of debunked supply-siderism, but as Zubon points out, Cheney's claim is not the debunked short-term claim of the supply siders. Here again we see the anti-supply-siders overreaching, trying to refute more than they really can refute. Anti-supply-siders mislabel as "supply side" any suggestion that lower taxes might be good for the economy and therefore, indirectly, good for the government.

One contributing factor to the survival of support for supply side ideas may be that the attacks on it insisted on more than they had any right to insist on, thereby refuting themselves. In their overeagerness, they trip over themselves, like the Keystone Cops.

There was another attack on the Laffer curve that bit off more than it could chew. I'm referring to Martin Gardner's parody of the Laffer curve, dubbed the Neo-Laffer curve. Gardner's argument was that the Laffer curve assumes that the relationship between tax rate and revenue is a simple one (represented by the simple Laffer curve). Gardner pointed out that it might very well be complex (represented by the tangled Neo-Laffer curve). Well, that might be true, but there's an immediate problem with Gardner's attack on the Laffer curve: his attack, by the very same token, constitutes a critique of the idea that increasing the tax rate will increase revenues. This idea also assumes that the relationship between the tax rate and the revenue is a simple one. And this is the key idea that the Laffer curve critiques, and the idea that the anti-supply-siders are, ultimately, defending. Gardner's attack on the Laffer curve, then, is equally an attack on its critics.


Torture versus dust specks, pollution, and natural law

In Overcoming Bias, Eliezer writes:

Now here's the moral dilemma. If neither event is going to happen to you personally, but you still had to choose one or the other:

Would you prefer that one person be horribly tortured for fifty years without hope or rest, or that 3^^^3 people get dust specks in their eyes?

I think the answer is obvious. How about you?

Read the whole post if you don't immediately get what Eliezer is getting at here. His intention is to create a puzzle that challenges certain utilitarian assumptions. He doesn't mention utilitarianism explicitly, but it is so dominant in today's ethical thinking, and so obviously implied by the puzzle, that this is how I take it. To lay my cards on the table, my intuition is that the horrible torture is more wrong even if it does not, in some key sense, amount to the total suffering experienced when sufficiently many people get a speck in their eye. I think that most people would have a similar intuition. If they had any other intuition, then the example wouldn't be the interesting example it is, but would simply be yet another straightforward application of utilitarianism. [Edit: I don't mean to imply that Eliezer rejects the assumptions; he may accept the assumptions and reject an intuition if it goes against them.]

I'll try to explain this intuition by using a concept of natural law: What is against natural law (and, also, what is immoral, what is wrong, what is unjust) is what would tend to receive punishment (e.g., retaliation) under certain paradigmatic conditions (which will remain undescribed, but let us briefly call it "the state of nature", a condition that often comes up in discussions about natural law). Nothing more, nothing less.

The concept's application to minuscule harms: Annoying a very large number of people sufficiently slightly would receive no punishment in a state of nature, because it would be too costly for any individual annoyed person to deliver punishment. It would be even more costly (in the paradigmatic condition, the state of nature) for all the annoyed people to find each other, coordinate, identify the culprit, and deliver punishment (a public goods problem; I recognize that the state "solves" certain public goods problems, and so under a state the offender may be punished - but I am talking about how things would work out in a state of nature, without such an entity to facilitate retaliation). However you slice it, there is a per-person threshold of offense below which the offended person will not retaliate because it is too costly, and even if you multiply the harm by a large number of people, each offended person will not retaliate and so the offender will get away with the offense.

To recap, a wrong is what, under certain conditions, would be punished. A harm that is sufficiently small to each victim would not be punished, regardless of how many victims there were, and therefore regardless of the total size of the harm. Therefore, as we are defining "wrong" here, a sufficiently small per-person harm is not wrong, no matter how great the total harm is when all the harmed people are added up. This is in contrast to the severe torture of an individual victim, which is wrong even if its magnitude is much smaller than the total magnitude of a harm that is sufficiently small per person. This victim of torture would, in the paradigmatic condition, retaliate.

An example: pollution seems to fall into this category. An automobile throws out enough exhaust to kill a person many times over, but the exhaust is dissipated and the total harm it causes is shared by a very large number of people. Considering the costs of retaliation, it is not worthwhile for the victims to retaliate against the car owner. People are killed by pollution, but there are so many polluters that it would be astronomically costly for a killed person's family to track down each individual polluter and retaliate against him in an amount commensurate with his role in the death.

Utilitarians are committed by their philosophy to weighing the harms, the lost utiles or the disutility of the different afflictions (speck versus torture), and at some point the sheer numerical weight of a sufficiently large number of specks forces them (unless, of course, they manage to squirm out of it by some clever means) to conclude that barely noticeable specks in the eyes of sufficiently many people outweigh severe torture. And yet intuition says otherwise. I maintain that our actual moral intuitions are not really utilitarian calculations, but have their origin in our sense (evolved and learned) about what would receive punishment under certain paradigmatic conditions. Over long-enough stretches of time, those paradigmatic conditions re-assert themselves, in part or in whole. For example, for the most part, in their day to day interactions individuals deal with other individuals far away from the purview of the state. So in large part, something close to a state of nature exists between most people most of the time, and so natural law re-asserts itself as a guiding force regulating human interaction.

To sum up, something that is a puzzle for utilitarian morality is no puzzle for natural law.


Property rights and the extended phenotype.

It is not that hard to recognize an animal's body, nor to recognize its parts as parts. It is pretty clear to everyone that looks at a puppy in a pet shop that the head, the ears, the paws, the tail, the hair of the puppy all are part of the puppy's body, and it is equally clear that the cage, the glass, the carpet, and the hand of the person holding the puppy are not part of the puppy's body. It is, in short, pretty easy to divide the material world into that which belongs to the puppy's body, and that which does not.

This point can be extended to the things that animals make; primarily, their homes. A bird's nest and a rodent's burrow are recognizably distinct from the surrounding environment. There is an important common element shared by an animal's body and its made things. Both the body and the made things are made. The body itself is manufactured molecule by molecule, cell by cell, by a mostly invisible process that takes weeks, months, and years to produce a visible result. The made things that lie outside the body are made quickly and crudely in an easily viewed, macroscopic process of digging, carrying, carving, tamping, and so on. There are processes which are partly microscopic and partly macroscopic. A spider produces the material of its thread by a chemical process in its body, and then builds a web from the thread in a knitting process that is easily viewed and filmed.

Both the spider's legs, and its web, unmistakably belong to the spider. Both a bird's wings, and its nest, unmistakably belong to the bird. Animals' bodies and made things “belong” to the animals in a biological sense. The ownership is not a matter of opinion, it is not a matter of an observer's whim, but is a biological reality, and a failure to observe it is a failure on the part of the observer.

This is no less true of humans. People own property in a biological sense. Take away the state, even take away the laws, and biological ownership remains. It is independent of law, and law can be judged good or bad in reference to it. In particular, predation and parasitism are biological ideas that can be applied not only to the bodies of animals, but also to their made things, and therefore, also, to the made things of humans. Just as property is objectively real and independent of law, so are predation and parasitism objectively real. Law, then, can be judged by considering how well it minimizes predation and parasitism.

The body of an animal is what is violated by a predator or parasite. The distinction between what is and what is not part of an animal's body is therefore fundamental to the very ideas of predation and parasitism. This can be extended to an animal's made things, and applied, in particular, to humans. It follows that if we are to judge a system of law by considering how well it minimizes predation and parasitism, then the fundamental obligation of law is to protect property. By “property” I mean property in the biological sense of ownership mentioned above. I do not mean whatever the law considers property.

Human existence is almost completely symbiotic. An individual human makes almost nothing for himself, almost everything he makes he does so for others in exchange for something they make for him. So, as with other symbiotes, we must take this into account when identifying what an individual human owns. He does not only own what he himself has made for himself; he owns what his symbiotes have made for him. For example, to take a bee's store of nectar is predate upon the bee, even though the nectar was made for the bee by a plant. Similarly with things that a human has purchased on the market. (I wonder whether the term “symbiosis” is reserved for inter-species relationships; but even if I have misused the terminology, the point is unaffected.)

While we're on the topic of symbiosis, one way of harming both sides of a symbiotic relationship is to block that relationship. For example, to erect a glass partition between a beehive and the plants it visits. Human law may be judged by considering how well it defends (and refrains from interfering with) symbiotic relationships between humans. That is, law should defend and permit freedom of trade and freedom of association.

Background: There is an idea that law is the arbitrary creation of political will, and that, for example, the 'propertarianism' of libertarianism is arbitrary and whimsical, a matter of the weird taste of those nasty libertarians, a mere personal choice, an act of self-expression, rather than any sort of statement about the way things are. I'm talking about legal positivism, which seems to me to still be the reigning ideology among those who consider themselves to be politically savvy. The political views of libertarians are, from this point of view, above all expressions of the kind of people that libertarians are. The contrary position to legal positivism is the natural law position, which is pretty much were I stand. From the natural law point of view, the recognition that natural law is X and not Y is no more a personal choice or an expression of a person's character than is the recognition that gold does not tarnish or that running a current through water will separate it into oxygen and hydrogen.

Note on the title: The title, which alludes to Dawkins, is intended to avoid pretending that I originated the idea that an animal's made things can be thought of in much the same way as its own body has typically been thought of. I don't claim that I am rigoriously following or explaining Dawkins's thinking on the extended phenotype.


Making the truth win

Lew Rockwell reminds us that

Mises knew that it is not enough to hold the right views, though this is an essential step. It is just as important to do everything possible to see that these views are propagated and made compelling in a way that will transform society and politics.

There are different ways to do this. One is to pick up a book on persuasion and use the methods it outlines. The problem with this is that the other side can do the same thing, making the contest between truth and lies too often into a contest of salesmanship, where winning is a testament to the winner's skill rather than to the truth of his position.

Another way to do it might be to find a battleground on which the truth has a distinct advantage over a lie, where a less skilled defender of the truth has a fair chance of beating a more skilled defender of falsehoods. This will not, of course, prevent the lie from still winning contests of salesmanship on those other battlegrounds where the most skillful advocate tends to carry the day. But it will give the truth at least some more or less sure victories. Moreover, if people can be made to recognize these particular contests for what they are - contests of truth rather than of persuasive skill - then victories in these contests may over time come to eclipse the victories of cleverness, wit, dirty tricks, mind games, manipulation, doggedness and attrition that result from other contests.

I'd love to add a paragraph that provides specific guidance on finding these truth-friendly arenas. But unfortunately I have none to give.


Brits resort to pulling own teeth

Socialized medicine. There's the theory (well, the half-baked theory), and then there's the practice. 

Desperate dental patients are pulling out their own teeth with pliers and fixing broken crowns with glue, a survey out today revealed.

Falling numbers of NHS dentists are forcing many to go without treatment because they cannot afford private fees.

Almost a fifth admitted missing out on vital work because of the cost. The research, involving more than 5,000 patients in England, also found that as many as six per cent had treated themselves because they could not find an NHS dentist.

One Lancashire patient claimed to have used pliers for 14 extractions while one researcher came across three people in a morning who had pulled out their own teeth.  

Mirror  (emph. mine. Via Google News. Title from CNN.)


Creeping totalitarianism?

I don't know if this is just journalistic detritus or if there is something to it.

Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad’s “bad” behavior.

[...]

The paranoia over parents is so strong that the AAP encourages doctors to ignore “legal barriers and deference to parental involvement” and shake the children down for all the inside information they can get.

And that information doesn’t stay with the doctor, either.

Debbie is a mom from Uxbridge who was in the examination room when the pediatrician asked her 5-year-old, “Does Daddy own a gun?”

When the little girl said yes, the doctor began grilling her and her mom about the number and type of guns, how they are stored, etc.

If the incident had ended there, it would have merely been annoying.

But when a friend in law enforcement let Debbie know that her doctor had filed a report with the police about her family’s (entirely legal) gun ownership, she got mad.

[...]

“I still like my previous pediatrician,” Debbie told me. “She seemed embarrassed to ask the gun questions and apologized afterward. But she didn’t seem to have a choice.”

She very well may not have a choice if she wants to retain her license, despite the view of the article's author that she has a choice.

What next: nationalized health care and the nationalization of creeping totalitarianism?

via Reddit

 


Arthur, you explain a puzzle

Arthur B writes:

Thus, they [socialists] would believe that a capitalist seastead cannot be tolerated as it produces poverty in the socialist seasteads. (And since poverty is relative to them, they'll even be right)

Arthur, you explain a puzzle.

I found myself puzzled by the time I reached the last paragraph of Mieville's article. Mieville writes:

It is a small schadenfreude to know that these dreams will never come true. There are dangerous enemies, and then there are jokes of history. The libertarian seasteaders are a joke. The pitiful, incoherent and cowardly utopia they pine for is a spoilt child’s autarky, an imperialism of outsourcing, a very petty fascism played as maritime farce: Pinochet of Penzance.

Which raises the obvious question, if "the libertarian seasteaders are a joke", if they are ineffectual, why did Mieville go to the trouble of writing about them? If you look at political writing, one of the unmistakable trends is that political writing is about stuff that scares the writer. Whatever his surface attitude, he is worried. Maybe he has intellectual contempt for his enemies, but he's worried because he sees they have met with some success and may meet with more. It's easy to come up with examples for myself. I'm worried that health care may be further socialized, and not liberalized. I'm somewhat worried that Marxists like Mieville will manage to live down or disassociate themselves from the catastrophic failure of Marxism's vision and get a chance to try again. And I see the same pattern everywhere: people write about what worries them.

Mieville brings up, pretty much out of the blue, Pinochet. Pinochet was many things but one thing he was, was a political disaster for the Marxists. Yes, he was a murderer and notable on that account, but we don't see Marxists endlessly bringing up every mass murderer in history (and there were much bigger ones than Pinochet even in very recent memory). They care about Pinochet because he killed their political dreams for Chile and, by extension, for Latin America and, by extension, the world. Of course he didn't really do all that by himself, but his overthrow of the Marxist Salvador Allende marks a turning point in the aspiration of Marxists, their desire to roll over the whole world. To most people, Pinochet was one mass murdering dictator among all too many, a footnote in history, but to Marxists he was much more than that. He was their Waterloo. This is why you see Marxists like Mieville repeatedly bring him up in totally unrelated contexts like the context of seasteading, of all things. The bizarrerie of bringing up the name of Pinochet here is thus explained. The Marxists, that superstitious lot, are still exorcising their demons. By bringing up Pinochet here of all places, by flashing back to that really bad experience shared by all Marxists, Mieville inadvertently reveals a discomfort.

So, I asked, why does he write about libertarian seasteaders if he thinks they are a joke? But the answer is staring me in the face. He's writing about them because he cares, and he cares because he actually does find them threatening for some reason he's buried. He's writing to comfort his ideological allies (he's certainly not writing to convince anyone else). You've mentioned one reason why they might threaten him.

China Mieville is fascinated by the idea of a floating polity. It captivates his imagination. The evidence is in the novel that he wrote about a floating city. The novel is The Scar. Admittedly, I didn't read it, it's still way back in my to-read list. I trust the descriptions. Amazon has one:

But her voyage to the colony of Nova Esperium is cut short when she is shanghaied and stranded on Armada, a legendary floating pirate city. Bellis becomes the reader's unbelieving eyes as she reluctantly learns to live on the gargantuan flotilla of stolen ships populated by a rabble of pirates, mercenaries, and press-ganged refugees.

It's not all that surprising that China Mieville, who is largely known for writing a handful of books, one of which is about a floating city, would feel threatened by competing visions of floating cities and seek to discredit them. There is probably more to it but this stands out.


America's liberal youth call for American theocracy

Apparently. Unless they don't know what the f- they're talking about.

Can we swap leaders with Iran? Please?

(reddit comment, modded up to the sky)

 


Cuban health statistics

Every so often, an enemy of liberty will point out that Cuba has fantastic health care, in fact it's overflowing with health care, it has so much great health care that it sends doctors to other countries to give them something to do because everybody is just so darned healthy in Cuba.

I don't know if it really amounts to anything but I did run across this paper (pdf) which critically examines the assumption that the Cuban health statistics are reliable. The author points out that

ideocratic states often use very authoritarian tactics--tactics that individual doctors and patients can subjectively experience very negatively--to create and maintain favorable health statistics. When issues of state power and social control are factored into the analysis, it becomes possible to see how Cuba’s health indicators are at least in some cases obtained by imposing significant costs on the Cuban population--costs that Cuban citizens are powerless to articulate or protest, and foreign researchers unable to empirically investigate.

The author highlights a telling anecdote that illustrates the atmosphere of intimidation and secrecy in Cuba:

One family doctor told me that she once led an instructional seminar for medical students at the University of Havana. During the seminar they reviewed several problematic cases, one of which involved a patient who had died due to mistakes made by a doctor. The case was included as a warning to the students to be careful in following established treatment protocols and surgical procedures. After the seminar, one of the medical students approached the doctor and told her that after reading the case file, she realized that the patient in the case study was actually a close relative of hers. She said that the doctors who treated him told her family he had died of natural causes, and she was very traumatized to find he had actually died from malpractice. The doctor running the seminar sympathized with the student’s grief and anger, but told her it would be better if she kept quiet and made no complaint against the hospital. To do so would be to risk being labeled a political dissident or a counterrevolutionary. The student reluctantly concurred.

 


Big science

Big Science

noun: scientific research that requires massive capital investment but is expected to yield very significant results

One of the arguments for government funding of science is that without massive funding that no private organization can realistically be expected to provide, realms of reality remain inaccessible to scientists, in particular the very small, the very distant, the very brief, the very high energy, and so on.

At any given time, it is surely true that the more you spend, the more you can do. But what if you're willing to wait ten or twenty or thirty years? Can a modest investment in 2007 rival a massive investment in 1990? In one case, apparently, it can.

Can a $20,000 camera coupled to a 60-year-old telescope shoot sharper images than the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope? Absolutely, say astronomers from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology.

To prove their point they suggest looking at the top of the Mount Palomar Observatory near San Diego. This summer a team from both universities grafted their “Lucky imaging” system onto the observatory’s Hale Telescope and aimed it at M13, a star cluster that’s 25,000 light years away. The results were much better than they expected. “What we’ve done for the first time is produce the highest-resolution [images] ever taken--and we took them from the ground,” says Craig Mackay of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, who led the team. “We are getting twice the resolution of Hubble.”


Prenatal child abduction

The logical next step.

A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of "emotional abuse", even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way.

And the mother will be silenced by law.

From then on, anyone discussing the case, including Miss Lyon, will be deemed to be in contempt of the court.

While this is presumably a first, and hopefully a last, there's a larger trend.

The case adds to growing concern, highlighted in a series of articles in The Sunday Telegraph, over a huge rise in the number of babies under a year old being taken from parents. The figure was 2,000 last year, three times the number 10 years ago.

This is happening in the UK, which is ahead of us in so many ways.

via Instapundit (which means, yeah, you probably already saw it)

 


Denigrating libertarianism

People try to figure out, and in large part explain away, libertarianism, at Slashdot and Reddit.


Schneier warns against private security

I thought Schneier was supposed to have some special insight on the subject of security. Now I'm not so sure.


Greenpeace stunt backfires

Consumer advocates manage to benefit some consumers.

Bangkok.

Recently, it was reported that the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry was going to seek cabinet approval for a lifting of the ban on open-field trials of transgenic crops. Greenpeace was not amused and reacted by dumping tons of papayas at the entrance to the ministry.

[...]

[A]fter the dumping, people flocked to load up on the free papayas, ignoring the environmental organisation's campaign against the dangers of GM fruit

[...]

"I'm not scared of GM papayas. Rather, I'm scared I won't have any to eat," said Ubon Ratchathani villager Ampon Tantima, 31, before rushing back to his car with the free fruit.

(original Bangkok Post article offline, but it was indexed by Google News so it's real)

I'm not sure the papayas were really GM (seems very possible they were regular papayas and the reporter or the blogger jumped to conclusions). However, Tantima's statement renders that question moot.


No rights for animals

Rights are the exception in nature, not the rule. Species consume other species. Territoriality approaches rights, because territoriality shares elements (though far from all) with property rights, and rights generally can for the most part be expressed in terms of property rights. But just because some birds and mammals are territorial in some sense, that does not give me a reason to enter into any territoriality arrangements with them. Birds respect territory because they have a good reason to, not for any other reason. Similarly, I have a conscience presumably because it's in my long term interest to. But it is not, except perhaps accidentally or in contrived situations, in the interest of humans, individually or in groups, to habitually respect the rights of animals.

I think where rights differ sharply from territoriality is in the human practice of teaming up against violators. Territoriality is, or at least is stereotyped to be, one on one. But what gives human law bite is not that an individual will defend himself (all animals defend themselves), but that where there is a conflict, humans all around will decide who's right and side with the one in the right. This happens all the time though nowadays it's largely taken over by the state and its police, who jealously guard their privilege to identify and team up against malefactors. Vigilantes not welcome wherever a state holds sway. But it's essentially the same as in anarchy: where there is a conflict, the good guy (if there is one) and bad guy are identified and essentially all of society goes after the bad guy (be it directly through vigilantism or mediated by a government with its police force).

Animals can't do this, or at least, their ability to do this is strictly limited. If you murder a human and are seen doing it, then your description can be spread far and wide and you will not be entirely safe in human society anywhere. But go up to a dog, even in plain view of other dogs, and kill it, and you are safe, in large part because dogs have no ability to spread information about your actions. If dogs had that ability, then things might be different. But they don't. And same with cats, horses, birds, snakes, whatever. You can predate on non-human animals openly without fear of "animal society" turning on you. You can't do that with humans.

We are fundamentally all predators. Predation is how we survive. It is also how we provide luxuries for ourselves (e.g., leather and fur, and even just wood if you include predation on plants). Since it is what we are it is nothing to be ashamed of. If we are to avoid predating on other animals - including other humans - it had better be for a damn good reason, one that is damn good when considered from the point of view of self interest. I think the case against predating upon other humans is an excellent one, and not at all altruistic. But the case against predating upon animals is much weaker. Those who advocate it simply fail to provide compelling reasons other than quasi-religious ideas. Essentially the animal-rights crowd seem mainly to base their ideas on a simple and direct analogy between humans and animals. Humans have rights. Animals are a lot like humans (this is undeniable). Therefore (they seem to conclude) animals have rights. It is evil to kill and dissect innocent humans. Therefore, they seem to reason, it is evil to kill and dissect rats, monkeys, cats, and so on.

It's not all that weak an appeal to intuition, because analogy is a common and useful tool when reasoning about rights. However, I argue that it is incorrect for the reasons that I have outlined above.

(this was a comment which I've promoted to a blog entry)