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A modest proposal

I propose that some enterprising individual or organization create a private currency that is backed by an index fund or several index funds.

This currency could be used online, like those gold-backed online forms of money, and the currency could also be printed or minted.

Since I don't know much about monetary economics or any other economics, I'll leave the fancy rebuttals and fleshing-out of the idea to you experts, but after thinking about it briefly I believe I would like to use such a currency.

LaborPains.Org Typo

Shouldn't that really be a $1,337 paycut instead?

Southwest switching to a more efficient seat allocation system

A friend reports that: "what's changed (implemented in San Antonio, "coming soon to your airport, too!") is that you get a number within the group A, B or C, based on when you checked in, and you board the aircraft in roughly that order (groups of 5) and still get to select what seat you want. So you no longer have to camp out in line if you want to get on first, it's all determined by check-in order. SW has a explanation done in Flash."

This is great, because they are getting a problem right that our society frequently seems to get wrong, at our loss. Specifically, our society seems to view queuing as a standard "solution" for allocation. The problem is that it is wasteful because you are paying via a loss instead of a transfer.

For example, say the city opens a free movie theater. They have to ration tickets somehow, so they use lines. Townspeople respond by standing in line to get tickets until the time spent in line is almost equal to the value of the ticket. Compare this to an auction. The price will still go up until it is almost at the value, so to the person paying, it looks the same. But there is a crucial difference: the payment is a transfer (I hand you pieces of paper), instead of a loss (I stand in line). Looking at the whole pie, the auction does not use up any wealth, whereas queuing uses up lots of people's time, thus reducing their happiness by denying them opportunities to do more fun things.

Systems which ration through loss (gameplayers can think of it as "a payment to the bank") are wasteful, yet we seem to like them. Perhaps it's related to some kind of jealousy or anti-business bias, where we are happiest if no one is gaining at our expense. Sadly, that kind of thinking makes us all poorer. Alternately, queuing rewards those with low value for their time, while auctions reward those with the most money, so perhaps it is a redistributive mechanism, although it's a terribly inefficient one.

And of course, it isn't like auctions are the only efficient mechanism - anything where people can't use up resources works. For example, Southwest seems to be using check-in order, which in this world of printable boarding passes and check-in kiosks should not lead to much wasteful competition.

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)


The Ausmus Effect

I can't remember who branded it, but there is an often observed inverse relationship between the actual offensive production and undeserved defensive reputation of batters in Major League Baseball, and it's called the Ausmus Effect in dishonor of Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus had a few tolerable seasons at the plate early in his career but soon settled into sustained mediocrity. At the same time his defensive reputation rose, resulting in a few undeserved Gold Glove awards (given out to the best fielder at each position in both the American League and National League).

The same thing has happened to a player on my beloved Minnesota Twins. Advanced metrics like Baseball Prospectus' VORP* list Nick Punto as the worst hitter in Major League Baseball this season. As the season has gone on descriptions of solid and good defense have morphed into outstanding, unreal and unbelievable. Beat writers are suggesting he make money by selling instructional DVDs on how to play third base. The relationship probably looks something like this:

The Ausmus Effect
I've noticed a reactionary increase in the praise of Punto's defense in both the media and among Twins fans. My guess as to why it exists is that baseball writers, in the need to maintain access to players and team officials, have to be careful in how they criicize players. In trying to offset the deserved scorn that Punto has earned at the plate (and that which manager Ron Gardenire is owed for letting Punto collect 550 plate appearances this season), they lessen the blow by talking about the areas of the game in which Punto hasn't been a complete and utter failure at this season. Pointing out Punto's struggles at the plate has moved from the realm of being critical to being minimally observant. As it can't be avoided, the blow is repeatedly softened by praise for his defense. This repition builds his reputation and winds up distorting the truth.

This becomes detrimental to the team if the team then buys into the hype, which can happen, as in the case of Brad Ausmus. Hopefully the Twins don't fall victim to the same chain of cause and effect.

* Value Over Replacement Player - The number of runs a player is worth offensively over that of the kind of scrub, organizational filler that any team could call up from their minor league system as a replacement.

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.


Early Excerpt

Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi arrived in the mail today. One graph that grabbed me:

In late 1981 it was still a few months before "colonic irrigation" ads in the L.A. Weekly warned, "Death begins in the colon," and two years before the naming of the Aids virus and a final ending of what we refer to as The Sixties - begun with the election of young Kennedy, the introduction of the Pill, and the court-ordered removal of crucifixes from public schools. None of which were as advertised: Young tan handsome JFK had one foot in the grave even before our anti-hero avatar fired off the starter pistol on the hippie era; Nixon lived to be 81. In a 1957 article in Pageant magazine on the development of the Pill the zeitgeist itself was promising that "a new contraceptive pill seems to answer all the objections on physical, psychological and moral grounds." And all these years later the public school systems seem well without a prayer despite at least ten cycles of reform that accomplish little but teachers' union culpability evasion.

It's refreshing to read a rock critic/historian that could get along with Andrew Coulson.

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.”

The Riddle of the Mushroom

I was eating breakfast with my son after his Ju-Jitsu class at a local diner and had ordered a nice omelet with onions, bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms. Seeing me eat a mushroom prompted a comment. He's been reading a book on surviving in the woods and he mentioned that if you are lost you should never attempt to eat a mushroom.

Firstly, because one needs calories and not protein to survived your escape from the woods, and secondly, because it's just to hard to tell a good one from a bad one. I told him that was probably true. He then mentioned that in different locales the types of poisonous mushrooms varied and that even if you got good in one area it might be a deadly mistake in another. Another good reason to avoid them.

This isn't to be fooled around with either. Mushroom poisoning is one of the most horrible deaths known to man and certainly not something you want to deal with when trying to get back to civilization. Eating the wrong one can result in vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, hallucination, and liver failure. So even if you are 99% sure you can make the correct identification then why take the chance.

Well this got me to thinking. What are the true risks involved. I thought of a another issue involved in eating mushrooms.  Humans have bad skills at estimating mathematical risk. I came up with this puzzle which actually has two levels at which natural human instincts on risk are likely to fail. One is known by statisticians but I’ve never heard the other expressed in a math puzzle. After someone has solved these I will point to a video by a statistician explaining the original problem.


You are lost in the wood on an alien planet. There are precisely two kinds of mushrooms here which look almost identical. One is edible and the other kills within seconds of even the smallest taste. Both kinds, unlike earthly mushrooms, provide plenty of carbohydrates to power your muscles for the long trip home.

Back at the lab on your spaceship at a different local with both kinds of mushrooms you had tested your ability to discriminate between mushroom types and have found yourself to have an accuracy rate of 99%. This is no matter how long you look at the same mushroom. You did so by comparing against a 100% accurate test that involves killing lots of mice, but let’s not let PETA in on this.

The forest floor is covered in millions of these mushrooms of both types. You are trying to decide whether to eat a mushroom. You want to know the exact risk of killing yourself if you eat a mushroom, vs. your estimated risk of starvation.

What is your risk of dying in the following independent scenarios? In each case you examine all picked mushrooms in detail to categorize them as “good” or “bad”. You only examine each mushroom once since your accuracy does not increase with time or repetition. The risk is always the risk of dying. The words bad and good refer to your estimation and not actuality.

1) You pick one mushroom. It looks good. What is your risk if you eat it?

2) You pick 10 mushrooms and they all look good to you.

a) If you eat a good one is your risk worse, better, or the same as case 1)

b) What is your risk if you eat just one?

c) What is your risk if you eat all ten?

3) You pick 1000. One looks good.

a) If you eat a good one is your risk worse, better, or the same as case 1)

b) If you eat it what is your risk?

4) You pick 200. You decide half are “good”.

a) If you eat one of good ones what is your risk?

b) If you eat all 100 good ones what is your risk?

5) You pick 10000. You decide that 100 are “good”.

a) If you eat one good mushroom what is your risk.

b) You’ve examined more mushrooms than in case 2) to come up with 100 mushrooms to eat. Are you safer or less safe eating all 100 in this scenario than in 2)?

c) What is your exact risk In b)?

6) You pick 10000 mushrooms. You decide that only one is bad. What is your risk if you eat the bad one?

I don’t know if I can come up with the exact answers in each case but I do know that some obvious answers are wrong.   I haven't been in a statistics class in around thirty years so I have an excuse.  No need to answer them all so try the easier ones.

My oldest son is doing a fair job of attempting to answer the questions. My younger son is calling me a fool for wasting all the mice which I should have brought with me to either eat directly or to use as a 100% accurate test.

Hipster Rags: A Ramble

I got an awesome surprise in my mailbox Thursday. There was a new issue of Arthur waiting for me. The California-based hippie magazine had folded a few months earlier, half-way through my current subscription. But the bi-monthly is now back, and they're honoring the remainder of our contract together.

I'm often conflicted when reading hipster rags like Arthur and Vice. I have to wade through lots of collectivism and new age nonsense in order to gain exposure to bands I wouldn't otherwise. And then, read through interviews from worthwhile bands espousing collectivism and new age nonsense.

From the current issue of Arthur :

Arthur: So many people think you're being ironic. Does that bother you?

Becky Stark: ...Every time anyone asks if I'm serious about celebrating peace on earth I have to say, "Are you seriously asking me that question?" For real. I'm the weirdo? For talking about peace? In the midst of a horrific insane war? What? What have things come to that people think it's a joke to play music that celebrates peace?

Putting aside in my mind that Stark went on to use the word terracide a few paragraphs later, whenever someone talks about "Peace" I'm reminded of an Ilkka Kokkarinen post, and his observation that, "in reality a 'pacifist' is simply someone who has outsourced his use of force to someone else."

Would Stark advocate that all opposition in Iraq immediately accept all terms of the Bush administration's occupation and cease all of their violence in the name of "Peace"? If not, I have to conclude that even Californian hippie artists think that violence can be justified, even if they won't cop to it while posturing in interviews.

Despite features like, "One Man Goofing Off: A visit with legendary Zen humorist Henry Jacobs" Arthur doesn't have much of a sense of humor. There are the usual conservatives-and-rich-people-are-bad satires that preach to the choir, but the magazine never pokes fun at its readership the way Vice does (I tend to like a lot of stoner bands, however, so I tend to find more music I like in Arthur).

Not liking New York City hipster bands as much as stoner rock, Vice makes amends to me with some really great, bizare content. This month's issue has an interview with Wim Delvoye, who has purchased a plot of land in China in order to legally continue his art (tattooing pigs). It produced the amazing quote that follows:

"I tattoo pigs because they grow fast and they are so much better to tattoo than fish."

Delvoye goes on to mention that he will try out tattoos on humans first, and if he likes them will then ink them on pigs. To really mess with their readership, Vice prints that Delvoye is a vegitarian.

I always find something worthwhile in every issue of Vice and Arthur sandwiched between denounciations of mercantilism (but only ever referred to as capitalism). In the current copy of Arthur there was a full page ad for Joe Carducci's new book Enter Naomi, which is about Carducci's time running the independent record label SST in Los Angeles in the 1980s (the title refers to a music photographer that Carducci worked with closely during his time with the label).

Carducci's first book, Rock and the Pop Narcotic is one of my favorites. It was published back in 1995 (although a second and third eddition have since been printed) and readers were told to look for future publications from Carducci. Finding out about his new book, a dozen years removed from his first, made the current issue of Arthur worthwhile by itself (not that there isn't other valuable content).

Carducci is one of the only right-of-center rock critics I've found (although that doesn't mean they aren't out there), and it speaks to the quality of his work that someone who doesn't despise the middle class and occasionally speaks favorably of Reagan gets his ads run in and is allowed to contribute to Arthur.

His ad in Arthur even went as far as to list the ISBN for his third book which is scheduled to be released on the 28th of this month. I was able to pre-order it at Barnes & Noble using the ISBN while it still won't come up as a search result by title or author. (And for all the griping Arthur does about big business, Barnes & Noble is taking pre-orders for Carducci's third book while Carducci's small independent publisher isn't yet at the date of this posting.)

Getting back to the folks that fill the pages of Vice and Arthur (both the authors and artists), I often wonder why there is such similarity of thought in rags that hold themselves up as free thinking and indepedent. It's probably along the lines of Jane Haddam's Why Intellectuals Love Marx.

Why am I now thinking about hippies doing something out of the ordinary and registering my blank stare as proof positive that my middle class mind can't handle how awesomely weird they are, when really I'm just unimpressed. To be fair, I do think the folks at Arthur realize that Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and their legacy have had precious little effect on the middle class. As a result the failure of The Sixities tends to generate resentment towards everyone that failed to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon.

For some musicians and other artists, that society doesn't immediately recognize their greatness and turn their hobby into a career is proof enough that the free market works against creativity (the knobs at YearlyKOS who proposed starting a bloggers union seem like the same type of folks).

I don't remember if it was on this site or back at Catallarchy, but a post about the free market offering a diversity of scenes where pretty much anyone could achieve some sort of status has stuck with me. Not everyone is as in to rock music as I am. I work with a woman that is nationally ranked in Scrabble as an example. I don't spend my time constantly expanding my vocabulary and she doesn't dig through coastal hipster rags looking for new music to check out. This works out great for both of us, but apparently not for some creative types.

What's wrong with some people viewing music as a background, and not a focal point? The fashion industry holds themselves up as tastemakers and producers of fine art while at the same time playing U2 and bad house music during their runway shows, and they're not wrong because of it.

For all the complaints of consumerism killing art, with just a little work I'm finding all sorts of good music being made in the here and now (and I've never gotten much of anything worthwhile without putting in some kind of investment).

And what is the alternative? How should support and exposure for artists be given out? Minnesota Public Radio has a rock station in addition to their flagship called The Current, and The Current blows goats. I attend a small music college in the Twin Cities, and in one of my classes an instructor of mine had the following to say of a local band's single he had just produced:

"I don't like the sound as much as their earlier stuff, but it'll work for them because The Current will play the shit out of it."

Even when you've got a public radio station playing what the general population would consider to be obscure stuff, and often self-confined to local artists, they still develop a sound and aren't really that diverse (and this in a state where the single largest employer is the state). They also produce some stupid commentary. I heard one of the DJs at The Current smugly say that he could get everything he needs from music locally.

While trying to praise the local music scene is a good thing, because I understand that consciously making an effort to support local bands means you'll have more good shows to attend in town, his comment was moronic. The musicians that make up the local scene have been influenced by other artists all over the country and world. That such a moronic claim can even be made is due to the massive exchange of artistic ideas across vast distances and cultures made possible by modern society. But it does fit in well with the nonsense of sustainability, which will score him points with his listeners.

It leaves me with the question, am I personally better off that Reason, Liberty and the Quarterly Jounral of Austrian Economics aren't doing features on Comets on Fire? Only a dogmatic Randite would consider exposure to different and opositional viewpoints a bad thing. At the end of the day, I can always point to kibbutzes in Israel and ask where in the USSR were people openly allowed to live in an alternate economic system (or even modern day France and possibly soon Wisconsin), right?

But if the hipster rags I read practice the opposite? I do have to concede that Arthur publishes Carducci. And at the end of the day even Rothbard said good things about Alexander Cockburn's writing, and CounterPunch has published Dave Zirin!

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Co-consensual Rape Countdown

My son is going to college and had to take a three hour course titled "Alcohol EDU" which teaches the kids all about how to be responsible about alcohol. I overheard part of the course where they were talking about sexual consent under the influence of alcohol. The position they took was that it was impossible for someone to consent to sex under the influence. They also pointed out that you are responsible for any acts that you commit while you are drunk so you can't use it as an excuse to rape a woman.

This got me to thinking. Under these rules what if a guy and a girl of legal age get drunk and have consentual sex but are caught in the act by their friends who intervene and bring both to a rape crisis center. Obviously neither was in a state of mind to consent thus they both were raped by the other. In addition both are responsibile for their criminal actions while under the influence. Do they both end up with sexual offender records? Seems like it to me if this is the actual law.

I'm wondering how long before this happens. Don't laugh I'm serious. ;) Do I have to remind you of that underage girl who was charged with child pornography for posting nude pictures of herself on the internet? I'm not sure if this indicates prosecutors have or do not have a sense of humor. I do know regardless of why prosecutors make these bizarre twists that when they do they stick with them. So as soon as prosecutors put two and two together we are going to see lots of people on the sexual offender lists.

I'm leaving it up to you to figure out the implications of all this because it makes my brain hurt. Especially since it means I've been raped by some attractive women that I wasn't even aware had abused me. I feel so used.

The moral ambiguity of default

With the subprime crisis raging, there are many stories of people walking out of their mortgage. It also seems that it is not uncommon among young people to walk out of a mortgage before the first payment thus getting one year of free rent (credit re-building apparently not being an issue at a young age).

In a free and just society, there cannot be compulsory personal bankrupcy law. Maybe debtors buy as an insurance the right to default, maybe they don't and they go to debtor's work camp. In the U.S. the state allows anyone to declare personal bankrupcy.

According to two different analysis of the law I reach two opposite conclusions.

a) Defaulting on a debt is theft, the creditor should be able to sue and settle an agreement where the debtor repay some of all of the debt (through total liquidation of assets, work, etc). This is prevented by the governement, thus creditors charge a higher interest rate, covering default risk as a defence against this agression. The higher rate does not legitimate defaulting, much like the shop raising its prices to account for stolen goods does not justify shoplifting (this is Rothbard's position).

b) The State force creditors to bundle their service with a default insurance. When someone contracts a debt, he his buying the insurance as well through higher interest rates. Defaulting (or walking out of a mortgage) is merely exercising an option that was bought.

This same ambiguity can be applied to many different laws, such as zoning laws. If I bought a house close to a school, is building a peep-show ok because zoning laws are coercive, or is not okay because the State prevented me to buy the right-to-build-a-peep-show from the original owner (who died with no heir thus destroying that right)

So, is walking out of a mortgage a rational arbitrage or a fraudulous theft?

A Response to Samuelson's "Importing Poverty" article

Robert Samuelson wrote an article in the Washington Post titled "Importing Poverty"

Here is my take on it.

I agree that the poverty rate is higher because of immigration. I think Samuelson shows that very well. But while it increases the poverty rate, it doesn't increase poverty. Your not making people poorer your increasing average wealth in the world, and maybe even the average wealth for non immigrants in the US, but your bringing in new poor people to be counted, that wouldn't have been considered before because they where not in the US.

The rate of poverty (esp. if measured in an absolute rather than a relative sense) among non immigrants has declined. Also the rate of poverty among immigrants has declined (a larger percentage of them where poor before they immigrated). So how do we get a slightly large poverty rate? By immigrants, and there direct next generation descendants being a larger percentage of the population. If the group with a larger poverty rate increases as a percentage of the population that poverty rates can go up even if the rate is declining for every group, and if the majority of individuals are doing better. Immigration isn't on the net making people poor, or keeping them in poverty (in fact it helps raise many of the immigrants from poverty, or at least to raise them to a higher level that we might still consider poor), but its brining in new poor people. Its not totally unreasonable to assert that there is something negative about brining in new poor people, OTOH its likely not to be a random selection of the poor but rather be shifted towards people with higher than average initiative (if your lazier than average you probably won't emigrate, unless perhaps you'll starve if you don't or someone sets up some cushy setup for you after you immigrate, but that doesn't apply to most immigrants. The main counter argument to that point is that people could immigrate for government benefits. That's why I'm much more partial to arguments about not making illegal immigrants eligible for welfare than I am to thoughts about trying to stop illegal immigration (which I don't think can be done) or mass deportation.

Another possible negative is that emigration from Mexico reduces the incentive for government reform, and reduction in the level of socialism in Mexico (both by removing the discontented people, and by the remittances which go back to Mexico and might make some people who stay more content), and also might represent a drain of more intelligent or motivated individuals from Mexico, and thus will help keep Mexico poor.


One Liberty To Rule Them All

Dave has an interesting post, including our different definitions of liberty: cosmopolitan, religious, utilitarian, and libertarian. While they are indeed "mutually contradictory," it's a big selling point that by pursuing the libertarian idea of liberty, you get decent dollops of the others, if you want them. We could call this the "one ring to set them all free" theory.

Libertarian liberty (LL) does pretty well at achieving cosmopolitan liberty. Say you care about absolute wealth not at all, only about equality of opportunity (EO). While some tribal societies accomplished a remarkable equality of result, EO was never a feasible political program before the IR and capitalism enabled us to afford massive wealth redistribution. Otherwise, you just alternated between feudalism and occasional retaliatory decapitation (England 1381, France 1792). Maybe there was EO in Sparta, if you don't mind militarization or infanticide. Oddly enough, though, most leftists do.

Fast-forward to today. Now, if you want EO down your throat, all you have to do is learn Swedish. Or if you're Rawls, and care only about the poorest in society: well, they might better off in Sweden than America, but they're way better off here than in India. So some capitalism is still good, and even better the more you care about absolute wealth.

And LL does all right for people who want liberty to conform to a discovered ideal, at least as long as it's a Western religious one. Why? Any religion that puts value on free will (most Western religions) must, to be consistent value systems, allow people to do the wrong thing without harming, morally or spiritually, others. In short, people must be free to sin.

Take the Amish. Before the decision to be be baptized, teens are permitted to go into the wider world and experiment. It’s not smiled upon, but is permitted. After being baptized, they must shun such influences. But the Amish offer what is vital in any non-Calvinist Christianity: the choice to accept God, or not.

So if doing wrong is a sin, but people should be free to sin, what are optimal laws? I don’t think “we should ban porn and prostitutes” is a necessary conclusion; I think it’s just the zealous legislating their own – excuse me, God’s – preferences onto others.

My perspective? To paraphase an old libertarian parable, if soldiers enter your home and force you to pray to Mecca (Jehovah, Shiva) daily or die, you aren't free to be a Muslim. You can only be a true Muslim (Christan/Jew, Hindu) when they quit harassing you and you get to decide for yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t think many of my co-religionists see it this way.

And libertarian liberty aces the test on utilitarian liberty. The free market is the greatest good for the greatest number, in the long run at least. So maybe minus one. (IMHO, Confucianism belongs in the previous category)

More into the orgins of GGFGN: whatever the tendencies of JS Mill towards elitism (see Sowell), his political program is squarely libertarian. And Hayekian traditionalism - the idea we should lean toward accepting what is because it was shaped by processes smarter than any one person or group, meanwhile strengthening such weeding-out forces through the free market and decentralization - is rule-utilitarianism par excellence.(yes, hair-splitters, I know utilitarianism was too rationalistic for Hayek's tastes. the general point stands.)

So if you pursue libertarian liberty, there are some trade-offs after a point, sure. But that's far from it being contradictory to the others.

And of course, something else we can use as a selling point is decentralization. Alabama has its liquor laws, Scandinavia its cradle-to-grave welfare. Libertarians don't like either, but we (should) prefer the status quo to a scenario where either or both population was forced to change its laws by a higher governing authority. Thus, if you adopt one of the other definitions of liberty, legislating your preferences causes the least harm possible, by confining it to a mostly supportive community. Unsurprisingly, none of the other perspectives agrees here.

Huge Breakthrough

CNN Headline: "Men want hot women, study confirms"

Why Leftists Can’t Understand Libertarians

Originally I posted this as a comment to Constant’s question about reasons that lefty bloggers give for rejecting libertarianism. Below I will argue that what they are really supporting is also a rejection of liberty for those who don’t share their vision

They think they all libertarians worship Ayn Rand

They think libertarians are against environmentalism.

They think libertarians are selfish and don’t support the greater good.

They don’t understand how markets via diffusion of power protect individuals and increase the greater good.

They don’t know the historical lessons and the present ill effects of collectivism.

They think the reason government fouls up all the time is because the wrong political party is in power.

They think a far left government would not be beholden to special interest groups. Smart people with effective plans would take over and justice would prevail.

Some libertarians come across as whacky, whimsically junking all previous non- market constructs in favor of strict anarchy.

Some lefties see libertarians as cold heartless persons who are nerds. They are Nerds who see persons only as mathematical entities living their lives in game theory. Leftists on the other hand are warm puppy loving altruists.

Everyone thinks he knows what ideal liberty is but there are several mutually contradictory definitions. The following is an abbreviated discussion of various ways of thinking about liberty. A lot of these ideas are presented in much greater detail in a book I was reading Global Bioethics, especially the chapter by Mark Cherry

The dismissive tone toward those who question the leftist party line has always irritated me. How come they all believe the same things in such detail? This book makes it clear that by dogmatically pushing their one vision of liberty, they are tacitly in favor of taking away massive amounts of it from everyone else. This book, a series of philosophical essays on bioethics, subtly opens the whole ugly can of worms.

It turns out libertarians are the real champions of libertarians liberty which is not really available without robust free market activity of a type that is an anathema to the left.

Today’s cosmopolitan internationalist leftists define liberty as the ability to realize ones potentials. Since persons may differ in their fortunes through no fault of their own, there is an ethical duty that we should just feel, which tells us to make right this inequality. Thus people who are sighted are obligated to make blind people live lives equal to theirs even if it diminishes their own lives. If someone is not able to or does want to do productive work, all are obligated to care for these persons so that they flourish equally to others. Coercion is legitimate in order to bring into line anyone who does not agree with this imperative. This extends worldwide and is not satisfied until it is all equally realized. In other words leftists define liberty as fair equality of outcome for each individual without regard to luck, innate ability, effort or societal position.

Another way liberty can be defined is a correct ideal. In other words lives are lived as determined by ethical standards that are discoverable and are based on natural law which may be imposed from the top down by national law or international treaty. Life is not lived according to individual choices but as determined by rightly reasoned moral principles. These might include such things as justice, proper conduct, human dignity, autonomy. If you propose that there is a God the principles would be commanded by God but if you are atheistic they would just have to be what the anointed wise persons (see Thomas Sowell’s “Vision of the Anointed”) felt in their heart. Once this was determined, anyone who disagreed would have to defend their deviancy against the majority opinion. It would be rule by the philosopher kings. I think we tried this in the middle ages. It was called Scholasticism, Fascism or something.

A third idea about liberty is that life is to be lived is to be lived in a way as to maximize humanity as a whole; the greatest good for the greatest number. Here the individual is of no account but the community is everything all must conform to what is decided is best to accomplish this. One way of accomplishing this is the Confucian ideal. It is hierarchical, family oriented and paternalistic. Instead of relegating the family and its elders to the dust bin as the potential breeding ground for socially incorrect, behavior and attitudes, it is the basis an orderly society which transcends the individual. Obviously there is a conflict between this way of looking at things and the first two. Who is to dictate the way worldwide society will evolve?

Fourth is libertarianism as freedom from interference. Here individuals are free to do as they want as long as they do not interfere with others, but are able to venture with others in markets. If they fail, they have to find their own way out. This way is truly multicultural and systematically excludes no one as it operates mostly by voluntary exchange, contracts and limited democracy in which government acts as a referee but is not Santa Clause, God or dictator. This is thin libertarianism but since we are talking about forms of government the thinner the better.


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.

Proof That Not All Anti-Immigration Arguments Are Racist

I often object to the kinds of arguments that demonize others in order to both gain the emotional high ground and to ostracize the opponents on the other side of an issue. I don’t find such arguments conducive to honest and open intellectual debate. These meta-arguments are not made about the issue itself but are made about the motivations of those holding the counter position.

Usually the makers of such meta-arguments try to derive the falsity of their opponent’s position on the base issue based merely upon motivation. This is a fallacy. One cannot tell if an argument is true or false merely upon the motivation of those who hold it. Nor can you derive in the other direction from someone’s position on an issue to their motivation.

This non-derivability of motivation is especially true because humans are fallible. It is entirely possible and in fact likely that someone holds to a belief in error, especially if it is an issue in dispute. Thus the very fact that there is a dispute magnifies the likelihood of error, and lowers the probability of discovering the underlying motivations.

In the below proof the strongest part of the proof might seem to be Argument I. However Argument II, which rests on the fallacious belief that the moon is made of green cheese, is actually the stronger point in showing that one cannot deduce someone’s motivation from their position on an issue. It’s quite possible they just made a mistake.

Painting the other as evil for a simple mistake does not help them to understand their error and would tend to cement them in their position. They know firsthand that they do not have evil motivations, so any assumption based on that will only tend to alienate them from the counter position.

I know that I am not a racist. I am against a totally open immigration policy for any country, not just my own. I have little patience for fallacious arguments painting me as a racist because of my position. Perhaps I hold my position in error but no one has shown me an error to my satisfaction.

In fact, anyone who makes such an argument is obviously evil and wants to usurp power for themselves to create a one world government. :)


I will show that not all anti-immigration arguments are based on racism. In order to do so I need to provide only a single (valid or invalid) non-race based argument as a counterexample. I will provide both kinds.

I: Valid Anti-Immigration Argument


1) If there is any valid reasons to control and monitor immigration then we are justified in having immigration controls.

2) If we are justified in having immigration controls then we are justified in having laws to implement those controls.

3) If an immigrant violates those just immigration laws he has shown a propensity to criminal behavior.

4) It is just to restrict outlaws and scofflaws from immigrating into our country.

5) Given any one of the following there exists a valid non-racist reason to control immigration.

a) It is just to control and monitor immigration in order to prevent the spread of disease.

b) It is just to control and monitor immigration in order to prevent the free roaming of outlaws and scofflaws who continue to disobey just laws that do not pertain to immigration.

c) It is just to control and monitor immigration in order to properly socialize new immigrants to the laws and customs of the host country.


6) It follows from 1) and any of 5a), 5b) or 5c) that it is just to control and monitor immigration.

7) It follows from 2) and 6) that it is just to create immigration law.

8) It follows from 3) and 7) that illegal immigrants are true criminals.

9) It follows from 4) and 8) that illegal immigrants are justly prevented from immigrating into the country, and can be justly prevented from immigrating solely on the basis of their prior violation of immigration law.

The above argument is not circular because illegal immigrants are not assumed to be criminals as one of the givens.

The above argument is not racist because none of the givens in 5) are based on racism.

II: Invalid Anti-Immigration Argument

1) The moon is made of green cheese.

2) All non-citizens and new immigrants regardless of race eat moon cheese but only when they are in the U.S.

3) Eating moon cheese will destabilize the moons orbit and destroy the earth.

4) We should outlaw the destruction of the earth.

Given 1) – 4) we should outlaw immigration to this country by non-citizens.

The above argument is not racist because it is based on utter nonsense. Anyone who holds to such an argument does so out of error and not racism.

III: Conclusion

Either Argument I or Argument II is sufficient to provide a counterexample to the statement, “All anti-immigration arguments are based on racism”, therefore that statement is false. Q.E.D.


In I.4) I changed "people with criminal tendencies" to "outlaws and scofflaws" and in I.5.b) "criminals who have disobeyed just laws" to "outlaws and scofflaws who continue to disobey just laws".   I added the label "Deducing" to head the portion of the argument with the deductions.