Standard Theory
Simplicity is the companion of liberty;
  Complexity the servant of tyranny.


Sunday, April 20, 2003  

Freedom of speech; it's about ideas, not sounds

( Via Volokh Conspiracy )


Court: Man Can Bark at Police Dog
A man was using his free speech rights when he
barked back at a police dog, a state appeals court
has ruled.

Free speech is not about making sounds, but about
communicating ideas. This ruling of the state appeals
court relies on a foolish formalism which does not
extend or enlarge the concept of freedom of speech, but
distorts it. This distortion is by no means benign, for
by it, the scope of government authority is expanded
and the meaning of the first amendment is debased.

There are at least two problems with this conception of
the first amendment.

One, finding the essence of the first amendment in a
formalistic rule about making sounds, rather than a
general principle about communicating ideas, will not
lead to the proper extension of the first amendment in
cases where the communication happens in another
manner, e.g. sign language, smoke signals, phonographs,
,...

Two, such a stretched conception encompasses too much
and when a 'compelling' government interest is found to
be in contention with this new extension of free speech
the argument will be made that no right is absolute.
Thus the pernicious notion that the first amendment
defines a right provided to us by the government, and
as such may be balanced against other governmental
interests, will be provided with another point of
purchase from which to ensconce itself into our
constitutional framework.

The essence of the first amendment is that the state
does not have the power to stop us from transferring
ideas to others. It is not a good provided by the
state, nor is the physical act of speaking per se its
central focus.

This particular case is about an action, taunting a
police dog, not speech as speech. This is not about
someone trying to express an opinion and that
expression disturbing a dog. Its just about disturbing
a dog.

posted by Raphael | 4/20/2003 08:43:00 PM
 

French and Arab psyche

People will forgive you for being wrong, when they
will never forgive you for being right.

posted by Raphael | 4/20/2003 08:42:00 PM


Thursday, April 10, 2003  

Where Taxis will lead you
(Via BTW )


It's hard to believe that a daily newspaper in a
medium-sized U.S. city in the 21st century would
publish an article perpetuating the stereotype that
black people are lazy, but there it is in the
Portland (Maine) Press-Herald:
'A Somewhat Different Perspective on Time'
The workplace, as it has been essentially developed
by straight white men in this country, has to
change if it is to be multicultural.

It was designed to fit how they live in the
world. It is not a place that was originally
"designed" for people, especially African-Americans
or other people of color, who value family and who
have a somewhat different perspective on time than
the originators of the workplace have.

The bizarrely and outrageously offense nature of this
argument is obvious, but the idea that the workplace
was "designed", neatly demonstrates the constructivist
mindset of the author. The workplace was never
designed by anyone, but arguing that it was is the
first step in arguing that we can change the design at
will.

posted by Raphael | 4/10/2003 12:05:00 AM
 

More revealing of the author than the subject.

( Via Volokh Conspiracy ).


BE CAREFUL WHEN RELYING ON HERMAN GOERING: I
recently saw on an antiwar colleague's door this
quote -- purportedly from Herman Goering at the
Nuremberg Trials -- and then a couple of days later
a reader passed it along as well; a google search
found dozens of references. According to snopes.com
it's essentially genuine, though Goering said it to
an interviewer during the trial, and not at the
trial itself:

Of course the people don't want war. But after
all, it's the leaders of the country who
determine the policy, and it's always a simple
matter to drag the people along whether it's a
democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a
parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice
or no voice, the people can always be brought
to the bidding of the leaders. That is
easy. All you have to do is tell them they are
being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to
greater danger.


Of course this is a fascist's conception of the
citizenry. And judging from the context provided, it
would also seem to be this colleague's conception.

This is a basic problem with much of the anti-war
rhetoric its ostensible target is Bush and his
administration, yet it reveals an abiding contempt for
people and their ability to think and make decisions
for themselves.

posted by Raphael | 4/10/2003 12:03:00 AM
 

More childish utilitarianism


Innocents in Uniform
By UWE E. REINHARDT
Should not the proper minimum in any war be loss of
human life, period — which in this case includes
Iraqi soldiers, too?

So if he had the choice between killing 1 civilian or 5
enemy soldiers, he would pick the civilian? This crude
calculus is an integral part of any worldview which
values ends and motivations, over means and
principles.

( see also Wretched Utilitarianism )

posted by Raphael | 4/10/2003 12:01:00 AM


Wednesday, April 09, 2003  

Victimhood, the highest honor


Bin Laden's victory

Osama bin Laden, in his wildest dreams, could
hardly have hoped for this. A mere 18 months after
he boosted the US to a peak of worldwide sympathy
unprecedented since Pearl Harbor, that
international goodwill has been squandered to near
zero. Bin Laden must be beside himself with
glee. And the infidels are now walking right into
the Iraq trap.

For the contemporary progressive victimhood is the
highest honor and he can not understand why anyone
would give that up. Sacrificing sympathy in order not
to be a victim is incomprehensible.

posted by Raphael | 4/09/2003 11:59:00 PM


Sunday, January 19, 2003  

The airmen's attitude in a grain of sand


'Fat Land': Supersizing America
By MICHAEL POLLAN
Say what you will about the problems of a heavily
subsidized industrial agriculture, the cost of food
is no longer a political issue in the United
States.

For the most part our current agriculture policies do
not decrease the cost of food, but keep it at an
artificially high level. This distortion is necessary
to further the author's main contention that the
government and industry conspire to make Americans eat
too much.

Indeed, the question of responsibility looms large
in the growing debate over obesity, and it is here
that Critser loses his footing a bit. While ''Fat
Land'' does an excellent job connecting the dots
between government and corporate policies and the
fattening of America, by the end of the book the
problem has largely, and somewhat inexplicably,
been redefined in terms of personal
responsibility. Critser expresses the hope that
''the food industry might . . . take it upon itself
to do something'' like resize portions, but nothing
that has come before gives us reason to think the
industry would ever do any such thing.

George W. Bush has defined this as ''the era of
personal responsibility''
and finally it is
under this banner, so congenial to business,
that Critser marches, seemingly in spite of himself
and his best journalism. So instead of seriously
entertaining any public solutions to what he has so
convincingly demonstrated is a public problem
,
Critser ends by imploring us to eat less, get off
our duffs and, incredibly, bring back gluttony as a
leading sin. Personal responsibility is all to the
good, but everything else in ''Fat Land'' suggests
it is probably no match for the thrifty gene and
the Happy Meal.

This piece illustrates the insatiable nature of the
collectivist project, even when its adherents insist
that they have only a limited aspiration, such as
providing healthcare to all. For once the state
assumes responsibility for something, then everything
which interferes with that goal becomes its concern. In
such a manner as this, the quantity of food which
people consume becomes a public problem demanding a
public solution.

The author does not say what public solutions he has in
mind, but the tone of the above two paragraphs leads
one to suspect two things. He does not feel that the
government should be constrained by constitutional
limitations. And nothing but success will be an
acceptable outcome.

These two things, combined with the certitude that
there is a problem ensures ever greater restrictions
and regulations. People eat to serve their own
purpose. The author wishes them to serve society's and
this can only be accomplished by arbitrary commands.
As one command fails to solve the problem others will
be promulgated.

The airmen's attitude in a grain of sand: They
literally do not trust people to feed themselves
.

For a modest proposal on the subject by Jonathan Rauch
see

posted by Raphael | 1/19/2003 05:33:00 PM


Saturday, January 18, 2003  

Constructed markets; a tangled web
The Real Tenet Scandal

Constructed markets are an invitation to make money by
taking advantage of the rules themselves.

Let us consider a situation like this. Suppose the
government creates a market, like they have done with
Medicare and Medicaid. This market is regulated, not
by multiple independent decisions of free agents, but by
a system of rules which the government lays out.

Further let us say that there are two basic types of
providers. Both comply with the formal requirements of
the rules, but one tries to comply with the 'spirit' of
the system and the other is solely concerned with
formal compliance. For the moment let us leave aside
the question of whether or not a system of rules has a
'spirit' and whether it is in fact ascertainable.

Those only concerned with formal compliance will
quickly predominate. Complying with the 'spirit' of
the rules will never be cheaper and will usually be
more expensive to the provider.

A constructed market is an environment in which natural
selection favors the unscrupulous.


This infuriates the airmen who find in each such
scandal as this, not a flaw in their program, but a
malignancy in man.

The problem arises not because the government sets
rules, but in the nature, or rather, the purpose of the
rules which it sets. There is no inherent problem with
general, abstract rules, such as those against theft
and violence. The problem arises when the government
wants those involved to serve its purpose rather than
their own.

When the state promulgates general, abstract rules it
is just lowering the transaction costs for anyone who
chooses to engage in a given transaction. When the
state creates a market it is directing that certain
transactions take place.

There is an inherent tension when free actors pursue
their own purposes in a constructed market. The fact
that the state has chosen to involve itself indicates
that it does not find the outcome of a free exchange
acceptable. Thus we know that the self-interest of
either buyer or seller, and probably both, will drive
them to act contrary to the desire of the government.
In effect the involvement of the government will hold
the whole system out of equilibrium. There will always
be a profit opportunity in this gap for those who dare
to escape the rules.

( see also U.S. Files Suit Against Tenet Over Medicare Billing
and here )


posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 06:00:00 PM
 

It's not the rules
Bringing Reason
To the Battle Over Judges

By MANUS COONEY

It's not the rules which are the problem, but the
increased scope of the judiciary's power.

Here is a cogent exposition of the problem.
Toward the Restoration of Law
by Roger Pilon

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 05:55:00 PM
 

The slippery slope of collectivism

The Americas column is always worth reading and this is
a particularly good one. The countries of South
America provide a excellent case studies of the ratchet
like nature of collectivism. Whatever reforms are
proposed, opponents can cobble together a majority
against.


The French Liberal Who
Foresaw Venezuela's Mobocracy

By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY

In 1815, French liberal Benjamin Constant warned
that without enforceable limits to government, any
system and any leader was likely to prove
despotic. "Men of party, no matter how pure their
intentions, are always reluctant to limit
sovereignty," he wrote. "They mistrust such and
such a kind of government, such and such a class of
rulers; but let them organize authority in their
own way, let them commit it to delegates of their
choosing and they will come to believe there is no
limit to it."

Venezuelans often complain that the moral fabric of
their society has deteriorated. Constant also
foresaw this. "Arbitrary power destroys morality
for there can be no morality without security," he
wrote. "When arbitrary power strikes without
scruple those men who have awakened its suspicions,
it is not only an individual whom it persecutes, it
is the entire nation which it first humiliates then
degrades." Likewise Constant predicted how absolute
and therefore arbitrary power would foster
privilege despite its pledge to increase
equality. In reference to the surrender of freedom
that comes with wide sovereignty he said: "By
giving ourselves entirely, we do not enter a
condition equal for all, because some derive
exclusive advantage from the sacrifice of the
rest."

For Constant there was no value in defending a
constitution, which failed to restrain the
state. "Why do we wish to punish those who plot
against the state? Because we fear the replacement
of a legal organization by an oppressive power. But
if the authority itself exercises this oppressive
power, what advantage can it possibly offer?"

This is very much the argument used by the former
coup-plotter Chavez himself, who when sworn in as
president pledged to dispense with the "morbid"
constitution. Now the opposition, with good
justification, is saying the same thing. But
Venezuelans don't seem to have learned the lesson
in all this. Government-owned oil company
executives are up in arms about Mr. Chavez's
interference in their business, but not one has
called for the government to relinquish its
ownership of oil. Their jeremiads would carry more
weight if they would commit to changing more than
just the man in power.

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 05:54:00 PM
 

Airmen say the darnedest things

The Fat Tax
A modest proposal
by Jonathan Rauch

Another excellent piece. It also has a few revealing
quotes from the heralds of better living through
central direction which neatly illustrates the
classical liberal critique of collectivist policies.


The next letter, from someone with the Center for
the Advancement of Public Health, in Washington,
D.C., said, "No one is suggesting the creation of a
refrigerator police, but so long as the government
is spending $360 billion per year at the federal
level on health through Medicare, Medicaid, and the
Children's Health Insurance Program, the
government's interest in trying to prevent needless
illness and death from obesity is kind of simple."

This is true. When the group provides something it has
an interest in regulating it. It is by just this
dynamic that liberty is constrained in a collectivist
society. In this manner people become, not ends for
themselves, but actors in a drama constructed by the
state.

The third letter came from a professor of
public-interest law who wrote that he had helped to
sue McDonald's for "failing to disclose the fat
content of its French fries." He warned that more
such suits could be on the way. "As with smoking,"
he wrote, "health advocates may increasingly be
forced"—forced?—"to turn to the courts if
legislatures continue to do little or nothing about
the problem."

If you want people to fulfill your purpose rather than
their own, general, abstract rules will not do. It
would be grossly illiberal if the legislature were to
try and satisfy this guy, but to have the courts do so
would be adding injury to insult.

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 05:53:00 PM
 

Free will; A Turing Test
More Than Good Intentions: Holding Fast to Faith in
Free Will

By JOHN HORGAN
I believe in the mechanical universe. I believe in
free will. Contradictory? Maybe.

But now, when I get lost in ontological questions,
thanks to Popper, I try to address the more tractable
question of how something behaves, or works.

As a practical matter society's institutions must
assume free will. Afterall the basic assumptions of
society form part of the environment which the strict
determinist would say governs our actions. So a belief
in free will be part of the inputs which determine
which neurons fire and which do not.

So perhaps, constructing our institutions on the basis
of free will, will, at least, allow us to pass a sort
of Turing test for free will. It creates a society
in which people act as if they possessed free will.

( For a full meal on Hayek and free will see Cato)

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 05:52:00 PM
 

The airmen, diversity, and the constitution
Books in Review
The Perils of Diversity
By Stephen Macedo
Issue Date: 12.30.02
A review of


Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value
Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice
By William A. Galston.

It's a mess, as one would expect. The reviewer sees
everything in terms of groups. It is the majority
group against all the other, mostly religious, groups
who don't want to toe the line. The individual never
make an appearance.

Along the way of critiquing Gallstone’s position, which
undoubtedly is vague and incoherent, he reveals the
true targets of his ire, those who would restrain the
majority.

As things stand, the courts regard as legitimate
general laws and policies made according to fair
democratic procedures -- even if particular groups
feel that their activities and projects are
burdened. Our legal system suspends the presumption
of democratic legitimacy only for laws that
restrict fundamental liberties or that impose
special burdens on "discrete and insular
minorities," such as blacks, who have historically
been subject to systematic discrimination. Within
these broad limits, the presumed legitimacy of
generally applicable laws made by democratically
accountable institutions is essential to the right
of the people as a whole to govern themselves

That is certainly how a collectivist would want it, but
while fair democratic procedure is certainly necessary
it is not sufficient. Nor is deference to a vague, and
plastic, some might say living, concept such as
fundamental liberties, the determinate criteria.
Fidelity to the federal constitution is what makes
federal laws legitimate.

The Supreme Court is reinvigorating pre-New Deal
constitutional limitations on the powers of the
national government, and serious people are no
longer embarrassed to advocate "states' rights."
Decades of criticism of the alleged overweening
power of government have taken a tremendous
toll. What exactly do these people want?
...
Some, notably McConnell, who is about to ascend to
the federal judiciary, want to reinterpret the
Constitution so as to circumscribe the powers of
the national government in favor of the states and
religious communities
...
These old foes of the modern democratic state have
long sought to impose constitutional shackles on
federal powers, and they might get their way.

I especially like the exasperated 'What do these people
want?' as if the whole idea of a constitutionally
constrained government was some incomprehensible foreign
concept. It is those constitutional shackles from
which our successful open society springs. Without them
we would become just another Argentina.

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 04:34:00 PM
 

Mongers of racial animosity


That is the premise that there is a basic equality
between appeals to racism and charges of
racism. It's a equation which is as morally vacant
as it is logically flawed.

The complaint is not that a 'charge of racism' is the
same as racism, but that people are being charged with
racism simply for holding positions which differ from
the contemporary liberal orthodoxy on various policy
issues, such as affirmative action and hate crimes
legislation.

What is the substance of these supposed appeals to
racism? Is it a promise to pass racially oppressive
laws? I have heard no such promises from anyone,
unless, of course, to depart from the reigning liberal
orthodoxy is itself racially oppressive.

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 04:30:00 PM
 

It's game theory, is it?


Games Nations Play
By PAUL KRUGMAN

That's not a rhetorical question. During the cold
war, the U.S. government employed experts in game
theory to analyze strategies of nuclear
deterrence. Men with Ph.D.'s in economics, like
Daniel Ellsberg, wrote background papers with
titles like "The Theory and Practice of Blackmail."
The intellectual quality of these analyses was
impressive, but their main conclusion was simple:
Deterrence requires a credible commitment to punish
bad behavior and reward good behavior.

Oh my. Men with Ph.D.'s in economics they must be really
smart.

This is a frequent pattern of Krugman's. He bestows on
the ignorant masses some nugget of wisdom from the
higher reaches of academia. He then uses this bit of
arcana as intellectual justification to attack George
Bush.

For another example of this pattern see here.

Game theory may very well have interesting formal and
conceptual uses, however in practice it boils down to
listing your options and your opponents options and
devising a strategy accordingly. As such it is hardly
a necessary conceptual device to arrive at the above
mentioned obvious tenet of diplomacy.

Here is a clear exposition of the obvious lesson of
North Korea which Krugman somehow manages to lose
through the trees of game theory and hysterical
enmity.

The Lesson of North Korea
By KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE

But the lesson we must draw from the North Korean
crisis is that we cannot pursue a policy of
appeasement that permits Iraq to become another
nuclear North Korea.

posted by Raphael | 1/18/2003 04:15:00 PM


Wednesday, January 01, 2003  

A dispositive question:
Does the state serve the people, or do the people serve
the state?

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:57:00 PM
 

When words lose all meaning


The Republicans Try to Redefine Civil Rights
By DAVID FIRESTONE

The issues championed today by traditional civil
rights groups, from affirmative action to ending
racial profiling, have become virtually identical
to the Democratic Party platform, and many are
antithetical to the race-neutral goals of
Republicans.

This illustrates a common pattern in collectivist
thought: The organization or mechanism instituted to
further some principle becomes what is meant by the
principle. Here civil rights have become whatever
policies which the traditional civil rights groups
advocate. The substance of the principle fades away
and all that is left is the putative mechanism.

( see more in The Stream)

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:57:00 PM
 

The airmen do like tax rebates

A tax rebate really is just spending. It is not a type
of tax cut, but a kind of government spending. It
reinforces the idea that all resources belong to the
government and maybe it will give some back to you.
Afterall why not just assume a 100% tax rate and then
every year the question becomes how much is the
government going to rebate to you.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:55:00 PM
 

Buying indulgences


Lott urged to apologize to Senate, resign
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Lott could
make up for his statement [praising Strom
Thurmond's 1948 run for president on a
segregationist platform] by opening the door to
legislation favored by the Black Caucus, pushing
for a minimum wage increase, expanded affordable
housing and a prescription drug benefit.

WHAT IS BENNIE THOMPSON TALKING ABOUT?:
Double Standard On Double Standards
In other words, you get a pass for racist comments
if you vote right and get good grades on the NAACP
report card. Isn't this exactly what the National
Review was complaining about?


The selling of indulgences, of one form or another,
flows from the worldview which believes entry to heaven
is gained through good works. It is a logical outcome
of seeing good works and motivation as the basis of
morality.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:55:00 PM
 

Liberty because of uncertainty, not in spite of it


Three Americans Win Nobel for Economics
For Challenging Theory of Efficient Markets

By JON E. HILSENRATH
To some, this line of reasoning, which is based on
theories of so-called asymmetric information,
amounts to an economic argument for more government
regulation, which many free-market economists
abhor. The thinking goes that if imperfect
information sometimes distorts markets, then
governments sometimes need to fix those
distortions.

Asymmetric information is not a resolvable problem, but
an inherent one. Not only is the government not in any
preferred position with regards to information, but the
incentives which the government's agents face argue
against trusting them to improve the market.

A classical liberal does not favor liberty because he
thinks that everyone has the same information, but
precisely because he knows that no one person or board
could possibly know all the relevant facts.
Uncertainty and lack of information is the endemic
condition of man.

This does not change because someone is employed by the
state. Nor can the state simply decree that the
relevant information be given to it. In addition
learning about some particular part of the economy is
real work and if those who gain such knowledge must
share it then there would be no incentive to acquire it
in the first place.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:53:00 PM
 

First liberalism then democracy


Turkey is a testing ground for the thesis that
democracy can immunize a Muslim-majority state
against Islamic extremism. It can be a testing
ground for something else too, which Zakaria will
discuss in a forthcoming book – the proposition
that there is more to democracy than elections
alone.

( Note: I cut this out from somewhere but forgot to
note the source
. )

It is not that there is more to democracy than
elections, though that is true, but that there is more
to liberalism than democracy.

Liberty is democracy's only sound foundation;
Democracy is liberty's only sure sovereign.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:51:00 PM
 

The ratchet of collectivism


California's Gray Hole
The lesson here is that if surpluses during fat
years aren't returned to voters in the form of tax
cuts, politicians will spend every cent and
more. Then when lean years hit they will claim, as
Mr. Davis is about to, that the only solution is
raising taxes. But that sets up a state for
taxpayer flight and a more sluggish recovery. The
only way out is to straightjacket the politicians
before they can spend again.

This is why collectivist do not like the federal
system. If people can exit, it breaks the ratchet.
This is also why collectivists, like Krugman, favor
federal transfer payments. Not only does it separate
the pleasure of dispensing moneys from the pain of
raising them, but it makes it impossible to escape.

The ruinous dynamic which this sets up is well
illustrated in Argentina.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:48:00 PM
 

More Argentina misunderstanding
Drawing the wrong conclusions


Self-Reliance Helps Argentines
Endure Nation's Economic Ruin


That's no small achievement. Last December,
discontent over three years of recession erupted in
bloody street protests that toppled four Argentine
presidents in quick succession. The roots of the
unrest reached back to 1991, when Argentina pegged
its currency 1-to-1 to the dollar. While the strong
peso started a short-lived boom, eventually it
brought stagnation, making exports less competitive
and foreign investors less keen.

The roots of Argentina's problems do not reach back to
1991 and the implementation of a currency board, but to
Peron and the collectivist policies which he enacted.

Notice the distortions necessary to promote the
author's critique. It was not a short-lived boom, but
was 7 years of almost continuous growth.

As for its

... sagging exports. Argentina's exports rose every
year since the adoption of convertibility in 1991,
except 1999 when Brazil, its largest trading
partner, suffered a currency crisis. And
Argentina's exports during the first 11 months of
2001 were 3.2 per cent ahead of the same period in
2000. Considering that the real growth in world
trade was only an estimated 0.9 per cent last year,
Argentina's export performance was rather strong.

Before the currency board the Peso depreciated by a
factor of some 3 trillion against the dollar for the
period 1935 - 1991. By the authors logic Argentina's
exports and GDP must have skyrocketed, but, of course,
they did not.

Foreign investors became less keen when it looked like
the government was going to rip them off. Something
which it eventually did.

Here's a better analysis: Problems with the political
structure engenders profligacy, poor resource allocation
and stifling regulations.

( see also Celebrate Bad Times, C'mon!
and Cato )

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:47:00 PM
 

The two hands of Hizb'Allah

If someone only kills with his right hand, can you give
money to his left hand?

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:47:00 PM
 

Delusional


Two Countries, One Anxiety
By DAVE KANG
Yet the past eight years have seen many positive
developments in North Korean behavior: increasing
economic ties to other Asian countries, for
example, and cooperation with the South to clear
part of the demilitarized zone of land mines for a
railroad.

But the North has clearly and consistently
maintained that it will proceed with reform
cautiously and at its own pace

This is delusional. The North will never reform. It
will just go along until it collapses. The only
question is whether this will be violently or not.

Negotiating with the North is like doing a rain dance.
The only conceivable reason for doing so is to keep
everyone distracted until something happens to change
the environment.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:43:00 PM
 

Krugman is shocked


On politics, he’s not moving down the learning
curve. Krugman, along with many economists, has
some serious blind spots in his political
analyses. He’s consistently shocked when
politicians engage in strategic or opportunistic
behavior. He’s always stunned when leaders take
actions that maximize their own power rather than
benefiting the greater good. He’s flummoxed by
the idea that nation-states might care about their
relative economic power. These are all rational
motivations – they’re just not ones that
economists really consider when they do their own
work. [Isn’t this a really cynical view of the
world?—ed. Not necessarily. Politicians can
desire power in the short run so as to pursue their
desired ends in the long run. For a great example
of this kind of behavior, check out John Barry’s
The Ambition and the Power.]

Economists that focus on politics eventually begin
to acknowledge these sorts of motivations. Krugman,
however, seems perpetually befuddled when
politicians act politically. Since his readers
trend in the politically savvy direction, this
failure to learn has become an ever-increasing
handicap.

Those who wish the state to guide and design society
must always at least feign shock and indignation when
politicians act in their own self-interest for to
acknowledge that this is commonplace is to call
into question the feasibility of their program. For
Krugman self-interest is only displayed by his
opponents and is simply one manifestation of their
essential venality.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:40:00 PM
 

The airmen love professionals, intermediaries


BARNES & NOBLE'S "FROM OUR EDITORS" REVIEW OF
ARMING AMERICA


During the Revolutionary War, the civilian militias
were, again contrary to myth, ineffective on the
whole as a fighting force. One basic reason: The
great majority of their members had never bothered
to arm themselves or attain proficiency in
shooting. After the war was won by professionals,
the government labored for the next 70 years to arm
a surprisingly resistant citizenry

What myth is this? We hail the American
revolutionaries not because they were a well oiled
military machine, but precisely because they were not.
Yet still, with the help of the French, they managed to
defeat the dominate military of the time. Certainly
the professional French army, as well as French funds,
greatly aided our rebellion, but the war was not won
because of professionalism or experts.

In the airmen's worldview only those certified to
perform a certain task should be allowed to perform
that task. This predilection is especially pronounced
in the case of firearms. Every opportunity must be
taken to denigrate the non-professional's ability to
use them safely or effectively.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:35:00 PM
 

Affirmative Action and the airmen


Diversity's Precarious Moorings
By ADAM LIPTAK

Derek Bok, formerly the president of Harvard and
the dean of its law school, said the need for
diversity in the professions requires diversity in
the classroom.
"The idea can be misapplied," he
said, "but it's not a phony." He considered the
alternative. "What a dull class it would be," he
said.

For the airmen society is constructed. The need to
construct one aspect of society, the professions,
requires that another be constructed, the classroom.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:34:00 PM
 

Suicide bombings

The fact that they use a human being for the guidance
mechanism of this munition is of little import,
ethically speaking. The relevant fact is the target of
these attacks, not the construction of the device.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:31:00 PM
 

Root causes

The root cause of terrorism is ideas, or rather an
idea: a constructed utopia in which the individual
serves the collective.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:31:00 PM
 

Figurative Pitfalls

A problem with figurative language in exposition is
that one can take one's figure to literally and the
argument then proceeds from the figure rather than the
underlying reality.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:31:00 PM
 

Liberty for Goods

Those non-libertarians who cry the loudest against our
supposed sacrifice of liberty for safety and the
protection of the state comprise almost exactly the
same group as those who would sacrifice liberty for the
goods of a welfare state.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:30:00 PM
 

More Economist confusion


The IMF has been heavily criticised in some
quarters for agreeing a new $8 billion loan in
August 2001 without insisting on sweeping economic
reforms, such as the abandonment of the currency
peg. The one-for-one peg, introduced in 1991, had
originally been seen as the last hope of curbing
Argentina’s runaway inflation. But the
increasing strength of the dollar during the 1990s
created a straitjacket for the Argentine economy as
exports to countries other than America became less
and less competitive.

And thus the stunning success they have enjoyed since
abandoning the peg.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:30:00 PM
 

Self-aware machines


Brachman says cognitive systems could assist or
replace soldiers on hazardous duty or civilians
responding to toxic spills or disasters. It's not
possible to preprogram a response to an emergency,
but a cognitive system could size up many complex
variables and chart its own course. A system that
could imagine multiple scenarios could outsmart
terrorists - or your business competitors - by
envisioning actions they might take and assessing
each for plausibility and impact. People can be
blinded by prior experience and biases, Brachman
notes, but a computer with no preconceptions could
show humans how to think differently.

Of course if it did not have any preconceptions it would
not be able to do these tasks at all. It is precisely
our prior experiences and biases which allow our
cognitive systems to perform so unreasonably well. A
system with no preconceptions would not be able to make
heads or tails out of the world.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:29:00 PM
 

Another in the on going series:
If only reporters ran the car companies


A First Step to Cutting Reliance on Oil
By TOM REDBURN

THIS shouldn't mean giving up on less ambitious
efforts, as both the White House and the auto
industry have done in abandoning the research
program to build a very fuel-efficient car using
existing technology. If nothing else, as an
insurance policy to avoid being usurped again by
Japanese automakers, Detroit should also be
investing more in fuel-efficient hybrid
electric-gasoline vehicles like the Toyota Prius.

Yes, Japanese industrial policy certainly is the
lodestar of the world.

posted by Raphael | 1/01/2003 09:28:00 PM


Thursday, November 14, 2002  

From Experience, From Authority

One of the problems with the chicken hawk argument is
that it is an argument from experience, a type of
argument from authority. It finds the validity of the
argument, not in the argument itself, but in some
quality of the speaker. For this to be valid the
experience itself must be dispositive. If those who
have had the experience none the less hold a broad
range of opinions on the matter, then on what basis
does the experience become a requirement to offer an
opinion.

Perhaps if there were some opinions universally
rejected by those with the relevant experience that
would be meaningful. But one can not at the same time
credit or discredit the same opinion depending on the
curriculum vitae of the speaker.

As a practical matter, where decisions must be made in
a timely manner, the situation is complicated and the
stakes are high, then one would surely rely upon those
with experience and training. But when arguing we face
no such constraints and reliance on such credentials is
a sure sign of laziness, at best.

posted by Raphael | 11/14/2002 12:05:00 PM
 

Right to Exist?

What does the phrase 'right to exist' really mean when
used in the context of Israel? It seems that a poet by
the name of Tom Paulin does not feel that Israel has
the 'right to exist'.

Does he mean that if Israel's existence were threatened
he would not do anything about it. Is it that the
attackers should not have to worry about being brought
up on charges before the International Criminal Court.
Or is he saying that Israel should not exist and he
actively endorses its destruction?

If you use this locution, you are trying to put a
veneer of reasonableness on a call for destruction. It
pretends to concern with the abstract, but urges the
concrete.

posted by Raphael | 11/14/2002 12:05:00 PM
Search

powered by FreeFind
links
Epigrams
e-mail
archives