The virtue of excellence
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Marx and Public choice agree:in the capitalist age, the government is the enemy of the proletariat, voting or no. They want wage-slaves.
Discrimination because I saw (for the first time) very clearly the (apparently unconcsious) behavior of candy-tossers at a parade, where my black wife simply standing with the kids resulted in substantially less candy tossed to them than my caucasian self standing with them. It wasn't a sampling error. It was blatant. And in all-white west-Chicagoland. By report from folks who see a lot more of this than I do...Chicago is hideous when it comes to race relations. California central coast is not great. Austin is ok. Houston, Atlanta, and (strangely) rural North Carolina are fabulous.
Feminism...well Damn Roderick Long...and his essays that make one think. I have no CLUE where to go with my thought processes on this topic...but I'm floating around this topic. Sciabarra, Long, Hsieh...the list of people who have argued powerfully in this space is large, and growing.
Going political here: The problem I have in interacting with these issues is that (a) a good chunk of the issue/issues is a result of government action (Slavery, laws against females owning property, primogeniture, etc.). (b) one can't adequately stand just neutral on the topic because (horrid loaded terminology incoming) objectively, neutral is equivalent to racist/sexist. (c) the government is inevitably controlled by the elites who prefer perpetuating the status quo (d) laws/policies created are effectively universally only nominally pro-group, and strongly pro-centralized accretion of power. (e) in the sexism case, I think that there's a whole pile of true, non-socially constructed biology/psychology here that the standard feminist position denies.
Hard topic. Floating in my head. Probably sitting there for months while I plow through my current reading list...but sitting and waiting to bloom.
"I only saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants"
The trick is you actually have to climb the damn giants to do that. Instead, there are two contrary paths that an awful lot of people take...one of which is up close and personal right now.
1. Make the giant squat...stand on his back, and see almost as far as he did. I worry that a good chunk of academia does this.
2. Work your ass off, finding one new idea after another, learning and clawing, dragging ideas out of the mud, and then sit down exhausted and find...Euler did it first.
I don't care much about the first option, but the second option is interesting to me because I've run into it twice in 24 hours, and semi-frequently before.
When I was in college being all math-geeky...I got a senior thesis assignment from my professor: a problem he was kind of working on (q-analog of the problem of derangements). 6 weeks later, I brought him a solution...6 weeks later, he figured out what I had done. After a bit, he searched the literature, and found that the simple version of my result was already out there, in a military application. And then he found an interesting equality in my results (Infinite product = infinite sum)...and then later we determined that Euler had been there first. It was fun...but science rewards precedence, not rediscovery. It makes me feel like a real mathematician though, to do original work, and discover Euler got there first.
Yesterday, I was reading Vernon Smith's book: Rationality in Economics, and was smacked in the face again by work by geniuses that got there first. First, Smith talks about Hayek's discussion of constructivist vs. ecological rationality. Guess what...that's Sowell's constrained vs. unconstrained visions, sitting in Hayek's The Fatal Conceit. Then he goes into a discussion of know-that vs. know-how, and again cites Hayek, and indeed Adam Smith.
Ok...so deflated, I go home, put the kids to bed, and call my friend Bob, the education guru. While I've worked loosely in education for 20 years, Bob has worked explicitly in education, and teaching education and publishing on education and ... for longer than ... I've been alive? And he has an undergrad in econ, and he just knows everything. I present my education software pitch to him...he goes through, and lists in 15 minutes, concerns that I'd taken 6 months to hash out, and then proceeds to list some more that I haven't thought of. Damn experts.
But along the way, he brought up (in a sidebar) something that I wasn't thinking about, which oddly made me feel better.
Bob is a constructivist in the educational sense instead of the Hayekian sense. Constructivism roughly means that in order to understand something, you have to build the meaning yourself. The simple version of that is frequently when someone is making mistakes at math...they don't understand the correspondence between math concepts and reality. Addition difficulties are frequently due to a misunderstanding of some deeper concept: Correspondence (4 means like 4 apples) , number permanence (4+6 is always the same answer), etc. Incidentally, both Bob and I have found lots of people who are COLLEGE GRADUATES!!!! who have problems with these things. Mostly those college graduates with these problems are people in masters/teaching credential programs who are going to be pre-school or elementary teachers.
So what...? We know you ramble, Aretae, but you are usually going somewhere.
Well...this reminded me that in general one needs experience to be able to apply the theory. If one has only theory, one has only a proposition, and not the elements from which the proposition is built. This means that the reasoning that one does from the proposition is likely to be faulty. Instead, what we should all want is enough experience in a field in order to have run into, cataloged, and identified the problems we face. AFTER one does enough work attempting to solve problems, then it is appropriate to hand someone the standard solution.
So I feel better. Sure, Hayek, Euler, Adam Smith, Vernon Smith, and my friend Bob got there first. HOWEVER, I wouldn't have a depth of understanding of the topics if I hadn't gotten there basically solo.
The good news is that I've been giving the under-theorized version of this pitch at work, when arguing about how Java training should proceed. Now I not only feel better about re-discovering topics that Hayek and Euler solved, but also, I can apply this at work. And...from a memory...Feynman seemed to believe the same thing, as his approach to understanding physics (and some other stuff) was known to involve going back to the beginning and trying to derive the whole mess of it.
Experience doing...don't try to believe you understand something without it.
"The basic problem that the Democrats have with health care reform is that when it comes to taking our system away from free markets, there is just not that much farther we can go."
"The only real health care reformers are those of us on the libertarian fringe."
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Nonetheless, her extended explanations here and here comport very well with the explanations I have given as to what matters in Health Care:
1. Think of the children. And their children. And stop giving power to the political elite.
2. Lots of people rationally don't want insurance.
Quote of the day so far:
"If you worry about global warming, you should worry at least as hard about medical innovation." --Megan McArdle
Monday, July 27, 2009
Here's an intelligent leftist's rant about misunderstanding markets.
Yes, it says conservatives are bad. No, his solutions at the end are not my favorites.
I don't care. It's a great (longish) post arguing for a (mostly) left-lib analysis of the situation.
I still vote for third-level libertarianism, but understanding the first-level problem is miles ahead of most seemingly intelligent commentators.
And for the first time, there was a clarity in what could be meant by the eastern abandonment of self idea.
Caveat: I don't read always for the value that the author meant to write to. I was, for instance, enraptured by the psychological response to royalty depicted in War and Peace, more than any other single feature of the book.
Disclaimer: This post is a more complete explanation of an email.
Having said that, I read the eastern position around the self as two-fold.
As a youth, develop the self. In particular, develop both excellence and discipline. This translates (in my mind) to: Develop the self, so that you are the kind of person you ought to be.
Once matured a bit, recognize that the erroneous attachment to the image of "the self" that you carry in your mind is the biggest obstacle to being happy. If you abandon attachment to a silly narrow picture of "who you are"; if you stop trying to fight against the flamboyant fireworks of verbal attacks that injure nothing but your own pride; if you recognize that your unhappinesses come mostly from your own defenses, not from the external stimuli; Then only will you be able to abandon...not the self...but the attachment to the self that is the root of most evil.
The self is real. The image of self that you defend unto death is a convenient fiction that you maintain in your mind because it was useful as a child. Get over it.
Now...if only it was easy to do, I'd be in good shape.
Again, the unfortunate distinction between know-that and know-how rears its ugly head.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Suppose for the moment that Rand (and the ancient Greeks) were roughly correct about ethics. Eudaimonea as a/the goal. In that case, Rand contortedly makes the argument that one should judge actions as good vs. bad and react thusly ... based largely on their impacts on the actor.
The Randian position: (At least some) drug use is evil, much like theft. Both damage the self. One should condemn ("judge") such behavior. To be fair, not all objectivists hold that position, but I believe that the pro-judgement stance is itself unstable under the weight of internal contradiction if one chases the contrary path.
First, there is the tactical question of "judgement". Rand believes that it is incumbent upon the individual to judge both self and others. I believe that one should analyze, and take good care to recognize one's own lack of information/context. Also, I believe that judgement predisposes one to over-hasty verbal condemnation. Most issues are complex. Most complex bayesian truth-assessments are under 80%. There isn't much room to judge harshly in most cases.
However, this isn't the core of my criticism, but rather an aside. I claim (in good libertarian fashion) that ethics ought be categorized along two dimensions, not one.
The Randian/Greek dimension (ethical egoism, eudaimonism) should not, properly, be referred to as ethics. Rather, it should be referred to as degree of un-stupidity. Doing your work to the best of your ability, not slacking, keeping semi-fit, avoiding crime, etc...these are smart things to do under anyone's analyis, leaving ethics aside entirely. You don't need ethics to explain them. You do, however, need a working brain.
The other dimension ought to be called dangerousness. Do you demonstrate that you are a danger to other human beings? Physically, emotionally, etc.?
Now...this approach to ethics starts messing around with all kinds of prescriptive crap that people want to dump on you. Marxist, Theological, and (most) Theological Environmentalist stuff has no ethical purchase in that system. Unfortunately, it leaves little room for the very real issue of taboo/tribal in-group behaviors, which are an important part of just about every organic ethics (as opposed to rationalist ethics).
If my categorization is useful...then the Randian should switch "Judgement" to only the second category (dangerous), and leave un-stupidity alone.
To illustrate, some time ago, I changed my interactions with some once-friends. The change was not a judgement of their classically poor situational un-stupidity. Rather, my conclusion was that they were dangerous to people they get close to...dangerous, by pattern, in an emotional sense. Given this, I believe that the proper response is to build a wall such that the dangerousness doesn't leak my way. Nothing personal, but I don't need fallout.
Of course...when looking seriously at unstupidity, I'm on-board with the meta-ethics of Schmidtz, and the psychological interpretation of Buddhism, over any other real meta-ethics I've run into, or any other real approach to "real" happiness. I'd love to explore the space of "passionate serenity" that I've been pontificating about for years, but not where my focus lives.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I think that I've lost sight of mine. And probably I should work a bit on getting back to it.
I love helping people learn. This is what I care about, what I will wake up early for, what I lose sleep over at night, trying to solve.
Other issues, not so much.
Patri is doing beautiful work with Seasteading.
I hope Paul Romer's new thing competes with Patri's ... giving 3rd level libertarianism?
GMU is doing beautiful econ popularizing, with some overlap into my area.
Arnold Kling pwns the health care debate.
The left-libertarians/agorists have nailed politics.
Lean/Agile wins process improvement/efficiency.
And I try to stay up with all those, as well as a pile of other topics.
That's not my passion. I love education.
Teaching a mixture of team building theory, appreciative inquiry, and Markman/Gottman/Ginott's stuff around communication to help improve marriages.
Teaching a mixture of Eckman's facial recognition and Nowicki/Duke on Dyssemia to help folks with problems in those areas.
Building software to revolutionize education.
These rock. I should pull my thumb out of my .... and get cracking on the important shit.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I keep running into situations wherein someone makes a claim, and the claim either has an unknowable truth value or is incoherent.
As far as I can tell, binary truth values break down for cases where there is (or can be) NO evidence supporting or denying a position.
In this situation, the rational Bayesian gets kinda stuck.
Proposed solution: Add truth values:
True, False, Unknowable, Incoherent
I will use an example here. Atheism is the argument I know the best, and I land firmly in that camp. However, there's all sorts of pitfalls along the way to a coherent/consistent Bayesian Atheism.
So for instance, Tyler Cowen, a relatively well known Athiest, has claimed ~10% likelihood for the existence of (something like) God. It is assumed that he similarly includes ~90% likelihood for God does not exist.
However, (and somewhat unsurprisingly) the doctrinaire atheist position is not there.
First, the doctrinaire atheist has a bunch of logical traps to dodge.
First standard atheist position: A-theism means Without Theism meaning does not believe in a God. This is distinct from the proposition that they believe God does not exist. Burden of proof is elsewhere.
Kinda. I mean, sure, in an argument with other people, you say I don't see it, they say it exists, their burden of proof. But whatever...your job as a functioning rational creature is to make your best assessment of the situation, and as Eliezer Yudkowsky has pointed out more than once, that assessment involves presenting the best argument you can for the opposing position, not just accepting their lame arguments. So...burden of proof is an irrelevant topic in the search for truth, even though it's relevant to debates.
So...given that we have a proposition about "god", and we are responsible for finding the truth value of the proposition, what do we do?
Second standard Atheist position: standard "God" is either inconsistent or incoherent.
Inconsistency is where life gets interesting. A good Bayesian can eliminate some inconsistent "God"s from the possibility set ... while maintaining a healthy 1-3% skepticism that suggests that the individual's inconsistency checker is on the fritz. Hell, I can't expect take a 100 question standardized test on topics I know cold without missing on the order of 1-3 from my errors. And God is a harder topic than all the standardized tests.
Incoherent is where I run into difficulties:
What the do you do with an "incoherent/unknowable" position here?
True, false? No. You label it inapplicable to true/false. But you're still in a place where you may be wrong in your judgement, and that's where the fun comes in.
Roughly the strongest incoherentist position would be:
96% incoherent, 2% true, 2% false.
But then you go back to the Yudkowskian practice of intellectual generosity: If the smartest person you know said "God exists", what would they have meant? In that case...it gets more interesting. I'm going out on a limb here, and suggesting that the essence of the theist position is that there is a sentient creator of the seen universe...think perhaps a jupiter brain playing "Life".
What kind of probability numbers can one place on that? Robin Hanson and others likes to write on the topic. However, I'm going to suggest here that you'd need some evidence one way or another in order to make a decision. And furthermore, I've got a strong inclination to believe that it is impossible to be shown evidence that distinguishes between smart aliens and super-intelligent creators.
Which gives me a 90% epistemically unknowable, 10% unknown?
Oh shucks...I just realized that I should also be putting error bars around my probability estimates. :P
But it's worse than that...suppose you have reason to believe, as per Robin Hanson above, or the standard Unitarian Universalist, that your actions may impact something or not, based on the truthiness of the epistemically unknowable results? That's a hard question.
Anyhow...enough thinking on epaper.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The not-uncommon response to excellence in others who are doing the same things that the observer is attempting to do is: "how depressing, I'll never be that good." Given that we have a tendency to watch (on TV) the very best of the several billion people on the planet, and that practice is the best predictor of success, the observer is correct. He never will be that good.
As we all know, there are other options. I personally prefer one other option, and am rather proud of having built upon my natural preferences in order to reach this approach:
Excellence is art, and should be admired as such. Not only that, but everyone has areas of excellence in which they outshine me and the world. A major task in life is to look for those brilliances, find them, and savor them. This is a much more pleasant way to live.
To that vein, Roderick Long, whose general erudition is quite impressive, is a sage in the left-libertarian movement. And he has just posted a set of links to several specific articles by Gary Chartier that both nicely define the "left-libertarian" framework and capture the essence of liberalism.
Friday, July 17, 2009
X is true
X is true -- 55%
Y is true -- 30%
Z is true -- 5 %
if X, Yes = 10 hedons, No = 20 hedons
if Y, Yes = 20 hedons, No = 10 hedons
if Z, Yes = 100 hedons, No = 0 hedons
votes No because X is true
10*.55 + 20*.3 + 100*.05 vs. 20*.55+10*.3+0*.5
5.5 + 6 + 5 = 16.5 > 14 = 11 + 3
Yes yes yes, risk aversion, behavioral economics, yeah yeah. We're ignoring all that for the moment.
What happens if the Normal person changes her mind?
Y is true. Then the normal person switches her vote to Yes.
What happens if the Bayesian changes his mind?
X now has a probability of 65%, Y 20%
10*.65 + 20*.2 + 100*.05 vs. 20*.65 + 10*.2
6.5+4+5 = 15.5 > 15 = 13 +2
Votes Yes still.
While the estimation of what is true has changed, the action hasn't.
My inclination is to believe that this result tends to hold overall.
Noticeable changes in probability distributions ( and you shouldn't change too much with new evidence unless you either don't know the subject real well, or the evidence is particularly powerful) will frequently not change the action chosen.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Global Warming (or Anthropogenic Global Warming: AGW) debate is a lot more complex than most folks think.
The normal discussion is:
A. Is the globe warming?
B. Is human activity causing it?
In reality, there are several more questions to be asked, though.
C. Is the net effect expected to be bad or good?
D. Can anything meaningful be done (technically) to slow/reverse this?
E. Can anything meaningful be done (politically) to make the changes happen?
F. Is the net cost/benefit to society more positive if we solve global warming, allow global warming, some intermediate, or some alternative?
G. What is the opportunity cost of the results of F.
To answer the questions:
A. The globe seems to be getting warmer. A lot of climate scientists report that we've gone up by nearly a degree in the last century. Seems relatively settled. Future trend: less certain. Horrible results, though, that century of warming.
B. The human activity may have something to do with it. With Cap and Trade coming, there has been a huge outpouring of Climate Scientists opposing the consensus on AGW.
B1 Models: Furthermore, AGW semi-certainty requires we have causes established...which requires we build models...and the AGW models are almost as good as the Macroeconomic models that brought us to the current recession. The system is complicated, the models aren't good enough, and ignoring those facts in order to get action doesn't help solve the problem.
B2 Chicago: I live in Chicago, and weather forecasts for the afternoon are routinely off by 40 degrees. If you can't predict the weather in 6 hours, I am naturally suspicious of your ability to tell me what wil happen in 100 years.
B3 Causation: Furthermore...lots of other confounding data...Carbon Dioxide increases seem to lag temperature increases, not vice versa.
B4 Explanatory effect: This month's Nature article saying we can only explain 1/2 the historical temperature increases via CO2 explanations, with 1/2 being a mystery.
B5 Solar activity: There appears to be evidence that solar cycles drive temperature a lot.
B Overall: Perhaps GW is anthropogenic.
C. It seems that in the 1970s, there was a great deal of panic that the globe would cool by a couple degrees, and life would be horrible. Now there's concern that the globe will warm by a couple of degrees and life will be horrible. Either (extremely unlikely) the current status quo is the ideal for people, or at least one of the horribleness predictions is wrong.
C1 By mortality data (from Cool It) , it appears that roughly, warmer is better than colder.
C2 There may be benefits to some, and costs to others.
C Overall: Not obvious
D. If you reduce emissions enough, it appears that the temperature will slow and eventually stop whatever portion of it's increase that is AGW.
D1 This would require cutting huge chunks off our standard of living.
E Politically no way in hell.
E1 India and China
E2. See effectiveness of G8 emissions reduction approaches, both Kyoto, California, and Cap and Trade stuff all show rather remarkable toothlessness.
F. Roughly, richer folks are more interested in GW, and more willing to do stuff, and can afford better technology to fix issues. Best approach (greatest good for greatest number) using ANY scenario that doesn't involve tidal waves in New York is to wait, get richer, spend richer dollars on technology to fix or alleviate GW. Listening to an economist talk about this is shockingly powerful. For me, it was Kevin Murphy that explained it.
G. If you try to fix AGW with current solutions, the world is a lot poorer, and there is more death, starvation, disease, etc. If you try to get richer, then fix AGW issues, life is better. And you can do a lot for the other issues while we get richer, for very very cheap compared to stuff like Kyoto. Mostly Cool it is about G...what we could do with our money instead of Kyoto. The numbers are rather impressive.
Also, I under-explained the problem. I have a background in teaching Reading, English, Math, Computer Programming, Soccer, Springboard Diving, and Robotics. In none of those topics, does know-that matter a lot. Mostly, the issue in every topic I've been involved in...and in every topic that most people choose to learn...is HOW to do something, not WHAT is true. This is a particularly large gulf because by observation, the two areas are almost distinct. Someone's ability to repeat facts is frequently unrelated to their ability to do anything useful with those facts. Furthermore, culturally as Americans, we are unusual in that we basically don't care about know-that. We care almost exclusively about know-how. After intense, decades long disagreement with this approach, I caved. Know how is significantly more important.
So I am making a relatively radical claim: For most purposes, know-that is mostly unimportant. Know-how is most of useful education.
Repeating the Fundamental Theorem of Education with this refinement:
Know how matters more than know-that.
Motivation (expansive definition) determines Quantity of Practice.
Quantity of Effective Practice determines Proficiency.
My just-so story about know-how vs. know-that:
Evolutionarily, we have about been building reptilian-brain learning strategies (know-how) for a half-billion years. We have been building human learning strategies (know-that) for less than 10 million years. And they're mostly separate systems.
Internal passion for doing something beats all other motivations. This is an area where a teacher can make a difference, though the biggest difference that the teacher can make is to be a sufficiently large personality that the interest bestowed on the teacher gets transferred by association to the topic being studied. Threats to get beaten with a stick also provide some motivation.
A teacher can be useful in motivating students (or removing demotivators). A teacher can be useful in making practice effective. A teacher can be useful in providing an order of topics to study. That's an awful lot of what a teacher CAN do for know-how topics.
Visual/Kinesthetic/Auditory learning: Only relevant to know that. In know-how, it's repetition all the way down.
Like to learn vs. not applies almost exclusively to know-that domain, and not even well there: Baseball statistics is the favorite counterexample. In know-how, everyone likes to learn something...just the something varies.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Quantity of Effective Practice mostly determines Performance
The topic is know-how, not know-that.
IQ can impact effectiveness of practice
Design of practice can impact effectiveness of practice
Bad practice is particularly atrocious
The book makes a simple claim:
The health care issue is almost entirely explained by the increase in premium medicine, where premium medicine is roughly defined by medicine that didn't exist 20 years ago, and which usually gives benefit probabilistically. Therefore most healthcare policy discussions do nothing to solve the real problem.
If you only give people medecine that was available in 1975, we have NO health care funding problem. Except more people die than do right now.
Example: Suppose MRI saves 2% of the people who get one, and does nothing for the other 98%. Should we give MRIs? They're awfully expensive.
Also, there are competing technologies that are better and more expensive, or less good but cheaper. Should we use them instead?
If you don't accept this is the problem ...roughly, you haven't read Dr. Kling's book...and you're wrong.
Since Kling is right, the only way we can address the nominal problem of cost is by doing less medicine. All the other claims about administrative cost, etc. are bogus.
How do you get less medicine? Economist answer: make sure that the people paying are the same people picking the services. This is either single-payer or individual payer, but our current vision of insurance (Kling calls it insulation) is about the worst possible world for cost containment.
Gratuitous statistic: US is among the highest percentage of health care not paid by self. Repeating...places like UK have more % $ spent by private citizens than USA does.
Issue 2: Innovation.
Simply: Single Payer systems suck for innovation. This has been true in every industry anyone has ever seen, and we have no reason to believe it won't be true for medicine. If you go single payer, you kill substantial innovation. Since USA provides most of the innovation for the world in health care, and most other countries piggy-back off US health choices after US tests them for cost-effectiveness...this massively decreases worldwide health innovation. This is a bad thing.
Issue 3: Most health care spending doesn't work
Robin Hanson says: we spend health $ to demonstrate caring, not because it's effective use of $. Kind of expensive signalling, but that's psychology. Regardless, something like 1/2 of all $ spent on Healthcare has no measureable effect.
Summary: Effectively all health care cost increases are becuase of new treatments. "Insurance" is atrocious as a cost containment approach. Single payer is atrocious at innovation. And it's even more complicated because most health spending doesn't work and it's not obvious that anyone actually cares (as opposed to says they care). Only thing with a snowball's chance in hell of solving the real problems (cost growth + innovation) is individual payer, no insulation with catastrophic coverage + low income safety net.
Feel free to explain I'm wrong....after you've read the book.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Having recently read Chris Sciabarra's Marx, Hayek and Utopia, I find that most of Sowell's main point is contained (somewhat obliquely, it seems) in Hayek, and indeed in Marx, though he does not appear to come down on the side that most people think he would. Note: read more Hayek...and Friedman, I suppose.
some others I read this week that I am tremendously impressed by:
A Crisis of Abundance by Arnold Kling. It's very nearly true that if you haven't read the book, you don't understand the issues in Health Care. Really, it's that good. And this from me who thought he knew most sides of the debate.
Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg. How does a scientist who believes in Anthropogenic Global Warming come out against both Kyoto and related activities? It's simple: He thinks it through, does his homework, and writes down the thoughts. His position may not be bullet-proof, but it's at the very least bullet-resistant. Pro AGW folks should read it because he spells out many many many consequences that are not normally discussed. Anti-AGW folks should read it because it indicates that you can grant AGW without granting the solutions normally proposed.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Will Wilkinson has the omnibus post.
Friday, July 10, 2009
That said, people are amazingly focussed on the present, while not looking at either the past or the future.
On health care, 60 years ago, we didn't have a problem with massively increasing percentages of national income being spent on healthcare. Rather than looknig at solutions...why aren't we looking at what changed...and why we didn't have a health-spending growth problem then?
Also on health care...why are we so particularly concerned with creating or preserving today's standard of health. Why don't we instead worry about providing everyone with just the health care options from 1980? Since the entire growth of healthcare spending is attributable to using newer, more expensive procedures (in a somewhat indiscriminate fashion)...simply picking a (older) date and only allowing procedures that existed then to be paid for would solve the health-spending growth problem rather well. Yeah...you'll get a lot more US cancer deaths, but what's a little death for solving problems.
Contrarily, why are we not concerned about universal health care supporting the rather obviously coming life-extension drugs.
Let us talk instead about policies from the point of view of how will this play out in 30 years, given what we know.
From what I know about other industries...the more regulation, the more government intrusion into the industry, the worse the innovation and growth.
Lots: Education. Postal Service. Automobiles.
Little: IT. Media. Robotics.
I want health care to be changing and improving at the rate of IT. And that's more important than who pays for what. It's not hard to see that (if you pull your contemporaryist blinders off for a moment) this result is better for nearly everyone (except some people in the next 10 years or so). If it takes direct welfare, and political buyoffs to get less government...I think that's a great trade.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The libertarian position is that we should sell Yellowstone to Disney...or the Sierra club, which should be buying land to run it as Wilderness Preserves with camping priveleges.
I bet they'd make it a place MORE people like MORE than we do now.
Private forests have in general done a lot better than public lands over the course of the last century.
The issue isn't that a lot of people like it. It's "what is it costing?"It costs some number of $ a day per poor person in america to pay for national parks. I am hearing you say: You prefer we spend those $ making middle class people like us happy, over both giving those $ to poor people, and not taking them from the people with the money in the first place. I think that's a reasonable opinion. I don't think it's universal. Because no one is framing it as the choice that it is. I bet that if the choice was to have national parks vs. spending the money elsewhere more important (that really is the choice), national parks may lose.
The problem with a lot of "pro-government" opinions is that they rather narrowly suggest that the whole country should subsidize the speaker's own personal biases. Roughly the libertarian claim is if we had not had such programs (parks, bailouts, etc., most of the pro-business regulations.), the average real income would be 2 or more times as much as it is now, and that we could have MORE parks because we individually care...while as it is we feel good that the government is buying parks for us, and we are LOTS poorer than we would be if the government got the hell out of businesses like parks. If the question is...once we are already spending shitloads of money and regulations to make us all LOTS poorer, are parks a comparatively good deal? Sure, they take money from folks who don't like the outdoors, and transfer value (effective $) to folks who do...net transfer to the middle class and away from the rich and poor. If you're cool with that, it's at least better than a bailout.
I'm not safely "libertarian" though. And agorism is really weird. And I'm not thoroughly sure what the Agorist position would be.
Monday, July 6, 2009
First, Bryan is probably right ( My copy was a library book) in his detailed analysis of the muddled nature of the definitions, among many other carefully thought through points. Overall, his critique is both clear and helpful, but I believe misses the bigger picture. Bryan seems to, in his review, have directly avoided what I thought were the two biggest points in the book:
1. No vision is wholly constrained or unconstrained. Rather, people have mixed views. When a significant part of the review is disputing historical figures' placements on the constrained vs. unconstrained charts, you have necessarily adopted a position arguing that each person has a coherent vision, rather than a set of intuitions about the world that may be in conflict.
2. It isn't about free-market, individual locus of control, socialism, etc. It's about visions of how the world works. This is why the book is named: A Conflict of Visions. The claim is that either you believe that institutions tend to be "smarter" than individual humans and human nature is significantly stable or you believe that human beings can purposefully design better institutions, and that human nature is malleable. And...apart from some odd transhumanists like myself, I find it very easy to now categorize peoples' approaches to specific topics into largely constrained and unconstrained visions. Either the system is smart and people are fixed, or we can change the system, and people can change too.
Contra Bryan's ending, Sowell is not arguing for free-marketeering, rather unusually for him. Sowell is explicitly not arguing that one vision is better than the other, also rather unusually for him. Sowell is trying to suggest that as far as he can tell, there are two groups of people talking past one another, and he is ... while not proposing a solution, trying to analyze the problem. If he's roughly correct, then you can communicate better with, and understand better the claims of people you disagree with if you acknowledge that they fundamentally have a different picture of the world than you do. And in that task, I think it succeeds fabulously well.