The virtue of excellence
Monday, August 31, 2009
A foundationalist's approach to the world is roughly that of Plato, and which has become that of the mathematicians and physicists. Learn the deep core truth first. Then attempt to extend that to as many things as one can.
An eclectic's approach to the world is more that of Aristotle, the great taxonomist, or else the modern psychologist. Identify what is in a narrow area. Build an explanatory/predictive theory around the narrow area. Don't bother much with whether the theory gets along well with other theories, but only whether it gets along well with the world we see.
Having grown up a foundationalist, I now argue that you can't get the psychologists predictivity (of complex mental phenomena) from a foundational perspective. Instead, oftentimes the only way to get good learning is to NOT criticize (not even analyze) a theory on it's alignment with other theory. Instead, one frequently has to jump into the internals of a theory, accept them (on a probationary basis), and attempt to follow the reasoning from the inside.
After doing that, if you can, you may come out the other side having changed a bit...or you may come out the other side with a different way of looking at the world that you can use at times...or you may do both.
To exhort: get into the insides of the other theory. Try believing it for a bit. We certainly can't say that DeLong or Krugman don't understand enough Econ, or that if they learned more, they'd be libertarians. So what's up? Are we saying they're just corrupt human beings? Absurd. They have an economically literate position that is solidly liberal/progressive. So how are they sitting where they are. I claim that if you can't answer that, you still don't understand the liberal position.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Matt Yglesias: Many years in DC have taught me that politicians are uniquely immoral.
Tyler Cowen: Politicians are uniquely addicted to Fame/Power in the now.
Matt: I still don't get the psychology, but I understand I would never make it to senator
Will Wilkinson: "the problem with standard public choice is that it gives too much credit to politicians by assuming they’re like everyone else and therefore it fails to capture just how exceptionally prone politicians are to narcissism, motivated cognition, self-deception, and brazen lying."
Matt: "The only practical alternative to rule by politicians is rule by dictators," 5 suggestions to include the public choice insight, "I think the underlying issue is one of the most profound ones humanity faces so I don’t think I have it all figured out. "
Tyler: Most of Matt's list is good, but what else do we need?
Matt's best insights from a Left-Lib perspective:
"It is overwhelmingly likely that various secret police powers are simply going to be abused" -- so don't give those powers.
"It’s also important to have in place systems for effective monitoring of elected officials." -- (see David Brin, FOIA, etc. -- ed.)
From a Moldbugian perspective:
"prefer systems that rely more on career civil servants and less on political appointees."
From a lawyerly/Rob-ist/anti-Klingian perspective:
"his is also a reason to be skeptical of ideas about discretionary regulatory fine-tuning"
This is only a corner of the Public Choice understanding, but it is nonetheless good that it's appearing in the Lefty-sphere.
As an aside, I think that a deep deep fundamental part of the progressive worldview that we libertarians don't fundamentally understand is encapsulated in this sentence from Matt:
"The only practical alternative to rule by politicians is rule by dictators," Which is expanded in a comment by one Dan Kervick:
"This is what puzzles me so much about libertarians. They get all bent out of shape by the requirement that they should follow some piddly regulation written by the Minister of Money, who at least might be forced to work under some measure of democratic accountability, but they profess to have no problem about being bought, sold and dominated by the men who actually own most of the money."
Friday, August 28, 2009
It seems as if good feedback systems make it not terribly tricky for dyslexics to learn to read. How shocked am I?
Reminding new readers:
To the extent that one can summarize Robin Hanson as being about status signaling and prediction markets, one can also summarize me as being about feedback systems and education.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Why is it that someone like he or I is expected to be embarrassed by our prior affiliation with (and still residual fondnesses for) Ayn Rand, while other people are not expected to be embarrassed by their prior affiliation with Karl Marx? Rand wrote one of (?) the most popular novels of the 20th century, and her followers (among other things) kick-started the self-esteem movement, and ran the Federal Reserve for 20 years. Marx's followers were responsible for the death of >100M people.
It does seem strange, no?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Educational spending: page xiii
If you look closely, you won't find much of a correlation.
That would be like saying how much a postal employee gets paid is a good predictor of their productivity: Absurd.
While innumerable authors have commented on other failings of politeness, the business of explicitly appreciating excellence is under-served by the market. I make it a point, when evaluating books as excellent, to write to the authors and let them know of my thoughts, if my righteous google-fu can find them online. Almost the same with posts. Excellence deserves credit. The world would be a better place if this were treated as a categorical imperative. I certainly do.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Also, I'm very happy with Bayesian approaches to truth. And I'm obsessed with statistics this month. All that coalesced this morning in a flurry of cogitation. As usual, the theory is itself an attack on the silly bimodal truth definitions that most of us are unfortunately operating on.
I call it, as per my title, the correlation coefficient of truth:
Rather than trying to assess the truth or falsity of a proposition, let us instead assess the percentage correlation to observation.
My observation says that ALL social theory explains PART of the picture of the world, while NO social theory explains ALL of the world (kinda analogous to fooling people). Therefore, we should talk about theories in terms of how much of the (relevant) world they explain...and indeed predict.
"Follow the $" is a theory of who believes what.
It explains handily why the studies from RJR Reynolds all find low correlation between second-hand smoke and cancer.
It explains handily why the climate researchers who get funding based on scariness are all alarmist.
It fails to explain why a poor blogger might be a hardcore libertarian.
On these 3 facts, Follow the $ scores 66% (predictivity correlation). Further research is liable to lower that A LOT.
Sowell's "Constrained/Unconstrained Vision" is another theory of who believes what.
It explains handily what a conservative/libertarian (like Kling or Sowell) believes about almost everything.
It poorly distinguishes between a liberal reformer and a libertarian reformer.
On these 2 facts, Constrained Vision scores 50% predictivity correlation.
If your theory doesn't predict ALL the same results as someone else's theory ... AND offer new predictions that are validated...then you are perhaps better with correlation coefficients of truth than with either outmoded bimodal truth theories or more complex bayesian certainty theories.
Now...bayesian certainty theories can be applied on top of truth correlation coefficients, but that starts to get messy.
A man's connection to another man is roughly equivalent to the feeling of being on the same team.
Political agreement can manage that in some cases.
Working towards a common goal can manage that.
A feeling of being part of the same beseiged minority can manage that.
Being on a team (sports, gaming, etc) can manage that.
Being related can manage that...this is an odd one, probably not in this category even....
Having the same history can manage this as well.
OTOH...if you don't have something there...you don't have much of a bond.
And many many people forget just how powerful the common history is to a feeling of connectedness.
A dear friend once simile'd:
Relationships are like Mountain Biking. While climbing a given mountain, chasing the best ride you can...you might see another mountain across the valley. In many cases, it's wise to ride down your current mountain to ride the higher mountain. But also, there comes a point on your ascent where the sunk costs of climbing the current mountain are so large that switching mountains is <EDIT>an UNRECOVERABLE </EDIT> loss.
He was talking about romance, but friendship follows the same principle.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
If you're going to talk, know why you're talking.
To talk to people who already agree with you, the purpose is perhaps bonding, perhaps
excitement, and perhaps helping to strengthen conviction. If you're going to do this kind of talking, by all means demonize the opposition. Much/most of the emotional force of this kind of argument comes from in-group/loyalty moral emotion as characterized by Jon Haidt. However, recognize that any argument that has a substantial component of in-group/loyalty is not going to play real well at convincing anyone of anything.
To talk to people who disagree with you, the purposes can be different.
Understanding others' perspectives is an option. In this case...questions are good. a particular concern needs to be taken for not being over-aggressive. If you want to understand someone's point of view, the general approach is to ask nice questions, and allow them to develop their position. DON'T contradict them. The best line here, if you disagree is in the direction of: "Perhaps I'm a little slow, but I don't quite follow how X. Does it always work that way?" Good at making people feel important. Probably good at shifting positions slightly.
Talking to others with the purpose of convincing them of something is again different. If someone has made up their mind, and you wish to lead them to a different place, the proper response is usually to change your purpose. Opinions (on non-science matters) tend to be social-proof opinions, and group identity markers. Changing someone's opinion is in general a matter of attempting to get them to switch a section of their identity. The best thing you can do in this case is social-proof your way to win. Demonstrate that you are first in the "good" group, though it's not out of the question to allow yourself on the fringes of the "good" group. Then, you need to demonstrate (generally not via argument) that you as a person are the kind of person whose opinions should be respected/deferred to. Then, you can shift a person. Until then, no.
If your purpose is to argue...feel free, but know that most people find the argument significantly annoying because you (the arguer) really don't understand that the purpose of opinions is primarily social, not truthical.
Geek: a person who cares more about some specific topic than about the social dynamics around the topic.
This allows general geeks, as well as subject-specific geeks: music geek, for instance.
Unfortunately, this approach, while good for hoovering up information, is atrocious when trying to convince anyone of anything in person.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
After the beginning, there was Parmenides who argued that all is stasis. The only true statement one can make is: "Is!" Since genesis is contrary to the nature of things (existence does not come into being) , then change must be an illusion. Our senses are thus corrupt and have no access to reality, but there exists the real world wherein "Is!". Shame we can't get to it. We mostly know of Parmenides because of his student Zeno (of the paradoxes).
In the beginning God created the world. And the world has a plan embedded in it, and it will come to fruition some day, and the plan is good, even though now sucks.
In the beginning, there was no beginning. Rather, even Brahma itself is part of a 600 Trillion year cycle of creation and destruction, birth, death, and rebirth. Cycles are everything, and while many cycles lead inexorably towards the worse, at some point it is all washed away again, and restarted in a pristine state.
And it went on like this for a long long time. Everyone and their dog's cousin had a theory of how the world works. And they all fall into one of these categories.
1. Change happens, and it sucks.
2. The real world is hiding, but unchanging.
3. Change happens, and it usually sucks, but there's a plan, and it will work out.
4. It's all a big circle. Most of the circle is about decay.
And then in 1776, and then again in 1859, some really really strange people proposed a new one. For the first time, the theory wasn't that life sucks and gets worse. Rather it was that things start off bad, then change and get better, and continue to improve.
1776 is of course the date of the publication of "The Wealth of Nations" and 1859 is the publication date for "The Origin of Species".
Is it so shocking that 2 publications in the last 250 years have proposed an entirely new Cosmology, that is foreign to the experience of almost everyone almost all the time...and it hasn't been accepted terribly well? If someone is operating under one of the prior 4 cosmologies, this new one is a helluva change.
* (535-475 BCE) Actually, in the beginning, there was Thales who argued for Water as the primal element...well, at least in the beginning in Greece, but honestly, no one cares very much about him, so we all pretend that...In the beginning there was Socrates. But I want to step back a few steps from Socrates and hit some intermediates.
Friday, August 14, 2009
"I understand the us-versus-them pleasures of ideological partisanship. In my younger days, I indulged in them with gusto. But at some point, ideology joined Santa Claus and the tooth fairy in my attic of discarded beliefs. Firm values, yes; definite points of view on contested empirical questions, to be sure — but to see a country as diverse, yet blessedly prosperous and stable, as this one as an ongoing war between angels and devils is to live in a fantasy world."
We are furthermore relieved that he had ignored the law about permits and had a way to defend himself against armed thugs in his store.
And we believe that the science is settled on punishment. Likelihood of severe negative consequences is a major (the major?) determinant of crime frequency. If victims are frequently armed, that raises the likelihood of severe consequences massively (what % of robberies are sent to jail), and thus tends strongly to push crime down.
Quote from the article:
"Under long-established New York law, a person is allowed to use deadly physical force when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to meet the imminent use of deadly physical force and there is no reasonable chance of retreating from the danger."
We also believe that this law is an acknowledgement of a fundamental fact about human beings, not a concession from the government. If attacked, it is our (natural?) right to defend ourselves, our neighbors and our property.
What is the progressive position/approach? I honestly do not understand.
Should this guy have not had the shotgun b/c it was illegal?
Should the police confiscate guns like this?
Should the guy not shoot to defend his employees who have guns pointed in their faces?
Should the law permit self defense, but prohibit the means necessary (guns) to defend oneself against gun-toting criminals?
Do we think that more gun rules will stop the criminals from having guns?
WARNING: Comments will not demonize the opposition.
Why is this?
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of governement. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years." -- Alexis de Tocqueville
"Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%." -- Thomas Jefferson (disputed) -- good statement regardless authenticity.
When it is cheaper to buy political favors than to compete in the marketplace, the rational actor will do so -- general Public Choice theory
An uninformed populace will often vote against measures that benefit the majority. (Largely due to economic ignorance) -- Bryan Caplan
"To a first approximation, democracy in Britain is fake. The real power lies with the civil service" -- AMcGinn
"the postwar Western system has assigned almost all actual decision-making power to its civil servants and judges, who are "apolitical" and "nonpartisan," ie, nondemocratic." -- Menicus Moldbug
Essentially, the claim is that Democracy in any real sense is necessarily bad for any goals of actually improving happiness over time.
There is a dispute over whether some other system (formalism, charter cities, free state project, seasteading, monarchy, disentangled republic) is likely to be any better. However, at least as far as I've been able to tell...the idea that with public choice theory + the civil service + stupid voters, there's not a shot in hell for democracy to move in libertarian directions. The only thing that can happen is for the government to continue to expand.
There are naysayers. As far as I can tell, Will Wilkinson and some others (perhaps Brink Lindsey) either disagree with the analysis or recognizes some advantages among the creeping filth of political control.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wherein they show the libertarian view of the world very nicely. Whoever is reading, but not libertarian, please read the above with the intent of checking what the libertarians care about (which is not the normal trope associated with uncharitable depictions of their views).
If you are libertarian, it's a decently written analysis of the situation.
Modern science has focused almost entirely on the true, to a point of frequently assuming that the good and the beautiful are subsidiary. Indeed, I happen to have been quite a fan of this approach myself back in my college and Rand-camp days. However, one of a dozen reasons why I slid away from the Randians was that I think that they make deep and fundamental errors in this space.
In which I push a position that makes me sound like a California granolian:
Important (good) is prior to true in all reasonable systems.
In science, the first thing to do (in an experiment) is to decide what is important that you will measure, and you do that by determining what you care about (print quality). Importance is first, truth is second.
In politics, the first thing you decide is what is important. After that, you decide what truths get you there.
Mathematicians are really strange, because they frequently decide that what is beautiful is what is important.
In infant cognition, it's clear that what to focus on (Faces) is prior to actually seeing much of anything.
In learning theory, interest (goodness) predicts retention incredibly well, while lack of interest predicts poor retention. What you KNOW TO BE TRUE is based on what you were interested in.
And I claim that the much maligned (often properly but not always) field of postmodernist thought is fundamentally an extension of this claim: What you focus on ... your internal values ... are tremendously predictive of what you find to be true.
If you take nothing else from deconstructivist thinking...take that piece.
Those of us who are scientific atheists have usually constructed a standard of truth that involves roughly positivist empiricism. Historically, this has led to material progress, and as good bayesians, we should expect that to continue.
However, in most of the way most people conduct their lives...most of the activity of life is social (communication of one sort or another), and an awful lot of it (unless you're a hermit who just reads blogs all day) is non-verbal, semi- to sub- conscious patterns. The rest of the activity is largely routine.
Communication activity is very rarely empirical. MOST of the time, it is social, and subconscious rules of social proof trump all the empiricism you can bring...and this is true in general even of folks who like to think of themselves as empiricist.
MOST of the rest of the time, Communication activity is idealist, disconnected abstractions, trying to arrive via rationalist methods at truths, that we don't ever bother to check empirically (even bloggerly hermits).
And MOST of our activities in life are habit and pattern and not rechecked for validity. (How recently have you rechecked the way you put on your shoes for efficiency?) HABIT rules.
So...here we are, as humans with semi-conscious social proof, rationalist communication, habitual focus, and moderately happy lives. And these damn empiricists try to open arguments by saying we should be empiricist about topic a, when empiricism is simply irrelevant to most of most people's lives.
Fine...but don't expect to be convincing. And for God's sake, please don't pretend that your narrow empiricism is the obvious right answer for determining how to behave.
He has written 2 books that I'm pretty fond of (and should be given my corporate role).
In these, he basically talks about an approach to estimation and risk analysis, which is (a) eminently sensible and (b) an abandonment the a pile of floating abstractions that normally constitutes the practice.
RTFM as they say.
Regardless, there's a single point that I want to bring up because it's relevant to almost all my arguments.
On calibrated tests, when asking people to estimate 90% confidence intervals, they tend to be correct about 2/3 of the time. Remembering probably incorrectly, the 99% confidence intervals tend to be wrong about 1/5 of the time.
If you're going to do Bayesian updating, it may be worthwhile to remember that your initial probability estimates for certainty are like those of most humans, massively inflated. Care and training can fix it....but it is almost never fixed without said practice.
<EDIT timestamp="9:11 AM CST 13 Aug 2009">
Ground rules: any human tendency that is generally true of people should be assumed to be true of each individual (including the self) without rather conclusive evidence that it isn't (subject to bayesian updating). Simply remember that the capacity for self-delusion (particularly about one's own traits) is very large in ALL people, including me, and you, dear reader.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tabarrok provides apparently slam-dunk data, supporting (roughly) John McCain's, GWB's and Singapores solution to the problem.
WSJ provides a prescription. (HT: Arnold Kling)
I'm glad other people are doing the heavy lifting so I can watch Andrew rant about wage-slavery at Patri's blog.
Conservativism: Current tribal rules work. New rules likely won't work. Don't change.
Progressivism: Current tribal rules have some bad outcomes. Change the rules.
Libertarianism: Tribal rules are ALL stupid. Market exchange instead.
He is responding to Will Wilkinson here.
Who was responding to Tyler Cowen here.
Who is responding to Paul Romer here, HT'd on by David Warsh here.
Kling is customarily excellent, referencing the "real" issue as the right to exit.
Wilkinson is, however, performing the admirable duty of pointing out to right-libertarians that the narrow conception of freedom (economic freedom) is, while admirable, not sufficient to a liberal world.
Can the issue be boiled down to what Kling says it is:
Does exit completely trump voice, or does voice have some sizeable advantages even in the exit-positive case.
More on that in next post.
It is indeed true that finding the people who have the best ideas is a hard problem. All systems suffer from a difficulty in promulgating new, better ideas (that are not products). However, in the more authoritarian systems, room for the better ideas to grow is harder to create. Poor statement of the truth, but a truth nonetheless. And if I remember correctly, sometime near 2000, the Economist found that democratic-style freedoms were worth roughly a 1% GDP growth, as compared to institutions with similar economic styles and less democratic freedom.
As usual, I am reminded that my/libertarian standard line (Capitalism over Democracy) is not shared by all intelligent (apparently honest) commentators who I am convinced understand my position. Hence...my position's certainty goes down substantially. I think there's an important truth inside Will's position...and it sits inside the left-libertarian space...and I'm not doing well formulating it.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Without going too far down the PCE/Moldbugian path of all politics being inherently corrupt, let's ask a simple question as an illustration
Why do progressives support the massively inept public school system which does as much as anything else we can think of (all other factors combined?) to ensure that the urban poor stay urban poor?
A progressive's analysis.
1. The poor are indeed harmed
2. The teachers are a member of the progressive coalition, and in the Monks class. To act would damage the teachers.
3. The people suggesting to do something else are enemies of most of our efforts to help the poor
4. They are suggesting we use markets which at best don't solve problems fast, and which we don't trust, and which will result in some instances of even worse education.
5. We're responsible for public education in the first place, and to back out would massively switch a historical position.
6. So long as it's a public system, it remains a collective action problem, where we progressives have the advantage.
"What is exactly your goal with here? and the goal after that?"
The simple answer is:
I read an unfair description of a position, and felt that I needed to correct it. Note, the position is not one I agree with, but wrong positions on my "side" deserve as much (more?) criticism than wrong positions in the opposition.
I can't find it, but one of my regular reads (blog-bar to the side) posted in the last month or two about somebody or other's "law": There will always be people on your side of the argument, who you wish were not (on your side).
If the argument is bad enough, it does damage to the position, more than it helps.
I am of the opinion that if you are talking in a libertarian echo-chamber, then positions like Kling's original one may help to motivate the base. If that's not what you're doing (and since libertarians don't have enough of a base to worry about doing that) then putting Kling's discussion in the wider world is a net loss for the libertarian position. It simply shows that the libertarians have an unrealistic, uncharitable, unfair characterization of the opposition...and thus should be dismissed/ignored by serious progressives.
Furthermore, I am (personally) moderately offended by any position that is sufficiently confused as to think it's unconditionally right.
"He who picks the questions wins the debate," is a relatively safe statement, subject to only about 82 caveats. I find it useful at times to attempt (unsuccessfully thus far) to point out that the libertarian position, while IMO stronger than any competing visions, isn't winning any real fights by choosing the question. If anyone wants to be convincing (rather than just trying to feel self-righteous), it requires addressing the opposition's questions, concerns, and thought processes.
Furthermore, if someone else has different moral intuitions than you do, your insistence that they have the wrong moral intuitions, and that the should care about yours instead should do NOTHING to make you convincing, only annoying. Instead...the only way to be convincing is to figure out what the opposition thinks, and address those concerns. Well, or play status games and successfully (mostly non-verbally) assert your higher status, which will result in your opinions having higher weight, and thus being more convincing.
It seems to me that Hanson or Tyler Cowen or someone once posted in this direction, but I can't very well find it, so here's my line on the negative interpretation of political analysis, as parsed through the Master, Monk, Merchant context.
Progressivism is the position that Monks should be highest status, with Masters second, Mothers idolized, and Merchants belong in the morally suspect class with Malefactors, below the Masses and Mendicants. Shockingly, this is the default position of anyone who considers herself an expert.
Conservativism is the position that Masters should be highest status, with the Masses second, and the Merchants a distant third, though still above others. Monks and Mothers should be narrowly respected, inside their expertise, but not accorded particularly high status. Mendicants are well above Malefactors, but both are morally suspect. I think that this is actually the position of 90% of the world population (masses, military folks).
Libertarianism is the truly radical position that Merchants deserve the highest status spot (which they have come to occupy rather often), with different libertarians placing the Masses, the Monks, and Mothers in various positions of 2,3,4. Mendicants are bad. Malefactors are worse. And Masters are truly evil. By observation, this position is fundamentally opposed to the ESS morality, as merchants as a force for good emerged only very recently, and the science of it (Micro-econ) is even more recent.
I think that he describes the position, and some of their nominal justification/arguments, and indeed does a better job of getting the progressive core than Tyler's post, which is a laundry list. However, (IMO) neither of these captures a core of the position, which makes them logically cohere. Very well done, Dr. Kling.
There are different kinds of fairness that have been experimentally verified in sociological research as being existing notions of fairness in multiple cultures.
Smith enumerates several:
- Utility of interaction for both self and others.
- Equality of outcomes (especially when merit cannot be deduced)
- Equality of opportunity (he who risks gets rewarded)
- Equilibrium Market Allocation (to each according to his "contribution to the net surrplus of the group")
- Property rights (no stealing, no coveting)
- Reciprocity (return favors, expect favors returned)
This makes for funny thinking. As far as my noodling has gotten me, this results in fascinating differences in understanding moral issues.
If fairness = equality of outcomes (because business acumen != merit) then unequal, and especially massively unequal distributions of wealth are particularly unfair. Indeed, allowing this kind of distribution would be relatively unconscionable an Evolutionary Stable Strategy.
If fairness=property rights, then not permitting the massively unequal distributions that result from simple economies of scale would be particularly unfair.
Reciprocity could go both ways. EMA is complicated, and further confused by the difference between observed choice theories (I traded $1 for a coffee, so the coffee was clearly worth > $1 to me) and true value theories (platonic) . Utility to both self and others? I'd claim it argues against allowing massive aggregations of wealth, unless you go pretty intense econ...and even then it's disputable. Risk based? Clearly let the dude keep his $.
6 notions of fairness, 2 for redistribution in MANY cases, 2 against redistribution, 2 neutral. As a (relatively) capable libertarian with an acceptance of econ, I tend to lean on opportunity and property rights conceptions of fairness. However, these are not obvious or necessary moral priors. If the conception of fairness that matters to someone (or someones, or a culture) is perhaps around utility for self and others AND equality of outcomes...then they MORALLY ought to argue for redistributionist policy. And there's lots of room in the middle.
Even more than that...I'm inclined to believe that if a person isn't willing to admit that they personally are moved by every one of the conceptions of fairness listed above, they are busy defending a position, not taking the positions seriously (Admittedly, EMA is hard to parse, and I haven't written it very well).
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Rather...I think his (jane's) categorization is too narrow. At least as long as I can track (and trust) history, there have been not 2, but
Please note, I am not following libertarian, or left libertarian thought here. I am playing with an idea because that's fun.
Certainly the master/lord/ruler/taker as identified by Jane is one approach to survival. Protect the citizenry from bad things happening. Tax them in return, without their consent. In good cases, this gives us the archetype of the (fantastic) british policeman, or the Midieval Noblesse Oblige. In bad cases, you get a less good result. FWIW, this approach is idealized by the conservative, perhaps beyond where it ought to be.
Certainly the merchant/trader as identified by Ms. Jacobs is another approach to survival. Get other people to give you stuff because the stuff you have is more valuable to them than what they have. Comparative advantage. Etc. In bad cases, you get Rockefeller/Carnegie, who crush unions with physical violence, and intimidate competitors. In good cases, you get iphones and such. FWIW, this approach is idealized by the libertarian, perhaps beyond where it ought to be.
Ms. Jacobs (and Mr. Roberts) though, seem to miss at least 3 other approaches all of which are approaches to life that have been around at least as long as the other 2.
The post started when I thought of Monks. Specifically, men (later women) of letters. Philosophers (Socrates), Churchmen (Aquinas), Scientists (Newton), and in my opinion Doctors, Psychologists, and Professors. These people truck in ideas. To a significant extent, the idea and the abstract structure are the means by which they live. Others come to them for their expertise/advice/help, but mostly in realms that are too abstract for the average person to identify the validity of the expert's advice. FWIW, this approach seems to be idealized by the progressive, perhaps beyond where it ought to be.
Mendicants (Beggars) have been around since the dawn of agriculture, and it would be remiss to ignore them in a categorization of methods of living. Some people, since the dawn of time, have begged for food/money, rather than trading or taking. This has also largely worked since the dawn of time. I don't know what to do with the category, or how to use it in thinking, but it's there.
Mothers have been around since the dawn of live birth. Without moving overmuch in a sexist direction, let us acknowledge the archetype of nurturing mother and disciplining father. This method of interacting with (part) of the world is characterized by gift. The mother gives to the child/dependent because it needs/wants it. No other reason. To not do so would violate a fundamental principle in the nature of the mother. I am inclined to suggest that this tendency is heavy in the progressive.
Malefactors are perhaps the worlds 3rd oldest profession. This should also be kept in mind.
Perhaps there is some useful thinking to be done around the question of how these 6 (I ran out of M's or I'd have kept going) interact with one another.
<EDIT timestamp="8:19 AM CST -- 10 August, 2009">
HAH! I found another one that's important:
Masses. The greater group of people who go about living their lives, subject to whatever pressures can be put upon them by masters, merchants, mendicants, mothers, and malefactors, while needing at least some help from the monks in difficult matters.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Of course, I have to caveat that Arnold Kling has at least posed this issue (will HC / Social Security / Government costs outrun GDP ) as a question several times over many years with his answer being roughly similar, if not as optimistic. It's a race between tech innovation and markets and inexorable entitlement growth. If tech wins, then even our obviously growth-destroying policies won't have stopped it. Not obvious that it's going to win.
However...Dean Kamen, in the article above...shows the picture I try to paint, but both more radically and more optimistically than I do. I love it.
Then there was my response
Then Kling upped the ante
Now Cowen is in.
Further, private conversations with unnamed liberals on my part have indeed confirmed that they think that Kling's position is so absurd as to constitute trolling, and so won't comment (feed the trolls). They can't actually believe that someone can mis-paint the core of progressivism so badly, and remain honest.
I disagree, and think that there's a fundamental misunderstanding going on...which my posts are trying to elucidate.
Trying again, with a slight shift. How do various political breakdowns view EVIL.
Libertarianism fundamentally cares about preserving the choices of the individual. The gut reaction from a libertarian is that EVIL is defined by actively hurting other people or actively forcing them to do things against their will (even to the point of motorcycle helmets...it's a violent visceral: "this is evil controlling bastards" response). Over time, libertarianism has also become actively concerned with the moderate to far future...and may ( I do ) feel strongly about negative impacts on future generations.
Conservativism fundamentally cares about preserving the goodness in our current societal structure. The gut reaction from a conservative is that EVIL is defined by trying to tear down the structures that are (while maybe imperfect) fundamentally good. Witness a conservative response to the constitution or the American Flag, or such. Over time, this has leaked into a general skepticism and active distrust of change in general.
Progressivism fundamentally cares about fairness and human dignity. The gut reaction from a liberal is that EVIL is defined by situations wherin a discoloration on Oprah's toe is addressed with expensive laser surgery, while a poor child in India quietly dies of malnutrition. Over time, this has leaked into a tendency to distrust market and traditional solutions.
All are real, reasonable ethics. I'd rather work to understand the other positions than fight. Anyhow...I'm public choice in politics, and think that part is inevitably corrupt.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
However, as much as I respect Arnold, as per my current stream of posts around left-libertarianism, I'm going to have to disagree.
Arnold says that
Libertarians believe markets solve problems.
Conservatives believe traditional approaches are likely better than new (untested) approaches.
Progressives believe that experts with (broad) authority can solve problems.
Commenters have argued that Arnold is unfair to the progressive.
I agree, but that's because Arnold is (by self-admission) a Libertarian/Conservative. Indeed I hadn't realized how conservative he was until the post came out. And the progressive position is fundamentally different than either the libertarian or the conservative position, in a way that doesn't make sense to most libertarians or conservatives. Shockingly, this is right in line with my argument around issues.
Let me attempt to reformulate Arnold's position about progressives into a fair and accurate one, from their point of view, as per an old post.
Libertarians believe (roughly) in markets as smarter than other options when solving problems.
Conservatives believe (roughly) in tradition as smarter than other options when solving problems.
Progressives believe (roughly) that there are important/essential problems currently unsolved, with the subtext that markets and tradition have not solved them, and they should be solved now/soon.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
<EDIT time="Thursday Morning">
I have been told that my opacity is a bit high for the average reader. I will attempt to clarify the intent of the following questions.
My goal here is to point at the focus differences between left-libertarians and right-libertarians. While there are substantial areas of agreement, there are reasons one might wish to call oneself (or more importantly think of onself and act as) a left-libertarian, and I wanted to try to point at "standard" libertarian deficiencies.
I am not claiming that anything said by the rightist-libertarians is technically wrong. But I will suggest that it is misfocussed to the point of effectively serving wrong goals.
Also, I am reorganizing (not rewriting) the below to see if it's more comprehensible
Topic: Racial Discrimination.
Focus Question: Guesstimate the amount of energy spent by right-leaning libertarians on the topic defending the practice vs. saying it's wrong.
Topic: 3rd world hunger/poverty.
Focus Question: How much energy is spent saying "This is a big problem that any human should want to help solve" vs. "I'm not obligated to help":
Focus Question: How much energy is spent saying "this is bad" vs. "this has helped a lot of people".
Topic-free Focus Question: How much of the libertarian credo are rooted in the atomist-individualist paradigm vs. the obvious truth that we human beings are fundamentally pack animals.
Topic-free Focus Question: How much of libertarian discussion is framed around making individual, and especially poor individual's lives better now/soon (rather than their children)...because it's a fundamental human preference.
or at least, modelling it that way works awful nice.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This is a wonderful question.
The shortest useful answer is that it's done on purpose. Were I ever so slightly less long-winded, I might have left it here.
The next shortest is that it is in order to call attention to the "objectively" and wrongly rightist tint to the standard libertarian position.
I prefer the interestingness answer:
It's a claim about what is interesting, not about what is true. To listen at the objectivist conferences, the libertarian discussions on the internet, and such, there tend to be four major flows of conversation.
1. What the masters said: Rothbard, Rand, Friedman I, Hayek, Spencer, etc.
All of these are admirably positioned off the left-right axis.
2. What libertarian positions are supported by no one else:
Drug legalization. Privatization of the roads. Government = Mafia.
3. What libertarian positions are shared by the right:
Taxes. Regulation. Government excess. Government corruption. Guns.
4. Opposition to liberals
Discrimination is not irrational. Lack of HNU (gender/race/individual). Indeed, this sums it up nicely.
Furthermore, the libertarians TEND (not in all cases) to prefer to listen to media that is rightist. And laugh at the takedowns of liberal silliness (which are funny). And begin to identify (in fact, not in name) with folks from the conservative political spectrum. Thomas Sowell (who I respect greatly) is a great example of a libertarian who is significantly along the conservative spectrum (look at his analysis of poor conservative vs. poor liberal positions). Glenn Reynolds is in the same camp. And if one were to agree with the standard liberal critique of positions...who finances you matters to what you say.
Climate Scientists are funded if their studies merit more study (are alarmist). How shocking that global warming discussions are alarmist.
Rush is funded by listeners who have a strong Christian bent. Shocking again that Rush has become more religious over the years.
Cato is notably <CORRECTION>somewhat. Not a majority, by any means </CORRECTION>funded by Koch Industries. How shocking that their position on unused property is advantageous to large oil corporations.
With all that...and the truly second-axis positions from the original experts...why the hell are libertarians so closely aligned with the right? (semi-rhetorical)
Rothbard recommended the other way. Brin recommends the other way. Wilkinson leans the other way. But most don't. Most actually lean significantly rightward.
My claim is that the political right answer many <EDIT> but not all or even most </EDIT>boring questions in a boringly correct way. On the other hand, those on the political left answer many interesting questions in a shockingly wrong way. I hold that the topics from the political left are more interesting and more deserving of study in general than those from the political right, AND that the libertarian response tends to be to dismiss those questions at least partly because the answers suck so badly, or the apparent consequences are anti-libertarian. Instead, let's address the questions...with a sciabarra/marx/hayek inspired dialectical approach, and a clarity about economics and heredity and the nature of politics that somehow seems to escape the leftist worldview.
So I call myself a left-libertarian. Some days. Other days, it's mutualist, anarcho-capitalist, agorist, market anarcho-socialist.... (I threw that last one in just to annoy my readers).
...wherein I channel Yudkowsky...
There are two goals one might have when engaging in an argument. The first is to defend one's own position, and/or score rhetorical points. The second is to better understand the opposing point of view.
In different words, when attempting to understanding the world, there tend to be three activities one might be doing. One might be attempting to discover what is interesting; one might be attempting to comprehend the opposing position; one might be trying to determine the limitations or truthiness of the position.
Of course, one also might be doing something else besides attempting to understand: defending, arguing, trying to win a discussion, advocating, playing social games, being polite, etc.
This blogger's inclination is to believe that (due in no large part to the extensive practice of rhetoric on the part of most arguers) once one shifts into the rhetorical/argumentative position, one has frequently exited the discovery and comprehension phases. Is this always true? No. Is it tremendously hard to manage simultenaity? Yeah. Roughly, I almost never see anyone do so.
Another point borrowed from Eliezer is that if one is to really pursue truth...it is insufficient to argue against your strawman parody of an opposing position, but rather against the most intelligent version of the opposition that you can conceive of. Sure, sucks for scoring cheap rhetorical points. But makes for a much more in depth pursuit of truth.
Monday, August 3, 2009
If one were very cynical about politics, he might expect that a policy would come about that would specifically protect from development the countryside around major cities, thereby defending the privileged position of the currently most-valuable living area, at the cost of everybody else being crammed into the cities or isolated in remote areas.
And of course, once I read the author, I had to look a little further, and lo and behold, another analyis that one-ups the standard public choice model (as far as I understand it).
Roughly...left libertarianism is the position that the political left have identified almost all the correct issues to worry about...but that they missed 1 fundamental point: the government is either the cause or the enabler of almost all the problems. If one combines actual liberal (as opposed to Democrat) sensibilities: anti-discrimination, opposition to corporate power, freedom of religion, tolerance of at least other tolerant cultures, distrust of police, anti-war, pro-drug, anti-exploitation, etc....and adds the public choice/marxist analysis that the government is AT BEST no solution to the problem, and usually a fundamental cause, and start providing examples....what comes out?
Well...19th century socialist/libertarian anarchism/communalism/mutualism is the rough answer, with a smattering of hegelian dialectic from the tradition of Sciabarra thrown in.
The question becomes how to create the world we would like, while recognizing that Mao was right: power flows from the barrel of a gun...and this is what ALL governments are founded upon, despite any pretty myths coming from American or European fantastic history.
We are clearly logically prohibited from voting, as a vote is ALWAYS a vote to use violence or threat of violence to make other people do what we want. And as per Patri, that's just morally wrong. Rather, the goal has to be to create alternative, non-violent institutions that solve problems. Much harder than the immediately attractive, but ultimately self-defeating proposition of trying to seize the power of the government (and its violence) to achieve your ends against the already existing power centers.
Where does that put one politically....opposed to everything. We are almost as opposed to the (vulgar) libertarian (effectively) pro-corporatist stance as to the Republican worship of state sponsored violence and status-quo-ism or the Democratic worship of the state's capacity to improve social circumstances.
The goal is to remove the state's influence from areas. So we might agree with the Republican that the 2nd amendment's first (and dependent) clause should be (largely) absolute, so as to get the government out of that area of life....and we might agree with the progressive that the government should not be in the business of regulating drugs...and we might hang with the cypherpunks in being pro-strong crypto...and we might prefer the cash economy, and the grey or darker markets we see...and we might violently agree with the liberal claims of obvious and odious discrimination from having a obscenely large black prison population...etc.
The most obvious (IMO) place of departure for the left-libertarian from the non-left libertarian would be to suggest starting to dismantle the state locally by abolishing the government police. Privatize crime fighting first.