The virtue of excellence
Monday, April 30, 2012
My mental map of the world has me as an explorer with a map, looking at the map, and trying to use the map to travel about the world...swapping maps when I move from city streets to trails to freeway driving...different maps each giving different, useful information...but ignoring parts of the reality.
When do I become aware that my map correctly predicts what I'll encounter? When I encounter it.
When do I know that the map will predict correctly the next time? I don't.
The key problem, though, is that I don't have direct access to the territory. I predict, and then I sample. There's no cheat-sheet ... no cliff notes ... no answer in the back. I've got maps and...more maps.
How do I confirm that the map matches reality (is true?). I can't. It's impossible.
The best possible certainty status of a map is that it has, as of yet, failed to predict wrong.
Is that what you mean by true? Certainly that's all you can say about a map.
Or does true mean that you believe that your map will continue to predict well?
My claim is that once you recognize the map/territory distinction...
AND you recognize that you have no answers in the back....
AND we're talking about the real world, instead of the imaginary world of math...
Then the notion of truth is epistemically fishy. All you have is justifications, and maps...no truths. And your thinking will be clearer if you abandon the silly notion.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
We have seen recently that Rawls, while asking a legitimate question, fails convincingly in his response to his own question.
What happens, instead, if we take Plato seriously?
Suppose we are as slaves, chained so as to stare at the wall that contains only fireborn shadows...and no sense of the real, thre dmensional world. Suppose then that a sage enters the cave, speaks of a three dimensional world of true, colorful forms, and the source of the light: the for of the good...how will he be treated?
Plato answer that question well, and condemns democracy in the same breath...by common vote, said sage will be fed to the Alligator of the Cave.
But here Plato falters as do all the pre-Cartesians. The useful question is not "what is true?", but rather, "What should we chained slaves believe?" And they are far different questions.
I assert, rather charcteristically, that the answer is: It depends on your goal.
Certainly, when one is first becoming conscious...one should mostly believe whatever one's trusted caregivers say. Later...the answer changes. Is your goal beautiful thought? Predictivity? To not join that sage in the maw of the Alligator? To lead the clan of the cave gator?
Further assertion: the goal "truth" is neither clear nor accessible, nor is it a real goal. Rather...a lot of folks think that truth is a coherent goal while it really is not.
More interesting to me is that this model is not far from our current best model of the world. We sample through our very limited senses even more limited information about the world. A single sense of the color of an object, completely describeable in 32 bits...rather than as a listing of which wavelenghts of light are reflecting from an object. Ditto sounds, smells, tastes, touch, heat, body motion, and so on.
As for my goal?
Inductive proof the 1st:
How many times have you seen a deductive argument settle a factual matter under dispute? I hear Coase managed it a time or two. I believe that James C. Maxwell had a strikiing deductive conclusion with pretty strong smackdown capabilities. But really...how many deductive arguments have *settled* a matter of fact? Without strong confidence in the conclusion, I'm inclined to suggest: 2. The two I mentioned above. Given the history of the world (2500 years), and the existence of roughly two known cases where deduction has given us a conclusion...I am inclined, by observation, toward the conclusion that deduction has *tremendously* less power than we credit it with.
What does deduction do well?
Provide hypotheses that we can take seriously enough to test them.
Inductive proof the 2nd:
When you watch deductive arguments...what results does a thorough demolishing of one of the premises currently held by one of the disputants have? Does it result in the disputant decreasing his probability that his position is correct? Or does the disputant whose premise was demolished replace his premise, or even his entire line of argument, and leave his conclusion unchanged? By observation, human behavior overwhelmingly chooses the latter option. By the basic economic methodology of revealed preferences, one should then conclude that people do not take deductive arguments as truth-bearing.
Inductive proof the 3rd:
When you watch in an argument for which you have sympathy for both sides of the argument...you can rather usually easily determnine that the arguments are not actually opposed to one another. The conventional theory of argument is that premises A, B, and C forces conclusions D, E, and F, which results in position G. The opposition asserts premises N, M and L, which force conclusions K, J, and I, which results in position H, directly opposed to G. Everything nice and linear.
A,B,C -> D,E,F -> G-> | <-H <- I,J,K <- L,M,N
In most cases, though, that's not what's being argued. In most cases, the arguments appear to be opposed, but end up being angularly opposed, as opposed to directly. For instance....the argument for determinism (or quantum indeterminacy, effectively the same line) goes something like this: We have reason to believe that the universe is composed of particles in motion which obey specific laws. You are in the universe, composed of particles in motion. Therefore your internal particles obey specific laws also. Therefore, determinism. The argument for free will goes something like this: I experience consciousness, and the experience of choosing at the same level of awareness that I experience the external world. Attempting to suggest that my strong awareness of choice is false gets pretty hinky, and should not be taken seriously. Rather than plumping for Dennett's compatibilism here...I'd like to point out that the two arguments are not discussing the same topic. Free-willies are discussing the experience of free will, whether one makes choices. Determinists are discussing the question of whether the choices could have been different (in another run through the universe). Two entirely unrelated questions...that sound similar.
If you listen to the arguments between the two sides...without they themselves noticing what's happening, you will observe that the argument comes down to a dispute over which premises, which method of analysis is more important. The Free Willies say: The direct experience of free will is more important to this analysis than the unsupported conclusion that there is nothing in the universe but particulate motion. The determinists say that the scientific edifice that analyzes everything from the point of view of particulate motion is more important than the cognitive illusion of free will.
If you watch closely enough...most (honest) arguments follow this path. Two disputants, or two sides, each arguing the importance of their method of analysis or approach. Not two disputants arguing in any real sense about which is true.
Inductive proof the 4th:
If scientist/theoretician proves that human flight is impossible, and then you see the Wright brothers fly, which do you believe? Observation trumps theory, in roughly all cases. Induction FTW. Deduction is not truth-bearing...or more accurately, Deduction's truth-capabilities are entirely subject to the prior modeling problem...of whether one has abstracted the problem sufficiently well.
Deduction should be thought of as a red-headed step-child: Wild, unruly, badly behaved, and usually wrong.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Argument path 22
For any case where one is hoping that one can use government to defend against a motivated, semi-coercive group of people (multinational corporations, for instance), one must expect that the coercive group can also capture the government. The libertarian tends to think this is inevitable, rather than just likely.
Argument path 23
Regulations tend to be designed as if they can solve problems. Even if the regulations were designed by the best few minds on the planet, they aren't the most informed minds, nor the most motivated. Roughly 35 minutes after a new financial regulation is passed, Goldman Sachs (effectively) posts a $10 Million dollar bonus to the first person who figures out how to game the regulation, legally, but completely unfairly. Since $10M is more than the entire yearly budget for the group that got to write the regulation...they can't win the game. Regulators solve yesterday's problem, and cause tomorrow's.
Argument path 24:
Unpleasant != Illegal
Almost everyone in the history of law and of philosophy have agreed that there are at least 3 and probably more negative categories of human action. I use: Bad-mannered, upsetting, ethically wrong, and illegal. While not strictly ascending (someone can be upsetting but not bad-mannered or illegal without being morally wrong), it's close to ascending.
There is also a relatively common (but not universal) theory in the history of law that law is both less effective, and has more room for bad effects when illegalness becomes more expansive, and attempts to cover the ground of annoyingness as well. Libertarians strongly endorse the position that the illegal should be kept to the minimum.
Argument path 25:
Barrel of a gun
The libertarian line notes with extreme prejudice that state action is *universally* equivalent to either doing nothing (congressional resolution in favor of sunflowers), or else violent (do what we say, or we shoot you).
Barrel-of-a-gun persuasion should be minimized.
Argument path 26:
As a general rule, government should do less in any given industry. In education, public schools are hugely government controlled. They are also imperfectly effective. Better would be School Choice. Better than that would be tax credits. Better than that would be abolishing the public schools + tax credits. Better than that would be abolishing the public schools + no tax credits + education support for the poor. Best of all would be no government involvement at all + private education support for the poor.
This applies to the post office (it would be better to not prohibit competition on first class mail), the wireless spectrum, and dozens of other non-essentials.
Argument path 27:
A major path of libertarian thought since Locke in the late 1680s has been self-ownership. As an individual, by virtue of existing, you have ownership over yourself. If nothing else, this means that the default should be to avoid coercing you to do stuff. You should not be made worse than Robinson Crusoe by means of your participation in a society.
Argument path 28:
You can get property rights by chasing Locke's path of self-ownership, or Nozick's path.
Also, you can get property rights by noticing that of any variable you can find, reliable property rights (not subject to government dictat) is the best predictor of social wealth that we have today.
Argument path 29:
Success through Failure AKA creative destruction
The key to social success is private failure. If I want economic growth, and a better life...I need the freedom to try new approaches. If my new approach to building widgets works a lot better than the old one, then we need the old education companies to go out of business. It is only the replacement of old, ineffective organizations with new, more effective organizations that makes the economy roll.
Of course, two counterpoints to this are: success needs to be rewarded sufficiently that the choice between trying on your own and maybe failing is better than the choice to be a cog at WidgetsRUs. Also...we don't want to over-glorify the new guy. Out of 10 attempts to beat WidgetsRUs, probably 9 of them will fail...trying to stop that is also bad.
Argument path 30:
Freedom of Conscience and Self-defense
However you get to the question of what is properly inside an individual's correct sphere of influence, two items are universal.
1) Freedom of Conscience -- the idea that the government should not control what ideas appear in the ideational free-for-all is at the core of defending men's souls from corrupt authorities. Free Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom to Offend.
2) Self-defense -- the idea that a government should not stop an individual from defending their life and those of their loved ones against evildoers.
Argument path 31:
Voting doesn't work
In the history (not pre-history) of the world...there were first despotic governments, where the ruler and his thugs ruled. As per Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's game theory, this tends to suck for everyone else. Democracy has been tried several times since, and in each of those cases, eventually the democracy has deteriorated into interest groups voting themselves benefits from the public treasury.
In addition, there is substantial reason to believe that in the case of voting...people will usually make bad decisions. In every other case in the world besides voting, where you see low personal impact, and high social impact of bad decisions, we call it a "tragedy of the commons"... a case where one person's actions can screw everyone else. Voting is a tragedy of the commons...social cost > personal cost, because your vote probably doesn't change anything.
Personal liability is important
If you do bad stuff, you should be liable for your bad stuff. If you are a member of a "government protection force", and you confiscate a free citizen's camera...you should personally be liable. If you are a member of a corporation, and you make a decision that results in 3000 deaths in India, you should be personally liable. Never forget that the corporation is a creature of the state.
Argument path 33:
History AKA Government wasn't the fix
We've all heard stories about how government swooped in and saved the world from evil corporations. Almost all of them are false.
Minimum Wage? That happens only after almost everyone is paying higher wages, because the country is wealthy. And of course, minimum wage laws were then introduced explicitly in order to keep cheap labor (blacks, chinese, and women) from competing with white men.
Workplace Safety? Government has historically been WAY behind the curve. Wealth leads...best practices follow, government takes credit.
Public education? Do you know the percentage of folks with good literacy before and after public education started? Public education did not educate the average citizen any better than what was happening before.
De-segregation? First, the market was working and unsegregated. Then the government forced the streetcar companies which wanted to be unsegregated to be segregated. Then a different government forced the streetcar companies to be unsegregated. This is taught as a victory for government.
The general rule is: People get rich, people start being willing to pay for improvements that aren't cash, companies follow suit, governments claim credit.
Argument path 34:
Voluntary transactions AKA The Sweatshop Argument
Is the existence of sweatshops a net good, or a net bad for (a) an economy, or (b) the workers in a country. Would the banning of sweatshops be a net good or a net bad for a & b? The libertarian line leans strongly in the direction of sweatshops being good...and bans being bad for both the workers and the economy. Simple supply and demand says that (1) folks want to work places that are better than the alternatives, and (2) companies want to make stuff as cheaply as possible. If sweatshops are legal, then in order to hire higher quality workers, the sweatshops tend to offer more than the prevailing wage in the country. And people want badly to work at the sweatshop because the alternatives suck worse. The economy gets better, and the people at the sweatshop get the best deal. Banning sweatshops usually means that it's not economically viable for the company, and they don't build a factory at all...thus hurting both the economy and the workers.
This same argument applies to minimum wage, and a host of other regulations attempting to make folks lives' better, which end up making folks lives worse.
Argument path 35:
Among my least favorite government behaviors is the business of taking money from one person, and then using it to fund an activity that (s)he is strongly opposed to. Taking money from Church-following catholics to fund abortions. Taking money from die-hard skeptics to fund public schools that teach AGW as fact...and then requiring the children to attend school. Taking money from an anti-religious atheist, and using it to build a cross in the public square. Among the greater moral failures of the state is taking money from people, and using it to pay for activities that they're ethically opposed to.
Argument path 36:
Strong Fences, Good neighbors
The more of life that is subject to group deliberation, the more acrimonious the arguments will be.
If I send my kids to a school I choose, and you send your kids to a school you choose...then we have few disagreements.
If you and I both send our kids to a mandated (or close) school, then if you and I disagree on what and how the school should teach, you and I are at serious odds, because we both love our children, and think we know best.
The fewer decisions that are made in the public sphere, the less cause we all have to fight with one another, and the better we get along.
Argument path 37:
I make long term plans. So do companies. Long term plans are massively impacted by regulatory structure. Any change in rules discriminates against people who plan ahead.
1. This is bad/unfair.
2. This is insanely bad incentives.
Many of these are stolen from other smart folks...I'm just trying to catalogue the lines.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Furthermore...it's important to understand that epistemologically (Aretae's 2nd favorite word, after iterative) no one (+/- 3%) believes any one thing for any one reason. Rather, (rational) people believe things for a host of reasons, all of which together (in Bayesian multaplicative fashion) mean that the sum total weight of belief on one side of an issue is at least a little more than the sum total weight on the other side of an issue. Careful thinkers remember that the sum total of arguments on one side of a position do not mean that the sum total of arguments on the other side are bad...and so tend to have positions between 50 and 60% certainty. However...it's also true that once one has a position buttressed by a dozen or so different lines of argument, then even demolishing a single line of argument doesn't have much effect.
Argument path 1:
The state isn't special. AKA "Lose the we"
Fundamentally, if one person shoots another person because he doesn't like what they're smoking, it's immoral. We call that person a murderer.
If 10 people agree to hire a shoot someone if they smoke something they don't like, it's immoral. We call that group a mafia.
If 1000 people get together, hire someone to shoot someone who smokes something that at least 500 don't like, we call that group a state, and most people decide that's ethically ok. Bullshit.
Same moral rules for individuals and state actors.
Argument path 2:
The notion of consent and common-good action is largely fictional AKA "exit over voice"
A party system wherein two rich groups of people use tribal instincts and media consultants to give a choice between two effectively indistinguishable choices is not "choice". It's damn close to a conspiracy.
A system that consolidates economic power produces public choice behavior where those people who care about (and are motivated to know about) economic power pull the strings. Necessarily.
A system with lots to regulate cannot be understood, or legislated by the people making the laws. Roughly all law-making will eventually be outsourced to un-elected, un-representative, un-accountable folks. Like our system.
A system wherein 70 % of the citizenry are eligible to vote, 60% of the eligible voters vote on a good year, 30% of the eligible voters are partisans of one side or another, and 50% of those partisans are partisans only because the other side sucks even worse means that any election is won by 6% of the population getting a candidate they would like. We call that a popular mandate...and allow the winner to make decisions that impact everyone.
Argument path 3:
Hayek, hayek, hayek.
Central planning is impossible to be efficient. Any decision made by central planners is certain to give people less of what they want in the short term than what they would choose via markets. The planner cannot have enough knowledge to make decisions, as most knowledge that makes decisions isn't even explicit knowledge. It's implicit knowledge, not yet formalized into a system by the knowledge's owner.
Argument path 4:
Iterativity & Error
Probably the best discovery in the past 50 years of business is that your first guess is always wrong...and you will find out after you try it. Your second guess is wrong too...which you will find out after you try that. The only path to getting good value for customers is to guess, and then update lots and fast. By observation, governments are hideously bad at updating. Laws and agencies especially are really bad paths towards solving problems, because they're especially hard to update (read get rid of).
Argument path 5:
Competition sucks very badly for the entities engaged in competition, and the customers of said entities benefit massively. Government intervention in the market 99% of the time reduces competition, rather than enhancing it. Any competition-reducing mechanism is primarily a method of transferring money from poorer folks to richer.
The key element in competition is allowing failed enterprises to die, and successful enterprises to live. Government works incredibly hard to prevent this. See: public schools, post office, etc.
Also, the government is monopolistic. Since it is monopolistic, it has no external standards to compare itself to, and will not improve at the speed that competitive enterprises do.
Argument path 6:
In the case where Al disagrees with Bob over what to do...in most cases, it's not because Al or Bob is immoral or obviously wrong...it's because they really, honestly, and at least semi-intelligently disagree. In this case, the solution of Al trying to get the gun that makes Bob do what Al wants seems full-on evil. In cases of real disagreement...9 times out of 10, the correct path is for Al to try Al's thing, and Bob to try Bob's thing...or Al to persuade Bob to try Al's thing. Offering to shoot Bob if Bob doesn't do it Al's way is almost always the worst option available...and the only option from the state.
Argument path 7:
States are evil.
In the history of the world...the greatest killer of people in history is germs. 2nd is states. Full stop. I don't even think there's room for argument on this as a historical fact. There is room to dispute whether all states are evil, or just most states are evil, or just states with some characteristics...but that most states both now and throughout history have been moderately actively evil is hard to deny. And, the more power they have historically had, the more likely to be evil (Lord Acton).
Also...See Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, plus the usual mid-century suspects. "The Great" in history is short for "Killed a metric-ass-ton of people"
Argument path 8:
State actors *should* be evil.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has come as close as possible to a closed-form definitive game-theoretic proof of the optimal behavior for a state-actor. Universal correct response: Screw the citizenry, help your friends that keep you in power. Any other action is likely to result in your losing your job as state-actor. Far and away the best serious way to help your friend, without undermining his base of power that makes him valuable to be your friend is to limit competition with however he makes his money.
Public choice analysis plays here too. Any person acting as a state actor (shit...and person in any organization who wants to stay in the organization) must, in order to accomplish *any* goal whatsoever, accumulate both operative power, and staying power in order to accomplish said goal. Run this game theory for a few iterations, and it becomes true that for all realistic goals, the accumulation of power becomes the pre-empting goal #1. All state actors should have as their effective goal unlimited power.
Argument path 9:
States suck at whatever they do
By observation, for any given nominal goal, states are bad at it. If there is a non-state solution to *any* problem, it will be solved better by non-state action than by state action.
Freedom is an ultimate (political) goal. Freedom is not something you choose in order to get something else. Rather, freedom is a good in and of itself. There needs to be a presumption against violating freedom. Depending on how rabid you are (me: frothing at the mouth, about to die wolf), you can assert that this freedom is ultimate, or simply the default presumption. Every state action is an action against freedom. Bad.
Goal != effect
The question of government should not just be about goals, but rather about results. How well has the government war on drugs gone? Poverty? Terrorism? Iraq? By observation...the government methods used to attack problems have not solved those problems, but in many cases, made the problems worse. Perhaps, but not certainly, government is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
In particular, the problem of poverty is problematic. Poverty (by far) is the biggest problem in the world, both now, and throughout all of history. The key question around poverty is how to alleviate it. The government response to poverty in the Western world has been nothing short of atrocious. First, the government prevents the country from gettting richer, and second, it doesn't solve the problem. If we simply shot everyone involved with government provision of poverty programs in the USA, and distributed the money evenly to everyone in poverty in the states...I'm pretty sure that would work out to a moral win.
Folks like Will Wilkinson argue persuasively that the Scandanavian model: Get as rich as possible, and redistribute a lot to the poor is far preferable to anything anyone else is doing..
The Principal-Agent problem
Government is composed of individuals. Those individuals have goals. The citizens/electors have goals. The elected politicians have goals. At 2-levels removed, there is no reason whatsoever to expect that government actors should be acting in the electors' interests.
Government primarily maginfies the power of the already powerful
If the government does little, then the powerful have to rely on their own resources in order to get what they want. If the government does lots, then the rich and powerful can effectively lobby the government to additionally solve their problems rather than not interfering, and this result is far more likely than the poor successfully lobbying government actors to protect the poor from the rich.
The government displaces other solutions
Before the government offered welfare, private entities ran soup kitchens. Now the government runs all anti-poverty programs, and makes laws preventing non-government ones from serving unhealthy food.
Before the government offered public schooling, kids were almost universally literate (in the USA). Now private schools are a tiny fraction.
Before the government stepped in, offering welfare, AFDC, husband substitutes...the black marriage rate was pretty high. Now it's pitifully low.
When the government acts, it displaces the other, sometimes community, sometimes private efforts to solve the problem. Often the solution provided by the government is less effective than the private solution was. Certainly, the government solution evolves less well.
Organizations exist to serve themselves
For all organizations, the size of the organization, the age of the organization, the likelihood/possibility of the organization going out of business (losing customers), and the quality of the feedback mechanism from the customers are the primary factors that determine how good the organization is at serving its customers. The US federal government is the 250 years old biggest organization in the world, and has no fear at all of going out of business, and gets crappy yes/no feedback roughly every 4 years. It should be the worst-run organization on the planet for the purpose of serving it's customers. It's close...because most of the worse ones aren't there to serve the customers.
Complex systems, unintended consequences
The modern social/economic system is tremendously complex. Any action in a complex, non-modularized system has both intended and unintended consequences. See, for instance medicines. Medicines to help with erectile dysfunction help to cause heart-attacks. See for instance, biosystems...the introduction of ferretts to chase down rabbits has been known to cause ecosystem collapse. See for instance the economy. Government intervention screws up complex systems badly.
Also, re-referencing the decline of the black family, which was predicted by my black grandmother-in-law when welfare was introduced. She thought Welfare was a deliberate plot to destroy the black family. I personally don't figure government is that smart.
Prohibition and the drug war have created more crime than any other government actions we can find. While that's known now, and why police and prison guard unions massively support the drug war now...I don't think that the goal of either was to massively increase crime?
Government != society
Oftentimes arguments against libertarianism, there is a conflation of Government and Society. Government is not society and society is not government. Government is a small group of people in society who have somehow managed to grasp the reins of violence, and the treasury. Society is usually a group of people who'd like to live their lives, and help their neighbors. Government are the people who prevent you from giving your used toys to needy kids because they might not be perfect toys. And then they take your money, and buy new toys and give those toys to the needy kids.
Trade is effectively always good
Trade is what happens when you have an orange that I'd be happy to buy for $2, you would sell it for $1, and then you sell it to me for $1.50. I'm 50 cents richer than I was before the transaction...and so are you. Trade is good...3/4 of the total value in the world comes from moving stuff from low-value states (posessed by someone who doesn't want it much) to high value states (posessed by someone who wants it more).
The government's entire interaction with trade is to prevent it...or make it flow to politically connected constituencies.
Regulation is almost always supported by big business, but hurts small business
As a near-universal truth...regulation is more easily navigated by large organizations with swarms of lawyers than by small firms with few lawyers. Further, fixed cost regulations (almost?) always fall harder on smaller firms than on larger firms. As a general rule, one can find the big players in any given industry as strong supporters of any given regulation...as it gives them a competitive advantage, and a barrier to entry. Usually, this (net) screws the consumers. From personal experience...Blue Cross was heavily involved in drafting ObamaCare...and it has far greater impact on smaller insurers, than on big ones.
Wealth (social, individual, whatever) is the single biggest measureable factor impacting the quality of life in the world. Wealth is almost entirely a function of invention, and trying new things. Invention is almost entirely a function of competition...new firms trying to out-compete old firms (existing companies don't innovate and break existing lines of business...it would be stupid to). Governments do a whole darn lot to protect incumbent firms, and generally heavily bias the playing field away from upstarts. In doing so, governments destroy huge amounts of wealth. This is full on bad.
Which countries have become richest in the last 60 years? Singapore, Hong Kong. How much government? Very little. Low government action, especially low regulation, but also low taxes highly positively correlated with high wealth. Compare wealth of Singapore vs. wealth of North Korea or Cuba 1960 vs. now. Which system is better? Heck...Singapore appears to be the best system on the planet for the poor people of the country.
We don't know the right answer. We're just not that (collectively) smart. Trying to legislate the right answer is crazy. We need, desperately, to keep looking for better answers....not to lock a single answer in place.
Overall, there are a lot of lines that point loosely in the libertarian direction. None of this means that libertarianism is correct...or that libertarianism is a better solution than progressivism or conservativism. However, it does mean that there are a lot of reasons to lean in (or move closer to) a libertarian direction, regardless of what your other predilections are. Unless, of course, you're in government, in which case, your prime directive to accumulate more power (so you can do what you need to, unimpeded) is most threatened by libertarian sentiment.
What did I miss? Is this categorized well?
UPDATE: I've added more in part 2, mostly based on great feedback.
I’m in favor of living for an indefinitely long time. Pointing this out seems similar to pointing out that I’m in favor of not putting my hands in blenders while they are running. Same goes for ‘there probably isn’t a God’, ‘freezing one’s head is a good idea (under certain circumstances)’, and a lot of the other apparently controversial topics. I rarely state these opinions unless asked because it’s embarrassing to point out obvious things. If there seemed to be a sincere discussion of whether forty nine is the square of seven, I’d be embarrassed to join it, despite my strong views on the topic.Good post, great line.
- Isegoria on the drug war. Doesn't distinguish between moral justification for, and best-outcomes. Other than that...great.
- Blunt Object on fiction. I use this property of fiction extensively to f*** with folks worldviews. Especially when they won't listen to me beforehand. The First Immortal is the best pro-cryonics / futurist line ever.
If you pay attention (especially to the economics), then any given problem is a lot more complicated than you think; it has no simple solution.Eric Falkenstein:
Envy explains lots more than greed, especially in financial marketsJehu:
Regardless of what you want, it really is a team vs. team fight; pick sides and play.Foseti:
The permanent bureaucracy really runs everything, mostly ignorantly and for their own benefit, and it sucks, and any political analysis that doesn't start from there is worthless.Haidt:
The big political fight is a real, honest, disagreement over values (plus a healthy dose of tribalism), therefore any approach that doesn't acknowledge a real, valid disagreement over values is in trouble.
Also, regular commenter BackYardFoundry suggested:
The virtue of iterativity.Other suggestions for me or others? I am having a much harder time summarizing my other regular reads.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
- An assortment of chili peppers. Not too hot, not all the same kind. Preferably more thick-skinned than thin. This last time, I used: 1/2 small red bell pepper, 1 poblano, 2 anaheim chilis. You can very easily add heat here by increasing the spiciness of the chilis (adding spicer ones...next step up, I think, is a jalepeno).
- An assortment of dried fruits. Last night, I used a half-dozen prunes, a half-dozen dried apricots, and a handful of raisins
- An assortment of nuts. This time, I used a half-handful each of: Cashews, Almonds, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts.
- An onion
- 1 Large Can of crushed tomatos (doesn't have to be crushed...whole would work...crushed was faster)
- A bunch of chopped garlic (I used something like 5 tablespoons...probably a dozen cloves).
- Cocoa powder (half-a-handfull last night...4 Tbsp?)
- Oil (I used olive) -- probably 1/2 cup
- Other spices, as you like -- This time, I skipped the cumin, added several TBSP of Paprika and Cinnamon
- Honey -- to taste
- Water -- for consistency
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.This, of course is moderately weak-sauce advice, even if mostly well-aligned with everything else we know about happiness.
Happiness is experienced thoroughly differently by the person expecting/trying to be happy, the person experiencing happiness in the moment, and the person remembering happiness. Indeed, the same things don't even live near the top of the 3 lists. -- this from Kahneman...most important thing you can know about happiness.
Also...the motivations of the future self are very different than the motivations of the present self. It isn't obviously wise in all (most?) cases to surrender to the future self's preferences.
The fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.Great. Remember it applies to *your* group too. Probably (evidence-based) it applies *somewhat* less to libertarians as they can't seem to find anything to find sacred...I know my own sacredness/purity scores are near zero on Haidt's questionnaires...and I seem to remember that being generally true of both libertarians and aspies (do I repeat myself?).
The interesting questions to me are ones wherein folks can identify their own sacredness, and point out the motivated ignorance around it. If you can't, and you're not an aspie...then you're missing something large.
Organizations that wanted the Supreme Court to decide as it did included that group of rabid Republicans known as the American Civil Liberties Union and that group of labor unions called the AFL-CIO.Hanson on anti-natalism:
So if your moral theory implies that in ordinary circumstances moral creatures should exterminate themselves, leaving only immoral creatures, or no creatures at all, well that seems a sufficient reductio to solidly reject your moral theory.Walter Russell Mead on public schooling:
It is deeply undemocratic and elitist to support the current educational system.Blunt Object on learning:
I propose that “learning” is to education as “weight loss” is to body recomposition.I personally use differeny words, but have strong agreement with the sentiment.
Friday, April 20, 2012
I have taken to objecting to linguistic torture rather emphatically and frequently. I really ought to clarify.
If people use the word: "Happiness" to mean something relatively (but not completely) specific, then any use of happiness that violates that standard general shared meaning is rhetorical cheating and bad philosophical practice.
Happiness -- Everyone agrees that happiness is: a specific (set of) emotion(s)...alternately a sense of life-satisfaction.
People do research on the topic of happiness. People from Aristotle to Buddha to Lao Tzu to Will Willkinson write on the topic of happiness...and in a very rough sense, it's pretty clear that we're all talking about the same thing (or as I believe, set of things).
Happiness is well understood to be something that we get when we get the girl...and something that we don't get when we get beaten up.
If you try to use the word "happiness" to mean anything we pursue (the theory we all pursue happiness)...we are no longer talking about happiness. We are talking about some other idea: "Squibblix: That which we all pursue". If you are talking about happiness instead of Squibblix, it's because you want some or all of the value of the word happiness to rub off on your concept of squibblix. If you don't want to steal some of the value of the happiness word without justifying your theft...you should stick with nonsense words so no one gets confused and thinks you're using stuff in an English sense. Unless, of course, you are deliberately trying to confuse people....in which case I suggest you stop.
Other words that suffer from this problem:
Randian "Selfishness" -- I did this badly myself for a solid 5-7 years...and since I have become extra-sensitive to bad word-usage which leads to uncareful thinking.
In normal English, "selfishness" includes active disregard for others' preferences.
The words "self-interest" or "prudence" is the word used by english-speaking people in order to indicate behaving basically smartly.
"Self-interest" and sometimes "selfishness" also are frequently cheated aroudn a different way.
What is the purpose of the word "self-interested"?
To distinguish between acts that are morally praiseworthy like helping your team, and acts that are not morally praiseworthy like helping yourself. The purpose of the word is to draw a useful distinction that applies to lots of life. And the word is useful in that context. If you try to use the word "self-interested" to explain a normal (non machiavellian) person's basic kindness...you're torturing the word. The existence of the term is in order to distinguish between two classes of acts...and you're now using the word to describe both sides of the divide? It's like stretching the word on the metaphorical rack. Status games around your ability to confuse intellectual opponents? Or just confusion as to the purpose of the word?
Libertarian -- Libertarian is a word used by an awful lot of folks to mean any of several dozen varieties of folks who want *a lot* less government. It's a very common political label, and could be assigned to folks with lots of different approaches. The key is: radical decrease in quantity of government, radical increase in amount of freedom. Folks who claim: Bob is not a libertarian because he hasn't signed the non-initiation of force maxim have lost the battle for the word.
Christian -- I used to, in college, hang with a bunch of evangelicals who claimed that Catholics weren't Christians. Others say the same thing about Mormons. While this term is subject to dispute....it's almost universally accepted as meaning something like: someone inside the Abrahamic tradition who accepts the divinity of Christ, and rejects the prophet-ness of Mohammed. Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, etc.
What am I missing?
Use words how they're used in English. If you try to change the meaning of words...it just confuses the conversation. Far better, outside of surreptitious persuasive context, to use a made-up word than to redefine an existing, and nearby word.
Your Top Strength -- Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.
Your Second Strength -- Curiosity and interest in the world
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.
Your Third Strength -- Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.
Your Fourth Strength -- Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
Your Fifth Strength -- Perspective (wisdom)
Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.
I'm not so sure about #5....but the rest of y'all shouldn't be shocked at all by 1-4.
Milton Friedman said that good government is best-case thinking; we need to constrain government. David Friedman said that constrained government is best-case thinking; we need market-based anarchy. Patri and Brad say that market-anarchy is best-case thinking; no government will cede territory to let it happen.The whole bit is worth reading...and I agree thoroughly.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
State actors have no special *moral* status.In other words...
If a private party did it...and would be morally condemned for doing so...
If a group of people did it...and would be morally condemned for doing so...
So too should agents of the state...and their masters.
Libertarianism is first, and deeply, an ethical theory (as Kent always says).
(From an argument about gun rights, wherein I argued that the liberal position in favor of restrictions on gun rights is predicated on an absurd moral distinction in favor of state actors)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
So...I'm escaping the people's republic of California where I grew up...and going home to Texas: land of guns, $100K houses with pools on acreage, barbecue and cheap chalupas (actually, I prefer taqueria tacos to chalupas...but I'm signalling Cowenite pro-immigrationist and foodie solidarity; we all know that if the proprietor or wait-staff in a taqueria speak English at all, it says bad things about the usually impressive food quality).
Will the last person out of California please turn out the lights?
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
What easily observable features statistically indicate amounts of crime likely to happen? In order.
- Maleness. More males, more crime. Given Sailer's option walking choice to pass a rough looking group of black girls as compared to a group of Asian boys, walk past the black girls.
- Youth. More youth more crime. Given Sailer's option to walk past a group of Morgan-freeman-aged (and looking) black men as compared to a group of White teens, pick the old guys.
- Wealth. Simply look at the social class of the groups of teens by means of observing their dress. Walk towards the rich group. This may or may not beat #2.
- Athleticism/likely testosterone. A bunch of kids wearing glasses, and holding MTG cards is pretty low danger, regardless of race. A bunch of burly football-player types is moderate danger, regardless of race. This mitigates 3. I'm not entirely convinced that blood-serum testosterone level isn't just the complete winner here for danger-level. Femaleness, Age, and Race all impact said testosterone level. And it may be possible that some/many black women have higher testosterone levels than some/many Asian men.
- Race. On average...which you should damn well pay attention to if you know nothing else...then for safety reasons, you should choose to dodge black kids over Indian kids...and that includes my 16yo SWTOR-playing, football-player built, dark-black stepson. You should also know that this decision, entirely correct for statistical reasons, is painful to him (if he notices) and that every time you make a decision like that, it will be noticed...and he will emotionally (correctly) observe the fear/dislike of blacks, which will (on the margin) push him towards bullshit black race-baiters like Farrakhan. Statistically aware correct behavior from you, the crime avoider...creates ripple effects that suck for everyone.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Having read another 10% of Haidt's book...he basically covers ground that is well-understood by readers of this blog...but more clearly than I do. The core, meta-idea underlying much of his book, and this blog...is that there are a lot of very good reasons for people to believe things that have *nothing* to do with the truth value of the positions. Rather evolutionary success rates of various cognitive predilections are the key indicator regarding what people believe...and *not* what is true.
The sixth tenth of Haidt's book looks at the research on religion...works with it inside his evolutionary understanding of ethics...and points out that the religious experience of a UVA football game, a church service, an extasy-fueled rave, and an aztec human sacrifice appear to line up real well. They're all effective group-bonding experiences...and indeed the social science on religion works out real well to confirm this analysis. Religious folks are effectively indistinguishable from non-religious folks on every test and metric (not involving talk) we can find...with one big exception: In-group cooperation. Religious folks cooperate with other coreligionists better than do athiests.
Key takeaway: Don't assume that beliefs and truth are...or should be...about truth. Rather, remember that we are evolved creatures with minds designed to win in the highly groupist evolutionary environment. Truth is a luxury.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Let's go then: how do you decide where to start in epistemology?
Ignoring MY obviously correct :-) answer: It depends on your goal...then as far as I can tell, you have a very few options:
- Start from sense-observation...draw concepts back to things you can touch...work forward from there...and hopefully fix the concepts that aren't "tap-able".
- Start from social epistemology...and then work to confirm/disconfirm.
- Trust another specific authority...and then run tests on that.
Where can one start in one's epistemology? Are there other places?
- The primary form of control that anyone can have over anyone else is control over exit. (Aretae's 3rd Law: Scarcity is the whole of Power). See, for example, the Berlin Wall...Cuba, etc.
- The basic structure in place for the US to control exit/travel has historically been very weak.
- If someone wants centralized control...one needs travel to be relatively expensive.
- Expensive doesn't have to be expensive in purely monetary terms.
- Hence the TSA is an important tool of social control. It massively increases the costs of travel.
- FWIW, so does the FAA, and passport controls, and exit-taxes, etc.
- Taking down the TSA, and fundamentally decreasing the cost of travel (to different systems) should be among the top priorities for the liberty-loving. It will decrease the effectiveness of social control substantially.
- This especially true in acute, non-threatening medical conditions. Travel to India? $2000. Cost of medical procedure in India + care in India? ????$10,000????. Cost of equivalent care in US? $200,000? Quality of care differential? 5%?. With HSA-ish options, or simply mandatory savings...inside of 5 years, one could completely destroy the AMA's bullshit monopoly on expensive procedures.
- What do conservatives think of this? It would, of course, mean the complete inability to make social control happen for conservatives as well. Abortion control? The flight to Mexico/Canada isn't long or expensive. And our laws (basically) don't apply outside the borders.
And now, the standard Aretaevian longwindedness towards the same topic:
The modern intellectual justification for liberalism is founded upon the work of John Rawls (A Theory of Justice), in which he argues that one should prefer, and advocate for the society in which, after basic political liberties, one should prefer to live in (decision made as a an pre-corporeal soul, before birth, with full knowledge) GIVEN that one doesn't know to what station and skills one will be born. While the basic question is brilliant, there are at least four moves that Rawls makes that are suspicious.
- Rawls makes the error that Sonic Charmer addresses above: He separates economic liberty as lower-importance, and places political liberty as higher importance. This, by itself guarantees his outcome. It's as if the theory was designed to give an outcome, and the move of making economic liberties 2nd-class citizens in the firmament of rights is the key move. If you remove this cheat, the whole theory falls, or at least fails to deliver what he's selling.
- Rawls concludes that something like a minimax principle should apply -- one should prefer to live in that world where the least well off are comparatively the best well off as compared to in other systems (given libery constraints). This sounds decent....except that it's clearly wrong. One should prefer a max-EV calculation. I want a system where my expected utility is maximized...and of course, while it's obvious from basic economics (diminshing marginal utility) that $1 for a very poor is worth more than $1 for the very rich....it's not obvious that $1 for the very poor is worth $3 to a middle class person. In the standard argument....It is massively non-obvious that I'd prefer to live in a society of everyone making $10/day, as oppose to a society in which almost everyone makes $1000/day, but 1 person makes $5/day. One should play Max EV, not Minimax....minimax is for folks who don't understand risk.
- Rawls misunderstands economics, and plays fixed-pie games in the rest of his analysis. Anyone talking fixed-pie is completely effing nuts. Aretae's 1st law: Rates, not States.
- Even if Rawls were largely correct on his other issues...his other issue is that he's unreasonably privileging folks who live right now. Any deceint analysis of Minimax also addresses folks who live in the future...whose welfare is almost completely determined by policies of today.
Friday, April 13, 2012
At the University of Chicago, economists lean to the right of the economics profession. They are known for saying, in effect, "Markets work well. Use the market."
At MIT and other bastions of mainstream economics, most economists are to the left of center but to the right of the academic community as a whole. These economists are known for saying, in effect, "Markets fail. Use government."
Masonomics says, "Markets fail. Use markets."The sane position opposed to rent-seeking is NOT that rent-seeking occurs only when government is involved. Rather, all sorts of bad stuff happens with no government participation. However, when government gets involved, it tends to get worse rather than better.
- Error -- everyone is wrong a lot...especially if they're talking about the real world
- Feedback systems -- The feedback system is the key issue in most/all systems. It's still inexplicably less appreciated than it should be: Economics / Evolution / Lean / Agile / OODA / Theory of Constraints / etc.
- Monkeybrains -- most of our opinions and behavior are due to our monkey-heritage, not due to rational deliberation.
- Wealth/Growth -- Far and away, the best predictor for a wide range of social goodnesses is wealth. True socially and individually. There's nothing else that comes close. Mostly, this is because wealth trades for *anything*...more wealth--more of what you want, regardless what you want is. Subject, as with all things, to diminishing returns, so this is especially important to the world's poor.
- Scarcity -- power is fundamentally an issue of scarcity, and especially of scarcity-creation. Exit is the best known solution to scarcity/power imbalances
- Education -- I teach for a living ... upwards of 40K contact hours ... dozens of subjects. I also homeschool my kids, and have been in the homeschool community for 20 years. The feedback system is the biggest under-appreciated part of the education system.
- Epistemology -- How do I predict the future? Statistically and badly. This would make a huge difference in how people thought iff people's thinking was about truth. But it's about monkeybrain social bullshit...and so the fact that we can't predict the future very well doesn't impact anyone's opinion abou how little they actually know much at all.
- Ethics -- In particular, meta-ethics...how does one get or justify an ethics. I tend to be a Jon Haidt and a David Schmidtz devotee.
- Liberty -- liberty is an important good for everyone, irreducible. There may be cases where liberty can be traded-against...but there needs to be a presumption against said trades.
- Game Theory -- I'm more and more convinced that the structure of the world, completely independent of human intention, builds a set of correct plays into life.
- Difference -- people vary...usually along lots of axes...and they vary a lot. Tremendously important prediction-enhancing approaches to variance are personality-ish features. My current guess on which features best predict a human's behavior, in order: Blood testosterone level, Patience/self-control, general self-efficacy, IQ, Conscientiousness.
- Methodological Individualism -- One always needs to analyze actions from an individual point of view. Talking about "us" is almost always sloppy thinking...unless it's deliberate deception, or papering-over of real, big, differences. This leads to public choice analysis of government.
If you've been reading for a while -- thanks for keeping this place fun to write.
If you've been sending me readers -- I owe you a beverage...and I travel for a living...drop me a line.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
In the historic, agricultural world, we have a pretty good picture of what romantic partnership looked like. Man works 90 hour week to grow food to feed family. Woman works 90 hour week to clean house, cook food. Kids work 30 hour weeks to help...or else GTFO of the way, and play until they're grown enough to help. Childrearing past 2 isn't even a topic, because no one has time for it, and the kids raise themselves. The economics of the arrangement + the economics of childbirth work together to make females subservient.
Between 1900 and 1970, the world changed dramatically. The number of hours required to feed the family shifted from 90 down to near 10 (Still dropping). The number of hours *required* (fast food, appliances, TV dinners, etc.) to clean/cook/etc. dropped from 90 down to near 10. And the economics of chastity are destroyed by the Birth Control Pill. So the weekly total number of labor hours that used to be needed by a family used to be around 180 (there are 168 hours in a week)...and now it's near 20. Children have historically raised themselves, with very minor input from the adults...and now they go to school, which is equivalent to no (parental) adult input.
What is the modern (dyadic) function of the agricultural institution of marriage? At the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum...the addition of a high-end male makes a huge difference to the income stream. At the lower end? Current incentives may well make the addition of a male to a single-woman's life economically negative.
The economics and game theory are going to win over time...regardless what anyone wants to happen. The question is what result does the game theory want (ooh, look, personification *and* telelology)?
First, there's the Wilkinson-Caplan smackdown, with Ozimek kibbitzing. This is an awfully good discussion, with me falling largely on the side of Wilkinson, sympathetic a bit to Caplan, and not much convinced by Ozimek at all, though he has some very good insights. Key Wilkinson quote:
"So I am resisting a strong sense of ideological identity. If pressed, I'll say I'm an inscrutably idiosyncratic liberal. This has been paying dividends! How do I know? Because I feel very confused. That is, to put it in Mason-speak, the probabilities of truth I assign many of my politically relevant beliefs seem to be drifting downward into the neighborhood just north of .5, which is about where they ought to be."This is good epistemology. Not shocking...Will was an Objectivist back when I was an Objectivist, and played ABD with philosophy. He knows how to think, and far better than I do, how to express that thought. I still assert that Cowen's Maxim is universally true.
Further, Steve Sailer steps into the associationist fray with this perfect one-liner:
As Ronald Reagan pointed out to the UN in 1987, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” (Libertarians would wait to see if the Martian invaders were free marketeers.)Of course, Steve talks about Liberals in a standard good/evil model that is great for marketing and groupmaking, and horrid for truth finding...and so loses many IQ points to the approach...but his line about libertarians is spot on and funny. Principle >> group. Except, as Wilkinson points out, doctrinaire libertarians, not so much.
Another (to me) very interesting line came up in the comments here when discussing the Non-Neurotypical term that was coined by the Autistic/Aspie- community to point out that some folks brains don't work the same way. See this post (and the less wrong post quoted) by Bryan Caplan to emphasize the point:
Here's my line about universalism, edited a bit:
It's also the source of the extremely common superbright feeling: "I'm an alien." When your thought processes don't map in any credible fashion onto what other people say (read: appear to be thinking)...at some point you start to wonder if there's a category difference between yourself and people...and your capability to empathize with others who are deeply *not like you* in the ways you think are important (how you think, duh!) starts to drop off. It's like trying to empathize with a dolphin...sure, you think they're thinking something, but damned if it makes sense to you. I think I've almost completely avoided this mistake, mostly based on watching other superbright folks make the mistake, and observing the costs of said opinion in me...but I avoided the error via an cognitive attention hack at age 15, not via the normal human experience of "like me". Also probably goes a long way towards explaining my universalism (and that of other optimist high-sigmas like Caplan). We don't naturally feel similar to anyone (+/- some folks above the 4th Sigma) ... but have actively altered our priorities to emphasize our commonality with all people... But the commonality we have focused on is human commonality, not commonality with our race/neighbor/co-nationalist/co-religionist. We are connecting on basic humanity, because we have a hard time connecting on any other aspect. And if basic humanity is the connection...the particularist stuff is all violence against humans, and morally abhorrent. As such, our circles go:As I've said before...Do you want to chase truth? Or do you want to be on a team? Pick *at most* one.
When folks try to push using political violence to privilege one group above another group...I experience it directly as vicious and immoral. Blacks over whites, whites over blacks, men over women...whatever. All the same to me. All evil.
- Family & close friends (probably not groups, but rather individuals)
- Acquaintances we personally interact with (like blogfriends)
- All other human beings.
The choice is easy for me: I couldn't be part of a team if I wanted to...and I've been an epistemologist/educator for >20 years...where methods of truthiness are the epitome of my search.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
- With lots of eyes, the median position is most likely to be right. Adaptive markets FTW.
- Smart folks generate, and promote, and argue for alternative hypotheses.
- Different smart folks generate conflicting hypotheses.
- Most of the hypotheses generated (and adopted) by smart folks are wrong.
- Occasionally, relatively independent of the intelligence of the smart person, a hypothesis pans out.
- The lucky, unusual, correct hypotheses are the foundation for all of the difference between our lifestyle in America today, and that of the dirt-eating Mesopotamian peasant 5000 years ago.
- IF smart people weren't generating dozens of wrong hypotheses all the damn time, we'd be a lot worse off as a society.
- However, on average, the average smart person should not expect that anywhere near half of their contrarian positions are correct.
- Really, this is a particular case of the generalized competition-benefit. Trick lots of folks into playing positional (status) games, and get 2nd order benefits to everyone else, while the competitors waste huge amounts of energy mostly losing. And then we celebrate the winners, to get more folks to do the same thing.
UPDATE: Commenters Leonard and David Friedman point out that the first bullet point was not quite accurate, so I changed it.
- What do ALL economists agree on? Free trade is good. Gold standards are substantially bad for some important things.. If you have studied the topic more than the economists, then I'd like to hear the debate. Otherwise...10:1 says you're wrong.
- Klein clone, honestly appraising jobless numbers.
- Seth Roberts on personal medicine methodology.
- Borepatch disagrees with me. Calls up social differences. Very insightful. As he says...much more stewing before I can answer.
- Henderson makes one of my consistency/universalism points, but more clearly. I advocate principles, not people. Jehu argues that we should give up on principles, and admit we're arguing for our team. I'm not...and people who are tend to disgust me.
- QoTD from Arnold Kling. 3 lines.
- Goodman making my point about HSAs...it's better for everyone except the insurance companies...ALL the time. Non-HSA approaches are unjustifiable to consumers.
- I argued recently that DeLong was being stupid about laffer curves and max-take vs. max-growth curves, and said that Dan Mitchell had done the math. Now, Mitchell tosses out the numbers again, clearly. At least look at the graphs.
- Lansburg has a great Graph discussing economic-growth...look.
- Caplan on Cowen on good-vs-evil. Moderately unusually (outside philosophy) I disagree with Caplan. Most positions have two (or twelve) smart sides to them...and *good* reasons for each of the sides. There is almost never a clear distinction between the right positions/good side and the wrong positions.
Monday, April 9, 2012
IQ is roughly a measure of the ability to generate patterns (well, quickly, etc) that match the observed data.
What isn't IQ?
Self-control/patience, ethics, conscientiousness, openness to new experience, self-efficacy/confidence, open-mindedness, good information-gathering skill, etc.
What is the primary function of IQ?To persuade other people that one's preferred model is correct.
What does IQ not help with?
Finding reasons to believe other than what one does. Falling prey to typical human cognitive errors.
How often are the patterns that high-IQ finds actually present in the world?
Unclear ... <50%. The mind is a fabulous pattern-generator
For example: 1, 2, 4 ....what's next? Finite data points give infinitely many generating rules.
Corollary: almost all predictive hypotheses are wrong.
How does one determine how the world really is?
Experiment. The deductive/inductive capabilities of IQ are strictly limited to hypothesis generation.
The value of IQ is in hypothesis generation, and persuasion, and is relatively unconnected to predictive success.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
I'm exploring Dinosaur National Monument on the stunning Hwy 40 near the Colorado/Utah border with my family today. This area, and west of here towards Salt Lake is my wife's favorite highway in the country, for beauty...and we've been almost everywhere west of Texas.
Re:Easter...what I told my 15 year old religion-conflicted step-son (Dad: Jehovah's witness -- Mom, stepdad: not).
There are three issues in belief...and most people get them all cattywumpus..because everyone explains them wrong.
1. What is the state of external reality?
Very simple...we have to estimate, 'cause we don't have direct access.
2. What does saying you believe/trying to believe do?
Gives you a group of people to be "your people". This is a deep human need for most people...who aren't crazy like me. There isn't anything apart from religion that gives this groupism the same way. Large net positive impact on your life. In exchange, you have to treat many as "not your people", and put up with some bullshit authority...which has some cost. On the other hand...gives you an anchor with which to resist alternate bullshit claims of authority. And doesn't require 20 years of study of ethics to acquire said defense.
3. Does God exist?
The question is really badly formed...and for normal folks completely unimportant to the question of whether to believe or not. To fix the question using sane epistemology, you'd need to know what you meant by God...recognize that no sense in which we normally use "exist" is correct for the question...and then try to handle rules of evidence for that unique case. None of which anyone does with standards that are convincing applied to anything else.
4. And if you're going to be religious...I recommend Mormonism as having massive auxiliary benefit, and low practical negatives. Alternatively...very personal Protestant disintermediated approaches to God are good in that they avoid issues of personal subordination to other persons' relatively arbitrary moral authority.
5. The reason I'm not religious is that I fall 4+ sigma below the average on my need/ability to belong to a group, and also 3+ sigma above in my concern for epistemology, and I am wholly incapable of faith. Since value precedes truth...I recommend it for most.
Happy Easter. I hope God and your community bring you joy.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Showering this morning, I finally hit the question clearly:
What is the virtue difference (in WWII) between a Nazi volunteer soldier, a Soviet volunteer soldier, and a American volunteer soldier?
I would assert that it's fairly obviously none. All three are doing what they believe to be right, which is to defend (?!?) their country.
So...do we celebrate the American soldier's virtue because we live in America, and not the virtue of the Soviet soldier? They are both young men demonstrating the primary young-man virtue of courage, and demonstrating team-ness, willingness to sacrifice for their country, etc.
Or...do we not celebrate the Soviet soldier's virtue...because we find that the goal of his masters is bad? If we find that the Viet-Cong soldier's virtue should be celebrated...then we are consistent. If we find that the Khmer Rouge soldier's virtue should *not* be celebrated, then we are bound to consider the virtue of the cause (killing 1/3 of the population for ethnic cleansing), not just the courage and obedience of the young man. And then...we have to decide if the goal the masters are sending the young men to pursue is good. Do you trust your government? Personally, I categorically do not.
Note, I do not wish to claim that the American policy is equivalent to Nazi policy. I do think that if you don't celebrate the Nazi soldier virtue, but you do celebrate the American soldier virtue...then you have some 'splainin to do about how the American cause in Iraq is good.
As a universalist, I categorically reject the affiliationist argument (They're MY team, and right/wrong have nothing to do with it). However, that's the only path I see to not celebrating Nazi soldiers equivalently to American ones.
And besides, I think that Vallier is playing fast and loose with the definition of obey around contractualists. If I make a contract, and I know that...
- my reputation is on the line, and
- there are enforcement mechanisms built into the contract/society,
- the contract has penalty clauses, and
- the contract has (negative) consequences if I continue to follow it....
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
- Blunt Object, Malthus, Simon, 'nuff said. And the pictures rock.
- Kevin Carson on before-tax inequality...referencing the recent news that before-tax inequality is LOWER in the USA than elsewhere. Why? Crony Capitalism. RTWT.
- Phrase of the day, and can I join? The GMU Libertarian Mafia.
- Rod Long @ Cato Unbound responds with property-rights absolutism, and finds my QoTD
In a late interview, [Hayek] admitted that were he a younger man, he would probably be a libertarian anarchist
- Standard, but always useful commentary on the history of child labor laws @ Volokh.
- FDA decisionmaking. Seems like a step up.
- Sumner, runner up QoTD: "It's the stupidity, stupid"
- Wilkinson expanding on Cowen's maxim. My commentariat won't like the end, but the rest is well worth reading.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The actual chances of your vote changing an election are infinitesimal. Voting to make your contract more likely to pay out makes as much sense, in the limit, as thinking you can improve your odds when you've bet against your favourite team by yelling at the television.
The entire future of a system can be understood by examining the current system's feedback system. Indeed, one can exaggerate only mildly and say that the initial state doesn't matter, but only the feedback system does.
This applies to health care too. How is the feedback system for a healthcare system constructed?
Single payer loses worse on all counts except cost-management.
Monday, April 2, 2012
- Conservatives...friends of liberty.??!
- Medical studies aren't reliable. My comment over theresays that by backwards Bayesian analysis, this suggests that the real chance of finding a correct correlation is close to 1 in 500...which means that there will be more studies that are false, but successfully replicated than true studies, assuming p=0.05.
- Fabulous history of libertarianism...covering especially the history from Locke to WWII...when libertarianism was firmly a part of liberalism...before Rand and Rothbard redefined things in the post-war era.
- Ikea channels Moldbug.
- Caplan, then Wilson on marriage as comparable to voluntary military service. I think that finite duration terms, as per Hebrew debt-annulment after 7 years is an important aspect that's underappreciated. You are not, at 20, capable of understanding who you will be at 40...and likely that's also true 20 years later. A limitation on the ability of people to make decisions that are bad for themselves sounds preferable to a lack of said limitation.
- Mungowitz on Stand Your Ground. Someone else smart on my blogroll read it, and said Munger's wrong...and I liked that better...but I can't find it.
- Private, government-subsidized, employer-paid-usually, first-dollar insurance (PPO)
- Single Payer, private provision (Medicare)
- Insurance/Hospital/Doctor private conglomerate (HMO, with best-of-breed being Kaiser Permanente)
- Hospital/Doctor/Single-payer (VA system)
- Private tax-free account to cover the first $3-6K of medical bills per year, with "Catastrophic" PPO insurance to cover any bills above the first $3K. (HSA)
- Pay out-of-pocket for services (Lasik, Plastic Surgery).
In particular, E + F win the same way markets win in any situation: competition, and opportunity cost.
If you haven't looked at the lasik and plastic surgery costs, safety, etc. tracked the last 20 years, it's eye-opening.
Option C is almost decent at restraining costs by incentivizing doctors...appearing to cost something like half of what our system does, but still something like twice what the HSA approach costs.
What loses? Everything else. In order, E+F are much better than (>>) C >> B + D >> A. If you want to control costs, E+F are the only choices. Everything else is atrocious, with our current system being the absolute worst.
However...cost isn't the only issue. Access to necessary care is another issue.
Access to Care
Which method gives more folks access to medical care than others?
This answer is obvious to the most casual of observers:
The richest society (average GDP/C) gives the most access to medical care. All the other considerations are secondary.
The second answer is that in no circumstances are all medical conditions taken care of...it's just which conditions are not taken care of and how they're not taken care of that's up for grabs. Britain's NHS doesn't take care of stuff by making doctor shortages, extra-long queues...and by not providing certain kinds of services (did I read something about no hip replacements for anyone?). Insurance-based systems doesn't take care of stuff by making the uninsured skip semi-optional medicine, and by contract. Pay-for-service systems don't take care of stuff by making the poor skip medicine. HMO-systems don't take care of stuff by formally explaining what is and isn't covered in the contract.
The question here is who and how will do the limiting of medical services (Either before or after Medical care = 90% of GDP). E+F limit medical services based on what the users want to pay. Poor folks are more limited than rich folks (in theory). Certainly WRT optional medical activity, E+F limit choices a lot for the poor. Given also that "need" needs an "in order to" in order to make sense...Almost everything is optional. When I had my appendix removed in '84/5, we paid a lot out of pocket, and then went home after 3 days rather than the recommended week...We skimped on medical care, and my mom functioned as the nurse, changing out IV's, etc. What should have cost $50K ended up costing $14K, because we were then cost conscious consumers of medical care (and my parents were each self-employed).
In the case of B + D...legislators make decisions about what treatments get covered, and how much gets paid. Depending on the relative strength of the medical lobby as compared to the financial sanity lobby, doctors will be relatively undersupplied as compared to in a free-er market. The state will not pay enough to induce enough people to go into medicine, when taking into account what people would pay given the option. Therefore, just as with *every* *single* *case* in history of price-ceilings, you get diminished quality over time, and queuing, as people are forced to waste time instead of spending money.
As to conditions, the single-payer approaches B+D say, roughly: If you're at the appropriate spot in line, and your problem is one that the death panel decides to cover...you get treated. If you're not at the right point in line, or conditions are on the list of "let-em-suffer", you're f***ed. Someone has to manage costs... and in the case of single-payer, it's bureaucratic panels making decisions about what to pay for and what not to pay for...based on political pull. I personally HATE political pull as a decision-making method (see my last 407 exchanges with Jehu). However, the result of this is that roughly, conditions that impact lots of folks will be covered, and rarer conditions will not be supported (public choice analysis). If the polity is more democratic, then it will not contain health care costs at all...while if the polity is less democratic, then fewer expensive heroic life-saving measures will be done (heart transplants after 80), and more raw calculation on Quality of Life Years will be made.
The most interesting thing I've read on the topic is that apparently, quality of care varies more by income in single-payer systems than in the USA...because the rich everywhere else come here.
Key insight: It isn't whether everyone is covered for everything. They don't. It's a question of who gets to make the decision about what doesn't get covered. Government bureaucrats, insurance company bureaucrats, or the customers themselves.
We are currently on step 14 of our 1,000,000 step journey in medical knowledge. The Aretae line is that moving to step 15, 17, or 35 in medical innovation is so far more important than minor issues like costs or who decides.
Cases where people can spend real money on the things they want...that's how innovation happens. Cases where people who win can get very rich...that's how innovation happens.
Right now, worldwide (legal) drug profits are entirely situated in the USA. Without free, or near-free markets in selling drugs in specifically the USA, medical innovation in drugs stops. Profits have to come from somewhere...or the folks innovating stop. See: Soviet Russia's brilliant cutting edge innovations.
If you want innovation...F appears to be the huge winner. E appears to be pretty good too. A appears to be decent...I'm uncertain of C, and B+D are atrocious. Bureaucrats are Hayek-wise incapable of making the correct decisions here.
Today, we have a set of choices in how medical care is paid. 70 years ago, we had a different set of choices. 70 years from now, we'll have another different set of choices. Which choice today gives us the best chance of finding better choices tomorrow?
Short answer: Less bureaucracy, more different choices. F is great and E is good for innovation. C may be good for innovation. A is highly constrained financially, and doesn't lend itself to innovation (in form of payment). B+D are atrocious.
Freedom vs. Equality:
Healthy people (mostly young, mostly relatively poor) don't spend $ on health care. Unhealthy people (mostly old, mostly comparatively rich), spend almost all of health $.
To what extent do we want to take money from the healthy, and transfer it to the unhealthy? Well...that's a question of Equality of Opportunity vs. Equality of Results. Most folks prefer some middle ground here.
So...what problem are we trying to solve...and what tradeoffs do we wish to make.
I personally want an improving system with relatively low costs, and where Bob the bureaucrat isn't in the decision-chain of how I spend my health care $. Also, on average, I prefer freedom over equality, but Hans the medicine thief is not immoral.
Overall...I think that on Innovation 1, Innovation 2, Costs, and Freedom, it's pretty obvious that E + F are the clear winners...and not by a little bit, either. By miles and miles.
On access to care, the question is far more difficult, as well as on Freedom vs. Equality.
It is the Aretae assessment that the problem is subsidization of first-$ care. I count A,B,and D as being roughly equivalent systems, in that they all subsidize first-dollar care and fail to control costs.
I come out as a tepid fan of something like required catastrophic insurance that costs 1% of annual income, and pays out after 20% of annual income. It violates my liberty constraint mildly...it mildly transfers from the healthy to the unhealthy. However, even though it's not perfectly actuarially correct from a universal-insurer point of view...it's still a good deal for almost everyone to spend 1% of income to protect against big-dangers.
Also, I'm a moderate fan of something like an HSA, which allows/requires persons to place money aside in a medical-only account, which is otherwise tax free, and individually/familially reserved for medical expenses.
The big issue in favor of HSAs is that non-provision of insurance does impose (statistical) costs on the rest of us because we are currently to kind-hearted to let you die.
On the other hand...I'm not certain about either required catastrophic (the higher the deductible, the better), or required HSAs.