Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Category: Uncategorized

I’m considering building a simple blogging platform.

The consolidation of blogging and social media onto two platforms–Twitter and Facebook–has had some really bad consequences:

Marsha Blackburn, Rose McGowan, The Power of Twitter and the Media

But in both cases there is more than a whiff of a reminder that Twitter — along with Facebook, Google and You Tube — have now acquired massive power to decide what the American and global public will be allowed or not allowed to see.

Even WordPress, which hosts this site, can become a gatekeeper of sorts: as each platform becomes less about self-expression and more about aggregating and presenting user-created content, there will inevitably be editorial pressure.

And that means censoring those who have unpopular opinions or who make the mistake of expressing themselves incorrectly.


It’s why I’m sad to see the death of RSS aggregators like Google Reader; an aggregator simply gathers news in one place. It may point you towards people with interesting opinions, but it doesn’t attempt to point you towards “curated content.”


The surprising thing to me is how quickly the Left is glomming onto these incredibly powerful companies to help with screening and censoring and presenting a world view consistent with theirs.

It surprises me because a sword has two edges–and an institution given a tremendous amount of power can then swing around and slice the other way.

Just like the Presidency, whose power was expanded well beyond its traditional frontiers under President Obama, now in the hands of a President Trump.

Advertisements

But it’s okay if you physically assault a man…

Tinder Launches Anti-Harassment Feature Allowing Women to ‘Throw’ Martinis In Men’s Faces

Two thoughts.

(1) If Tinder launched a feature allowing a man to “slap” a woman’s face, Tinder would end as a viable corporate entity. And rightfully so.

(2) If a woman were to throw a martini at me in real life, I would press charges for assault and battery. And honestly a woman who throws alcoholic drinks at other people is likely to be deranged and in serious need of professional help.

So what makes this feature acceptable?

Beats the fuck out of me.

The existential dread of pre-packaged meals you cook yourself.

The Bleat: Thursday October 5 2017

Anyway: The meal kits were welcome additions, and once Daughter is off to college I will resume them with greater frequency, since we can go to 2 people instead of 4. Perhaps my wife will like to make the meals, since she loves to cook.

Or maybe not. Turns out it’s all a lie, a clever corporate manipulation of expectations, a simulacrum of an honest experience.

“Meal kits offer restaurant-quality food with homespun quirk, suggesting that an honest hour of slicing and stirring could make you see yourself as a real person too.”

Just to remind you: we’re talking about a box of meat and produce, with cooking instructions.

So much angst over a pre-packaged meal you make yourself. The world is such a beautiful place–so we must find despair in the tiniest of corners.

Gun control: a comment left elsewhere.

I always like to point out an interesting statistic into these gun control debates every time someone brings up the high murder rate in the United States.

If you look at the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, specifically at table 12 for 2016 which reports the number of murders by state and by type of weapon (including firearm, knives, hands/fists, and other weapons), you find something interesting.

Sucking in the data into Excel, we find the total number of reported murders in the United States as 15,070 murders or 4.66 murders per 100,000, of which 11,004 murders were committed by some sort of gun.

This leaves 4,066 murders committed by some other weapon than a firearm.

And a non-firearm murder rate of 1.26 per 100,000.

Now if we assume that every. Single. Firearm. Murder. would never take place if firearms were eliminated–a proposition I find highly unlikely, since as you note many of these deaths are gang-related, and I suspect if guns were never invented they’d simply resort to knives and baseball bats and more hand-to-hand combat–our murder rate is still higher than that of Europe.

More realistically, if we assume the lack of firearms reduces the murder rate by a factor of 4 for firearm related murders–that puts us in the 2.11 per 100,000 rate, twice that of Serbia.

And Serbia has the second-highest rate of private gun ownership in the world, just behind the United States.

This strongly suggests to me that in the United States we have a murder problem, not a gun control problem. And if you look at detailed maps showing the per-capita murder rate in the United States, you find the highest murder rates concentrated in a small handful of areas-which suggests to me a cultural problem, not an ownership problem.

Uncertainty as a negotiating tactic.

Scoop: Trump urges staff to portray him as “crazy guy”

“You’ve got 30 days, and if you don’t get concessions then I’m pulling out,” Trump told Lighthizer.

“Ok, well I’ll tell the Koreans they’ve got 30 days,” Lighthizer replied.

“No, no, no,” Trump interjected. “That’s not how you negotiate. You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute.'”

“That’s what you tell them: Any minute,” Trump continued. “And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might. You don’t tell them 30 days. If they take 30 days they’ll stretch this out.”

Uncertainty (because you’re perceived as mercurial or crazy) is actually an asset when dealing with people. It keeps them off balance, and makes them question what you may or may not do. It is in fact a very valuable tool in a work setting because it forces people not to take you for granted.

Public Service Announcement.

In the United States, anyone who picks up a gun and starts shooting at innocent people, especially in a crowd, without any provocation whatsoever, is bat-shit crazy.

At some point after any shooting we will see people attempt to claim credit, we will see people attempt to ascribe a motive, we will see people attempt to use the tragedy for their own political purposes. All of this requires one thing: that somehow the shooter was behaving in a logical and rational fashion, one which can be influenced through cultural changes or legal changes.

Of course it fails. As it always fails. Because the shooter is, first and foremost, bat-shit crazy.

But it doesn’t stop those who want to believe the world is a rational and controllable place to score political points.

“It’s just that the people listening think you’re an asshole, and they’re showing you the door.”

Private school kicks players off football team for protesting racism during national anthem

But here’s the thing.

First, the school was private. Therefore government restrictions via the First Amendment does not exist.

And, as in yesterday’s XKCD unfortunate cartoon: “It’s just that the people listening think you’re an asshole, and they’re showing you the door.”

NewImage

Second, if you are protesting but are unwilling to suffer the consequences of your protests–you’re just virtue signalling.

The most regrettable XKCD Cartoon.

From Free Speech

NewImage

This is one of the most regrettable XKCD cartoons, and the reason why is even more applicable today than it was three years ago when it was first drawn.

More than the Minimum

I hate this comic. It views “the right to free speech” as a legal requirement to be regrettably complied with. It places no value on free speech as a matter of principle.

Just because the first amendment to free speech speaks only of the government does not mean that the rest of us should feel free to shout down (youtube) those we don’t agree with. Yes, I know you think your opponents are assholes and that you are simply using your own free speech to prevent them from speaking, but that actually makes you at least as much of an asshole as them. Retract those claws.

I think part of the reason Randall drew this comic was a sense of his side winning in the marketplace of ideas. The most recent boycotts seem to be of bigots and other unsympathetic characters. Munroe isn’t thinking about the McCarthy-era blacklists that were simply private boycotts of workers holding legally protected but worse-than-assholish political beliefs. Are these the norms of private behavior we wish to emulate and carry into the future?

(Emphasis mine.)

Well, here we are in 2017, and Mr. Monroe’s side is no longer winning. It has become louder and more violent, more willing to ignore history to find new villains, more willing to erase history by tearing down statues that are supposedly racist, forgetting why those statues were erected in the first place.

And worse, the conclusion of Vikram Bath seems less a warning and more a prophecy:

Do not think these arguments won’t be resurrected again one day to silence you.

Today? We have a President who is willing to employ the tactics of the Left against itself, and who does so with unwavering core support and who seems to actually enjoy himself as he does it.

(In fact, this is the only reason why we have President Trump: because he was the only one willing to fight back in a bellicose and vulgar way at the bellicose and vulgar on the Left. Which, by the way, tells me in no uncertain terms if the Left continues to violently attack those they oppose, a Trump Administration has become a best case scenario.)


What surprises me, by the way, is how willing the Left is to resurrect the McCarthy era blacklists, especially in academia, an environment which is supposedly the last bastion of free thinking.

But, as Mr. Monroe puts it, the new McCarthy style blacklist–where teachers are fired for their politics or for refusing to play the game–are no worry. “It’s just that the people listening think you’re an asshole, and they’re showing you the door.”

You know, like they did to Charlie Chaplin.

The desire to change human nature.

In my last blog post I noted my fascination with sex: specifically, how sex expresses an element of human nature which disproves the supremacy of economic theory.

And I also note that Utopians (such as Marxists and Socialists) fundamentally want to change human nature–either by changing the culture, or the conditions on which we interact with others, in order to create their Utopian vision of the world.

Now an obvious consequence of this idea is that any economic theory which runs headlong against human nature must yield to human nature. Meaning if an economic theory requires changing human nature to implement properly, that theory is broken. And any economic theory which requires limits to human nature will ultimately yield–as the qualities of human nature run very deep.

But this doesn’t stop people from trying to change human nature anyway. And, interestingly enough, when Marxists and Socialists and Utopian Idealists attempt to tackle human nature in order to create a better world–well, some of them don’t stop with economics.


For example, Friedrich Engels believed that prior to the invention of “capitalism”, humans existed in a state of “original promiscuity”:

During the state of “original promiscuity”, to use Engels’ phrase, where within the tribe every women belonged to every man, and every man to every woman, some kind of “mother right” inevitably existed. As all certainty of paternity was excluded in this situation, descent or lineage could only be reckoned through the female line. This must have been universal. Given that mothers were the only ascertainable parents of the children, women were treated with a high degree of respect, and even reverence.

His belief was that as capitalism was invented, women’s sexual promiscuity was limited to a form of property ownership–and eventually we arrive at the monogamous relationships we see today in the form of families and marriages.

This line of reasoning suggests strongly that the path to a Marxist/Socialist “Utopia” must naturally abolish the marital unit, and return us to this “original promiscuity”, where, in essence, more people will be having more sex with more partners.

(This will naturally lead to those orgy rooms at the local airport where you can get your rocks off if you’ve got a few minutes to kill–courtesy of the State, of course.)

Note that the article I linked to defends this position, despite confessing:

While modern anthropological evidence does not bear out this sequence…

Of course “while”, related to the conjunction “but”, exists to negate the truthful observation, because of course today’s family structure must be negated if we wish to move towards a more perfect (*ahem*) union.

This is not just theory, by the way. Social and Sexual Revolution: from Marx to Reich and Back

The social revolution is only a prerequisite (and not a sufficient condition) for the sexual revolution, but [Wilhelm] Reich believed that recognition of their close relationship, particularly among the young, helped to develop consciousness of the need for both revolutions. With the exception of Character Analysis (1934), which psychoanalysts still regard as a classic in their field, and a few related articles, Reich’s early work was devoted almost entirely to the attainment of such a consciousness.

Not content to debate his ideas, in 1929 Reich organized the Socialist Society of Sexual Advice and Sexual Research. A half dozen clinics were set up in poor sections of Vienna, where working-class people were not only helped with their emotional problems but urged to draw the political lessons which come from recognizing the social roots of these problems.

We also have in the United States in the late 1800’s a phase of “utopian communities”, where groups of people would go off, buy cheap land, and set up shop to try out their Utopian ideals, based either on the Bible or on the Utopian ideals coming out of Europe–including those of the Communists and Socialists who thought capitalism was somehow “unnatural” or “imperfect.”

The Oneida Community started as a Christian Perfectionist movement, who believed that communalism (that is, the communal ownership of property and possessions) was a more “perfect” expression of humanity’s Godly state. (The difference between Communists and Perfectionists have to do with the belief if swimming towards perfection is an upstream swim, or a downstream swim. But the end-result is the same: an ideal state of Utopian Perfection which everyone cooperates in a state of supposed natural harmony.)

They were rather explicit about their desire to change human sexuality–and practiced “free love” (a term actually coined by the founder of the community), explicitly frowned upon possessiveness and exclusivity, and where women over 40 were expected to tutor adolescent boys on the mysteries of sex. The community ultimately fell apart because human nature runs very deep–and all that is left of the Oneida community is the silverware and flatware company the community started to pay its operating expenses.

Now of course Utopians of all stripes would deny that they are trying to reshape human nature–and seek very long and hard to find a logical reason why the current state of affairs (especially with respect to human sexuality) is in fact unnatural. But even as they fail to find evidence for their beliefs, they continue to push for this change.


Let’s be very clear.

I am a strong believer in self-expression. That’s because at the bottom of my ontological stack I believe in the primacy of the individual. I believe an inherent element of human nature is our desire to express ourself, and to create a zone of comfort around ourselves where we can have find some degree of safety and stability. I believe you can see this instinctual desire expressed in nature, in other animals: birds, for example, seem driven to build nests that are expressive but also secure and warm.

It’s why discussions of Marxist Feminist theory and Gender-Fluid expressions such as this give me such a blinding headache: because the amount of theoretical machinery folks like this need to build in order to arrive at the idea that we should be free to express ourselves is overwhelming and sometimes contradictory–just as contradictory as early histories of the Marxist movement towards LGBT rights in the early 1900’s, and the later repression of LGBT rights in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Instead, it seems far simpler to me to simply suggest that human nature being what it is, we all have the right to self-expression that isn’t an explicit call to credible violence–and we should all afford each other the room to express ourselves–be it through a genderqueer expression involving promiscuity and bisexual relationships, or through a traditional heterosexual monogamous marriage.

But my point is not about how we express ourselves or the wishes and desires we express.

It’s about the explicit denial of the depth of human nature that theoreticians of all bents engage in–from Marxist and the Oneida Perfectionists to people like Economist Alfred Marshall, who posited that “the need for private property reaches no deeper than the qualities of human nature.”


Human nature being what it is–and the inner turmoil many of us have between the desire to have more expressive sexual encounters and our desire for greater social stability–it is not a surprise to me that theoreticians who seek to change human nature in order to create an economic Utopia don’t stop with economics.

After all, who in their early 20’s haven’t looked at a more libertine expression of human sexuality without some sense of desire?

But human nature runs very deep indeed–and even in primitive societies and societies with deeply foreign cultures and ancient practices that strike us as utterly unfamiliar and completely foreign, aspects of human sexual nature–such as jealousy or longing or seeking a single partner and confidant, or creating stability and encouraging success for our children–remain strikingly familiar to us all.

The breakdown of economics and the depth of human nature.

The founders viewed private property as “the guardian of every other right.”* But, “by 1890 we find Alfred Marshall, the teacher of John Maynard Keynes making the astounding claim that the need for private property reaches no deeper than the qualities of human nature.”* A hundred years later came Milton Friedman’s laconic reply: ” ‘I would say that goes pretty deep.'”

“A Whiter Shade of Pale”: Sense and Nonsense — The Pursuit of Perfection in Law and Politics, Janice Rogers Brown, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court.


So I want to start with a question.

Why aren’t we having more sex?

Consider the definition of economic utility: “the total satisfaction received from consuming a good or service.” In any economic transaction, something is traded for something else–and if we are all “economic animals”, we will happily trade one thing for another if the thing we trade for has higher “utility.”

So, consider someone buying gas at a gas station, facing a bunch of candy bars at the check-out stand. If they can trade 89 cents for a Snickers bar, and if the “utility” (the total gratification) of consuming that 89 cent candy bar is higher than the “utility” of saving the 89 cents for something else–then they buy a candy bar and have a snack on the drive home.

They’ve made a trade, in other words, that resulted in a gain in “utility.”

So why aren’t we having more sex?

Consider the “utility” of sex: touching another, feeling of intimacy, relaxation, having an orgasm. There are numerous articles describing the benefits of sex: less stress, lowering pain, better sleep, and each of these can lead to a much longer and happier life.

I would argue that, in fact, the economic “utility” of sex is pretty high. Hell, if someone invented a pill which provided the same health benefits of having sex, that pill would become a multi-billion dollar industry overnight.

And consider the practical “cost” of sex (rather than the “emotional cost”): the time to actually do the deed, the time it takes to take off one’s clothes, the cost of protection (a condom).

If you consider the costs and benefits of sex, then honestly why aren’t we having more sex? And I don’t mean “why aren’t we having more sex with our partner”–I don’t know what your sex life looks like, and it could be that sex swing is getting a lot of use in your house. I don’t know.

But I mean why aren’t there “orgy rooms” at airports. (Hell, I’ve got 15 minutes to kill; may as well get my rocks off with some strangers before boarding the airplane.) Why aren’t there naked orgy rooms next to the exercise room at fancier hotels? Why aren’t people having sex in the streets?

“But most people are ugly.” So what? I mean, doesn’t that simply raise the cost of having sex and lower the benefits only a little? You may find him ugly but he can still get you off–and that is enough to get all the aforementioned health benefits that, if it came in a pill form, you’d be shelling out serious money for.

Why aren’t we having a lot more sex?

By the way, I’m not the first person to ask this question. Why don’t people have more sex?

We need not just reasons, but rather gains-from-trade-defying reasons.


By the way, notice my argument above. I’m not suggesting we should have more sex. I was asking why we aren’t already having more sex from an economics perspective. And if economics was perfectly descriptive, then things like airport orgy rooms should simply be fait accompli in the same way bathrooms and water fountains currently are.

What I am, in fact, suggesting, is that the field of economics is broken.

The reason why none of this is true–that orgy rooms currently don’t exist at airports despite being “predicted” (in some sense) by the behavior of satisfying utility gains–goes to human nature.

And as Milton Friedman quipped about human nature: “I would say that goes pretty deep.”


It’s not to suggest that economics is completely worthless. There is still value in understanding things like the supply/demand curve or Pareto efficiency. I believe we should be talking a lot more about Public Choice theory.

But notice that “costs” and “benefits” often are far more complex than “here’s my 89 cents; give me a candy bar.” (Such as the cost to engage in the transaction, or the cost of consuming candy.)

Beyond that, “costs” are often deeply emotional–tied deeply to human nature. It is human nature to want to be secure, fed, warm. To be loved, to be lovely. To help others that we know and to seek help ourselves. To be sympathetic to the weak and to the lovely. And “benefits” dive deeply again into human nature: “benefits” often are another way to say we satisfy these deep human urges.

Because all this dives so deeply into human nature–and because human nature is both deep and immutable–often the economic trade that leads to gains in utility aren’t considered as economic transactions. Instead, it could be as simple as “I’m hungry and I have 89 cents.”

And the idea of Homo economicus is just an illusion.

After all, wouldn’t “Homo Economicus” build orgy rooms at the local Hilton, in order to satisfy the unsatisfied marginal utility of all that anonymous sex we’re not currently having–in order to reduce the “frictions” that prevent us from satisfying the long-term marginal utility of sex?


It also suggests that if Humans were a different animal, the discussions we would be having about economics and property rights would be different.

For example, if humans were truly a herd animal like sheep or cows, would we have the same desire to satisfy the territorial instinct that private property provides for us? (And, truthfully, isn’t government registration of private property ownership simply a more sophisticated version of territorial marking?)

Or consider Marxism, which American entomologist E.O. Wilson once quipped “Wonderful theory. Wrong species.” (E.O. Wilson considered Marxism better suited to ants than humans.)


It’s also, by the way, why I find economic complaints from the Right about price gouging unpersuasive.

The idea being that if there is a limited supply, the price should be allowed to skyrocket so consumers can deal with shortages through market forces rather than through arbitrary and random shortages.

Now it could be price gouging would prevent runs on supplies that cause some customers to take more than they need, creating shortages (which are, by definition, customers who need more but who don’t have any).

But in practice rising prices help create a new economic equilibrium if pricing also encourages more supplies (by allowing new entrants to enter the market)–and in a natural disaster, new entrants generally cannot enter the market, and as the rebuilding process subsides, new entrants would create their own problems as suddenly a shortage becomes a surplus.

Further, it often ignores elements of human nature–including volunteerism and the mutual aid we give each other. The person who “hoards” gas may be the one who then provides gas for free to a neighbor in need; we don’t know.

So simply allowing prices to rise–I’m not certain the economic benefits are as advertised.

Because we are not Homo Economicus, and human nature runs very deep indeed.


For the same reasons I am completely unpersuaded by Socialists and Communists who believe if we were only to change human nature through education–or at least change the incentive structures of our culture–we would move towards the ideal Utopia that Socialists and Communists want.

Again, human nature runs very deep. Very, very deep.

In fact, I am convinced that you are more likely to build successful orgy rooms at a hotel than you are to convince everyone “from each according to ability, to each according to need.”

Don’t tell me that socialism and communism would allow me to keep my home. That’s because beneath the surface all land is theoretically productive, even if it only serves as a “home” to someone who is homeless.

Now I am not suggesting the homeless should be allowed to remain homeless; I believe we should provide homes to the homeless, as well as assistance and aid. I have no problems with that coming from both government and private sources.

But we must realize that homeless cannot be “solved”–again, because of human nature: there are always those who have problems and some who have mental illness that we cannot fix. More importantly, confiscating my home to give to a homeless family (because perhaps you think my house is too large for me) runs counter to human nature. Because without the reward of my hard labor, learned over half a century of effort, why should I practice my craft?

And when an entire nation of people realize they shouldn’t bother practicing their own crafts–you get Venezuela, where even the zoo animals are starving.

Because human nature runs far deeper than you or I can possibly conceive.


Want to change society–and you’re disappointed in human nature?

Try to set up orgy rooms first.

If you can do that–country wide, not just amongst your more libertine friends–then talk to me about your ideas for socialism making society better.