Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

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

Automation will save us, not destroy us.

Robots are going to put us all out of work!

Automation, the use of robots, produces more with less labor than was possible before. That means we don’t need as many people to fill the need for whatever we’re producing. And that means the “excess” people are out of work, right?

Sorry, but that’s not how it has ever worked except in the very shortest of terms.

Producing more with less labor has been the spur for economic growth since before recorded history began.

The basic principle is this: we have nearly infinite wants, and only finite means to satisfy those wants. Every time we come up with labor-saving devices so we can produce the same things with less labor, we do one of three things:

(a) We consume more of the thing.

(b) We consume more sophisticated versions of the same thing.

(c) We consume the same amount of the thing, and use our resources to consume something else.

Take clothing as an example. It used to be that all clothing had to be hand-stitched from cloth that was hand-woven by hand. Most ancient cultures tended to live in temperate or warm climates so people could go naked–because clothing, frankly, was just too expensive to buy.

We know that, in the late 1300’s, a “fashionable gown” cost between £10 to £50–around $9,000 to $45,000 in today’s dollars, in terms of the real price of the dress. (In terms of labor, that is, in terms of how much the average person would have to work to afford that dress, the price is 12 times higher–meaning for a peasant to earn a £10 dress, he’d have to work as hard as an average person today would have to work to earn nearly $100,000.)

Today, while we still have Haute Couture with prices probably as inflated as “fine art” is today (i.e., a scam designed as a form of class signaling rather than related to the true value of a custom-constructed dress), a wedding dress today (which is about the nicest dress typically purchased by a woman) certainly does not cost as much as a car. A dress such as this, which is arguably a much finer dress (better built, better materials, much finer design) runs around $1500. A better dress than those typically worn by 14th century royalty could certainly be bought from a variety of locations for a tenth (or less) of the wedding gown.

Point being clothing in the middle ages was as expensive as a modern luxury car. People often only owned one or two articles of clothing, and for the peasant class, that often consisted of a poorly constructed tunic and pants. People rarely changed their clothing, and they were very careful about washing their clothes–repairing them often.

Today, clothing is so cheap that it is in fact illegal in many places to go in public without clothes. Clothing is so cheap, in fact, that a form of signaling for the young often follows the fashion styles of the 19th century of selective nudity: since clothing covers the body, nudity (especially in women) shows a body free of the marks of physical labor, one free of sags and marks and flab that today signals the working class and the service sector.

And today, even the poorest individuals have more than just one shirt and one pair of pants.

With cheap clothing, build using automation (automated looms make cheap cloth, automated cutting machines cut the cloth, automated sewing machines allow people to assemble the cloths quickly–and researchers are trying to figure out how to replace the people manning those sewing machines with more automation), we’ve chosen to consume more.

Instead of only owning one outfit and constantly patching that out fit obsessively until there is nothing left, we own dozens of outfits, and we discard or donate older items as we get tired of them.

Clothing has stopped being a luxury and is now a commodity. Even the wedding dress is preserved not because it is too expensive to replace, but because it is sentimental: a collectable we can afford to preserve.

The desire to consume more sophisticated versions of the same thing can be seen in our television shows and movies. With automation streamlining everything from the process of shooting film (directly to digital) to editing to creating special effects, rather than continue to make the same types of movies we used to make, we instead incorporate so many special effects it makes the movie “Tron” seem silly.

In fact, the cost of special effects has become cheaper than going on location to shoot film, which is why movies like Sicario are constructed the way they are.

This is an instance where increased automation has increased the sophistication of what we consume.

Food is the ultimate example of a product which has allows us to move on to consuming other products. But you already know the story: in the 1800’s nearly everyone was involved in farming and agriculture. Today, less than 2% of the population is involved in producing food. Yet we don’t have 90% unemployment; instead, we’ve all moved on to other things.

There is no reason to think that this will change.

We still live in a world of infinite wants and finite means. The things we want may shift; we may find ourselves wanting things that only 10 years ago was the gleam in the eye of some engineers–like modern cell phones or tablet computers.

But if the day does come that everyone is put out of work, it will happen for a simple reason: because all of our wants are completely satiated by automation, and we will have no need to work anymore.

Because, ultimately, the point of work is to allow us to obtain the things we want. But if everything can be produced entirely with automation, then ultimately everything will be free, since “price” is a function of the “want” of suppliers and workers so they can have the things they want.

And when everything is free, we will be entirely free to live how we want, without ever working again.

It’s because to D.C. and the Press, the real enemy are Republicans and President Trump in particular.

So today, the press seems to be reporting President Trump’s response to North Korea’s threat:

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.

And today, the quote by Trump is being reported without the context of the original North Korean threat, as if North Korea engaged in some typical saber rattling and President Trump went off the rails and became unhinged.

Let’s remember North Korea’s original threat, in response to escalating sanctions against the North Korean regime by the United Nations:

“We will calculate the price of the U.S heinous crime – which they are committing against our nation and the people – a hundred thousand times,” the Korean language statement reads.

Further, North Korea threatened to bomb Anderson Air Force Base in Guam:

The KPA Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam including the Anderson Air Force Base.

(Ironically CNN describes the action by North Korea as “defending” their nuclear program, phrasing the first few paragraphs as if North Korea was some passive innocent party being bullied by the United States.)

So, question for the audience.

We believe North Korea now has the ability to send a nuclear warhead anywhere in Europe and nearly everywhere in the United States.

Ms 2016 north korea missiles map

In response to a direct threat to bomb a U.S. territory–and an implied threat that North Korea could lob a few nuclear warheads into nearly every area in the contiguous United States except the South–how should a President respond?

Well, golly gee that wasn’t a nice thing to say. Hopefully we can de-escalate tensions by talking to the leader of North Korea by apologizing for whatever it is the United States did wrong.


If North Korea bombs U.S. sovereign territory in Guam or, heaven help them, bomb anywhere within the United States itself, we will erase North Korea from the map and sow the land with salt so that nothing can ever grow there again for the next 10,000 years, until even the memory of North Korea is forgotten by man.

Well, when faced with this question, how did Bill Clinton react?

On his weekend visit to South Korea, President Clinton warned that if North Korea developed and used an atomic weapon, “we would quickly and overwhelmingly retaliate.”

“It would mean the end of their country as they know it,” he said.

The problem, of course, is that in the minds of liberal progressives who work for the media and who work in Washington D.C., the enemy is not North Korea. After all, the idea of North Korea bombing Guam is an abstract idea, unthinkable to the media who see the world through the lens of a D.C. Beltway insider.

The enemy is the GOP, and President Trump.

And, as former President Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once noted, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

So as North Korea threatens to nuke San Francisco, and as officials in San Francisco consider their options, remember: the real problem is President Trump.

And it will always be President Trump.

Right up until the flash and the growing mushroom cloud which murders millions.

In Trust We Trust.

In response to the article In Certificates We Trust I left the following comment:

It’s a shame, because I have a theory of government, that in exchange for giving governments a monopoly on the escalation of force, we give governments the responsibility for creating trust. When governments fail in their responsibility, we increasingly take away their monopoly on the escalation of force.

By “escalation of force” I mean governments (and their representatives, law enforcement officials) are the only agent permitted the right to continue increasing the amount of force in a situation. Individuals can defend themselves by using force–but only the force necessary to defend themselves. But police officers can then chase people down who attempt to escape, surround them with a small army of officers, and shoot them dead if necessary in order to uphold the law–even if the police officer is not directly in danger.

In exchange for this power, we expect governments to create trust.

That is, they create laws that increase the trust between citizens, for example, by arresting individuals who threaten us, or who steal from us, or who abuse our children. They help increase trust in transactions by enacting laws which govern behavior of sellers not to rip off customers, or banks not to steal the money on deposit. It’s why we trust thousands of our own personal money to a group of strangers we don’t know at a pretty building that says “bank.” We trust the water we drink without testing it ourselves, we reasonably trust we can walk down the street without being accosted by thieves.

In fact, in the United States we have so much trust that we allow customers to run the cash registers at the grocery store themselves, and some stores have experimented with customers pulling products off the shelves and paying for it using software on their phones without ever talking to a sales person.

In my own lifetime that’s a remarkable amount of trust.

But we now have so much trust–manufactured by the government in the form of laws and standards for contracts and codes of behavior–that we’ve forgotten that all this trust is new, and was created by governments and their laws. We’ve forgotten that underneath Trust are laws that law enforcement officials can enforce by holding a gun to our heads and taking us away to a prison cell. We’ve forgotten that this trust is not a standard in the world–but the exception.

Our government officials have become addicted to the power–but forgot the purpose of that power, thinking that somehow trust is a constant, a societal norm rather than a manufactured legal reality. They’re failing in their mission to create trust.

As trust slips, and as politicians forget why governments have a monopoly on the escalation of power, you find people taking back that power. You find BLM members shooting back at police, sometimes even legitimized by politicians who forgot the ancient arrangement. You have police officers escalating force without fulfilling a legitimate mission–since they forgot why they have this power to begin with, forgetting they create the trust they rely on to not get shot. You have trust declining in areas like Baltimore or Ferguson, which are now descending into chaos–and politicians completely perplexed as to why. They see the anger but they don’t understand the anger comes from their failure in their ancient mission to create trust: a mission that exited long before the Codex Hammurabi when tribal elders sat as judges to determine who owned a chicken or who was entitled to a cow.

And you have individuals taking up the job of government, as the government fails in its ancient imperative. You saw Korean shop keepers take up arms during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. You see privately organized militia recruiting volunteers to patrol the southern U.S. border. You see the rise of private security forces.

You also find people clinging to the old symbols: the Constitution, the Monarchy, the Party–forgetting these were simply tools to generate Trust, and treating them as if they were ancient magical formulas to be paraded through the town square in a sort of mass prayer.

All of this is a bad sign, because as people stop trusting governments and stop trusting each other, the entire experiment in government generated trust falls apart, and factions appear on tribal lines. And why not? We tend to trust our own tribe better than the other tribe–and so Yugoslavia falls apart into six separate nations along tribal lines. The U.K. is falling apart as the Welsh, the Scotts and the Irish increasingly distrust the British. The Basque call for independence from France and Spain, Zapatistas call for independence in Mexico. Hell, even California is calling for secession, though the ones who call for it forget California consists of three separate tribes who don’t trust each other.

It’s why whoever released the transcripts of Trump’s phone calls must be jailed–as an example.

Damaging National Security, But Exposing No Actual Scandal

But one that has meant the President can’t have a reliably secret conversation with other world leaders now. And — though this is less appreciated — that future presidents will have the same problem.

In politics, how you get a thing is just as important as what you get.

Because if you get a thing the wrong way, you can create lasting damage to the political system that cannot be easily repaired–and create openings for future leaders to destroy the things you want.

Voyager I and II

The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe

Back in the late 1980’s I worked for the Computer Graphics Lab at JPL on the Voyager II/Neptune flyby, alongside Sylvie Rueff and Jeff Goldsmith.

During the week where Voyager II reached Neptune, the Public Information Office at JPL made up several signs which were placed around the JPL campus, which showed the week of events–when Voyager II would reach certain locations, and when certain observational data would be downloaded. After the event was over, someone who I worked with in the Voyager II team (whose name escapes me now) grabbed the signs and gave one to each of us as a memento of the event.

All these years later, I now have it hanging in my house in Raleigh.

IMG 4758

Each of us who worked on the Voyager II mission also received a limited edition coin in commemoration of the event:

IMG 4759

The back has a replica of the famous Golden Record that was attached to the Voyager probe.

And I also kept the book published by JPL outlining the Voyager II flyby of Neptune.

IMG 4762

I’ve worked in several places since, and I’ve done a lot of interesting things in my career.

But this is the event I will remember the most fondly.

A response left to an article on Marginal Revolution about the housing market.

Was there a Housing Price Bubble? Revisited

Let’s go back to the Shiller graph, now updated to 2017. Over the entire 20th century real home prices averaged an index value of about 110 (and were quite close to this value over the the entire 1950-1997 period). Over the entire 20th century, housing prices never once roce above 131, the 1989 peak. But beginning around 2000 house prices seemed to reach for an entirely new equilibrium. In fact, even given the financial crisis, prices since 2000 fell below the 20th century peak for only a few months in late 2011. Real prices today are now back to 2004 levels and rising. As I predicted in 2008, prices never returned to their long-run 20th century levels.

As an aside, I would consider the bubble not the long-term trend, but the peak where the index nearly hit 200 in the mid 2000’s. The long term trend is definitely upwards–but I suspect closer to the line formed by drawing a line at the troughs in the mid 1970’s, mid 1980’s, mid 1990’s and the bottom of the index in 2011. Excesses above this line may represent a pricing bubble. (Interestingly enough, that line, if drawn backwards, intersects the valuations in the 1920’s.)

RealHomePrices adj

My response:

My parents are in construction, and one data point they saw in the early 2000’s which (to them) indicated a bubble was the wide variety of “flip this house” shows where some married couple would stumble into a fixer-upper, stumble around breaking things and doing a lot of very bad “DIY” construction, bring in some contractor to help them fix what they broke, then sell the house a few months later at a huge profit.

My parents opinion: that much “stupid money” cannot last forever.

But at the time a lot of people my parents worked with thought the idea of a housing bubble was ridiculous and this was the new normal. They believed land use restrictions combined with population increases made higher housing prices a simple fact of life–and because of that, the bankers my parents knew believed it was fine to lower standards for making a housing loan. After all, if the value of the house will continue to go up, it reduces the risk that a foreclosed house will entail a large loss–and in some markets, even a trashed foreclosed house would turn a profit.

It’s why I get so irritated when I hear people trying to blame banks or Democrats in congress or whatever on the housing bubble. The fact is, it was everyone’s fault. The handful of people who thought there was a bubble were decried as paranoid idiots right up until the first wave of ARMs went into foreclosure.

Remember this blast from the past? https://mises.org/library/housing-bubble-myth-or-reality

Now it could be that today, land use restrictions–imposed by governments, by geography and by transportation logistics (which limit the desirable size of a city to what one can cross in a car in half an hour or so)–is driving up the price of housing. It would explain the rise in housing prices in Europe, where similar land use restrictions exist.

Or it could be a lot of people in places like China are parking their money in hard assets, uncertain of the stability of their own economies. (We see this in places like New York and Los Angeles, and increasingly even in smaller markets as well.) The nice property of an American house to a Chinese businessman is that it represents a secure asset that can be liquidated relatively quickly.

If it’s the later, then we may be living in another housing bubble–driven by outflows of capital from China. And if that’s the case, this bubble will last right up until something snaps in the Chinese economy (which arguably cannot be propped up by the Chinese government forever)–at which point we’ll see a re-run of the bubble pop in 2008 as those Chinese businessmen try to get their money back out.

Not just parents, and not just children.

Kids need structure more than warmth from their parents, according to a top child psychologist

Children need both affection and structure in order to develop into secure, happy adults.

But if parents can only provide one, it should be structure, said Lisa Damour, a psychologist who specializes in adolescent girls, and the author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood.

That contradicts many of the messages parents are sent through popular culture and parenting guides. But Damour, who also writes for the New York Times, said studies prove it out. Children who are raised in a stern, business-like way may be less happy as adults, but they’ll have the tools they need to function. Children raised without discipline or rules can be stunted and ill-equipped for adulthood.

It’s not just parents, and it’s not just children.

I happened to catch an episode of Lucky Dog, which was running in the background as I was doing other things. And the one thing that fascinated me was how dogs need structure: without structure, dogs become anxious and nervous.

I personally believe the reason why is that it’s not the structure which is important. After all, with the “right” structure you can turn dogs into angry killing machines and turn children into neurotic assholes.

I believe the reason why structure is important is that it gives a clear path towards success.

That is, the structure you provide should be a side effect of clear rules and clear actions towards what it takes to succeed in the world. For example, from the article:

Frame rules around safety. Kids are more apt to follow guidelines if they understand the rules’ purpose is to keep them safe. Insisting they obey for reasons of morality or hierarchy (eg “because I’m your father!”) is more likely to backfire.

“Success” in this case means “successfully not burning your hand off” or “successfully not ruining the carpet.” As children become older and responsibilities increase, the “success” goal posts can be moved: success can mean helping with chores, or with taking care of one’s own savings account, or helping with planning vacations. With proper structure, each of these rules both explicitly teach a lesson (don’t burn your hand!) and implicitly teach a lesson (have empathy and respect for your parents and for other people around you).

With raising pets, “success” can mean anything from “successfully heeling while out for a walk” to “successfully interacting with children.”

And I believe this notion of structure to communicate clearly what needs to happen to succeed can also be expanded to other areas, such as with management. For a manager with employees, the most important thing you can do is clearly communicate to your team the goals of the team (framed in terms of success of the organization, not “because I said so”), and clearly communicate what they can do to improve themselves.

Adolescents actually want structure from their parents, despite their protestations to the contrary. Permissiveness and inconsistency from parents can be unsettling and provoke anxiety, she said.

It’s why children or pets or employees can become anxious: not because they’re idiots who need to be led around by the nose without any agency of their own. But because you didn’t tell them how to succeed.

And if you don’t tell them how to succeed, you’ll learn very quickly that they have agency–as the relationship falls apart, as the pet becomes destructive, as the employee quits and finds a better job elsewhere.

I think this explains why dogs and dog ownership is associated with leadership. We like our Presidents to own dogs, which is why Trump’s lack of pets and Clinton’s lack of a dog were both minor scandals. (Clinton later got Buddy, a Labrador Retriever while in office. And Trump is considering adopting a Goldendoodle.)

In fact, you have to all the way back to the late 1800’s to find a President (President McKinley, 1897-1901) who didn’t own a dog during his administration–though he did own a parrot named “Washington Post.”

Errors, lies and heresies.

Creepy Canadian App Gives Citizens Points for Making Government-Approved Choices

Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making “good choices” in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users’ accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.

In Thomas Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions, he describes two groups: those who believe in a constrained vision of mankind as forever being outside the Garden of Eden, and those who believe in an unconstrained vision of mankind which can evolve as a species to a higher level of consciousness.

This unconstrained vision, of course, is not necessarily constrained to liberal progressives. But it is a major feature of liberal progressivism: the idea that, with the right set of laws, educational reforms and “nudges” we can be made “better” as a species. And there are those self-annointed Bodhisattvas who have achieved higher levels of consciousness who can then lead us towards that Utopian vision of a world where people are able to give according to ability and receive according to need, regulated only by an almost supernatural sense of moral ethics.

To those keeping score, this idea is, in a way, a very deeply Catholic vision associated with the properties of receiving the Holy Spirit into one’s heart. Knowledge and will, love and empathy for others have all been associated with the Holy Spirit in various passages of the Bible. Further, some hermetic philosophers believe that the Holy Spirit represents a common Spirit which transcends the world–and connection to the Holy Spirit should give one a supernatural understanding of one’s fellows. One who is truly connected with the Holy Spirit understands what those around him need–as if his Will was fully subjugated to the will of God. A community of such spiritually advanced individuals should be able to operate without money, without laws, in Karl Marx’s idealistic commune: intuitively connected with his fellows, able to operate towards a common good directed by a singular transcendent God.

Theologically speaking, we know from Galatians the idea that a deep connection with the Holy Spirit transcends the written law. (Galatians 3:12-14) Further, that deep connection with the Holy Spirit overcomes the “sins of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-18), which include sexual immorality, impurity, drunkenness, and selfish ambition. (Galatians 5:19-5:21) The fruits of the Holy Spirit include forbearance, kindness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-26) So the Marxist notion of the evolved transcending the Law and working in harmony has a firm Biblical basis.

From this notion of the Holy Spirit and the Marxist interpretation of collective action we get the Catholic notion of Liberation Theology, from which our modern notion of Social Justice derives. The foundations were said to have been laid by the Holy See in the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which outlines a Catholic’s responsibility to the working class and to the poor.

However, from this rather sensible tract, in the 1950’s in Latin America, Christian theology was expanded to concern itself with the liberation of the oppressed. Professor Gustavo Gutiérrez’s work “Towards a Theology of Liberation” formulates the idea that we need a better understanding of the poor.

Being poor is not simply lacking the economic resources for development. On the contrary, Gutiérrez understands poverty as “a way of living, of thinking, of loving, of praying, of believing and waiting, of spending free time, of fighting for life.” That is why he says: “Poverty is not a fatality, it is a condition.”

To Gutiérrez, the ministry of Christ among the rejected and despised of his time is a clear example for the contemporary Church. Furthermore, “the incarnation is an act of love. Christ becomes man, dies and rises to liberate us and make us enjoy freedom. To die and be resurrected with Christ is to overcome death and enter into a new life. The cross and the resurrection seal our freedom.” The freedom of Christ is seen by Gutiérrez as the giver of spiritual and economic freedom.

Theological reflection on liberation is not just a simple discourse without practical and concrete implications. Reflection on the situation of the poor leads to what liberation theologians call “liberating praxis,” where they attempt to rectify the process by which the faith of the Church builds the economic, spiritual and intellectual liberation of socially oppressed peoples as fulfillment of the kingdom of God. The liberating praxis, then, has its basis in the love that God manifests for men and in the sense of solidarity and fellowship that should exist in interpersonal relationships among the children of God.

And thus, modern Social Justice Warriors are born.

It is, of course, a seemingly logical progression–from receiving the works of the Holy Spirit of Knowledge and Empathy and the Seven Heavenly Virtues to the recognition that prudence and justice requires us to treat those around us with respect, to the idea that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross stands as a symbol of liberation of the poor.

And it marries quite nicely with the idea postulated by Karl Marx that as we advance as a species through the revolutionary darkness of the self-destruction of Capitalism, we eventually will reach an idealized Utopia where there is no need for money or property, where everyone is happy and everyone’s needs are universally met.

But it is based on a heresy and a lie.

First, let’s start with heresy of Liberation Theology.

Before I go into why Liberation Theology is a heresy, let’s define what that means.

A heresy fundamentally does not mean “ideas which one should not have.” A heresy is a belief or opinion that is contrary to doctrine. Heresy is not transgressive; it is illogical. It is saying that 2 + 2 = 5, for accepted (orthodox) definitions of the symbols “2”, “+”, “=” and “5”.

The reason that Liberation Theology is a heresy should be pretty clear from the Wikipedia summary of Professor Gutiérrez’s ideas:

To Gutiérrez, the source of the problems of Latin America was the sin manifested in an unjust social structure.

That is, the notion of commits two fundamental logical errors.

First, it emphasizes salvation as a collective property rather than an individual one. That is, it shifts the whole notion of “sin” and “salvation” away from the individual and places it with groups, with institutions, with “The People.” It borrows from Marx’s notion of class struggle–and as such replaces the need for individual action towards individual salvation with an idea of collective salvation.

Of course this notion is entirely compatible with Thomas Sowell’s “Unconstrained Vision” of mankind.

But it is incompatible with the notion of personal accountability.

The second problem with Liberation Theology is that, in framing salvation in terms of collective movements and class struggles, it fundamentally reframes the Bible in political terms. Exodus stops being a story of a people’s fleeing to the promised land and becomes a political treaties on class struggle and class salvation. And in that struggle it fundamentally places Liberation Theologists at fundamental odds with the Catholic Church as an institution–demanding the Church give up non-transformative aid to the poor and instead support revolutionaries and war. And it places Liberation Theologists at odds with the Holy See–as can be seen with Liberation Theologian Juan Segundo, whose response to two Vatican corrective documents responded with the rather omniously titled Theology and the Church: A Response to Cardinal Ratzinger and a Warning to the Whole Church.

Beyond Liberation Theology, we find further errors as we move up the chain to our understanding of Galatians and the virtues of the Holy Spirit which informed many 18th and 19th century ideas of collective welfare.

Certainly someone who attempts to practice the blessings of the Holy Spirit should show compassion for his fellow man, and treat the workers in his employ with fairness. Some of the items listed in Rerum Novarum are simply logical extensions of basic principles. For example, Rerum Novarum implores employers to “pay a full day’s pay for a full day’s work”–a principle which basically boils down to “thou shalt not steal.”

But, contrary to our Puritan understanding of zero-tolerance for any sin, Catholic teachings are much more lenient.

Sin, in Catholic Teaching, is separation from God. That is, it is an act which separates us from the grace of God.

And what does grace look like?

Consider the chaos of a family when a man has neglected his wife or his children. The grace of God looks like a harmonious home life: man and wife love each other and their children, and everyone more or less gets along.

But suppose, for example, a man practices one of the “sins of the flesh” in Galatians 5:16-18 and gets completely shit-faced drunk every night. Eventually this will cause the marriage fall apart because in getting drunk, the man neglects his wife and his children–and that leads to chaos.

And a fall from grace.

Now the Puritan takes a zero-tolerance notion of sin: if you drink even one drop of alcohol, you fall from grace.

But that’s not the Catholic view. The Catholic view is that the act of drinking itself does not lead to chaos in the home. It is drinking while neglecting his wife and children that causes chaos.

It’s why a glass of wine over dinner doesn’t destroy marriages.

In other words, to a Catholic, what causes having an affair, drunkenness, selfishness or gambling to cause your life to fall apart as you fall from God’s grace is not the act of having an affair, being drunk, being selfish or placing a bet.

What causes your life to fall apart is when these things are done to the neglect of your other responsibilities. For example, gambling away a million dollars is not a sin if you are a billionaire. But gambling away the last $100 that would have been used to feed your children is a sin–not because you gambled, but because you neglected your children.

This is important to remember because to Catholic salvation theology, “desire” is not obliterated. You are, after all, human. Instead, for us to find grace, desire is subjugated to the personal responsibilities we all have to our families, to our fellows, and to mankind.

In other words, it is a lie to suggest Grace requires complete sacrifice of one’s self to the Holy Spirit. Only that one acts with kindness, empathy and understanding–even as one knocks back a few beers while placing a few chips on the roulette wheel.

I know I started this whole thing with the story of a creepy Canadian App telling citizens what to do, and did a deep dive into Catholic Theology.

But I have a point here.

Even though modern Social Justice Warriors and the Bodhisattvas of the Canadian government who wish to “nudge” humanity towards collective salvation may not believe in Catholic theology, their ideas did not evolve in a vacuum.

More fundamentally, it is important to know where these ideas came from–even if their current practitioners do not believe in the roots of Liberation Theology or Social Justice–because the fundamental flaws behind them have not been successfully answered.

Ignoring logical problems with your belief system does not do away with the logical problems. It just shows your ignorance.

The problem I have with any government nudging its citizens towards “correct” behavior boil down to this:

They are attempts to remove agency from the public, in order to create a more conforming public which can eventually achieve collective salvation.

It requires us, in other words, to become like ants–stuck following well-defined tracks on the ground. And it assumes by removing free will we can achieve salvation–despite the fact that we have no choice. No true free will.

Such a utopia, like the one various Bodhisattvas are attempting to create on behalf of the liberal progressive movement does not look like Utopia to me.

It looks like Hell.

Because the liberal progressive movement has never answered the logical flaws that back this collective notion of salvation, they seem eager to repeat the same mistakes they eschew with religious fundamentalists.

I can’t help the irony of noting the number of progressives out there who are now imposing their own notions of “sin”–including feminist opposition to sex and pornography, or with laws designed to fight gluttony by restricting our choices of soda. One only has to watch as leftists punish those for the sin of holding impure beliefs as they chase conservative speakers off campuses, or watch as men are disproportionally held responsible for supposed sexual assaults.

The unconstrained vision of Progressivism may deny any connections to Catholic theology, to the hermetic notion of a singular interconnected spirit leading us to collective salvation and to the heresy of Liberation Theology.

But the underlying logic is certainly drawing them to similar theological errors regarding Sin.

And it’s why the Canadian Government is now publishing it’s own “Bible” of sorts in an iPhone App–so we can recognize sin, seek salvation, and receive points for “righteous action” as we slowly subjugate our Will to the collective.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

I think this has jumped the shark.

Not Being Stupid Is ‘Cognitive Privilege’ Now, Which Is Just Like White Privilege

With a headline this God-awfully stupid, I had to check the source articles.

Here: Williams: What Is Privilege And What Do We Do With It?

There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart.

Emphasis mine.

Okay, I understand the author of the original story’s point:

The purpose (of pointing out someone’s privilege) is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are.

Now if this was simply the observation: that men are only equal in the eyes of God but are not inherently equal to each other–well, fuck; that’s pretty much a mainstay of philosophy going back to well before the classic Greeks. And it’s an easy one to confirm: not all of us are born pretty, or handsome, or able to run fast, or naturally athletic. Some of us are born with genetic predispositions to deadly diseases such as cancer or diabetes or heart disease, some of us have potential but are born to poor families and can never achieve our potential; some of us coast through life thanks to our connected parents.

Life, as they say, isn’t fair. It’s worth having empathy for those who are less fortunate. Or, as some of us say when we encounter the less fortunate: “there but with the Grace of God go I.”

But in other quarters, “privilege” is an impediment to Social Justice, in that certain members of society start with an “unfair advantage” by the dint of their birth.

And “privilege”, ultimately, requires equalization:

If we can’t recognize the ways in which we have privileges, we will be complicit in a system that rewards some and not others. We will be co-signing inequity.

I’m suddenly reminded of a short story by Henry Slesar, called “Examination Day.” Unlike most folks I know who saw The Twilight Zone episode off which this was based, I actually remember reading the story first.

I’ve taken the liberty of including the full text of the short story here, with the closing note that I believe this is the inevitable end those who ask us to “Check Our Privilege” will actually lead us to. Not to greater empathy for those around us, not for empathy for the less fortunate. But towards a demand towards enforced equalization.

And the fee for a Government burial is ten dollars.

Henry Slesar: Examination Day

The Jordans never spoke of the exam, not until their son, Dick, was 12 years old. It was on his birthday that Mrs. Jordan first mentioned the subject in his presence, and the anxious manner of her speech caused her husband to answer sharply.

“Forget about it,” he said. “He’ll do all right.”

They were at the breakfast table, and the boy looked up from his plate curiously. He was an alert-eyed youngster, with flat blond hair and a quick nervous manner. He didn’t understand what the sudden tension was about, but he did know that today was his birthday, and he wanted harmony above all.

Somewhere in the little apartment there was wrapped, beribboned packages waiting to be opened. In the tiny wall-kitchen, something warm and sweet was being prepared in the automatic stove. He wanted the day to be happy, and the moistness of his mother’s eyes, the scowl of his father’s face, spoiled the mood of expectation with which he had greeted the morning.

“What exam?” he asked.

His mother looked at the tablecloth. “It’s just a sort of Government intelligence test they give children at the age of twelve. You’ll be taking it next week. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“You mean a test like in school?”

“Something like that,” his father said, getting up from the table. “Go read your comic books, Dick.”

The boy rose and wandered toward that part of the living room that had been “his” corner since infancy. He fingered the topmost comic of the stack, but seemed uninterested in the colorful squares of fast-paced action. He wandered toward the window and peered gloomily at the veil of mist that shrouded the glass.

“Why did it have to rain today?” he asked. “Why couldn’t it rain tomorrow?”

His father, now slumped into an armchair with the Government newspaper, rattled the sheets in vexation. “Because it just did, that’s all. Rain makes the grass grow.”

“Why, Dad?”

“Because it does, that’s all.”

Dick puckered his brow. “What makes it green though? The grass?”

“Nobody knows,” his father snapped, then immediately regretted his abruptness. Later in the day, it was birthday time again. His mother beamed as she handed over the gaily-colored packages, and even his father managed a grin and a rumple-of-the- hair. He kissed his mother and shook hands gravely with his father. Then the birthday cake was brought forth, and the ceremonies concluded.

An hour later, seated by the window, he watched the sun force its way between the clouds.

“Dad,” he said, “how far away is the sun?” “Five thousand miles,” his father said.

Dick sat at the breakfast table and again saw moisture in his mother’s eyes. He didn’t connect her tears with the exam until his father suddenly brought the subject to light again.

“Well, Dick,” he said, with a manly frown, “you’ve got an appointment today.” “I know, Dad. I hope …”

“Now it’s nothing to worry about. Thousands of children take this test every day.

The Government wants to know how smart you are, Dick. That’s all there is to it.”

“I get good marks in school,” he said hesitantly.

“This is different. This is a special kind of test. They give you this stuff to drink, you see, and then you go into a room where there’s a sort of machine …”

“What stuff to drink?” Dick said.

“It’s nothing. It taste like peppermint. It’s just to make sure you answer the questions truthfully. Not that the Government thinks you won’t tell the truth, but this stuff makes sure.”

Dick’s face showed puzzlement, and a touch of fright. He looked at his mother, and she composed her face into a misty smile.

“Everything will be all right,” she said.

“Of course it will,” his father agreed. “You’re a good boy, Dick; you’ll make out fine. Then we’ll come home and celebrate. All right?”

“Yes sir,” Dick said.

They entered the Government Educational Building fifteen minutes before the appointed hour. They crossed the marble floors of the great, pillared lobby, passed beneath an archway and entered an automatic elevator that brought them to the fourth floor.

There was a young man wearing an insignia-less tunic, seated at a polished desk in front of Room 404. He held a clipboard in his hand, and he checked the list down to the Js and permitted the Jordans to enter.

The room was as cold and official as a courtroom, with long benches flanking metal tables. There were several fathers and sons already there, and a thin-lipped woman with cropped black hair was passing out sheets of paper.

Mr. Jordan filled out the form, and returned it to the clerk. The he told Dick: “It won’t be long now. When they call your name, you go through the doorway at that end of the room.” He indicated the portal with his finger.

A concealed loudspeaker crackled and called off the first name. Dick saw a boy leave his father’s side reluctantly and walk slowly towards the door.

At five minutes of eleven, they called the name of Jordan.

“Good luck, son,” his father said, without looking at him. “I’ll call for you when the test is over.”

Dick walked to the door and turned the knob. The room inside was dim, and he could barely make out the features of the gray-tunicked attendant who greeted him.

“Sit down,” the man said softly. He indicated a high stool behind his desk. “Your name’s Richard Jordan?”

“Yes sir.”

“Your classification number is 600-115. Drink this, Richard.”

He lifted a plastic cup from the desk and handed it to the boy. The liquid inside had the consistency of buttermilk, tasted only vaguely of the promised peppermint. Dick downed it, and handed the man the empty cup.

He sat in silence, feeling drowsy, while the man wrote busily on a sheet of paper. Then the attendant looked at his watch, and rose to stand only inches from Dick’s face. He unclipped a pen-like object from the pocket of his tunic, and flashed a tiny light into the boy’s eyes.

“All right,” he said. “Come with me, Richard.”

He led Dick to the end of the room, where a single wooden armchair faced a multi-dialed computing machine. There was a microphone on the left arm of the chair, and when the boy sat down, he found its pinpoint head conveniently at his mouth.

“Now just relax, Richard. You’ll be asked some questions, and you think them over carefully. Then give your answers into the microphone. The machine will take care of the rest.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll leave you alone now. Whenever you want to start, just say ‘ready’ into the microphone.”

“Yes, sir.”

The man squeezed his shoulder, and left.

Dick said, “Ready.”

Lights appeared on the machine, and a mechanism whirred. A voice said: “Complete this sequence. One, four, seven, ten …”

Mr. and Mrs. Jordan were in the living room, not speaking, not even speculating.

It was almost four o’clock when the telephone rang. The woman tried to reach it first, but her husband was quicker.

“Mr. Jordan?”

The voice was clipped; a brisk, official voice.

“Yes, speaking.”

“This is the Government Educational Service. Your son, Richard M. Jordan, Classification 600-115, has completed the Government examination. We regret to inform you that his intelligence quotient has exceeded the Government regulation, according to Rule 84, Section 5, of the New Code.”

Across the room, the woman cried out, knowing nothing except the emotion she read on her husbands face.

“You may specify by telephone,” the voice droned on, “whether you wish his body interred by the Government or would you prefer a private burial place? The fee for Government burial is ten dollars.”

I’ve seen too many capitalist dystopias and too many socialist utopias in Science Fiction.

Blade Runner is a good example of a capitalist dystopia: a world where the rich are so rich and the poor are so poor that they represent… well, 9th century Japan’s caste system, I suppose.

And Star Trek–at least until Deep Space Nine and the J.J. Abrams reboot–show a good example of a socialist utopia: a world where everything is perfect because somehow we have overcome… well, capitalism, I suppose.

(Keep in mind that with the Next Generation, the Ferengi, when they were first introduced and said to have the same morals as “the ocean-going Yankee traders of eighteenth and nineteenth century America”, were suppose to be the new “big bad” of that series, until the writers realized just how dumb that was.)

I love fantasy as much as the next guy.

But I’d love to see someone try to portray a better future as a result of capitalism.

After all, it was capitalism–that is, the increasing freedom of individuals around the world to work as they will, make what they will and sell as they will and reap the benefits of their work that led the world towards one of declining extreme poverty and rising standards of living.

And socialism is simply a step backwards–towards a time when royal families controlled the means of production (the land and capital goods used to work the land), but with royal families replaced by citizen committees.

Why must the arrow of time point backwards to most thinkers today?

Or is it that they lack the imagination to think of a world that is any better than the post-revolutionary French period of the early 1800’s?