Posts

Showing posts from 2010

Continued Fraction Expansion of e

[2, 1, 2, 1, 1, 4, 1, 1, 6, 1, 1, 8, 1, 1, 10, 1, 1, 12, 1, 1, 14, 1, 1, 16, 1, 1, 18...]

Holy smokes! The even integers just continue pumping out every three partial quotients, to infinity and beyond!

Digital Christmas

That Old-fashioned, A Priori History

Now, whatever one thinks of Mises view of economics as an a priori science, one must give him this: He never for a moment thought that history was an a priori science. But many of his followers are far less astute. Oh, the many times I've been in some Internet discussion and seen some Mises epigone write, "Well, it seems logical to assume the [Jefferson / Lincoln / Lenin / whoever ] did not..."

It seems logical?! That's how you're doing history? Well, here is an example I came across today:

'To be sure, fractional-reserve banking is not, as Mr. Wolf notes, "a natural consequence of market forces." It is a result of, and has been upheld by, government law.'

Now, of course, in one sense, shops and private farms and many other market institutions are "the result of, and have been upheld by, government law." But that meaning is trivial. No, Mr. Polleit seems to mean that fractional reserve banking was created by government fiat.

But that i…

Missing the Trees for the Forest

A man all too willing to believe in massive conspiracies ironically bilked by a little conspiracy (aka, the kind of conspiracies that actually exist).

Abridging the Freedom of Speech

First amendment absolutists like to cite the text of that amendment and then smugly declare the case decided, for instance:

"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. Now get over it."

But have these people thought about what "abridge" means?
"abridge: to reduce in scope, extent, etc.; shorten"

So, this amendment does not in the least say that the freedom of speech is absolute; instead, it says that, whatever that freedom is, Congress may not reduce it.

And if you read a little history it is clear that no Founder thought that right was anything like absolute. Not a single one of them thought that, for instance, laws banning pornography were unconstitutional.

It is one thing to argue that they were wrong, and that the freedom of speech should be considered absolute. It is quite another to make the blatantly false historical claim that the Founders did think it was absolute.

The Smallest Integer Not Discoverable via Google Search

How would one discover it? Discussion here.

I'm Dreaming of a Tight...

Christmas! Or at least Jason Peters is.

Economism in Action

You often here economists denying that economics reduces the subjects it studies to having only base, material motives. And in the hands of some economists, it doesn't. But in the hands of lots more it sure does. Take, for instance, this piece, in which Karl Smith tries to solve the problem of "revolving doors" between the public and private sectors, in which people pick up inside knowledge and contacts working in government, then cash in on those assets by moving into the industry they had formerly regulated. Smith recommends higher pay for public officials as the solution, and then cautions:

"I do hope that economically oriented folks aren’t suggesting that we use moral suasion to control government corruption. People respond to incentives. If you don’t want them to sell you out then you have to pay them more."

In other words, for Smith, the mere desire to act morally cannot possibly be an incentive: incentives mean "material incentives" and only ma…

Weird English Advertising

Now having TV access for the first time in years, I'm noticing an odd new trend in advertising... or, at least it seems to be a trend. For instance, there is some bladder control ad featuring animated women made of plumbing fixtures, in which the following two sentences occur:

"I have better things to do than only go to the bathroom."

"You have better things to join than always a line for the bathroom."

Now, it's one thing for an ad to be ungrammatical in a homey sort of way, to get in touch with the common Joe, e.g., "I ain't got no time for none of that."

But the two sentences quoted above are not constructed the way any native English speaker would speak in the placement of "always" and "only." (Although if ads like this keep running I assume that soon native English speakers will begin speaking like this.) Now the copywriters had to have know that they were writing very weirdly, so that means it was a strategic move... …

Steve, They Aren't Listening

My friend Steve Horwitz tried to explain what Austrian economics is and isn't.

But I fear Steve casts pearls before swine; see this article, in which the author "defines" Austrian economics as:

"What's more, Paul is a big believer in Austrian economic thought – the idea that government has no role in regulating the economy."

Because, you know, that's exactly what Friedrich von Wieser thought.

Kirznerian Baseball

is described here.

Arnold Kling on One-Sided Bets

Here.

Money quote:
'If I offer flood insurance in New Orleans on behalf of my company, my bet might be "There won't be another Katrina in 2011." Let's say that we lose $1 billion if I am wrong, and we win $1 million (in insurance premiums) if I am right. If the chance of another Katrina is one out of 1000, that is a fair bet. But I can choose to make that bet even if the chance is 1 out of 50. The chances are 49 out of 50 that this deal will show a nice profit and I can get a fat bonus, and 1 out of 50 that I lose my job and the shareholders take big losses. A reasonable deal--at least for me.'

This sort of thing goes on in financial companies all the time. Traders make bets far, far more risky (given the payoffs) than they would if it were their own money. But you could make one of these a year for fifty years and the odds would be you're fine. Until the 51st year, when you bring down Barings.

How Many Stupid Things Can You Say in One Sentence?

Listen to Bob Beckel below, starting at about 1:00. He calls for Julian Assange's assassination (because Bob's not in favour of the death penalty!), and then says (I'm transcribing as accurately as I can, but probably got a word or two wrong):

"a dead man can't leak stuff..."
-- Ahem, Bob, the whole point of the threat is that if he is killed, then he will leak more stuff, because, you know, he already has it and it's already on hundreds of servers.

"this guy is a traitor"
-- Er, Bob, he's not a US citizen.

"a treasonist"

-- Er, Bob, he's not a US citizen.

"and he has broken every law of the United States"
-- 1) he's not under US jurisdiction, Bob; and
2) every law?! Does Bob mean he thinks Assange has shot bald eagles, counterfeited US money, cheated on his taxes, brought a minor across state lines for illicit purposes, trafficked in cocaine, etc. etc.?

Now, amusingly, while one part of the US media openly calls …

Reflection No. 17

There are days when I think this narcissism business is all about me.

HFCS

Here is a little slide show on high fructose corn syrup which makes the point I would have though obvious: it's sugar, folks!

'"Really, it's just sugar in liquid form—no different biochemically from common table sugar," explains Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.'

But there are some rather surprising assertions made:

'But it also lurks in other types of foods that may come as a surprise: ketchup, frozen dinners, salad dressing, bread, marinades, cereal, canned vegetables—the list goes on and on. "About 30 to 40 percent of all products in the center of the grocery store have high-fructose corn syrup. And people don't expect any sugar in these foods," points out Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru.'

There are people who don't know that Captain Crunch contains sugar?!

And here's Lempert again: '"We have no idea what real food tastes like anymore because of all…

Great Piece on the Paradox at the Heart of Conservatism...

here, by Patrick Deneen.

What I Meant Was, You Should See...

these works I've listed, not that I have seen them.

That was my thought on reading yet another book whose references consist in footnotes that list only the author and year of a dozen or so other works, works from which not a single quote is used, of which no analysis is performed, and which are never referenced again in the work being read.1

1 For early works on how to pile up an impressive number of references in your work without actually reading any of them, see Smith(1692), Jones (1743), Johnson (1894), and Filbert (1902). For more modern approaches to padding your bibliography, consult Murphy (1963), Mangrove-Throatwarbler (1975), Fitzsimmons (1987) and Depardieu (2001). A game theoretic approach to pretending you've read any number of books you've never even laid eyes upon is discussed in Bozo (1999), Hunter (2002), Lesh (2004), and Alias (2007).

Was Your Wish for the Holidays...

to hear Vampire Weekend up to twenty times per day, often accompanied by a bunch of preppy douches acting really stupidly? Then I bet you're having a good holiday!

More Ridley

And here is the always sharp John Gray, making some of the points I made on Ridley and more besides:
Whatever political goals it is used to promote, the idea of cultural evolution is not much more than a misleading metaphor. Laissez-faire was not the result of any spontaneous process of social evolution; it was imposed on society through the use of state power. Memes are just a pseudo-scientific way of talking about ideas, not actually existing physical entities. There is nothing in society that resembles the natural selection of random genetic mutations; even if such a mechanism existed, there is nothing to say its workings would be benign. Bad ideas do not evolve into better ones. They tend to recur, as racist memes are doing at present in parts of the world where economic dis­location is reviving hatred of minorities and immigrants. Knowledge advances, but in ethics and politics the same old rubbish keeps on piling up. The idea of social evolution is rubbish of this kind, a virulent…

How Did Ridley Happen?

It's always surprising to me how someone who keeps saying very silly things can find the stars align with his silliness, and he's really big for a couple of years. Recent case in point: Matt Ridley.

Here Ridley tries to compare the role of trade in "social evolution" to that of sex in biological evolution:
The notion that exchange stimulated innovation by bringing together different ideas has a close parallel in biological evolution. The Darwinian process by which creatures change depends crucially on sexual reproduction, which brings together mutations from different lineages. Without sex, the best mutations defeat the second best, which then get lost to posterity. With sex, they come together and join the same team. So sex makes evolution a collective and cumulative process...Well, this is all very good. Or would be, if not for the facts that:
1) The "Darwinian process" cooked along fine for a couple of billion years without sexual reproduction, so it could…

Is There Really a Market for...

OK, there is a company that is marketing a whole line of Mark Twain / Nikola Tesla goods "for all fans of the two geniuses that have strongly influenced our modern world."

Is it remotely possible that this is a viable product line? Now, I've never met a Mark Twain fan (no, not just someone who liked Tom Sawyer, but someone who wants to wear a Twain t-shirt), nor a Nikola Tesla fan. But this product line assumes there is a fair number of people who want both men on their t-shirt, since every product features both of them.

Have I missed a huge surge in Twain / Tesla joint fanship?

I'm Rationally Addicted!

Bob Murphy sent me:

Well, I'd Like to Read This, But...

My friends Pete Boettke and Pete Leeson have edited The Legacy of Ludwig Von Mises, which I'd like to read, except:
1) Amazon is not offering a Table of Contents, so I can't really tell if what is in it is new to me; but, more importantly...
2) The price is... wait for it... $590.

Aaargh, the pirate in me says -- my opportunity cost for buying this is 10 or 20 normally priced books.

F****n Spell Checker!

This site is pretty funny. I really like the one where some guy used the word “Badonkadonk” once, after which his phone "decided it was important and now replaces many words with [it]."

Oakeshott on Rome and America

I have reached an agreement with Imprint Academic to publish my new book, which currently has the title above, in the first half of 2012.

Doug Casey, Shining the Light on Sociopaths...

Turns it on himself:

"I’m fond of saying, 'Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law – but be prepared to accept the consequences.'"

Yes, well, Doug, someone who regards that as the whole of the law would pretty much be... a sociopath, hey?

Discovery of the Decade? Century?

Detailed here. If this is actually as it's being reported, it is a phenomenal, science-shattering find. When thinking of a discovery with which to compare this one, I came up with SN 1572.

UPDATE: One of the paper's authors is Paul Davies!

David Gordon Reveals a Disturbing Fact

He details how, when people were not directly under the control of Rothbard, they started to think for themselves!

"There is indeed an Austrian program at George Mason, but Rothbard was proved correct. Absent his guidance, the program veered from his ideas."

I remember that L. Ron Hubbard used to complain about this all the time: as soon as he gave up direct control of any Scientology organization, people started "squirreling," meaning thinking for themselves. What bad news.

The Great Glenn Greenwald

exposes Susan Molinari and Jonathan Capehart as tools:

Our "Democracy"

John Médaille pulls the covers off of it, and reveals the ugly truth underneath: "both [American] parties are really the same party with cosmetic differences for the entertainment and manipulation of the public."

Riding MetroNorth...

to work, and the conductor collecting tickets advances one row up the aisle, shouts "TICKETS!", collects them, advances one more row, and booms out "TICKETS!" once again. For every single row through the entire car.

Three-for Day!

Read my new post over at Think Markets, on scientism.

Accepting the Idea of a General Glut: A Heresy?

I've been going through Roger Garrison's absolutely wonderful Powerpoint presentations on Keynes versus Hayek (how the heck does he do all that stuff, anyway?!), and the process has brought to the fore something that has been in the back of my mind for a while now: Bob Murphy has referred to himself and me as "heretics" for concluding that a general glut is possible, contra some interpretations of Say's Law. But if we are, we are in good company, as Garrison's models allowing an economy to be "temporarily beyond the PPF" are exactly what Malthus and Sismondi were talking about back in the early nineteenth century -- it is possible for a person, or even the people making up an economy in general, to produce at "too high" a rate, in that the production will only be sold at a loss, and people later will regret having worked so much for the meagre benefits received. In fact, Roger and I, in our 2003 paper on the dot-com boom-and-bust, gave sp…

Have Aliens Taken Over...

making our oven mitts? Because every time I try to buy a pair they either have no thumbs, or thumbs in the middle of the palm, so I'm thinking two alien species are exporting these here for us.

The Economics of... Anarchy?

I received this in the mail today:

2010 FEE Prize for best book in Austrian Economics

Peter Leeson, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics Pirates, New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Third, and perhaps most importantly given the goals of the SDAE, Leeson makes an important contribution to the growing literature on the 'economics of anarchy.' This area of research attempts to understand how order can emerge in the absence of a formal state. What mechanisms facilitate interaction and cooperation where formal rules and regulations are either non-existent or dysfunctional? The power of Leeson’s analysis is to illuminate some of the mechanisms creating order where we would least expect it to emerge. Pirates, of course, were criminals—they stole from others and relied on violence where necessary. Given this, it is logical to assume that the anarchy in which pirates operated was disorderly and chaotic. In reality, however, pirate behavior was orderly and cooperative.

First of al…

Leftover Turkey Casserole

This came out very nicely:

1 lb. ziti
1 lb. leftover turkey, shredded
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 chicken bullion cube
1 can cannellini
1 can stewed tomatoes
Italian gouda, Italian fontina, and asiago to taste (roughly 1/4 lb. each)
Pepper and Italian herbs to taste

Cook ziti per package instructions.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute carrots, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian herbs and pepper. Once the carrots are softened and the onion translucent, stir in tomato paste, bullion cube, and half a cup of boiling water. Mix to make a thick sauce and then turn off heat and cover.

Rinse cannellini to remove mucus-like liquid that ships in the can.

Combine sauteed vegetables, pasta, turkey, tomatoes, and beans in casserole dish. Spread cheese out across top, then cover with foil.

Bake for 35 minutes, then remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.

Yum!

Laughing at Laffer

I recenty ran across, for the umpteenth time, a comment thread where some left-leaning person was saying, "Conservatives actually believe you can INCREASE government revenues by LOWERING taxes."

Now, if there is some conservative who thinks you can always raise revenues by lowering taxes, they are obviously nuts. (If the tax is at, say, 1%, you cannot get more revenue by lowering it to 0%.) But if some liberal thinks you can never increase revenues by lowering taxes, they are every bit as nuts. Essentially, the latter position involves the belief that price has no effect on demand. An nice example of a case where raising a tax caused revenues to plunge is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff.

Now, whether Arthur Laffer was right that, in 1980, taxes were high enough that lowering them would increase revenues is an empirical question. But the notion of the Laffer Curve, meaning that there is some level at which a decrease in taxes will raise revenues, is a simple matter of economic logic.

You Can Devise...

the most crude caricature of economism on the part of an economist you wish to make up.

But Bryan Caplan can still top you. (Hat tip to Scineram.)

What Is Up...

with the new McRib commercials? It looks like the people on screen are enjoying a nice diarrhea sandwich.

Who Dat Monster?

My daughter was watching a cartoon with some space alien monsters in it. The brown one with three eyes said to the two little ice-cream-cone monsters, "Sure, your theories were all wrong, but they led you to explore and find out new things."

"Emma," I said, "is that the Karl Popper monster?"

History of Economic Thought: Marx and Menger

Here are PFDs of my PowerPoint presentations on Marx and Menger:
Marx
Menger

The presentations have a bit of animation missing from the PDFs. Feel free to employ anything you find useful for your own lectures, etc. All images are public domain according to Wikipedia. Thanks to Bob Murphy for hosting.

What's Wrong with Connecticut?

Wicksteed on Marginalism

Some wonderful quotes from Common Sense, in which Philip Wicksteed explains marginalism as it applies to household management, brought to my attention by Sandra Peart and David Levy:
This task of home administration is not of uniform difficulty. Materfamilias will not mind who gets hold of the bread though she will exercise a general watchfulness against its being wasted, but when she has begun her first purchases of new potatoes for the year, she will be very careful to keep the dish under her own direct control and not let one of the children determine, at his own discretion, what is his proper share; for if she did there would be disproportionate gratification and disproportionate privation.

How to Design a Vibrant City

Image
NOT:

The above is a picture of Astana, Kazakhstan's new, rationalistically designed capital city. Just look at the life pouring across that central square!

(Hat-tip to Peter Hitchens.)

Most Hilarious Paper Conclusion?

Here:

"It is therefore possible to undo the effects of historical circumstances, though the results in this paper indicate that this process can take several decades."

So, in other words, we can "undo" the effects of historical circumstances with... a whole bunch of other historical circumstances! But of course, to the author, liberal, capitalist democracy is not a historical condition at all, but the logical pinnacle of human life.

Let Me Knock the Ladder Out from Under Myself for You

I recently was told about a conversation in which a Popperian assured his interlocutor that, "The only valid form of reasoning is deductive reasoning, so if someone says, 'I'm not using deductive reasoning,' that means they are admitting they are using invalid reasoning."

Now, the first bit of stupidity present in this argument is that... not one bit of it is deductive! In other words, by the arguer's own argument, his argument is itself invalid.

When it comes to the practical consequences of believing such rubbish, it is difficult to know what to say. Popperians, of course, regularly employ inductive reasoning, or not one of them would be left alive today. I recall one Popperian telling me, on hearing that I was moving to Hackney (in London), "Do you have any idea what the crime rate is there?" Clearly, this Popperian thought the past crime rate in Hackney would be a good predictor of the future crime rate there, about as plainly an inductive argum…

One of Those Trick Philosophy Questions

I was attending a philosophy conference at NYU today. I arrived at the registration desk and searched for my badge. I found it, but...

"Excuse me," I told the woman working the desk, "this is my badge, but the affiliation is wrong." (They had me from Sarah Lawrence College.)

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "Is the name wrong as well?"

I think we could have had a Wittgenstein moment if I had answered, "Yes, the name and affiliation are both wrong, but I'm still sure it's my badge."

When You Live in La-La-Land

the real world looks so strange:

"By the way, according to the New York State seat belt law, Police/Fire and Ambulances (along with Taxis, Liveries, and Buses other than School Buses—I wonder what’s up with that) are exempt from having to wear seat belts. Again, control for you and me, but not for the State’s “chosen.” Or perhaps the State just doesn’t love police, firemen, EMTs, cabbies, and bus drivers as much as it loves us?"

Perhaps David Kramer is unaware of this, but New York allows anyone, even LRC writers, to ride in buses, cabs, and livery vehicles. So, the "State's chosen" turns out to be... everyone! Hurray!

The "Message" of the Elections

From Michael Kinsley:

"Everybody will be talking in the next few days about the “message” of the elections. They mean, of course, the message from the voters. This is one of the treasured conventions of political journalism. Yesterday, the story was all about artifice and manipulation, the possible effect of the latest attack ad or absurd lie. Today, all that melts away. The election results are deemed to reflect grand historical trends. But my colleague Joe Scarborough got it right in these pages last week when he argued that the 2010 elections, for all their passion and vitriol, are basically irrelevant. Some people are voting Tuesday for calorie-free chocolate cake, and some are voting for fat-free ice cream. Neither option is actually available. Neither party’s candidates seriously addressed the national debt, except with proposals to make it even worse. Scarborough might have added that neither party’s candidates had much to say about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (except…

How to Dispute and Illustrate Your Opponent's Thesis in the Same Breath

In the latest issue of The Cato Journal, Richard L. Gordon reviewsThe New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America by Robert H. Nelson. He first asserts, contrary to the author of the book under review, that "Economic theory is not a religion..." In the very next paragraph he states, "The first is that economics is the only source of sensible appraisal of policies about the environment or other issues."

The only source?! I'd say that's a view with which a fundamentalist of any flavour could sympathize.

Continuing the War Against 'Meme'

In a rather interesting article on Islamaphobia, you can find the following:

'Zogby says President Bush may have “kept a lid on” the worst of the backlash after 9/11, however selfishly, by promoting the meme that his military invasions were not a “war on Muslims.”'

Sigh. Would there have been anything lost by using the word 'idea' in that sentence, instead of 'meme,' besides an air of trendy, pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo?

Hold a Mirror Up to Rush Limbaugh and What Do You Get?

Rachel Maddow!

The State of Writing

From ESPN.com:

"Sanchez and the Jets, though, were explosive enough to score 10 points in the last 2:46 and on the opening drive of OT."

So they scored 10 points in the last 2:46 and another 10 on the opening drive of OT? That's a lot of points on one drive!

"Detroit got off to a good start and led for much of the game, but couldn't make enough winning plays on both sides of the ball to snap New York's seven-game winning streak on the road."

Not only could Detroit not make "enough" winning plays, they couldn't make any. Because, you know, if you make a winning play, you win. And they didn't win.

What Are These Folks Doing?

Image

James Surowiecki

on procrastination and akrasia in The New Yorker.

St. Paul, Rejecting Methodological Individualism (and Holism)

For a dynamic, dialectical view of the relationship between individual and society:

“to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all... For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body... When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. Or when one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." (12:7-12:26)

(Hat tip to Patrick J. Deneen.)

In Evolutionary Psychology...

some explanations are clearly bunk, but this one is brilliant.

Some Things Just Have to Be Seen...

to be believed:

IHTS

Oh boy. I'm five pages into Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini's What Darwin Got Wrong and they have already introduced five entirely gratuitous acronyms, so that I'm reading sentences like (and here I exaggerate a little, but very little, for effect), "If we are correct that in ET, NS is separable from GS and, in its reliance on S-R, analogous to OT, then our case is made."

Why, oh why, do analytical philosophers write like this?

Correction?

"Après le déluge, c’est moi." Isn't that supposed to be in Italian??

Inexplicable NFL Calls

The Vikings had the ball with a handful of seconds left in the first half. They tried a long bomb to Randy Moss. He caught it, but got called for pass interference. The Vikings then let the clock run out, although they had time for two more bombs.

One of the announcers was so puzzled that she went and asked Minnesota's head coach about it at halftime. His explanation? "We decided we were going to take one shot at it."

That's an explanation?! That describes what they did, but certainly does not explain it. You just saw Randy Moss could beat his defender. Why not let him try again? (And Moss agreed with me: He was clearly exasperated when the Vikings ran out the clock.) I see teams do this a lot. But why isn't it a straight probability calculation: Yes, there is some chance a bomb will be intercepted and returned for a touchdown, but isn't that a miniscule probability compared to the (still tiny) chance that your team will score?

Also: Brett Favre is done. Stic…

Aristotle the Utopian

Having assigned my students a paper on Aristotle's economic thought, I was shocked to see how many of them characterized the Philosopher as "utopian" and "an idealist." I puzzled over this until I realized the cause: Any check, moral or legal, on acquisitiveness is seen by young people today as utopian! They cannot conceive that acquiring a certain amount of wealth, while often necessary to living a good life, is not sufficient; for them the good life simply is getting lots of stuff.

Markets are wonderful tools that promote allocative efficiency. But this is what happens when markets are allowed to run untrammeled over society: instead of being properly understood as tools, the tools are worshipped as ends in and of themselves. The moneychangers don't just have a booth in the temple; they are now the priests running it.

The Wellspring of Religious Tolerance

I was thinking about a recent post by Bob Murphy when I came across this:

"Since no name can apprehend the divine, or exhaust its meaning, it can therefore be conceded, on the other hand, that all names, in so far as they proceed from a genuine religious conviction and are conscious of their limited and mediate capacity, may be assured of a certain relationship to the divine. Thus apparent scepticism first opens the way to variety, freedom and scope in moral and religious ways of life, and transfers the centre of religious 'truth' from gogma to the ways of life themselves. Henceforth, neither variety nor contradiction in religion need give offence." -- Ernst Cassirer, The Platonic Renaissance in England (Cassirer is here discussing the work of Nicolas of Cusa.)

Thus, religious tolerance and a frank admiration for religious diversity can be based not just upon a wishy-washy reluctance to hurt anyone's feelings, but also upon a sophisticated acknowledgement of the …

Our Boys

During WWII, a large flight of planes took off from two aircraft carriers. While they were away, one was sunk. Too many planes returned. When the hold was filled, the crew started tipping planes over the side so that others could land. This was duly reported in the stateside press, with the editorialization that this illustrated how much value our army put on the lives of our fighting men. Why did Martin, who told me this story, laugh?

How to (Subtly) Lie with Statistics

Look, I suspect the main thesis of this article is spot-on: Americans are less connected to their communities than they were a generation or two ago. But note the bogus maneuver executed in this paragraph:

"Moreover, the current that Putnam observed has, according to more recent studies, only intensified in the last decade. One study found that Americans had one-third fewer nonfamily confidants than they had 20 years earlier, and 25% had no one in whom to confide whatsoever. Another study of 3,000 Americans found that on average they had only four close social contacts, but these included family members like one's own spouse."

The theme of the paragraph is how Americans' isolation has "intensified in the last decade." And then several studies are cited to back that point. But, in fact, the last study cited, on its own, is totally irrelevant to the point at hand. It only describes the current state of American society, and gives us absolutely no traction fo…

When Primate Experts Try to Ape Philosophy

Yikes, the results are ugly. Let's start with this:

"For those who believe that morality comes straight from God the creator, acceptance of evolution would open a moral abyss."

Yes, is why the Catholic Church has refused to accept evolution all these... Wait, say what? The Catholic Church never rejected Darwin's theories, and now fully accepts that humans evolved from primates? And what, St. Augustine actually anticipated Darwin by some 1400 years?

Oh, never mind.

OK, but what about this little proof of the (basic) irrelevance of God to morality?

"Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago. Not that religion is irrelevant — I will get to this — but it is an add-on rather than the wellspring of moral…

Sir Isaac Newton, Part-Time Scientist

(I just found this in a comment and thought it should appear at the top level in the blog.)

Newton's priorities, in descending order of importance, seemed to be:

1) Perform dangerous alchemical experiments;
2) Work out odd theories of biblical exegesis;
3) Scheme to get his way within the Royal Society;
4) Run the mint;
5) Engage in priority disputes over 6) and 7);
6) Physical research, including other dangerous experiments such as inserting sharp needles deep into his eye socket; and
7) Mathematical research.

Now Available at ThinkMarkets

What Adam Smith Meant (I Believe)

Image
Although Smith's deer-beaver example in The Wealth of Nations may seem to employ a naive labor theory of value, I think this is what he would have said, had he the tools:
(See this post for more on the problem.)

I'm Interested in Australian Philosophy as Well as Austrian Economics

How's That, Chuck?

There is presently a controversy over counting absentee ballots from military personnel in New York -- details unimportant for our purposes. Chuck Schumer came on TV to comment on it, and said (I quote from memory) "These young men and women are fighting for our right to vote, and it's wrong to deny them theirs."

Ah, yes, Chuck, so the main platform of the Taliban is to deny American citizens the vote, is it?

Isn't Amazing...

how the evolutionary junta have no problem spouting off on philosophy (often, as in the case of Dawkins, really, really badly), but when a philosopher comments on the philosophy of evolutionary theory, throw a fit?

From the post:
"Of course, Fodor is not the first author to be on the receiving end of this “argument from professional jurisdiction.” This is the first rhetorical tick of any Darwinian when their theories are challenged; instantly, they complain that the critic has not properly understood evolutionary theory, and loudly lament the intrusion of the unscientific mind upon such topics."

The Presidential Election of 2008...

says something great about the spirit of the American people. To elect another Irishman so soon after Reagan was truly a healing gesture:

Instead of Working for Actually Possible Improvements...

it's more fun, and much, much easier, to sit back and dump on those who do!

Conoscete che cosa mi importuna?

I menu di DVD, quello è che cosa mi importuna. Sono progettati dalla gente che non ha utilizzato mai un computer? Il modo che queste cose dovrebbero lavorare è stato sistemato gli anni fa!

Holy Crap!

Image
I walked out on the porch in PA last night. When I turned the corner of the house I found myself face to face with:


(This photo was taken after I scooted back inside, out the second floor window.) Although you can only see two in this photo, there were three -- one guy was busy digging up my newly planted daffodils in the front.

The worst part of the whole episode is that they pulled my pants off the clothesline... and pissed on them! Thems fightin' actions!

Something We Can Learn by Induction

Never think discussions with critical rationalist will be critical or rational.

Cie

Slex voana irre menenthoushelie ktasthoeithadnrmen. De se sre naihk doeloeketrietie.

Signs of the Times

Image
Man, for $25 I want my dinner post-fixed, not pre-fixed.


What?! You don't have a honey, luggage, and clothing store near you? What do you wear?

My Breakthrough Invention

So, my friend Gerry Scott and I are talking about how people wander around in a mobile-device-addiction haze. He said this very morning he saw someone step right in front of a city bus while texting on their iPhone. The guy behind him caught his collar and yanked the hapless pedestrian out of the way... and the fellow turned on his saviour and yelled, "What the hell are you doing?"

Gerry intervened, and said, "You were almost killed there, buddy -- you stepped right in front of a bus."

Gerry said the guy was stunned -- he had had no idea a bus was nearby. Which leads to my multi-million dollar invention: an IPhone app that alerts you when something is about to hit you. That way, you never, ever have to look up. You already have text there, sports scores, weather, your current location, voice mail, e-mail, and that beautiful sunset in the distance, why, you have a screensaver just like that! If I can just make this little app that flashes up and says, "Step bac…

Difficoltà che aggiunge le osservazioni

Blogger sembra incontrare difficoltà con l'aggiunta delle vostre osservazioni. Ci scusiamo.

(Trouble adding comments, mates.)

Il genio di Hegel

"The only difference between being caught up in a system of opinions and prejudices based on personal conviction, and being caught up in one based on the authority of others, lies in the added conceit that is innate in the former position."

"The conceit which understands how to belittle every truth, in order to turn back into itself and gloat over its own understanding, which knows how to dissolve every thought and always find the same barren Ego instead of any content -- this is a satisfaction which we must leave to itself, for it flees the universal, and seeks only to be for itself."

Meanwhile, Here in the World of Actually Existing Capitalism

Our insurance company was disputing with us about where we lived (Brooklyn or Pennsylvania). Finally, we seemed to convince the person on the phone that the car is in Pennsylvania enough of the time that we qualify for insurance there. We were all set -- we thought.

The next we heard from them, it was a notice saying our insurance had been cancelled -- for several months! So, we called to sort this out. The lady on the phone explained that it was the fault of vague notes taken during the previous conversation, and our insurance would be restored.

"So," she added, "what we'll do is give you retroactive coverage for the time you had no insurance, and you can pay for that."

"But why," I asked, "do I need retroactive coverage, when I think there is little chance I will have a retroactive accident?"

"Well, otherwise, you'd have a break in coverage, and we'd have to charge you a lot more to restore your coverage."

"You mean…

Hey, Progressives...

are you a little bothered by Obama ordering hits on US citizens, and that, as Greenwald notes, "not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality"?

The Idea of a Pciture

Staring out the frames of the windows at my campus library yesterday, I wondered, "Did we get the idea of a picture from staring out of a cave and seeing a 'snapshot' of the world framed in the cave entrance? Is it a coincidence that the first painting appear amongst people who dwelt in caves?"

Do You Know About...

the Battle of Plassey, in which a private company fought the ruler of Bengal and used its victory to gain rule over the subcontinent of India! But... but... I thought private companies only engaged in voluntary transactions, and only governments conquered territories!

Might and Meaning

Might and Meaning

The mood took me over the hill,
Giving me some suchness to consider,
But I didn't. Fuck suchness, and fuck
The almighty God-worn meaning.

I honor those who study meaning;
That is a lost cause, for meaning
Cannot be rectified, no matter what
Your lexicographers are telling you,

O mighty one. Speaking of meaning,
I didn't mean this to be an appeal
To you for support, O mighty one,
But now that it is, please give generously.

Can we not describe this differently,
O mighty one? I shall of course
Lie however blatantly you desire,
O mighty one. But, if I may presume,

Think of your subject public: it may not matter
What they think, but their collective fear
Is like smog, and, as for smog,
Can be wiped away with good rule.

Why We're Fat

What Is So Austrian About Austrian Economics?

I'm really starting to like Emerald Publishing -- it seems like they're intending to publish several papers of mine per week. Today, we have The role of ideal types in Austrian business cycle theory.

Non Sto Riuscendo ad Eseguire Come Promesso

Mio blogging in italiano ha diminuito severamente quando sono andato nel Regno Unito e mi non ho avuto mio dizionario italiano. Dovrei ottenere occupato.

Critical Realism... or Critical Idealism?

Now in print, on Tony Lawson's philosophy of economics.

Are There Members of Any Other Species...

Image
that spend hours a day waiting for other's of their kind to get out of their way?

What Malthus and Sismondi Were Thinking re a General Glut

So, now that I think I understand what these folks were thinking about, thanks to Thomas Sowell's On Classical Economics, let me describe the sort of scenario I believe that they had in mind.

Imagine Bob Murphy, Silas Barta and I are living on a desert island. First Bob and I set Silas adrift at sea on a small raft while he's sleeping. (Just kidding, Silas! We love you, man.) Then we set about catching fish from the island's lagoon with our rough-hewn spears. In three hours a day, we each catch about five or six fish, enough to feed us well. Then we spend the rest of the day discussing teleology.

One day, Silas says, "Guys, we don't work that much. We could really increase our productivity if we worked six hours a day." Bob and I reluctantly go along. That day, we each catch a dozen fish, but are too tired to discuss teleology.

We each eat six of the fish and feel decently full. We eat three more each, and now we're stuffed. We take our last three and bu…

There's Thinking, Then There's Thinking...

I was watching The Visitor (a movie that starts with an economist leaving Connecticut to present a paper at NYU -- at first I thought it might be a movie about Bill Butos), which turned out to be a very nice movie, despite being about feelings. But there was one scene where the younger Syrian drummer who is a major character is giving the economist drum lessons, and he says to him: "Walter, you're a very smart guy, but I have to tell you, don't think. Thinking only gets in the way of drumming."

Man, the errors one can fall into through a lack of study of British Idealist philosophers! You hear the same thing regarding athletics, and its equally wrong in both areas. Having had some minor success as a musician and a swimmer, I can say you perform best when you are thinking intensively, exclusively, about your playing or swimming. But you have to be thinking musically or swimmingly, and not thinking abstract, verbal thoughts about playing or swimming. That's what&#…

Say What, Murray?

I am reading Thomas Sowell's On Classical Economics, which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far. He was describing the debate between J.B. Say, on one side, and Thomas Malthus and Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi, on the other, over Say's Law. Sowell notes that these critics of Say's Law never suggested the possibility of a "permanent glut," but merely that there is an equilibrium level of aggregate income, and production might overshoot that at times. But John Stuart Mill never bothered to read Malthus or Sismondi on this point (he thought his father and Say had decisively refuted them, so there was no need), and he falsely attributed to them the idea of the permanent glut.

"Hmm," I said to myself, "a vulgar, popular distortion of the ideas of economists who might appear to be market critics? I bet I know who gleefully repeated that!" So I pulled Rothbard's Classical Economics off of the shelf, and... man, I think I'm four-for-four in the…

Well, You Get Wabulon, Don't You?

As explained here.

Instituting a Government of Laws, Not Men

The Private Security Guard Is Not Your Friend

There has, of late, been a spate of Internet writing maintaining that "the policeman is not your friend."

Well, a listen a what me a see. I was book shopping at Waterstone's in Cardiff, checking out the "Staff Picks" near the front of the store. I noticed a couple of security guards furtively peering out upon the public square beyond the storefront and talking on their Secret-Service headsets. This got my attention. I paid for my book and went out and took a seat in the square. I sat down and pretended to read while I watched the action. There were three 12-year-olds being plenty furtive themselves, hiding behind trees, peeking at some bicycles. (I had heard security say, "They're going to take the orange one," and there was, indeed, an orange bike, so I knew I had my "men.") I stared at the obvious ringleader and shook my head a bit. Rather than getting my message, that he'd been spotted and should back off, he stared back and said,…

Winning Reliever Signs Adam's Ball

Image

Adam Interviewed by NY1

Image

Stupid Willow Tree

Stupid Willow Tree

Stupid willow tree, your branches hang
Down upon the muddy swampland,
And I thrust myself into the situation,
Wondering what it means
To look like a shower of rain.

In this dark water, like ghosts,
Willow trees and their kin
Add to the beautiful confusion
Where no one can know
What actually happened.

Who cares? The sight is seen, the shallow
Green water conceals nothing. And then?
Onward into the next bayou. And then?

One Kiloyear

One Kiloyear

One millisecond = one kiloyear divided by twenty-nine trillion four hundred and ninety-one billion two hundred million.

One centisecond = one kiloyear divided by two trillion nine hundred and forty-nine billion one hundred and twenty million.

One decisecond = one kiloyear divided by two hundred and ninety-four billion nine hundred and twelve million.

One second = one kiloyear divided by twenty-nine billion four hundred and ninety-one million two hundred thousand.

One dekasecond = one kiloyear divided by two billion nine hundred and forty-nine million one hundred and twenty thousand.

One hectosecond = one kiloyear divided by two hundred and ninety-four million nine hundred and twelve thousend.

One kilosecond = one kiloyear divided by twenty-nine million four hundred and ninety-one thousand two hundred.

One myriasecond = one kiloyear divided by two million nine hundred and forty-nine thousand one hundred and twenty.

God Visits Hell

God Visits Hell

God, in the Person of Jesus,
Harrowed Hell. Does He ever go back?
If He doesn't, what's the difference
Between a billion and a trillion?
Stupid priests: After awhile, how can
Longer and more be worse?
That's hardly eternal suffering;
That's just eternity--not the same.
Here's suffering: God calls down,
"Can you meet Me for dinner?"
Once every millisecond,
Or every thousand years, for ever
And ever. That's suffering. Stupid priests,
May your drabs be dragged in God's mud.

Good news!

Our financial masters have finally succeeding in stopping the loss of low-wage jobs to India, China, etc. By making the population of the US rust belt as poor as third-worlders, they can now practice near-sourcing!

It Don't Mean That!

It's amazing how many people have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that you can criticize an argument independently of whether you think the conclusion is sound. If someone says, "I believe the earth is round, because I like round things, and I like the earth!" they've presented a terrible argument. If you point that out to them, it's nonsense for them to come back with, "Ah, so you believe the earth is flat!"

Racial Feud

Is perhaps an alternate name for the TV game show Family Feud, since every single time I've seen it, it features a black family against a white family. I even caught the French version the other night, and the French, not reluctant to follow us in this regard, also had a white versus black match.

Silence Is Goulden

Just finished Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life, his description of the Cambrian explosion and what he sees as the philosophical implications arising from those distant events. The science writing is very good, although I understand his conclusions are still disputed.

But when Gould goes to draw the "implications" of the events he describes, what we get is typical scientistic nonsense. For instance, Gould contends that the very long time life has existed on Earth compared to the very short time, relatively speaking, that humans have existed demonstrates that the telos of life cannot been to have create humans. Yes, and I suppose if we can show that a composer spent twenty years composing, and then comes out with a one hour symphony, this demonstrates that the purpose of all that composing could not possibly have been the symphony, since the composing lasted so much longer than the symphony!

Murdering Cognitive Diversity

The Source of Science

"There is but one source for science: It must come from the Medieval insistence on the rationality of God." -- Alfred North Whitehead

Judgement Goes with Instinct

"True eloquence has no time for eloquence, true morality has no time for morality. In other words, the morality of judgement has no time for the random morality of mind.

"For judgement is what goes with instinct, just as knowledge goes with mind. Intuition falls to the lot of judgmement, mathematics to that of mind." -- Pascal, Pensées

UPDATE: I think Pascal is basically correct, but I would put this a little differently: I would say that instinct is a form of thought, and what he calls "mind" I would term "abstract thought."

Those Curious French Folks

In my hotel room there are two sinks and a shower. Both sinks are next to dispensers of hair and body wash. The only hand wash I can find is... in the shower!

Also of note: The handles by which one opens the shower doors are not knobs but... holes. Now, I´m not one of those freedom fries people, but this is clearly an instance where, say, a Brooklyn construction manager would have come in handy: "Listen, Jean Pierre Avantgarde, do you realize the purpose of them friggin doors is to keep the water in the shower, and if youse cuts holes in em, youse defeatin the point?"

A Positive Externality...

from trying to speak French in Paris: Lots and lots of free language lessons!

The Global Position of English

Who could have predicted, in, say 1300, that English would be the most widely spoken language in the world in a few hundred years? At that point the language was not only spoken on just one medium-sized island. It was also just one of the four major languages of that island (which included Scottish, Welsh, and Cornish), and it was not even the language of the rulers of the English people themselves. (They spoke Norman French.)

Insomniac TV News

* The UK seems to have a show on that consists entirely in showing people sleeping. It was on two channels throughout much of the night.

* An announcer on the BBC show Breakfast said, "And in disturbing news, it seems that four out of every ten victims of domestic violence are men." I was very unclear about what he found "disturbing" -- is it more women or more men he thinks should be victims?

Snow White

Image
And the seven drunken dwarves arrive at Nos Da: