Showing posts from February, 2010

Fantasy Is Not an Adult Policy Option

My article is online at The Freeman.

OK, I Was Annoyed by This Last Year...

And I'm annoyed again! It's the phrase "body of work", or, worse, "overall body of work", as used in talking NCAA basketball, that I'm talking about. Here's an example from Andy katz: "If the Boilermakers keep winning without Hummel, then why wouldn't Purdue get judged on its overall body of work?"

The reason it annoys me is that we had a perfectly good word to use in place of this longer, more pretentious phrase: "season". What Katz is saying could be re-written as, "why wouldn't Purdue get judged on its entire season?" I believe in every use I have ever seen "season" could be used in place of "body of work". Hey, but everyone is saying body of work, so maybe I'd better say it as well.

Weber Scholars? Looking for a Co-Author!

My class on The Great Transformation has been going through The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism the last two weeks, which has led me to think about the work in some depth. One thing that has struck me is that most of the criticisms of the work that I have run across are fairly shallow (I'm not saying deeper ones don't exist, only that there are plenty of shallow ones out there), in that, often, their critiques are things that Weber already addressed in the original book!

There is a good history of thought paper to be written here, with a target journal like the AJES. I'd like to find a co-author who would want to help with the research into popular critiques of Weber's thesis. Get in touch with me in the comments section at my blog, on Facebook, or via e-mail if you are interested.

Marginalism, Anyone?

Providence coach Kemo David on the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament from 65 to 96 teams:

"That's why there has been a lot of discussion about getting more teams in the NCAA tournament. There are a lot of bubble teams that couldn't just win one game but could win a few."

Because, you see, with only 65 teams, there will be some teams just marginally left out of the tournament, who might win a few games, but with 96 teams in... hmm, never mind.

During My Cab Ride This Morning...

I heard a spokesperson for Mt. Airy Resort and Casino claim "It doesn't get any better than this!"

That is the best case for suicide I've ever encountered. If it doesn't get any better than some cheesy, cutrate Pocono resort filled with gambling addicts, I'm out of here.

Wouldn't It Be Easier to Just Get Out of the Closet?


How I Can Tell I AM the Chosen One

Because God stuck my birthdate right in the number Pi! (Starting at digit 236,679.)

Eric Voegelin on the Judicious Hooker on Puritans

'In order to start a movement moving, there must be in the first place somebody who has a "cause." From the context in Hooker it appears that the term "cause" was a of recent usage in politics and that probably lie the Puritans had invented this formidable weapon of the Gnostic revolutionaries. In order to advance his "cause," the man who has it will, "in the hearing of the multitude," indulge in severe criticisms of social evils in a particular in the conduct of the upper classes. Frequent repetition of the performance will induce the opinion among the hearers that the speakers must be men of singular integrity, zeal, and holiness, for only men who are singularly good can be so deeply offended by evil. The next will be the concentration of popular ill-will on the established government. This task can be psychologically performed by attributing all fault and corruption, as it exists in the world because of human frailty, to the action or ina…

Great Post from Matt Welch

Given that federal regulatory spending vastly increased during the Bush administration, how, exactly, was deregulation the problem causing the "Great Recession"? As Matt wisely notes, this does not mean that certain deregulations were not harmful, but it does make the overall thesis appear very weird.

Idiotic Ancients II

Hey, Gene, I remember your comments on those long ago posts long ago, I do, I do. And I'm not a Beltware libertarian, I am, I am. And what did Toyota understand about its safety issues, and when? And I certainly contest that "the point of the sentence was to 'mock the ideas of pre-Enlightenment thinkers.'" And I'm absolutely unhasitatingly in favor of crystalline polyhedrons and of Johannes Kepler, and of the Dixie Chicks.

So: consider that you are a moron in a mental institution, drooling at an Occupation Therapy table with a clump of modelling clay. You roll the clay into countless tiny balls and drop them into an otherwise empty clam chowder can. When the can is full, you place the top back on the can and patiently press, until all the excess space has been expelled. The once spheres will now have fetched up against each other and thus have become polyhedra. Still drooling, you dump them out of the can, carefully separate them, and count their sides. What w…

Compare and Contrast

"All ends and all means, both material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which picks out one thing and sets aside another. Nothing that men aim at or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement into a unique scale of gradation and preference." -- Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

"But though impulse is, as it were, the foundation of all action, the hedonist is wrong in arguing--as in effect he must argue--that economic and moral acts differ in nothing essential from acts of pure impulse. The mere fact that he has to twist these types of action into conformity with his standard shows that hedonism is a dialectical tour de force rather than an unbiased statement of the facts. We may applaud his ingenuity in showing that the sweated labourer and the religious martyr are simply enjoying themselves, but even he is not really convinced by it... the hedonist's efforts to drag econ…

Cat + Bag = Out Cat - Bag = Out Bag - Cat = Out

Bryan Caplan lets the cat out of the bag with his post, 'Applied Economics Assumes Selfishness, and Rightly So'. In that post, he writes:

'Yes, I know that textbooks love to claim that economics assumes "optimizing behavior," not "self-interest." But whenever economists do applied work, they quickly slide to self-interest. You know why? Because although people aren't perfectly selfish, they're shockingly close. That's why economics tells us so much about the world.'

And Caplan is absolutely corrrect in the above. The backpedaling economists often engage in when challenged on this, the disclaimer, 'No, no, the martyr fits our models just as well as the hedonist does,' is, as Caplan notes, an abuse of ordinary English.

What Caplan does not see is the larger picture: the ubiquity of such individuals in our midst, whose life is focused on maximizing their own material welfare, is largely itself a product of modern, liberal individua…

How Do You Know Someone Has "Gone Radical"?

They got a haircut:

'"and police were suspicious that the student's hair was shorter that day than it was in his Pennsylvania driver's license photo. "That," Lt. Louis Liberati said, is "an indication sometimes that somebody may have gone through a radicalization."'

Training in Economics...

provides no basis for wisely choosing political policies: 'To assume the economist who is trained in theory and statistical techniques must be an expert in economic policy is similar to assuming that a chemist must be a good cook.' --David Colander

OK, So What Have I Been Up to These Last Four Years?

Well, by the end of this week I will be handing in the penultimate draft of my PhD dissertation to my advisor (penultimate in that I will revise it according to his comments before it is submitted to my examination committee). In keeping with his dictum to 'write the introduction last,' I have just completed my introductory synopsis of my work tonight. So, what the heck, let me put this synopsis out here -- I'm not sure what you can make of it, but a lot of my readers are very bright people, and might have something worthwhile to say about whether or not this summary conveys to the reader an initial sense of what the work is about. Comment away!


Chapter I explores Oakeshott’s concept of rationalism, and specifically rationalism in politics, in more depth. In particular, we will trace, in a way that I am not aware of having been done previously, how we can see the idea of rationalism forms a continuous thread running from his earliest book to his latest writings, and…

Saving the Fregean Theory of Propositions?

Gottlob Frege developed a theory of propositions that assert the elements of propositions are concepts, or modes of presentation. (I'm not sure 'concept' really captures 'mode of presentation', but no worries about that for now.) Steven Schiffer offers the following objection to the Fregean theory of proposition, which he attributes to Adam Pautz:

(1) If the Fregean theory is true, then (α) 'Fido' occurs in 'Ralph believes that Fido is a dog' as a singular term whose referent is a concept of Fido.
2) If (α), then the following inference is valid:
________Ralph believes that Fido is a dog
________∴∃x( x is a concept and Ralph believes that x is a dog).
3) But the inference isn't valid; given the truth of the premise, the conclusion is also true only in the unlikely event that Ralph mistakes a concept for a dog.
4) ∴The Fregean theory is not true.
(Source: Shiffer (2003) The Things We Mean, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 27.)

But is the p…

Another Tragic Drug Death

Rationalism in Architecture

And its spectacular design failures. (Hat tip to Radley Balko.)

Callahan Versus Murphy Throwdown on Counterfeiting

I wrote this to Bob about a recent article of his:


In the case of counterfeiting, this charge against the Fed takes as the essential component of counterfeiting to be using a printing press to produce money, i.e., it is the physical means used to produce an object that are in question. So, if that's the case, let us look at counterfeiting a painting. Hmm, a counterfeiter used brushes, oil paints and a canvas to counterfeit the Mona Lisa... therefore, since Leonardo produced the original in the same way, he was a counterfeiter as well!

Something has gone horribly wrong here, and it was in step one -- the essence of counterfeiting has nothing to do with the physical process used -- in fact, that process will probably be as close to the one used to produce the original as possible. No, the essence of counterfeiting is to take an original item of value, try to copy it as closely as possible, and then fraudulently try to pass off your copy as the original -- and in the case of fiat …

Protestant Versus Catholic Heaven

Why Do Philosophers Do That?

I've been reading a lot of philosophical papers lately. Now, I must say, pretty universally, these folks are very smart people. But modern, analytical philosophers have this weird habit of wanting to express everything in mathematical-looking variables. So the papers I'm reading often begin with something like, "Let us say we have a speaker." But then they stipulate that "a speaker" will henceforth appear as 'S'. OK, and this speaker makes some statements... but henceforth these are to be designated as σ1 to σn. And there are reasons for σ1 to σn, which are truth conditional on ρ1(t) to ρn(t), depending upon circumstances C.

And eventually, you're reading something like "When τ is in the set ρ1(t) to ρn(t), the χ value of the ιth of the μ2 matrix of the NX to the NX + N meaning subset of the n-invariant dominatrices of the set of all philosophers, is, of course, truth invariant."

Now, as someone who was a software engineer for 17 years, …

When Camouflage Fails

Do they realize we can see them?

Worst Game by a QB Ever?

My younger son and I were looking at this page, of quarterbacks who have had a passer rating of 0 in a game. Now, it turns out that the NFL artificially caps how low you can go by not letting anything you do count for less than zero, no matter how bad it is. (For instance, part b of the formula is ((yards / attempt) - 3) * .25. Clearly, if you have three yards per attempt, you get a zero -- but even if you have -20 per attempt, you also get a zero.

Well, we didn't do all the calculations to see how low anyone would have gone were the zero floor removed, but here's our candidate:

Versus the Bengals, on 12/12/1976, Joe Namath went 4 for 15 passing, for 20 yards with 4 interceptions, which we figure earned Joe a whopping -848 passer rating for the game, if there was no floor.

Interestingly, the Jets yanked Namath, and his replacement, Richard Todd, also had a zero passer rating that game!

You Learn Something New Everyday!

My kids just told me that Joe Montana

is not actually the father of Hannah Montana

whose real father is Joe's half brother, Billy Ray Cyrus

who changed her name in honor of Joe's retirement.