Showing posts from August, 2010

The Lord Will Have His Little Jokes

Like hallucigenia.

Science Fad in Trouble

Stop Gramercy Green!

as Roderick Long declares we must.

"The Stagirite"? "Onassis"?

I called a used bookstore and asked if they had a copy of Aristotle's Politics.

The clerk on the line asked, "Can you spell his last name for me?"

So, what would you prefer: A highly informed psychopath or someone uninformed, but very pleasant?

UPDATE: OK, so I'm living in a Seinfeld episode. I go out to buy the book I need, and then walk into the health food store next door... and there's the guy from Atlantic Bookshop! And he recognize me, but only as some customer, and not the phone confrontation guy! Ah! If only I had Kramer with me, we could have cooked up some excellent stunt that would have backfired and cost us $500.

Stavo Leggendo...

questo rapporto da ABC News, quando ho notato qualche cosa di interessante: Tutti quattro contributori sono donne. "And the times they are a' changin'."

Non È Sempre L'ignoranza Economica...

[English follows.]

Quello è dietro le critiche del mercato. Per esempio, consideri Karl Polanyi, un uomo che ha conosciuto molto bene il suoi Mises e Hayek. E Polanyi non nega mai gli argomenti di Mises e di Hayek riguardo alla efficienza del mercato. Invece, si contende che questo efficienza viene ad un tal prezzo che gli esseri umani sempre ribelleranno ed agiranno per ostacolare il mercato. Ed è d'accordo con Mises e Hayek che tali manovre distruggono il buon funzionamento del mercato. Nota semplicemente che l'alternativa è che il mercato distrugge la società umana.


It is not always ignorance of economics that is behind market critics. For example, consider Karl Polanyi, who knows his Mises and Hayek well. And Polanyi does not deny the arguments of Mises and Hayek regarding the efficiency of the market. Instead, he contends that this efficiency comes at such a high price that humans always rebel and act to hinder the market. And he is in accord with Mises and Hayek …

The Mind of a Muslim-Hater, Such As It Is...

Just saw this circulating on Facebook:

"I tend to not be tolerable of people who's religion tells them to kill me."

And I tend to be not tolerabable of people whose isn't able to form gud English sentences.

James Joyce...

I Wasn't Wrong!

It's reality that was inaccurate:

"Sung Won Sohn, economics professor at Cal State University Channel Islands... estimates that the risk of a double dip has risen to 40% from only a 25% chance at the start of the year."

OK, Blogger Has Been Having Some Severe Troubles Today

For ten minutes, I was totally shut out of posting or commenting on my own blog. And now, attempting to post a comment, I keep getting a message saying that, "The requested URL is too large." What the hell is that supposed to mean? There is no URL in my post at all.

Ah, actually existing capitalism...

Another View of the History of Economic Thought

When I read my friend Pete Boettke's syllabus for his history of economic thought course (there is a link to the syllabus in the post) and compared it to mine, I found the difference fascinating. The way I'd characterize it is that Pete is teaching an economist's history of economic thought, while I'm teaching a philosopher's history of economic thought. As I see it, Pete is teaching economists-in-training the history of their subject that is most relevant to their discipline as it is currently practiced, while I am looking at thinkers irrelevant from that point of view because I am trying to locate the place of economics in human knowledge as a whole. Both approaches, I think, are valid, and, given that Pete is training professional economists and not philosophers, his strikes me as appropriate for his setting. I just found the difference interesting.

By the way, given that Pete's post is a defense of the study of the history of thought, it led me to recall si…

Lady Liberty Is the Target...

Competing, Non-Territorial Defense Agencies

Existed for several hundred years. The structure in which they existed is today called "the feudal system."

How did it work out? The agencies were continually fighting each other. Quite often, the way they fought was to try to kill as many of the clients of another agency as possible, so as to convince them that the agency they were with was terrible. But it was difficult to get the clients to defect, as often their own defense agency held them as virtual slaves (called "serfs"). The violence was so brutal and widespread that it led to the Peace of God movement.

So, let's try that again!

UPDATE: By the way, I understand: The competing defense agencies in your imagination don't behave anything like those nasty real ones did! Why, the imaginary ones, for instance, would never dream of enslaving their own clients, because... because, well, they'd look in The Ethics of Liberty, and it wouldn't be in there!

I have been reassured similarly by many Marxist…

What Are Those Things on My Shelves?

Those slim volumes of bound paper with words printed all over them? I can't say.

Worst Financial Commentary Ever?

When I worked at a hedge fund, the taders were constantly mocking the "explanations" for price movements being offered in the financial press. But today I saw perhaps the "best" "explanation" I have encoutered. I don't think CNN offers an embed link to this video -- and once you listen to the pearls of financial wisdom, you'll understand why. Explaining the reason gold prices are rising, Carter Evans reveals the secrets of high finance:

"[Gold is going up] because the amount of gold can actually be accounted for whereas stocks and paper currency are really just a representation."

So there you have it folks: gold is going up because there is no possible way of knowing just how much IBM stock there is out there, while for gold, we know the exact quantity to the ounce, even of the undiscovered bits still in the ground.

Semiotics and GUI Design

In an effort to keep track of old material, I again link to the new location of Semiotics and GUI Design.

Our Wise Leaders!

Wow, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions thinks "the founders" wrote the 14th amendment -- in 1868! Those were some longed-lived dudes!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cYou're Welcome - Constitutional Crisiswww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
To be fair, Jon Stewart is being a little silly in his comments, though. Of course, someone can both:
1) Be for a strict enforcement of the Constitution; but
2) Think it should be amended.

(Hat tip to the Murphmeister for the link.)

Quando è che sto lavorando?

A volte è una domanda difficile. Per esempio, stavo "surfing" Facebook un momento fa, quando ho trovato una grande citazione per utilizzare in una carta di miei. Stavo lavorando o fare lo stupido?

La Società Tollerante e Pacifica di Libertario

"As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society. In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be phys…

Il Ruolo del Dittatore nella Repubblica Romana

Bob Murphy mi ha dato un tempo difficile per la mia approvazione dell'ufficio del dittatore nella Repubblica romana. Gli ho detto di imparare che cosa questo ufficio era nella repubblica. Ma, dato che è poco disposto a agire in tal modo, descriverò il modo che l'ufficio ha funzionato qui.

La dittatura era un ufficio temporaneo e limitato nel Repubblica romana. Il senato ha nominato un dittatore per indirizzare una singola crisi. Per esempio, quando Hannibal stava seminando la distruzione in tutto l'Italia, il senato ha nominato un dittatore per occuparsi del problema di Hannibal. Non è stato autorizzato ad approvare le nuove leggi per quanto riguarda il furto o a pavimentare una nuova strada da Roma a Firenze. Quando la crisi è stata finita, così erano le potenzi del dittatore.

Noti bene che cosa questo ufficio ha impedetto: il "ratchet effect" descritto da Bob Higgs nel Crisis and Leviathan. È vero che tardi nella repubblica questo ufficio è stato abusato, per e…

La Differenza fra Oakeshott e Hayek su Razionalismo

(With a special section for Bob at the end.)

Mentre stavo leggendo Vernon Smith sulla "constructivist rationality" e "environmental rationality," ho diventare cosciente della differenza profonda fra Hayek (e Smith) e Oakeshott quando discutono il razionalismo.

Per esempio, Smith scrive, "constructivist" razionalismo avversario, "think of institutions as algorithms..." ma questo è precisamente che cosa Oakeshott significa da razionalismo. Per Oakeshott, la differenza fra razionalismo ed il suo opposto non è uno fra le regole coscienti ed incoscienti, ma uno fra la comprensione corretta che l'attività precede le regole e la comprensione incorretta che l'attività è formulato secondo le regole. Per Oakeshott, le regole sono le astrazioni da attività che necessariamente precede le regole.. Per Hayek e Smith, le regole guidano sempre l'attività, ed è semplicemente un aspetto di se quelle regole sono coscienti o incoscienti. E la ragione Oa…

All's Well That Ends Well

In un manuale italiano, ho letto:

"Oggi, molti giovani hanno abbandonato la campagna per grandi città."

E dopo, un marito e una moglie inglesi ricchi compra la proprietà e scrive un libro sulla riparazione.

OK, Sto Andando "Blog" a Volte in Italiano

Perché? Poiché devo migliorare alle lingue straniere e io sono ricordato che ho imparato i linguaggi di programmazione scrivendo in loro.

Chiunque ha un problema con quello?

Calling All Cartesians!

Or at least all students of Descartes works. My situation:

I am trying to write a review of Vernon Smith's Rationality in Economics. (No easy task: I think I'm going to have to read a book on auctions in the process.) In any case, I came across him quoting Hayek saying: "Descartes contended that all the useful human institutions were and ought to be deliberate creation(s) of conscious reason..." (p. 26). This is sourced to Hayek (1967: 85). And there, indeed, Hayek says that -- but with no reference to where Descartes claimed this. Now, I happened to be reading The Discourse on Method, and I found:

"Descartes was cautious enough to add caveats to his programme, such as declaring, for instance, ‘Thus my purpose here is not to teach the method that everyone ought to follow in order to conduct his reason correctly, but merely to show how I have tried to conduct mine’ (1993: 2). But Descartes’s modesty here was not embraced by his epigones; as Oakeshott put it, ‘the…

Preliminary Syllabus: History of Economic Thought

Course Theme: The Idea of Economics
September 5 - September 11
• Course Overview and Aristotle: Economics as Household Management

September 12 - September 18
• Hebrew and Medieval Christian Views on Economics

September 19 - September 25
• Bacon on Society as a Productive Enterprise; The Rise of Mercantilism

September 26 - October 2
• Smith Responds to the Mercantilists: Economics as the Science of National Wealth
• Book Reading: Chapter I of Barber
• Smith: Of the Division of Labourfile

October 3 - October 9
• The Creation of the Classical Consensus: Malthus, Ricardo and Mill
• Book reading: Chapters II, III and IV of Barber

October 10 - October 16
• Bentham, Comte, and the Science of Society

October 17 - October 23
• Responses to Classical Economics: Marx and Veblen
• Book reading: Part II Intro and Chapter V of Barber

October 24 - October 30
• The Marginal Revolution: Menger, Jevons, Walras and Economics as the Science of Choice
• Book reading: Chapter VII o…

Only for real mathematicians

I've stumbled upon a fabulous site: It provides questions and answers at the random forefronts of research from and to professional mathematicians. Check it out! But contribute cautiously or they'll crush you: mathematicians are not celebrated for their manners.

Non-undecidability of singular questions

The many memorious among youse may remember a tiny problem set I offered as a challenge aeons ago, which included, among others, a question about the decidability of a couple of representative singular questions (singular in the sense of "Is John homicidal?" vs. "Which people named 'John' are homicidal?"). The answer given in my hearing by Prof. Burton Dreben when asked by a student was echoed almost verbatim by Shonk in answer to my challenge.

The same answer may be found in Marvin Minsky, Computation, Finite and Infinite Machines (Prentice-Hall, 1967) regarding the halting problem for one Turing machine; but, interestingly, Minsky goes further: "For a given (T0,t0) it could well be that no one will ever find out whether it halts or not. It could conceivably be that there is no way to find out, in some obscure sense. But it could not be that someone could prove that there is no way to find out...Suppose that it had allegedly been proven that there is n…

It's a Serfin' Rebellion!

Let’s go serfin’ now
Everybodys learning how
Come on get medieval with me
(come on get medieval with...)

Early in the morning well be startin’ out
Some donkeys will be coming along
Were loading up our woody
With our pikes inside
And headin out singing our song

Come on (serfin’) baby wait and see (serfin’ rebellion)
Yes Im gonna (serfin’) take you serfin’ (serfin’ rebellion) with me
Come along (serfin’) baby wait and see (serfin’ rebellion)
Yes Im gonna (serfin’) take you serfin’ (serfin’ rebellion) with me

Lets go serfin’ now
Everybodys learning how
Come on get medieval with me
(come on get medieval with...)

At Bavaria and Bohemia
They're shooting the peasant
At Prussia they're beating his wife
Were going on safari to the manor this year
So if you're coming get ready to go

Theory and History

While listening to lectures by Andrew C. Fix of Lafayette College on the Renaissance and Reformation, I found him discussing the great inflation in Europe that followed the discovery of the New World (with no fiat money!). He kept discussing how this group and that group hurt by the higher expenses they faced. Never did he acknowledge that these very higher expenses must have been higher income for somebody, as well!

Funny Philosophers I

I'm reading Schellings's On the History of Modern Philosophy -- yeah, at the same time as Southwood (see post below), and Strauss -- I'm working my way through the S's right now. Next week, on to Tarski, Tolstoy, and Thucydides.

Schelling is discussing how Descartes's "doubting everything" never really went as deep as Rene claimed it did. When Descartes discussed why we really can't be certain about our sensation of having a body, he notes people he knew who had lost a limb but still felt sensation in it (ghost limbs). Schelling wryly notes, 'it seemed reasonable to reflect that such persons only felt pain in limbs which they once had, and there is no example of anyone who felt pains in limbs which they never had.'

I'll see what Tarski jokes I can come up with for you.

Those Ain't Your Grandfather's Reptiles!

On ThinkMarkets a while back, I was pointing out that even as simple a "fact" as that "a camel is a mammal" is theory-dependent. Well, I was just reading Sir Richard Southwood's book, The Story of Life, and he listed the three major groups of reptiles, according to his (2003) view:

1) turtles and tortoises;
2) proto-mammals and mammals; and
3) dinosaurs, crocodilians, lizards, snakes, and birds.

It just goes to show ya. Before I'm gone from this vale of tears, I'm sure I'll discover that eagles are actually a form of slug, or something of the sort.

Invasive Species

A recently read about some guy who had spent an entire summer plucking out, by hand, all of the Japanese grass from a Pennsylvania field. That struck me as about a big of a waste of time as I've read about, given that:

1) The grass will just move back in the next year;
2) At that rate, the guy will have covered, what, .01% of Pennsylvania by the time he dies; and
3) "Invasive" species actually increase biodiversity:

'“There is no evidence that even a single long term resident species has been driven to extinction, or even extirpated within a single U.S. state, because of competition from an introduced plant species,” Macalester College biologist Mark Davis notes.'

Scanning the LRC Blog...

sure gives me lots of material! Here, David Kramer demonstrates that every 16-year-old cashier in the country is smarter than him. The definition of counterfeit: "made in imitation of something genuine so as to deceive or defraud; forged" (from

David, government-issued fiat money is exactly what it purports to be -- government-issued fiat money. It can buy you things. It is not an imitation of anything else.

Counterfeit money, on the other hand, is a copy of fiat money. Once detected as a copy, it is worthless.

Every time I see some nut declaring "fiat money is worthless" I always ask them to send me all of theirs. Interestingly, not one of them ever has.

Banning Smoking in Restaurants

and slaughtering political dissidents amounts to about the same thing, according to David Kramer.

Winning Hearts and Minds

Butler Shaffer claims my home state is full of robotic idiots.

Clifford Geertz Contra Methodological Individualism

"Most bluntly, it suggests that there is no such thing as a human nature independent of culture. Men without culture would not be the clever savages of Golding's Lord of the Flies thrown back upon the cruel wisdom of their animal instincts; nor would they be the nature's noblemen of Enlightenment primitivism or even, as classical anthropological theory would imply, intrinsically talented apes who had somehow failed to find themselves. They would be unworkable monstrosities with very few useful instincts, fewer recognizable sentiments, and no intellect: mental basket cases. As our central nervous system -- and most particularly its crowning curse and glory, the neocortex -- grew up in great part in interaction with culture, it is incapable of directing our behavior or organizing our experience without the guidance provided by systems of significant symbols. What happened to us in the Ice Age is that we were obliged to abandon the regularity and precision of detailed geneti…

Deep Fried Butter...

and more! (Hat tip to Tyler Cowen.)

And a Second Millian Error

In the same post cited below, Greenwald continues:

"Courts don't rule on moral, theological or spiritual questions. Such matters are the exclusive province of religious institutions, philosophers, communities, parents and individuals' consciences, but not of the State."

But look a couple of paragraphs later:

"The court did evaluate the question of whether there is convincing evidence demonstrating tangible, empirical benefits to recognizing only heterosexual relationships, and found -- as have the overwhelming bulk of social scientists -- that no such evidence exists. That's why it's unconstitutional to continue to exclude same-sex couples from the legal institution of marriage: because none of the empirical or utilitarian justifications legitimately considered by the State can support that exclusion."

So, Greenwald is not at all against the State legislating morality... as long as it's utilitarian morality it is legislating. I suspect that h…

The "John-Stuart-Mill Error"

Is committed by Glenn Greenwald, arguing that good ideas always win:

"But if the arguments for the objective superiority of heterosexual monogamy are as apparent and compelling as Douthat seems to think, they ought not need the secular thumb pressing on the scale in favor of their view. Individuals on their own will come to see the rightness of Douthat's views on such matters..."

And how did that work out in Nazi Germany, Glenn?

UPDATE: Moved other material to a new post.

I May Seem Somewhat Critical of Libertarians These Days...

but, let me say, I don't ever recall meeting a libertarian as idiotic as Andy Schlafly. He's decided that the theory of relativity somehow is connected with moral relativity -- a stupid idea, since Einstein's theory of relativity is a theory that purports to be absolutely true for everyone everywhere -- and so has decided it must be wrong. Check out this thread, where Schlafly answers someone who says, "What about the use of the theory of relativity in particle accelerators?" by denying that accelerators are useful! (He tacks the same tack with the atomic bomb, which he mistakenly thinks is based on relativity, by denying that killing people is useful.)

In any case, no libertarian that I am aware of has ever produced a site as putrid as Conservapedia.

Hey, That's a Good One!

"There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kid’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs."

(Hat tip to Burke's Corner.)

Bob Murphy: Anti-Anarchist Mole

If one wants to show how silly and childish anarchist thinking is, one could not do better than to circulate this heap of rubbish:

Therefore, my title. (Link added after justified complaint by Murphy.)

UPDATE: And, by the way, lest I seem unduly harsh, I will note again: this silliness was MY silliness. I am doing penance.

UPDATE II: It turns out the man doing the voice over is cult-founder Stefan Molyneux, who persuades his cult acolytes to break with their families.

Economics for People, in That They Are Real

is now available in German. (The title of this post is roughly how the German title reads to me; perhaps a native speaker can comment on my translation.)

Just What Are They Supposed to be Thinking in This Picture?

I Look Down My Nose...

at those who understand more than I do, declares Brendan O'Neill. He gets some things right and some things wrong in discussing Tibetan Buddhism. But what really caught my eye is how he views being a philosophical ignoramus as a sign of cynical hipness: 'Tibetan Buddhism has a “resonance and a sense of mystery,” says Gere, through which you can find "beingness" (whatever that means).'

Yes, Brendan, being so uninformed that you do not understand that ontology has been at the center of Western philosophy for 2500 years certainly entitles you to sneer at Gere.

UPDATE: Oh, yes, and here is another moronic passage from O'Neill: 'The Dalai Lama declared in a talk in Seattle in 1993, during one of his whistle stop, U2-style world tours, that “nature arranged male and female organs in such a manner that is very suitable… same-sex organs cannot manage well.” (Someone needs to explain to His Holiness how gay people get it on.)'

Right, Brendan, the issue is the …

True dat