by Tyler Cowen
on August 13, 2008 at 2:10 pm
1. Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, edited by Ronald Hamowy, Amazon link here.
2. Cato forum on global warming; I have yet to read this. Here is my response to an earlier article by Manzi.
3. No way; not at all plausible. No way.
4. For sanity on all matters Georgian, check out Matt Yglesias at his new blog location.
“No way; not at all plausible. No way.”
No marks will be assigned for undefended answers.
I don’t understand the “No way” comment. The article seems fairly reasonable. What’s up with that?
Meanwhile, I am not sure that the Matt Yglesias post was reasonable at all.
Of course regime type affects foreign policy decisions. For example, if the regime type by its very nature excludes the possibility of free trade, and the regime requires resources which the country cannot produce, then the regime will be more likely to wage war. That is very simple and stems from the regime type.
To ignore that or assume that it is a coincidence that Russia is nationalizing, becoming more autocratic and more closed and at the same time more aggressive – that is to blind yourself to economic institutions and everything we’ve learned this past 100 years about the relationship of political to economic structure, and the choice between voluntary transactions and force.
The religion/disease reduction idea can’t survive the existence of pilgrimages to Mecca or Canterbury; the Crusades; the Mayflower; missionary work; etc. Religion is a very effective motivator of long-distance, disease-spreading travel.
On the face of it, it is at least equally plausible that people who do not associate with each other develop different religions.
Imagine that the wind is blowing west faster than the current is flowing east. The mayflower can still travel west even when the current is pushing it east.
(anyway, if you think about it, the pilgrims on the mayflower weren’t going to spread religion, they were going to get away from the other religions, which is actually consistent with the article’s theory).
Survival pressures other than infectious diseases (such as gains from trade, the genetic exchange discussed above, and avoidance of military conflict–the wind in my analogy) may have favored traits that led humans to proselytize, explore, and cooperate with other groups to some extent. At the same time, the survival pressures arising from infectious disease (the current in my analogy) may have favored traits that discourage interaction between groups, which may have given a survival advantage arising from a certain level of religious diversity that is higher than would exist in a world without infectious disease.
In the case of the pilgrims, the fact that they were seeking to get away from other religions is at least somewhat significant, in that it indicates that the survival pressures that favored the traits that gave rise to that behavior were the kind of pressures that DISFAVORED interaction, rather than those that FAVORED interaction. This is consistent with the theory that contagious disease influences religious behavior.
I recognize that this is all very speculative, and other explanations are also possible, and I do not necessarily even agree with this explanation, I’m just saying it is not inherently implausible.
Regarding the Economist article, the details of their study may be stretching, but their root ideas are eminently reasonable; cf. the behavioural immune system. Certainly it doesn’t scream “not at all plausible”. What world are you living in, Tyler?
People whose main policy arguments boil down to political popularity arguments scare me.
In a completely unrelated observation, if you go down Yglesias web page there’s a picture of Hitler. If you cover up his ridiculuos ‘stache he looks a bit like a young John Hurt. I think we today don’t appreciate how attractive he might have been to the people. It really says something for one guy to single-handedly and forever make a particular facial hair style not cool. Now, don’t read anything into this, I am NOT comparing John Hurt to Hitler in any way.
Note the Mayflower Pilgrims are remembered today primarily for the large, ceremonial feasts they shared with Indians, whose religion was far more alien and incomprehensible to them than the other protestant sects back home. The survival pressures were clearly against isolationist colonies and in favor of Plymouth and Jamestown, which survived only by interacting with Indians.
My main problem with the isolation theory, though, is that a much older and more common theory argues that religion evolved to support state power in early city states and empires from Egypt to Rome — i.e. that religion was necessary precisely to encourage people to associate with and trust others outside of their immediate family/tribal groups. As usual then, every evolutionary psychology theory has an equal and opposite theory, with a different array of anecdotal evidence, and zero possibility of controlled experiments and rigorous testing.
“It is, however, enough of a stretch that I will refuse to take seriously anyone who accepts it and yet still insists that my belief in God is absurd.”
Would you ever hedge your belief in God if they were to consider such a theory to be absurd? One is a hypothesis that is difficult to test and the other does not rely on observational evidence at all. Is this theory more absurd than God? Personally, I don’t know.
re: CATO article
1. Let’s assume AGW is real. (If AGW is not real or global warming is totally out of human control, then there is no argument.)
2. Let’s assume you live on island that is going under the sea.
3. Your life is destroyed.
4. Now CATO argues that your life is the cost of overall growth and, therefore, no action should be taken to save it, because it would cost more in the long run to everyone else.
5. CATO is an American institution arguing about American actions to combat AGW.
6. America has created more CO2 emissions and consumes more energy per person than any other country.
7. Then doesn’t the CATO argument imply America has no responsibility for prior American actions that sunk the island?
8. Seeing these actions by America, is or isn’t the islander, whose life has been destroyed, justified in declaring war against America?
9. Of course, the islander is justified in declaring a war, but the islander will lose.
10. Therefore, at heart, isn’t the CATO argument nothing more than we are bigger and stronger and we can do whatever we please?
11. To put it another way: Let’s say CATO’s home was on the island, would it’s argument be the same?
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