by Tyler Cowen
on December 21, 2009 at 6:31 am
1. Appreciative thinking, an underexplored virtue.
2. Markets in everything, wet nurse Baumol cost disease edition.
3. The transformation of Chile into a developed nation.
4. Proof that intercourse is special.
5. What do people steal from bookstores?
6. Dixit's appreciation of Paul Samuelson.
That seemed to me to be an example of the unintended (but entirely predictable) noxious effects of government regulation, not Baumol cost disease. So it sounds as though the only legal way breast milk can be sold is through an official ‘Milk Bank’. Part of the problem is government classification of milk (Food? Bodily fluid?), and part of the problem is the cost associated with the milk banks (pasteurization). And probably (though the article does not say so), another problem is that milk donors are not paid (or not paid much).
The most straightforward and, probably, lowest cost way to find a milk supplier would be to find a trustworthy woman who was willing to pump and sell her milk. But that simple, direct approach is apparently illegal in Australia, so the only choice are ‘black market’ or ‘milk bank’. When you think about it, it’s really the drug war in miniature, isn’t it? In both cases, the only choices are either the black market or a restrictively licensed and regulated outlet (milk bank or pharmacy). And the effect on black market prices is much the same ($1000 a liter?!).
If anyone is in the mood to see some incredibly bad philosophical arguments, just try looking up natural law theorists’ arguments for why only married, heterosexual, unprotected intercourse is good for people. These arguments are of course window dressing–there isn’t a single person on the planet who actually believes this thesis on the basis of a philosophical argument.
Terry Pratchett was the UK’s best-selling author of the 1990s, which – in case you’re right about the shoplifting part – I’m pretty sure also had something to do with it. On a related note, I’m pretty sure some people (not me) would argue that if you write books about a guy like Moist von Lipwig, you’ve kind of asked for it.
OT: I know it’s been said before, but the pop-up book profiles are way past ‘just’ being annoying. They make me angry, I hate them, I want them to go away. Please.
If the worries were about STDs and the welfare of children, then conservatives would favor committed relationships among lesbians the most, but they don’t. Anyways, I’m talking about things like this: http://web.mit.edu/anscombe/www/finnismarriage.pdf and also “Law, Morality, and Sexual Orientation.”
Question on the Robert George article: It talks of an ongoing conflict between folks who side with Aristotle and Hume on the “debate” about the logical necessity of moral absolutes. I’m no philosophy scholar by any means but it was always my impression the Hume essentially proved there could be no logical basis for moral absolutes, proved with enough rigor that you could write it out in logical notation as a truth. (Just to be clear: I’m not saying I believe that Hume proved all morals are relative, but that we’d never be able to use logic to prove they aren’t.) Am I wrong?
One other thought: I’d like to use the forum to start a movement to ban all authors who attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton — or who work at Harvard, Yale or Princeton — from finding some way to mention that fact in every single thing they write from the largest book to the smallest note. No one cares.
George’s argument about sex is clearly flawed. He’s trying to show that sexual intercourse is the only activity which is both grounded in our nature/biology and inherently cooperative. But this is wrong. Social bonding and grooming clearly have biological correlates, so George’s arguments should apply to any intimate friendship.
A variation on the argument could also imply that psychological bullying is sanctioned by natural law, since it has natural correlates in our dominance/submission instincts.
The most hilarious thing about the milk article is that the milk bank needs $50k in donations to stay afloat when they are charging only 5% of the market price for their product. They would seem to be in the inelastic portion of the demand curve.
pj: your nose for irony needs a little refining, I think.
The issue isn’t whether there are moral absolutes or not. Rather, the issue is whether certain Catholic prohibitions on sexual behavior are justifiable in light of reason. They aren’t.
What’s interesting is how limited these appeals to reason are.
The “logic” used to demolish the Catholic position on human sexual behavior would certainly allow for human-baboon sex, so long as problems of disease and consenuality and so forth could be ironed out.
Yet even the rationalists – if only in private – know that human-baboon sex is wrong.
Therefore their objections to the Catholic position on human sexual behavior are not really based on reason, but merely their own preferences.
Chris Auld, Sex with an “uplifted” (sentient), consenting, pathogen-free baboon wouldn’t be morally wrong per se, but it would still be disgusting (though for the wrong reasons). And disgust has a huge effect on our moral heuristics.
Sex with an “uplifted” (sentient), consenting, pathogen-free baboon wouldn’t be morally wrong per se, but it would still be disgusting
The baboon might not think you’re so hot either, Anon.
… The George article was mainly interesting for Hume’s contradicting himself. From the article:
Against Aristotle, Hume argued that the universe includes facts but not values. You cannot derive moral conclusions from studying the world, an “ought† from an “is.† There is no built-in, objective reason for me to choose one goal over another — the goals of Mother Teresa over the goals of Adolf Hitler, in George’s hypothetical. Reason, then, is merely a tool of whatever desire strikes my fancy. “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions and may pretend to no office other than to serve and obey them,† George said, paraphrasing Hume, just as he does in seemingly every essay or lecture he writes.
But obviously, Hume cannot base a claim on what reason *ought* to be, on what reason *is*. (The “paraphrase” is a pretty close quote from the Treatise of Human Nature, 2.3.3.)
The real takeaway here is that people should quit arguing about the Treatise, which Hume himself repudiated.
My inclination is to consider it wrong because of (1) its ickiness (2) the genetic inbreeding effect and (3) because when protracted through multiple generations it has the effect of fractioning society into competing tribal groups.
But see T. Sturgeon, “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?” (1967), passim.
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