Who is Juan Galt?

by on November 11, 2013 at 7:31 am in Books, Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

USA Today: Thousands of Venezuelans lined up outside the country’s equivalent of Best Buy, a chain of electronics stores known as Daka, hoping for a bargain after the socialist government forced the company to charge customers “fair” prices.

…Members of Venezuela’s National Guard, some of whom carried assault rifles, kept order at the stores as bargain hunters rushed to get inside.

“I want a Sony plasma television for the house,” said Amanda Lisboa, 34, a business administrator, who had waited seven hours already outside one Caracas store. “It’s going to be so cheap!”

…The president, who took over from Hugo Chávez in April 2013, appeared on state television Friday calling for the “occupation” of the chain, which employs some 500 staff.

“This is for the good of the nation,” Maduro said. “Leave nothing on the shelves, nothing in the warehouses … Let nothing remain in stock!”

…Daka’s store managers, according to Maduro, have been arrested and are being held by the country’s security services. Neither Daka nor the government responded to requests for comment.

In Atlas Shrugged‘s money speech Rand, drawing on Hayek, provides an implicit warning to Maduro and Venezuela:

…when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket.

1 Marie November 11, 2013 at 8:06 am

Like more and more stories these days, this one reads as parody. It’s a joke, right? And not even all that funny, because it’s just too over the top. Sometimes it feels like all the news services are just messing with us.

2 Seb November 11, 2013 at 9:21 am
3 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Reality has jumped the shark.

4 Jan November 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

AAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!

5 john personna November 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

If it can happen there, it can happen here. Obamaaaaaa!

6 MD November 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

PACIFIC PALISADES NOW IS PROTECTED BY REAL PALISADES

7 mulp November 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Didn’t it happen before Obama was elected??

“…when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket.”

That describes the securities and lendings laws by 2004 which allowed the fraudulent mortgage originations that were fraudulently turned into insured securitized debt sold fraudulently to bond and pension funds and to banks, with no State allowed to control the mortgage originations because State consumer fraud protection had been preempted by the Bush administration and transferred to the Fed which had been run by Alan Greenspan who stated fraud was impossible in a market because the market always correctly sets the value of securities. The omnibus bill passed in the last days of Congress in Dec 2000 without anyone reading it explicitly legalized bucket shops by preempting State law opening the door for the unsecured derivatives which were fraudulently sold as credit insurance, leading to the crisis at AIG but sinking many others.

And credit card terms by then coupled with payday lending were legally doing egregiously, with the full defense of those loudly proclaiming their moral and liberty superior values, what was long prohibited as usury – laws that are in all the bibles. A pointer to a study on the 2009 credit card regulation law noted that making bad loans to deadbeats was the most profitable business segment because of the inevitable levying of fee on top of fee on top of fee leading to payments far in excess of the debt without the debt being reduced.

Who is the angry Jesus violently overturning the tables of the payday lenders and credit card companies inside the temple of gold? Elizabeth Warren? Dodd-Frank? Obama?

8 IVV November 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Well… the National Guard wasn’t involved. It was still pickpockets vs. pickpockets here.

9 Doug M November 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

If sub-prime lending, credit cards, and payday lending is usery, then you are making the assumption that the borrowers are incapable of making their own decisions. No one made those borrowers take out that payday loan. The rates and penalties were never hidden. Now maybe they didn’t read the fine print, and some were deceived. But it takes an elitist brush to say that all sub-prime borrowers were deceived.

Now, how badly were the sub-prime borrowers actually screwed when the it-hit the fan?
They bought a house with little money down. They has some period if time where they lived in a nice house, they made their mortgage payments, either the payments became unaffordable, and they stopped makeing payments, or their property values went under water and they chose to stop making payments. Some time later they faces foreclosure. They begin with little they end with nothing, but they have only lost little. Had the rented through this period they would not have been better off.

So, should we have told more people that they just can’t afford the American dream and shouldn’t even try?

10 john personna November 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

What a weird progression, Doug. You start by lampooning the idea that “borrowers are incapable,” then set up the extreme claim that not “all sub-prime borrowers were deceived” before returning yourself to say failing in a mortgage is no big deal?

Yes, Doug, maybe we should have told people who were going to fail at mortgages not to try, saving them and us huge costs.

11 Sigivald November 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

That describes the securities and lendings laws by 2004 which allowed the fraudulent mortgage originations that were fraudulently turned into insured securitized debt sold fraudulently to bond and pension funds and to banks, with no State allowed to control the mortgage originations because State consumer fraud protection had been preempted by the Bush administration and transferred to the Fed which had been run by Alan Greenspan who stated fraud was impossible in a market because the market always correctly sets the value of securities.

“Fraudulently turned into …”?

What was fraudulent about it? Were they not really debt instruments? Were they not really mortgages?

And where is the “fraudulent” nature of their sale? (or that of the CDSes that killed AIG, if we’re going to talk Financial Crisis)?

Actual evidence – rather than polemic – suggests that damn near everyone involved (except perhaps a few people at Moody’s et al.) really believed that those CDOs were essentially good and that they understood and were safely managing the risk.

They were completely wrong, of course.

But being wrong isn’t the same as being fraudulent; fraud requires knowing (or deliberately ignoring things that should have told you) that you’re selling a bill of goods.

(I’m giving “fraudulent mortgage originations” a pass because it’s not entirely untrue – there was some fraudulent mortgage origination, we know.

But I bet you overestimate the percentage of that in the total CDO pool, too, and how much anyone other than the initial agent knew about the problems in the mortgages that were problematic.

The big story remains, however, that a big, evil badman out to ruin the little guy is a more compelling narrative than “people mostly thought they were being very smart and basically honest, but completely screwed up*”…

* Reminds me of the reports of the Wicked CDO Department people at AIG who … lost their shirts in 2007, because they invested their personal fortunes in their own products. This is the best possible evidence that they were acting in good faith on a deeply flawed risk model; actual fraudsters never put more than a token investment in the product, exactly because they know it’s worthless.)

12 john personna November 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Isn’t it well established now that risk pools were represented to institutional purchasers of debt instruments? I certainly remember reading that auditors of mortgage pools sent back “good” when they knew that (a) they had not checked, (b) never had time nor resources to check. As a result the description of the borrowers in the pool was often false.

Are you saying that this false certification was not fraudulent because they only knew they hadn’t checked, rather than that they checked and then lied?

13 Max Factor November 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

These CDOs were structured under the assumption that housing prices could only go up. They were structured so that much of the equity was wiped away by extremely low levels of default. Everyone with a brain knew we were in a housing bubble and huge defaults were likely. Everyone knew there were tons of terrible loans out there. Wall Street pressed the originators to create as many loans as possible and Wall Street sold these CDOs as quickly as it could, knowing it was suicide to hold the CDOs.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-43545400/one-word-explains-what-caused-the-financial-crisis-fraud/

“Ask yourselves: Is it possible for mortgage originators, ratings agencies, underwriters, insurers and supervising agencies NOT to have known that the system of housing finance had become infested with fraud? Every statistical indicator of fraudulent practice “growth and profitability” – suggests otherwise. Every examination of the record so far suggests otherwise. The very language in use: “liars’ loans,” “ninja loans,” “neutron loans,” and “toxic waste,” tells you that people knew. I have also heard the expression, “IBG, YBG;” the meaning of that bit of code was, “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”

“But not forgotten. During the housing boom, signs of financial fraud abounded, Galbraith said. Industry players grew suspiciously fast; paid lavishly well; and recorded huge increases in profitability, rubber-stamped by auditors. Lenders entered risky markets formerly considered off-limits, shredding their underwriting standards along the way. Crucially, firms figured out how to make a buck while passing along potential losses to others, who took the action on condition they could do the same.

If there was any art to all this, it had to do with creating perceptions. For that, people used math. Mortgage originators built statistical models that suddenly conjured up millions of new customers. Credit rating agencies devised formulas guaranteed to spell “AAA.” Banks developed wholly self-referential financial products whose underlying value was based — presto! — on themselves.”

14 john personna November 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm

The price increase assumptions were one side, “lack of diligence” in the end to end process was another.

15 Handworn November 12, 2013 at 11:45 am

People using securities and lending laws are “men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims”? Ridiculous.

16 john personna November 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I agree that this was an odd place to hang a mortgage bubble sub-thread. And as far as I’m concerned, Shiller covered the cycle adequately.

17 Rahul November 11, 2013 at 8:10 am

Sad state of affairs indeed.

But using Atlas Shrugged to illustrate the point is a bit like using cannon to kill a mouse. Thou shall not steal is not very subtle and a wee bit older than both Rand and Hayek.

18 XVO November 11, 2013 at 8:18 am

It’s not theft. They are merely forcing the company to charge fair prices. Who could argue with that? Now they can no longer steal from their customers just because they have things the customer wants.

19 mofo. November 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

Cant tell if you are joking or not.

20 Yancey Ward November 11, 2013 at 10:33 am

I think he is writing tongue in cheek, but his point is an important one. The Venezuelans are explicitly denying it is theft, and since it is their country, they are the ones who set the definition in Venezuela.

21 TMC November 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hope they weeded out all the ‘substandard’ TVs first.

22 mofo. November 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

“since it is their country, they are the ones who set the definition in Venezuela”

It doesnt work that way.

23 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 3:59 pm

“since it is their country, they are the ones who set the definition in Venezuela”

It doesnt work that way.

From a bureaucratic point of view, it certainly does work that way.

24 Fernando November 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

Dear Marie,
This is true! Maduro thinks that inflation numbers are high because of speculators. He is giving electronics at a 90% discount to control inflation. At least that is what he said were his intentions, on the radio. Here is a link (in Spanish) with pictures. http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/economia/fotos—gobierno-sanciono-a-tiendas-daka-de-todo-e.aspx

25 8 November 11, 2013 at 8:35 am

The future American electorate, brought to you by open borders.

26 Morgan Warstler November 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

God people like you disgust me.

27 XVO November 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

Why?

28 8 November 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

You’re disgusted by my comment, yet below you compare this to Obamacare. If the demographics of the country were the same as in 1980, Romney would have won the 2012 election by a larger landslide than Reagan won in 1984.

29 A brown guy November 11, 2013 at 10:54 am

30 Joseph Lemien November 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

So you are roughly saying “If reality was different, then real events would have turned out differently.”

31 Joseph Hertzlinger November 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm

It’s time to ban voting by anybody born after 1980.

32 Joseph Lemien November 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Isn’t the prevention of that sort of exclusion exactly what the liberal part of liberal democracy is for? I think that the justification needed to strip an entire population of their voting rights should be a bit better than “they have different opinions than me.”

33 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm

If the demographics of the country were the same as in 1980, Romney would have won the 2012 election by a larger landslide than Reagan won in 1984.

LOL, I don’t think so. Romney wasn’t nearly as good a candidate as Reagan and Mondale wasn’t nearly as good a candidate as Obama.

Demographics may effect elections, but I’m far from convinced they are decisive in current US presidential elections.

34 Careless November 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm

@JWatts What, you think millions of whites would have voted differently if not for all the Hispanics?

35 JWatts November 12, 2013 at 1:21 am

I think that millions of American’s would have voted differently if the Republican’s had fielded a better candidate. I don’t buy into the theory that demographics is destiny. Though I will certainly admit to it’s influence.

36 jqhart November 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

God people like you disgust me.

So why do you keep hanging around us?

37 Michael November 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

1. Historically speaking, if one were to look at the the US’s immigration rules over our 200+ year history, our borders are probably the least open they’ve ever been.

2. Are you under the impression that many people from Venezuela are flooding into the US? I hope you’re not suggesting that everyone who lives south of Texas are indistinguishable from each other. Venezuelans not only make up a very small percent of people in the US, but even a very small percent of just those who self-identify as Hispanic.

38 Z November 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

The word “obtuse” comes to mind when reading your response.

39 Rahul November 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

…….”mean” comes to mind reading yours.

40 Z November 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

Oh come on. The post to which he is responding is obviously a sarcastic remark intended as humor. It takes a special narrowness of mind to be so humorless.

41 Alex' November 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

Black people sure love watermelon, fried chicken and shooting each other over drugs, don’t they?

That wasn’t racist, it was a clear attempt at humor! Anybody who calls out the racism is just a humorless hack!

42 Z November 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Alex’ calling people with whom he disagrees racist is what you expect from narrow minded bigots on the Left. For them, “racist” just means “bad.” They did the same thing with the word “fascism.” Real racism is an artifact of history. These bundles of hatred and self-loathing throwing around the slur are the real problem facing contemporary America.

43 Alex' November 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm

you racists sure have a victim complex

44 john personna November 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Marginal Revolution comments streams sure are weird. More than anyplace else I visit on the Internets (1) I can count on a racial theme emerging, and (2) people who return to that theme will complain that they shouldn’t be considered racist.

Um. If you find race in every economic issue … you might be a racist.

45 MD November 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm

john personna, if thinking that black people are genetically inferior to white people makes someone a racist, then, yes, I suppose many MR commenters are racist as all get out.

46 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

JohnPersonna: #1 word count “race” on MR.

47 john personna November 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm

MD confirms nicely, Thomas wonders why I am the lonely guy who cares.

48 Handworn November 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

I agree with Z– there’s a real addiction to slinging charges of racism by people on the Left. This is so because it’s cheap political profit. If minorities were to start not voting Democratic to such an extent, suddenly there would be a rush by academia to suddenly start acting all thoughtful about what we mean by racism. Perhaps at some point they would catch up to where Thomas Sowell was years ago– realizing that it’s culture, not race, and that black street culture is actually southern white redneck culture in origin. I think the only intersection with race is when minority people choose a culture based on THEIR ideas of race.

But again– no political profit there, so the Left won’t acknowledge it until there is.

49 8 November 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

If you look at foreign born population it is near the highest levels. Last time it was this high, immigration was effectively closed for 40 years.

All countries are different, but I don’t see why people believe in some kind of magic that would make people vote differently than they did in their home countries. Historically, the U.S. and other Anglo-Saxon nations have experienced some of the least extreme political results.

50 Miles Robinson November 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/national_language.jpg

Hard to believe that “foreign born population is near the highest levels.” There was a point when it was pretty damn close to 100%.

51 asdf November 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

They lost, we won, get over it. Let’s destroy this country today because of what happened to Indians back then.

52 Anonymous November 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

And how did that work out for the natives?

53 john personna November 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm

It was even better before the Angles let the Saxons in.

54 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Race

55 john personna November 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm

That was the joke, and ancient reality, yes. “Race” used to just be the next tribe over. Some us just give that up. Some keep tribalism by skin tone.

56 Careless November 11, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Historically speaking, if one were to look at the the US’s immigration rules over our 200+ year history, our borders are probably the least open they’ve ever been.

This guy is just trolling incompetently, right?

57 Krigl November 13, 2013 at 9:09 am

If, then not by a wide margin. Here’s a thought, why don’t you check it for yourself? And while you’re at it, I’d recommend widening of the suggestion to include some checking out the so much vaunted “diversity” of then and now migrants.

58 Z November 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

But, they will be natural Republicans so everything will be OK.

59 Squarely Rooted November 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

This coming from a person who, from a very brief perusing of their repulsive blog, thinks that women have used their right to vote in ways that displease him and therefore should have said right revoked; thinks that black people won’t vote for white people despite the fact that this is empirical hogwash; and who openly expresses skepticism of democracy in general linked to virulent sentiments about blacks and Mexicans.

Mr. Tabarrok, when your posts draw this kind of commenter, perhaps one should step back and reflect.

60 Z November 11, 2013 at 10:15 am

Surprise, surprise, an intolerant Lefty trying to shout down opinions they don’t like. Are you wearing your favorite brown shirt while blogging today? Guys like you are just proof that there is no group more intolerant than the Left.

61 A Definite Beta Guy November 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

Your rhetoric disagrees entirely with this post on your blog:
http://squarelyrooted.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/information-hates-borders/

62 Larry November 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

“Mr. Tabarrok, when your posts draw this kind of commenter, perhaps one should step back and reflect”

In other words, post no story that disagrees with the left’s preferred narrative or provides rhetorical aid to enemies of the left. After all, there are certain topics that should be outside the pale of legitimate discussion (and we get to say what those are).

63 john personna November 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I am a centrist and moderate, but I frankly think “the left” will be very flattered to find themselves positioned as the non-racists. It kind of puts them in a strong position, going forward.

64 Brian Donohue November 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

jp,

centrist and moderate and all-around VOR, would you care to define the term ‘racist’ here?

65 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Brian,

It’s a person who mentions race in any capacity.

66 john personna November 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm

One more time for Brian, we humans are all tremendously varied in our gifts and burdens. If we are good men and women we will be open to all those strengths and assist with those burdens.

I think we have to be both stupid and cruel to think we can classify the next person through the door by skin tone, eye tilt, or hair straightness.

67 Careless November 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm

It’s worse. His post drew Z to comment.

68 Xvo November 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm

John personna is exactly what the left wants a centrist and moderate person to be. In the United states the left only survives by using race against the racists. Its too incorrect to accept that race imbibes genetic difference beyond skin color.

69 john personna November 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm

WRT “race imbibes genetic difference beyond skin color” I think the basic problem is that you need some base level of intelligence to know how dumb that is. If you can’t follow the logic, you’re just stuck in that insular little self-satisfying position forever. You need to understand that “race” is an indefinite term, one which has changed over the ages and changes today. Even among the racists there is disagreement about how many “races” there are. The British cruelty that “the wogs begin at Calais” is at least up-front about one thing. Race is about “the other,” and people can identify their “others” any which way. The Japanese do it differently than the French. But say you got there, that you got every racist on earth to agree on a short list of races. That is Chinese racists buy it, and Russian, and Argentinian. What do you do then? Can you get agreement on what “superior” is? Is it all smarts? Or is it chess play? Or do you add a little poetry? Maybe cricket or soccer are important. But say you’ve got everyone on the same page on number of races, and everyone on the same page on the concept of superiority, what do you find? I’d think you’d fine a bunch of pretty wide distributions. No population is uniform. And we want the good policemen to be policemen and the good comedians to be comedians. Did we accomplish anything?

We certainly didn’t learn that any “race” can’t have good policemen, or comedians, or doctors, or lawyers, because we know all races have them.

70 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

jp,

Your first response goes well beyond racism in its implications. It’s a salutary thought, but a bar that virtually everyone falls short of from time to time, with racism being only one instance.

The ‘stupid and cruel’ sentence is talking about discrimination and prejudice- related ideas, but much better defined. I’m perfectly happy to talk about these things and trends in same.

Still not seeing a good working definition though. To be clear, this is not a debating point.

There are a handful of commenters here that prolly meet almost anyone’s definition of the word racist. I don’t think I am one of these, but a working definition would be helpful to me.

But I feel like sometimes (increasingly?) ‘racism’ is a blanket to discourage legitimate lines of inquiry, even if these lines of inquiry make us uncomfortable. If so, this is ultimately futile and dangerous.

71 john personna November 12, 2013 at 10:24 am

My first statement, on a time-stamp basis, was a reaction to an ongoing conversation. In it race (predictably for MR) popped up, someone else was sensitive to that, and someone else again complained about the sensitivity.

Later we had an interesting claim by “MD”, that “if thinking that black people are genetically inferior to white people makes someone a racist, then, yes, I suppose many MR commenters are racist as all get out.”

Now for me, the terrible thing, beyond that comment is that so few (none?) said to MD, “uh, that’s not me, and I don’t believe in your so-called genetic inferiority.”

So to make things clear hear Brian, maybe I should turn the tables on you and make sure you aren’t just saying that you think you can be MD in your heart, outwardly fair, and not a racist?

72 john personna November 12, 2013 at 10:25 am

BTW, above in my response to Xvo I say that I think both concepts of “race” and “superiority” are too sloppy for “legitimate inquiry.”

73 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

jp,

If I were to wonder about the amazing statistical improbability of, say, all 100-meter Olympic finalists being of West African origin, am I a racist?

If so, I suppose the cure is not to wonder about such things. Is that what you do?

74 john personna November 12, 2013 at 11:33 am

I’m beginning to think that any commenter who is a “slippery character” is trying to hide some racism.

When you made a list of the world’s races, did you really put “West Africans” in there as distinct from other “races” in Africa?

75 john personna November 12, 2013 at 11:40 am

(I don’t think anyone disagrees that Inuit, as a small and local population had different selection pressures, and that might have something to do with their alcohol tolerance. It would just be a mistake to extend that to a “race” which included brewers, as say Andeans with their corn beer. The big picture difference here is that scientists talk about populations, and it is is really only racists who do this gross-morphology thing, with buckets based on skin tone, and maybe a couple other attributes.)

76 john personna November 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm

BTW, in terms of running, I think that any one of us, if we are living up to our human potential, should be able to run down a deer. If we spent too much time in front of TVs as kids … that’s on us.

77 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm

jp,

So I’m the “slippery character”? Well played, sir.

‘West Africans’ is not my term- I read it somewhere. Note- I’m not even using the word ‘race’.

If I understand you, if I come in contact with such a view, the correct move is to cover my ears, sing loudly, and run quickly? Got it.

Let’s try it out: Ashkenazi Jews have won a wildly statistically improbable number of Nobel prizes. “La la la la la” – can’t hear you.

Not bad.

78 john personna November 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Of course you are playing it slippery. Did you define your races? Did you include Ashkenazi Jews in the “white” bucket?

Seriously, one of the red flags that racism is emotional and irrational is that it keeps switching its own categories. Sometimes Jews are white, and sometimes we have to kill the Jews because they aren’t white enough.

79 john personna November 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

BTW Brian, if you want now to agree with me that “race” is a stupid and non-specific classification, and that “racists” who declare inferiority (or superiority) on that basis are stupid and irrational … then well you’ve been on the wrong side of this whole thread, haven’t you?

Haven’t you?

80 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Cripes John, I’m still at the starting gate, waiting for a definition of racism and watching you slip and slide all over the place and psychoanalyze me nine ways from Sunday.

As far as I can tell, you feel that ‘race’ doesn’t exist, but ‘racism’ is rampant, which is a pretty good trick.

So I give up. You’ve basically confirmed the idea that the ‘racism’ charge is a rhetorical device and supplying a definition is unnecessary, counterproductive even.

81 john personna November 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

No. Stop. It is all there.

Racism is defined by the racists. They are the ones with groupings of convenience that they use to claim racial superiority and/or inferiority.

You can’t just play a coy game where you do not defend that practice, and then cry that it is unfair to attack it.

82 john personna November 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Just a couple comments ago we had a reminder that a “racial” argument was used to justify extermination of the Jews.

Just a couple comments later you say that the “‘racism’ charge is a rhetorical device and supplying a definition is unnecessary.”

I have to wonder if you are stupid or evil at this point.

83 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Well, john, so glad to know that you are a good man who is open to all the strengths in our tremendously varied gifts and willing to assist with our burdens.

I dread to think of how this conversation would go with a closed-minded asshole.

It’s also encouraging to see that your sense of wonder, while extremely attenuated, is not completely dormant. Remember, the mighty oak grows from a tiny acorn.

Seriously, I invite any person of good will to explain how I have crossed the ‘racist’ line in this thread.

we humans are all tremendously varied in our gifts and burdens. If we are good men and women we will be open to all those strengths and assist with those burdens. – See more at: htt

84 john personna November 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Dude, on Jews and racial genocide it would have been so easy for you to say “that’s evil, that’s not what I’m talking about.” You didn’t, but you fault me for the friendly and open things I’ve said about accepting others. Do you want me to accept that Nazis as my friends, and write off a few million deaths? Is that really where you wanted to go?

You aren’t improving your situation here. You should have stopped, way above, when you realized that you couldn’t really defend the racists, and had slip and slide away from that: “‘West Africans’ is not my term- I read it somewhere. Note- I’m not even using the word ‘race’.”

85 mike November 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm

“Just a couple comments ago we had a reminder that a “racial” argument was used to justify extermination of the Jews.”

Arguments against inequality and usury were also used to justify extermination of the Jews. Does that permanently discredit arguments against inequality and usury?

Mr. Personna, you embody Orwell’s description of crimestop as “a layer of protective stupidity.”

86 john personna November 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Come on mike, that’s a self-refuting comment. Only a really crazy racist would think that charges of usury ever “justified” racism, especially to the point of genocide.

(And for the record, I think that “usury” is an often religiously bound cultural argument. It’s not a path I’d take to banking regulation. I’d look more at simplicity of agreements and clarity of offer, a short summary with honest APR.)

87 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Yeah, I’ma ignore your Godwin’s bait. I’m no longer interested in your flabby and scatterbrained views on the topic.

As far as this: “…you fault me for the friendly and open things I’ve said about accepting others.”

Nope. I applauded the sentiment, but suggested it wasn’t just about race and was a pretty high bar, as you demonstrated by crashing straight through the same bar in this very thread.

Cheers!

88 john personna November 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Brian. Stop and think about one thing. Who brought “Ashkenazi Jews” to this thread? Did you really think you could bring Jews to a racism thread and not have someone make the connection to how that worked out in the past?

I mean, seriously. Now you say “your Godwin’s bait.”

Maybe you really shouldn’t play this. You aren’t good enough to attack an anti-racist without coming off a little racist-friendly.

89 john personna November 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

What did I “crash through” anyway? Is it just that I think racists, and their defenders, are stupid and irrational little beings?

90 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Your penetrating arguments called to mind this, which I came across recently, and which you echoed in your explanation of how, yeah, you coulda been an Olympic sprinter if you weren’t such a lame couch potato.

“The research is contentious because ministers and educationalists have long believed that any child, from whatever background, can achieve the highest academic ability.”

Awww…isnt that adorable? It’s so beautiful it must be true, right?

To be fair, I have a lot of respect for the potential of EVERY newborn child. Here’s an excerpt from a comment I made in August:

“As for the future, I accuse you of a simple failure of imagination and a lack of faith in all those newborns today, another cohort entering the planet as Undefeated All-Time Winners of a Mind-blowingly Improbable and Ruthless Competition.”

But this doesn’t mean I have deluded myself into thinking that if I only trained a little harder…lol.

91 john personna November 12, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Stop and think about what you are doing, Brian. You are trying another vague defense of racial ideas, ideas about inequality, right?

That’s going to end badly, again, because you can’t really defend the racists without getting some on you.

You should know that by now.

92 john personna November 12, 2013 at 7:16 pm

BTW, I do like trail running. It does feel very natural to me.

93 Brian Donohue November 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

As far as I can tell, I am chiefly motivated by one thing in this vale of tears: to understand.

Futile and quixotic, of course, but what are you gonna do?

I can’t be bothered to check and see if too many unsavory people have adopted an idea which may be helpful to my understanding. It’s completely irrelevant to me. Ideas stand or fall on their own.

So you can guilt by association me all you want- it sails right on by.

94 john personna November 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I gave you an out, Brian when I said “scientists talk about populations, and it is is really only racists who do this gross-morphology thing.”

That would have been a good time to say “I’m with the scientists, and not the racists.”

95 john personna November 12, 2013 at 7:58 pm

The Genographic Project, by National Geographic, is trying to do the science, while not falling to the racism. Good example.

96 Harold November 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm

john persona writes “I think both concepts of “race” and “superiority” are too sloppy for “legitimate inquiry.””

I suspect that if we were to have a legitimate inquiry into the concepts of race and superiority, you wouldn’t like the results. How happy then that you consider these concepts too sloppy for such an inquiry!

97 john personna November 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm

A little science for you, Harold. Human populations are incredibly mixed. Even my Danish ancestors are not fully “Northern European.” They are fully 30% Mediterranean and 16% southwest Asian.

That’s pretty sloppy.

98 Harold November 12, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Humans having dispersed from Africa to various parts of the globe remained sufficiently genetically isolated from one another to evolve a suite of correlated physiological differences. Do you know of any a priori evolutionary reason why they could not also have evolved concomitant cognitive differences correlated with said physiological differences? If you do, you should get the word out. Win fame, win fortune, get praised in the New York Times, go on speaking tours. Perhaps instead you have seen conclusive data which shows that such cognitive differences do not exist. But there is no such data. Indeed, the data we do have suggests the opposite conclusion. We are left with one of two conclusions: either you hold to the impossibility of cognitive differences as a matter of faith, or you are, in fact, open to their possibility. If the former, please don’t pretend you are anything but a religious zealot. If the latter, I ask of you this: that anytime you come across a discussion of the poor performance of certain minorities in any sphere of our society, and see that the blame is being placed solely at the feet of white racism or white privilege, please point out that possibly some of the blame might rest with innate differences. After all, is there anything more anathematic to the harmonious funtioning of a multi-racial and multi-cultural society than one group in the society being wrongfully blamed for the woes of another?

If your own ancestors not being fully Nothern European refuted the idea that people of primarily Northern European ancestry could be cognitively different from those of, say, primarily Japanese ancestry, it would also refute the idea that they could be physically different. Which is absurd.

99 john personna November 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm

That link shows a lot of mixing in the last few thousand years, Harold. Isolated? Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta walked across continents. They wouldn’t have been the first. They just would have been the first recorded and remembered.

100 john personna November 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I really don’t know any form of modern American racism that is correctly informed by, or even has a reasonable understanding of, modern genomics.

I mean, remember WD who wrote ““if thinking that black people are genetically inferior to white people makes someone a racist, then, yes”

For the racists is is still mostly about these big buckets called “white people,” “black people,” and “asians.”

101 Harold November 13, 2013 at 2:10 am

“Isolated? Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta walked across continents. They wouldn’t have been the first. They just would have been the first recorded and remembered.”

Nevertheless, sufficiently genetically isolated for a suficiently long time to evolve physical differences.

“For the racists is is still mostly about these big buckets called “white people,” “black people,” and “asians.””

So then you don’t object to the possibility of correlations between deep ancestry and cognitive and behavioural differences so long as they are not tied to crude racial taxonomies?

102 john personna November 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

I think you are telling me a just-so story, Harold, and then demanding that I draw a conclusion from the story.

How old were the Eurasian trade routes? How wide were Eurasian empires? Look at England, swept by conquest of both Northern European and Mediterranean tribes.

103 john personna November 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

(Note that Germans, from which we Americans draw much of our stock, are less than half “Northern European.”)

104 john personna November 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

On your last question, note that I say above “We certainly didn’t learn that any “race” can’t have good policemen, or comedians, or doctors, or lawyers, because we know all races have them.”

That’s the other thing that makes racism pointless.

105 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

This thread between john personna and Brian, Harold et al is fascinating.

If you subtract away the ad hominem attacks and insults, john personna is arguing that categories like “black” and “asian” are extremely broad compared to ‘scientifically valid’ categories like “inuit”, “ashkenazi jew” or “West African”. Therefore, anyone who says things like “Asian people are genetically superior to white people” are not just bad, but are deluded.

Effectively, john personna is saying that there can be correlations between visible and invisible attributes of human beings, as long as the relevant visible attribute isn’t a politically charged one like “black”. When Harold puts this to him directly (“So then you don’t object to the possibility of correlations between deep ancestry and cognitive and behavioural differences”), john personna won’t simply say “yes”.

I think the reason he won’t directly say that he believes this is that Harold and Brian are pushing him in a dangerous direction; if you admit that there can be correlations between *some* visible and invisible attributes of human beings, and you admit that the process that caused these correlations doesn’t have any notion of political correctness, it becomes very hard to argue why your favorite visible characteristic isn’t correlated – not even a tiny bit! – to any morally/politically salient invisible characteristics.

In fact Harold has basically said this, and john’s response was:

“I really don’t know any form of modern American racism that is correctly informed by, or even has a reasonable understanding of, modern genomics”

So if you say “people with green skin are dumb” you’re a racist, but if you say “green skin is correlated with lower IQ though a partially genetic mechanism” you’re not?

John also said:

“For the racists is is still mostly about these big buckets called “white people,” “black people,” and “asians.” ”

So john is left praying that evolution added up a lot of correlations in small groups to get zero correlation for the big groups… i.e. in john’s understanding of the world it is OK for West Africans to be good at running, so presumably it would be OK for West Africans to have a higher average IQ than the rest of humankind, but because West Africans have black skin, when put together with all of the other people who have black skin, all other things equal, “black skin” would correlate with “(slightly) higher IQ”, which is not OK, because that’s racist.

So what did nature do? Did evolution make sure that for every subgroup of skin color X with higher than average politically-charged trait Y, it made sure that there was an exactly equally sized other subgroup of skin color X with the opposite deviation from average in politically-charged trait Y?

Two things come together to make this kind of circus show.

On the one hand, reality is under no obligation to conform to the left’s notion of political correctness (or anyone else’s for that matter). On the other, it is a fairly universal very human trait to want to accuse your opponents of not just being evil, but also being factually incorrect, stupid, ignorant, deluded, nonsensical, etc. Now john personna has gone around the whole comment thread for this article accusing the scientific racists of being evil and stupid, and when they put him on the spot, he clutches at all sorts of straws.

106 john personna November 13, 2013 at 11:16 am

I think you’ve drawn the wrong conclusion in two ways, Alpha.

First, the science tells us that when we look for “populations” we have to look at very small groupings. Philippines vs Vietnam, for instance.

Second, those “different” populations share a great deal. They are different proportions of common heritages. (Northern and Southern Asian)

I think it’s both hard and silly to make any kind of racism out of that reality

107 john personna November 13, 2013 at 11:18 am

Or look at modern Mexicali-Americans who the study shows to be majority European. How many racists sniff “Mexicans!” while sharing many of the same genes?

108 john personna November 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

The central stupidity in racism is that brief isolation makes a population “pure” and comparable another “pure” population across the ocean.

That really relies on you not knowing the shared ancestry between the groups. And of course in all the New World nations the mixing and sharing is much more confused.

109 john personna November 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

None of us are pure, or average. All of us are some random mix of ancestral genes. There are “dumb blondes” and “smart blondes.” There are no big linkages between X and Y. Genes don’t work that way.

110 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

@john personna “There are no big linkages between X and Y”

but are there small ones? Would it be racist to say “black people are less intelligent than white people, but only slightly”?

111 john personna November 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Maybe you should put up some science, Alpha, if you think you are small linkages. But really, a linkage between melanin production for UV protection and some sort of neural thing? Why on earth should there be? Skin tone is a very direct adaption for the skin cancer risk and vitamin D need.

112 john personna November 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Would you have testified that Lonnie Johnson could not have invented the Super Soaker, because on average, he could not?

113 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

@john personna

All I was asking was whether, in your view, it is possible for there to be slight correlations between visible attributes like skin color and invisible, politically charged attributes like getting high scores on IQ tests.

So is it, or not?

114 john personna November 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm

One of the reasons I think racists are stupid is that they can constrain themselves to such artificial questions, without recognizing that the question destroys their own biases.

Are you really down to “slight correlations?”

Racism, WTF, right?

115 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

@john personna

You still haven’t answered my question!

Is possible for there to be slight correlations between visible attributes like skin color and invisible, politically charged attributes like getting high scores on IQ tests?

116 Harold November 14, 2013 at 6:18 am

“I think you are telling me a just-so story, Harold, and then demanding that I draw a conclusion from the story.”

Humans after having dispersed from Africa had periods where they remained sufficiently genetically isolated from one another for sufficiently long periods of time for physical differences to have evolved. This is not a “just-so” story, it is a mere statement of fact with which all reasonable people agree. Again I ask: If physical differences why not cognitive differences?

“How old were the Eurasian trade routes? How wide were Eurasian empires? Look at England, swept by conquest of both Northern European and Mediterranean tribes.”

Has the amount of mixing been enough to obliterate all physical differrences? Obviously not. Then there is no reason to think it woud have been enough to obliterate all cognitive differrences.

117 Harold November 14, 2013 at 6:38 am

“None of us are pure, or average. All of us are some random mix of ancestral genes. There are “dumb blondes” and “smart blondes.” There are no big linkages between X and Y. Genes don’t work that way.”

Who is more mixed than people who identify as Mexican-Americans?
There are tall blonde Americans and short blonde Americans.
Therre are no big linkages between genes that affect height and those that affect hair colour.
I guess all this proves that blonde Americans being taller on average than Mexican-Americans can have nothing to do with genes right?

118 john personna November 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I think, given the wide distributions of human intelligence, and the fact that intelligence is not the only thing that adds value to the human experience, you are a complete idiot to hang your hat on “slight correlations.”

But then racism is more than slightly correlated with idiocy. It is strongly correlated. As witnessed by the popularity of “white supremacy” in high security prisons.

119 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@john personna

So are you going to answer my question?

120 AlphaAlwaysWins November 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

So I am kind of forced to conclude that there is a bit of intellectual dishonesty going on here… you can’t answer a simple, straight question.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the intellectually bankrupt arm of left wing political correctness.

121 john personna November 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I did, for any sensible person. Given the wide distributions of human intelligence, and the fact that intelligence is not the only thing that adds value to the human experience, you are a complete idiot to hang your hat on “slight correlations.”

In my world I want a good doctor, I want to know good cooks, I want to hike with strong and good nurtured friends. None of these people have to be pure or average. In fact I enjoy that they are varied, and bring different things to share.

122 john personna November 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Should I do a “ladies and gentlemen” thing? No, that’s a bit much.

But I think it is interesting (read that as “sad”) that you have hung “left wing political correctness” on the idea of “slight correlations” across diverse populations.

Do you think a slight correlation matters when choosing a kids’ soccer coach? Of course not. You want an individual who is good with kids, knows sports, and is not a perv.

123 john personna November 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Put differently, you are defending the whole idea of racism with a claim of a minimal signal, buried in the noise. That’s a claim for you to prove, but even if you did prove “slight correlation,” what then? What use is that in the real world? Does it justify excluding some “race” from the golf course?

124 AlphaAlwaysWins November 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

@john personna: “I did…”

um, no you didn’t. The possible answers to “Is this thing possible” are “yes”, “no” and “I’m not sure”. Your response was a non-answer. It may be a valid response (though I don’t think it is) but let’s get this straight: you have not provided an answer.

The reason I am going on about this is because I feel that you are moving the goalposts of the discussion instead of just conceding the point. A while ago we were talking about racism and whether visible and invisible traits can be correlated. Myself and others have argued you to a point where you have to admit that they can be.

Now, instead of admitting that, you are trying to say such correlations don’t matter anyway, that variety itself is beneficial, etc. And there might be good counterarguments I could make to those points. Or maybe I agree with you on those issues – that variety is good, that visible-invisible correlations don’t much matter, etc. In fact my views are more complex – I think that visible-invisible correlations matter in some situations and not in others, that some variety is good but that the extent and direction of variety more important too.

But if I start to talk to you about these new issues, I worry that you’re going to pull the same trick and change the subject/move the goalposts again, especially when I make an argument that you have no answer to. This is pretty much the definition of intellectual dishonesty: not being able to admit when you are wrong, and hence precluding any genuine progress from a discussion.

125 FXKLM November 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

Much like all of those leftist Cubans in Miami.

126 TMC November 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm

The ones who fled communism?

127 Sean P. November 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Incidentally, it’s mostly the relatively affluent and educated Venezuelans who’ve emigrated to the US. I was in Doral, Florida on the day Chavez died and there were a lot more tears of joy than tears of sadness.

128 Joseph Hertzlinger November 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

That’s okay. After they all come here, we can go there and retake the oil. (Colonialism is immigration that the self-congratulatory ones dislike.)

129 Morgan Warstler November 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

This is Obamacare.

130 Michael November 11, 2013 at 8:59 am

If the executives of insurance companies were to start getting arrested, then you’d maybe have a point.

131 TMC November 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Almost as bad that they are afraid of repercussions if they say anything.

132 ervington November 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

Counterpoint: This is nothing at all like Obamacare.

133 Brandon November 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Odd, I thought insurance companies were raising their prices and that’s where all of the outrage is coming from?

134 Daniel November 11, 2013 at 9:12 am

He will have a tough time finding a Sony plasma TV…..

135 Jonathan November 11, 2013 at 10:01 am

There’s discontinued FWD50PX3. They might still have a few.

136 Dave Anthony November 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

He meant “Sorny Plasma TV”

137 Krigl November 13, 2013 at 9:17 am

Not to worry, there’ll always be (with a smal bri^H^H^H gift for the waiting list lady) a govenment issued Soma TV. Not sure ’bout that plasma, though…

138 boba November 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

>…when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men< I immediately think of congress critters and the mining industry respectively when I read that line.

139 dead serious November 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I think of Wall Street. And I work there.

140 Therapsid November 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

The conservative position for anyone outside the country is to take no position on what’s going on in Venezuela whatsoever.

It’s a sovereign country, they can do what they like. Who cares?

Maybe Alex wants us to continue to squander our resources promoting would be Juan Galts in Latin America, as if the Cold War were still on.

Let the Venezuelan people settle their own accounts.

141 Rahul November 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

Perhaps as an American it is defensible to take that position. For the rest of us, or at least a lot of us, other nations have often bailed us out historically when things got real bad internally. Though Venezuela isn’t there yet I suppose.

142 XVO November 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

I think it’s more of a warning of things to come than a call to arms. You’re right the majority of Venezuelan people wanted this, and this is what they get. Is this good for the nation as a whole? No, they are setting up their country for continued and amplified poverty. It is good for no one in the long term, but the people blindly believe their glorious leaders and hope for some short term gain.

What would you think if the majority of the people in your country wanted this? Why won’t it happen to you?

143 john personna November 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

There are several variations on the resource curse. This is one.

144 XVO November 11, 2013 at 4:06 pm

See Norway and North Sea oil for what happens when a country of high ability population suffers a resource curse.

145 john personna November 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

In the serious versions of the curse, a poor country discovers fast riches, and grows a heavily resource funded economy. Norway, like all the North Sea oil producers, had pretty arguable prosperity before oil. I mean, California and Texas avoided the curse for the same reason.

146 Brian Donohue November 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Also, the Dutch, after whom “Dutch disease’ was named, arguably also have avoided this curse.

At some point, it makes one wonder about the explanatory power here.

147 Xvo November 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Their resource is only valuable to others… The reason they can’t handle it is the same reason they are poor… Oil is worthless if you don’t know how to use it.

148 Edward Burke November 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

Seems clear why Venezuelans might already be nostalgic for Chavez: even though his regime kept Venezuela’s rate of inflation highest in all of Latin America for the duration of his rule, Maduro in his brief term has already managed the economy so well as to at least double the foregoing rate of inflation (now c. 45% on an annual basis, last I heard). Even “modest” double-digit rates of inflation can be regarded as a form of theft.

149 Floccina November 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

That must have been quite a spectacle!

150 john personna November 11, 2013 at 11:05 am

I guess the weird thing is that despite very different politics and policy, it probably looked like a typical Black Friday.

151 Jay November 11, 2013 at 11:45 am

Including the guys with rifles?

152 john personna November 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

Mall security.

153 Jay November 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Somehow I think a line of riflemen keeping “order” is more intimidating than a fat guy on a Segway puttering around the mall.

154 Dan Weber November 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

More Daka.

155 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm

+1, for hilarity. I saw the name and it went right past me, until you made the comment.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MoreDakka

More Dakka is the art of solving problems by firing as many rounds at them as possible

156 Yancey Ward November 11, 2013 at 10:23 am

What is amusing are the commenters above who think such a thing could never happen in the US, and so why is Alex even wasting their time writing about Venezuela.

157 dead serious November 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Oh, it’s happening in the US but it’s Wall Street that’s in charge of this particular banana republic.

Think about how the recent Twitter and Facebook IPOs were handled – exactly like all other IPOs. The ultrarich are given access to cheap shares – because, you know, they really need that extra $25 million – and retail investors get screwed royally.

158 asdf November 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

The looters are just doing what Rand wants them to, looking out for their own interests and fuck everyone else. Saying that if everyone else refused their options to loot at free ride it might make everyone else better off doesn’t change the calculus of you personally looting and free riding. You can’t trust those people to hold up their end, so you might as well get what you can, when you can, however you can, because the other guy would do the same to you. That’s is what a culture full of non-empathetic psychopaths creates, not some libertarian utopia.

159 beth(beth(omega)) November 11, 2013 at 10:52 am

I suspect you’ve never actually read anything that Rand wrote.

160 asdf November 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

Rand’s philosophy is full of so many logical faults that you are left with one or two conclusions:

1) Either her philosophy of your own happiness as the highest virtue is false.
2) If it’s true, all of the rules she tried to put on it can’t be logically defended based on her own premises (God is dead, *ALL* is permitted).

161 chuck martel November 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

Are saying that Rand is the patron saint of thieves?

162 asdf November 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I think she’s a confused damaged refuge from a totalitarian government and a dysfunctional family with a month who hated her and she invented some imaginary friends to protect her. In spergish fashion she tried to invent a convoluted philosophy around those imaginary friends that makes no logical sense and is full of contradictions. Anyone that buys into the philosophy tends to be damaged in some way just like her, and thievery (usually in the form of white collar fraud and dishonesty that they rationalize away) is just one of the many destructive habits such people often engage in.

163 MD November 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I thought the patron saint of thieves was Santa Claus

164 jqhart November 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

with a month who hated her

Was that April or May, Dr. Freud?

165 beth(beth(omega)) November 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Your characterization in 1) seems to confirm my suspicion.

166 asdf November 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm

BUT BUT BUT…

…she wrote about happiness meaning XYZ thing, so that’s what she meant!

Well, maybe, but all of those XYZs never made sense in the light of the first principals of her objectivist philosophy. They were contradictory, or at the very least unprovable assertions on which we have plenty of evidence to doubt. For a woman who said there are no contradictions that’s damning.

167 jizay November 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

So it’s Rand and a certain culture that creates such behavior? Then why are all these people, raised in a leftist utopia, only looking out for their own interests, as you acknowledge? Your post makes no sense. The Rand quote speaks to what happens when property rights and the fruits of one’s labor are not protected. As much as you may hate it, it is entirely accurate and telling in this case.

168 asdf November 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Property rights aren’t protected by some abstract force (like the law). They are protected by people, people with guns who use them to protect. Why should those people not take what they want if it makes them happy? Rand made all sorts of assertions on this issue, but could never answer that in a logical or empirically consistent way.

The only real answer is that people would have to forgo something that would make them happy (looting) because they believe in a higher set of values (justice) even when it didn’t make them personally happy.

169 Brett November 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

You can also argue it on utilitarian terms – that it’s better to have property rights in general that you can occasionally modify to suit particular ends, then to just not have them in general. Of course, the downside is that people eventually come to see property not as a legal construct designed to promote the general welfare, but as an entitlement. Just look at what happened with intellectual property.

170 asdf November 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

If Rand was just trying to right fairy tales about rugged individualism then we could maybe say they were LOTR for spergs and take what value we could from them.

However, she went beyond that to create a whole objectivist philosophy that makes no sense, and I’ve seen the negative effects of anyone that claims to take her seriously IRL, so I’m not sure what value there is to her. More coherent defenses of property rights that normal people understand already existed.

171 jizay November 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

“The only real answer is that people would have to forgo something that would make them happy (looting) because they believe in a higher set of values (justice) even when it didn’t make them personally happy.”

The ONLY real answer? You can’t conjure up anything else at all? Maybe take 30 seconds to think about it. How about: I forego looting because if we don’t respect each other’s property rights we will all be much poorer and life will be more brutish. I want to live in a society that enforces protections over those rights because in the long run, it WILL make me personally happier (and in fact, does so).

Your “higher” set of values is leading to what I would call this tragedy in Caracas. The looting is being done in the name of justice, which supersedes “petty” concerns like efficiency, and will ultimately make Venezuelans suffer.

172 asdf November 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

“I want to live in a society…”

Except individuals can’t affect social norms in any degree that would be materially relevant to them in a wholly selfish context. This isn’t some tiny hunter gathered tribe where everyone knows everyone else. It’s a mass and fairly anonymous society. Social trust is subject to the same tragedy of the commons that Randoids complain about when it comes to physical property. If one is merely a whole selfish individual whose value is their own happiness then exploiting social trust to advance themselves is going to be the optimal game theory in tons of situations.

173 chuck martel November 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

“individuals can’t affect social norms in any degree that would be materially relevant to them in a wholly selfish context”
They certainly try.

174 asdf November 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm

They do, because in a hunter gatherer context they really can. You really can change the social norms of such a small group of people you have personal often daily contact with and make a social contract work easier at that level. Most of people’s attitudes are evolved, and many problems in the modern environment come from their attitudes not matching the environment they find themselves in now.

175 chuck martel November 12, 2013 at 11:11 am

Seems as though Martin Luther and John Calvin might have changed some social norms. Don’t know the name of the first adolescent male to wear his ball cap backward.

176 XVO November 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

It has nothing to do with believing in a higher set of values. Property rights and non violence make life a cooperative game that makes everyone better off. The real answer as to why people in power shouldn’t take what they want in a through violence is that then there is no reason for society not to descend into violence. You can only take so much from people before they will fight back violently, and this would destroy the cooperative game and everyone would be worse off, even the original looters.

177 asdf November 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm

“then there is no reason for society not to descend into violence”

What if you have the force to take what you want without the threat of rebellion? That’s what a “monopoly on force” means.

“You can only take so much from people before they will fight back violently”

Then you figure out how much that is and take that. That’s basically what government is after all. How many governments not called communists have a 100% tax rate? Most governments figure out how much they can tax the population without killing the golden goose and then do that. That can be an enormous amount, and it can make the looters in this case quite rich and happy. You know this is true because every year you pay your taxes and you don’t rebel. You don’t rebel because you figure that your keeping enough of your wealth that rebellion would make you less happy then compliance.

Even when governments go to far, the government is a giant organization. If you, individual functionary within it, have an opportunity to loot and don’t take it that isn’t going to stop the organization you work for or people at large from looting. The trends of history happen whether you comply with them or not. On an individual level your just riding a wave. You as an individual can benefit immensely from violating social trust, but you only enhance social trust a tiny bit when you play by the rules. Unmoored from general moral principals, concerned only with yourself, the idea that you wouldn’t take what you can because it has an almost un-measurable affect on overall social trust is ridiculous.

178 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

asdf has no idea what he is talking about and has never read Rand.

“he Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.

The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.”

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/selfishness.html

179 asdf November 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm

How does Ayn Rand’s ethics prove this statement?

This is key, because Rand made all sorts of general moral claims about what “rational selfishness” means that, taken in a vacuum, aren’t bad principles. However, they are not provable within her philosophical framework, and to say its ok that there are contradictions doesn’t work with a woman whose entire philosophy is based on the idea that contradictions don’t exist.

“that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned”

But of course men do desire the “unearned”. Going back to that statement, “values required for human survival,” the ability to take the unearned enhances man’s ability to survive. Most people who survived till today survived because their ancestors took lots of unearned things. They are the surviving conquerors and loots of history, that’s your ancestry. She can’t say the reason people shouldn’t loot is because it goes against our survival instinct when looting is how most of us survive and is an integral part of survival. In our modern world this takes modern white collar crime type forms, though we certainly have shown our ability to revert to pure barbarism when the incentives line up just right.

Rand’s philosophy can’t survive a simple prisoners dilemma. And real life, as opposed to the highly contrive situations and characters in her books, is full of prisoners dilemmas that don’t have great solutions.

180 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm

You made a claim that looting was exactly what Rand would suggest these people do in an attempt to create some controversy. You succeeded. The fact of the matter, however, is that Rand’s rational self-interested man would not take ill-gotten loot today at the cost of more value created cooperatively tomorrow. Whether or not Rand’s philosophy would survive a prisoner’s dilemma, or what surviving means in that context, seems immaterial to me

181 asdf November 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm

“is that Rand’s rational self-interested man would not take ill-gotten loot today at the cost of more value created cooperatively tomorrow”

How is this a relevant statement though?

Let’s take an actual scenario from real life I’ve observed. You have an opportunity to defraud some investors. You’ll make life changing money on the deal. The investors will not be in a position to retaliate and you are very likely to escape prosecution. It won’t even hurt your ability to do business in the future because we live in a giant mass society where there are always more suckers where those came from who won’t know your reputation and have no practical logistic way to find out what you did to those people. In such a case a person can loot today without effecting his ability to gain more value tomorrow.

This idea that looting will cause a reputation effect that will affect ones long run value acquisition is rooted in our evolutionary legacy of small hunter gatherer tribes. Its based around the idea that everyone knows everyone, everybody knows that everyone does, and anyone that starts doing bad stuff can be identified and punished/expelled. That’s why you instinctually think this is the case. However, your instinct evolved in a different environment, it didn’t evolve for the modern environment. In the modern environment we know very little about the people around us and the people we do business with. Even amongst those we know its hard to evaluate both their past actions and likely future actions. In addition our modern mass economy creates a TON of principle/agent and asymmetric information market failures, all of which can be exploited by unscrupulous individuals with a lot of impunity. That doesn’t even get into other issues like market power, the empirical reality of human psychology and manipulation, etc.

It seems to me that large segments of our economy, politics, and personal lives, because they are so evolutionarily novel relative to our instincts, create all sorts of opportunities for the self-interested man to loot today and still do well tomorrow given the right circumstances. Far from being immaterial they are quite substantial, and its actually this fact that was behind a lot of the moral and religious systems that evolved to deal with the issue that Rand couldn’t understand. Outside of creating a few asshole bankers/politicians I know who used Rand as an intellectual rationalization for a lot of fraud, dishonesty, and ruthlessness in their professional and personal lives I’ve yet to see it actually provide the kind of personal motivation to actually solve these intransigent problems.

182 asdf November 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Lastly, Rand’s philosophy was absolutist. It didn’t say, “looting is usually not good for ones self interest.” It said, “looting is never in anyone’s self interest.” Her entire philosophy was full of strong statements of absolutes.

As such all I need to do to knock down her philosophy is prove a single instance of it being false.

That said, I think one can even go far beyond outliers to say that market failures and opportunities for looting that conform to rational self interest are extremely prevalent in society, not just novelties.

183 Mr. Econotarian November 12, 2013 at 2:26 am

“one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice).” -Ayn Rand “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25

184 asdf November 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

Does not square with, “your own happiness is the highest virtue.”

1) Your own happiness can be enhanced by the unearned.
2) The only way she can get around this is by saying that #1 isn’t true ever. This also lead her to make lots of other ridiculous statements (such as competition doesn’t exist and marginal pricing doesn’t exist).
3) She offers no proof that #1 isn’t true, she only makes assertions like this one. In the absence of proof, and indeed in the presence of much evidence to the contrary, we have to regard this as a flaw in her philosophy.
4) Thus people pursuing #1 will often loot while following their rational self interest, even in long run scenarios. In fact most of the biggest looters I’ve known are Randoids, who use her philosophy as rationalization for shady dealings and the pillaging of social trust for personal gain.

185 1234 November 12, 2013 at 3:58 am

“The looters are just doing what Rand wants them to, looking out for their own interests and fuck everyone else.”

That is not what Rand “wants them to” do. You can learn things like this about a person by reading what they wrote.

186 Dan Weber November 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

Daka officials could not be reached for comment.

Did you try visiting them in jail to ask them?

187 Sebastian Teran Hidalgo November 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

You can see it for yourselves here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D4Zktt_dCE#t=301

188 Alex K. November 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Can someone translate, or give a narrative about what is going on?

People _seem_ to be just stealing, with others trying to stop them, but I’m not sure.

189 Sebastian Teran Hidalgo November 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Pretty much what you just said.

190 tt November 11, 2013 at 11:17 am

please stop talking about it and “go galt” already. i hate to think of a world without this blog, but that will
teach those bastards!

191 Ad Nauseum November 11, 2013 at 11:37 am

So, this is what democracy looks like?

192 Brett November 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

To be fair, they didn’t just seize the inventory and give it away – it’s just that they forced the company to sell it off at artificially low prices (too low for the company to make a profit most likely, and it’s probably going out of business with the managers also being arrested).

I’m half-surprised Maduro didn’t just expropriate it completely, like with Chavez (whom he’s desperate to imitate). I’m not surprised he’s pulling a stunt like this with elections coming up, since they probably don’t have the money to do what they did last time when Chavez won (i.e. spend the billions the Chinese foolishly give you for an advance on oil that will never show up).

193 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

To be fair, they didn’t just seize the inventory and give it away – it’s just that they forced the company to sell it off at artificially low prices (too low for the company to make a profit most likely, and it’s probably going out of business with the managers also being arrested).

I believe they were forcing it to be sold at the official exchange rate vs the black market rate, or roughly 1/9th the prior listed price. So it was almost certainly far lower than the price that the company paid to import the merchandise. Furthermore, they jailed the store managers on trumped up charges. So, it’s pedantic to call this anything other than looting and/or stealing. The difference is too small to be relevant.

If a large guy comes up to you and points a gun at you. Then demands your $600 iPhone and gives you $75 for it. Would you consider that stealing? Or would it be just forcing you to sell at a non-profitable rate?

194 Andrej Ristic November 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I have the highest respect for Tyler Cowen but his allowance of this article to occur here makes me doubt that respect. Any one who uses Rand to win an argument about any thing I always consider highly dangerous. The philosophy of complete lack of empathy, of selfcentredness, always only serves the speaker of that philosophy, never the listener. It is always a bully way of persuading. It never has any consideration for anyone other than the speaker.
As someone pointed out, why are the shop’s owners defended in this article, using the ‘objectivism’ by Rand, but Maduro’s forces, who are applying the same principle to themselves are not. Double standard, which makes most of the rants on this page completely meaningless on one level – the level of meanining injected in the words spoken here, and on another level, extremely dangerous – the level of Tyler Cowen adding his approval and his weight to this nonsense, thus legitimizing it and making it dangerous.

195 TMC November 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Could we have something where you have to be older than 12 to comment?

196 Jay November 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I believe your misunderstanding objectivism if you believe Maduro’s forces and the shop’s owners are on equal moral footing.

197 jqhart November 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Any one who uses Rand to win an argument about any thing I always consider highly dangerous.

The horror! The horror!

What are they going to do to you that is so harmful?

198 Thomas November 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

“The philosophy of complete lack of empathy, of selfcentredness, always only serves the speaker of that philosophy”

I don’t even know a word with enough impact to describe the irony of posting in support of looting using an argument like this.

199 Andrej Ristic November 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Just to add, I care mostly what Tyler Cowen has to say about this appearing o MR that I deeply respect.

200 sort_of_knowledgable November 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm

While Tyler Cowen makes most of the posts, I think he has an agreement that Alex Tabarrok is a coblogger and can post what he likes without Tyler’s approval. Tyler also likes to do Tyronne once in a while, so I think he wants to see a diverse set of writing. And it was supposedly a Rand-Hayek argument not pure Rand.

201 dirk November 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I guess you have to have an Ayn Rand secret-decoder ring to understand what she means when she puts words together.

202 rmark November 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I wonder if there will be a trend to stores ‘understocking’ their shelves? Maybe you will have to preorder for future delivery?

203 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm

As long as the delivery is to Miami, I don’t think you’ll have any problems what so ever.

204 Careless November 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Remember the recent thread about arbitrage? Bet you’ll be able to make money taking electronics for Brazil to Venezuela after this.

205 Alan November 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

If productive people are to be robbed, let it be done by proper business and accounting methods, endorsed by Congress.

206 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I think this was an Executive Order. They are currently in vogue whenever a Congress refuses to rubber stamp your decisions.

207 dead serious November 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Ding ding ding.

Look at the precious faux-libertarians all upset that the masses are looting. Wall Street loots to the tune of hundreds of billions into the trillions and all they can muster up is:

“The crash was the fault of lying loan applicants.”
and
“We need more tax cuts for the ultra-rich to ‘stimulate the economy'”

I came to this blog initially because I saw libertarianism as striving for a higher moral ground and wanted to learn more. What I’ve found – at least here – is that it’s basically a weird group of right-wing open borders nuts with no intellectual or moral consistency.

208 Brian Donohue November 11, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Can I get a citation for the most recent comment advocating tax cuts for the ultra-rich to ‘stimulate the economy’?

Or are you just having a conversation inside your own head, demolishing one straw man after another?

209 Thor November 12, 2013 at 3:02 am

So perhaps you’ll leave? Look, it’s not the “masses” that are looting. That would be bad enough, since it signals the destruction of any polity based on law. What’s awful is that the leaders of Venezuela apparently think this is an act of fairness.

210 mike November 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

When “the masses” of voters vote in a government that will use military force to seize other peoples’ valuables and distribute them to “the masses”, then the masses are in fact looting in a somewhat roundabout way.

211 Albigensian November 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm

This seems to be a case of what happens when magical thinking is combined with government power.

The problem is that Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is not worth as much as the government says it is. And therefore (magical thinking) it must worth that much if government says it is!

Approx 100% of the goods in a Venezuelan electronics store are imported, and the store has to buy then with $USD (not bolivars). And therefore the international markets say they cost, and not what government thinks they should cost (based the official currency exchange rates).

But that can’t be- the bolivar must be worth more than that! And therefore (according to the government’s magical thinking) the store must be overcharging.

(And presumably this government-sanctioned looting will encourage people to desperately exchange their bolivars for dollars at whatever rate they can get, thus further accelerating the already runaway rate of inflation.)

It’s always hard to tell whether government thugs really believe their own propaganda, but in this case I suspect they really do.

212 Axa November 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

This.

Importing TVs and then selling them in Bolivars showed the real inflation. Maybe a figure impossible for the government to acknowledge as “real”. They must be overcharging, bastards!!!!

213 FC November 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Madurotelevision makes Obamaphone look efficient.

214 JWatts November 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm

It’s probably got lower overhead, and on a strictly cost basis, it’s probably cheaper. At least over the last 5 year period. 😉

215 JRAY5569 November 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm
216 Dan.N Hanson November 12, 2013 at 2:15 am

I think this says it better than Rand did:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

– Robert Heinlein

217 Jeff November 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

Maybe, except Rand’s point in the quote is entirely different.

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