Assorted links


"It's no fun giving high status to science: why cede the power to know to an impersonal process with unpredictable outcomes?"

Who's not having the fun. who's giving the status and who's ceding the power?

Perhaps it's a coded attack on the Global Warming Hysterics and their claim to power by virtue of imposing a "consensus" while fearing a genuinely impersonal investigation. "Settled science" doesn't allow unpredictable outcomes.

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You can't take the sky from me:

In civilizations like ours, the liberal principles exist independently of whatever the government’s laws happen to be. We all understand that, according to what Smith called natural jurisprudence, slaves in the antebellum South owned themselves — even though that ownership was privately and institutionally desecrated and trampled. We understand that alcohol prohibition, even while duly enacted, was a trampling of liberty. Your stuff is delineated and socially deemed as yours by what we might call natural focal points and natural conventions. My marijuana is my marijuana, and I have not entered any contract with “the people” or any other overlord not to smoke it.

Thank you.

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So explain to me, if you please, why I should accept the ownership of self as a fundamental tenet of moral reasoning?

In fact, it is completely untenable on its own. It flies against all of history and science. People are NOT equal as masses of molecules.

It was the oppression of the South by the North that broke the back of institutional oppression of the blacks in the South. (I'm talking reconstruction & civil rights). One group of whites told another how to live, and if they didn't like it, tough.

"Oh but they were the good guys." Really, why? Just behavior is defined by a moral framework, and you cannot get there ex nihilo.

... "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights" ...

I've not studied Hume and Smith, but the founders of the largest domain of liberty to date did so based on a religious understanding of liberty. I believe it was Madison that say that the Jews and Muslims were free to practice their religions here because we are a Christian nation. This reveals a very different view of Christianity than was held across the pond up until that point.

How is it good to build a fence around some ground and say it is mine but unacceptable to raise a flag and say that it is ours? (Remember of course, historically, it was more likely to raise a flag and say that it is his.)

But if you insist on self-ownership as the basis of moral reasoning, explain to me how an infant holds their ownership of self, how that evolves, and who safeguards it. It is a warped sense of child-self-ownership that is the basis of some of the most oppressive measures being proposed.

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If you don't own yourself, who does?

I generally don't need or want the government to inflict violence on my behalf, I just want them to leave me alone if I have to when they come to file the report.

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Sorry, a little off topic but some might find it interesting:

I just want to congratulate Mr. Assagne for his first soon to be killed person due to the leaks...

"Describing some of the challenges he faces as Party Secretary, Li related that despite brisk economic growth of SIPDIS 12.8 percent in 2006, Liaoning’s income gaps remain severe. Liaoning ranks among the top 10 Chinese provinces in terms of per capita GDP, yet the number of its urban residents on welfare is among the highest in the country and average urban disposable income is below the national average. By contrast, rural disposable incomes are above the national average. Even so, incomes for Liaoning farmers are only half that of urban residents.

¶4. (C) GDP figures are “man-made” and therefore unreliable, Li said. When evaluating Liaoning’s economy, he focuses on three figures: 1) electricity consumption, which was up 10 percent in Liaoning last year; 2) volume of rail cargo, which is fairly accurate because fees are charged for each unit of weight; and 3) amount of loans disbursed, which also tends to be accurate given the interest fees charged. By looking at these three figures, Li said he can measure with relative accuracy the speed of economic growth. All other figures, especially GDP statistics, are “for reference only,” he said smiling."

Recursive conspiracy: What has Wikileaks redacted?

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Re: Scientific effects shrinking - In the pharmaceutical example given in Lehrer's article, one would expect the effectiveness of the drug to be overstated by the pharmaceutical company given the economics of the situation. The pharmaceutical company is granted a patent monopoly on the drug by the government, which allows it to charge a price for the drug 100s or 1000s of times higher than the price would be without a patent. Such rent seeking is a strong incentive not to find the potential dangers of drugs or to overstate their therapeutic effects.

A couple months ago, the NYTimes had a front page story ( on how GlaxoSmithKline did not do analysis of (or report) data that its diabetes drug Avandia caused a large increased risk for heart attacks, even though it had that data on hand. Now US and Europe are restricting the drug's use, but of course it's too late for those who were not informed of the risk and died of heart attacks. GlaxoSmithKline had a very strong incentive not to find or downplay the dangers of its drug, given the exorbitant rents it gets selling the drug via its government patent monopoly.

We should not be surprised by any of this, as corruption is common in any area of economics where high rent seeking is possible.

I haven't read the rest of the Lehrer article. He claims "shrinking results" occur in biology and physics too. I'm skeptical that its in any way similar to the pharmaceutical example he gives. Often first results in a new area of research have low number statistics or have assumptions that are poorly-understood, but that's why the process of science, the process of reproducing the results in other labs or via independent observation is crucial. This is not a bug of science; it's how science is done! As datasets get more complete, scientists' confidence in them grows. This is always the case and is not news to any scientist. It's a fundamental guiding principle of the scientific method.

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The article starts by describing how few women chefs receive top awards and recognition. A couple of paragraphs in, I encountered this magnificent sentence: "No one doubts women’s abilities in the kitchen." Clearly, the people awarding Michelin stars do. I laughed at it for a bit and pressed ctrl+w.

Possibly related:

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"If it were not for the state, property would flow to those strong enough to take and defend it by force."

Absolutely false. Society |= the state. Even where there is no formal government role, society dictates certain norms that govern human behavior. Where the government will not enforce these rights, society will. Just because you have never experienced a world not dominated by the state does not mean such a world cannot exist or function. There is a fairly extensive literature on this topic of spontaneous order/law.

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Where the government will not enforce these rights, society will.

By creating a government, then organizing a police and a judiciary.

Alternatives ? Crowd lynching.

Or some Rube Goldberg construction of private agencies, if you absolutely want to avoid having a state. The closest actually existing organization I can think of is the mafia: you pay, you are protected. The problem is that, as any private-controlled system with a highly inelastic demand curve and no oversight, it typically evolves into a monopoly. You then get the natural state of human societies: feudalism.

I have no doubt that many forms of social organization can exist in small communities. The problem is that in a society of thousands, millions or billions, social relations of any given individual are restricted to a very small part of society. This includes individuals holding the most wealth and/or power in any form. Mutual interest in the subgroup and the interest of the community can then easily become totally opposite. These "social externalities" lead to a stratification and centralization of society, and the rest is History. 90% of it.

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"any social engineering project that looks good on paper to true believers but in compatible with corruptible and fallible human nature -- is doomed."

Very well said, although, it is easy to read about well-established concepts of property rights well before the nation-state.

Libertarians seem to see man as fundamentally good, until they come under the sway of the evil state. Liberals seem to seem man as fundamentally helpless or evil, until they enter the enlightening sphere of the state.

Both hopelessly fail this test--by assuming that man's character magically changes depending on whether he acts in his own capacity or in the capacity of the state.

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Tyler, are you a redditor or was that link passed on to you by someone else?

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I don't think it's entirely correct to say that tax cuts that cause a deficit = future taxes. Since it's politically difficult to raise taxes, these tax cuts may increase the political pressure on the government to cut spending (or to refrain from increasing spending).

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"Where the government will not enforce these rights, society will.

By creating a government, then organizing a police and a judiciary.

Alternatives ? Crowd lynching."

Right. That is one alternative. But if you really look at it, you will see that the government is the same thing just dressed up a little. In fact, as was recently posted about justice on indian reservations, sometimes the government creates a mob justice situation. But the bigger point is that there are a lot of alternatives and the government doesn't really create justice, it's just a slightly, sometimes, more formal (and inefficient) and less messy way of doing it that makes us feel better about it. It's mainly there to protect the guilty and sometimes the innocent, and that's when it's done right, which of course it isn't in this most incarcerated country on the planet in the history of the world.

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Tyler asked before if arsenic in DNA was significant. I think a large number of people coming out to say that something in Science "should not have been published" was even more significant.

I don't expect miracles from peer review. Here's what we did, here's what we used, here's what we got. Here's some fluff as to why you might think it's interesting. Are the pictures nice enough? Fine. But apparently a lot of people do want the peer review process to actually do the science which explains the uproar.

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On scientific truths being diluted over time:

If this dilution effect is a scientifically valid finding, and if it is correct, it will neccessarily become less true itself over time.

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