I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?



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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Engineering Proverb and Top Doctors

There's a well-known engineering proverb: A brilliant engineer is someone who can do for one dollar what any fool can do for two. There's evidence the same principle applies to medicine. According to a recent study (seen via Overcoming Bias):

Patient sorting can confound estimates of the returns to physician human capital. This paper compares nearly 30,000 patients who were randomly assigned to clinical teams from one of two academic institutions. One institution is among the top medical schools in the country, while the other institution is ranked lower in the quality distribution. Patients treated by the two teams have identical observable characteristics and have access to a single set of facilities and ancillary staff. Those treated by physicians from the higher-ranked institution have 10-25% shorter and less expensive stays than patients assigned to the lower-ranked institution. Health outcomes are not related to the physician team assignment, and the estimates are precise. Procedure differences across the teams are consistent with the ability of physicians in the lower-ranked institution to substitute time and diagnostic tests for the faster judgments of physicians from the top-ranked institution.
In other words, Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III might seem pricy, but he can save you money.

This might seem odd. It's similar to a claim that top-ranked financial advisors cannot beat the market but can perform better first aid.

On the other hand, it's common for X to be recommended on the grounds that it does the important task Y, but Y is done to the same extent anyway, and X instead enables Z. In this case, X is prestigious medical education, Y is healing patients, and Z is saving money. In another example, time-saving houshold appliances don't save time but provide cleaner houses, dishes, and clothes. Similarly, artificial sweeteners don't help people lose weight, but at least they can eat better-tasting food. In yet another example, faster transportation doesn't shorten commutation times but it does enable transportation to neighborhoods with larger backyards.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Instead of Hot-Air Balloons

Instead of hot-air balloons, would it make more sense to use hot-water balloons? After all, steam is lighter than hot air and has more lifting ability.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Warning to Climate Skeptics

Much of the time, climate skeptics sound like the economists covered in this article (seen via EconLog):

“Until society realizes that the flawed, growth-oriented neoclassical lens it has been using to guide economic decisions distorts reality and is leading to an ecological disaster, I am not very optimistic about humanity’s long-term prospects,” he confides.

But after three decades of questioning whether the world can continue to support our consumption habits, Rees has had trouble convincing his colleagues in economics that their economic model needs an overhaul.


Despite her interest in feminist economics, Julie Nelson’s publication record is so impressive that she qualified for tenure at one of the top 30 US university economics departments. But she’s disheartened by the state of mainstream theory.


These accounts are symptoms of a pervasive system of thought control in economics. But no one knows more about how unwelcome ideas are kept from being expressed in economics departments and tainting the minds of curious students than Fred Lee, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has documented over a hundred cases where economists who wouldn’t drink the neoclassical Kool-Aid got pushed aside – a problem that began over a century ago when the working classes started to teach themselves Marxist theory.

The rhetorical style is starting to sounds familiar, doesn't it? I don't think we want to sound as nuts as they do.

Addendum: In the course of looking at other comments on the above, I saw a link to the following:

Old professors retired to new pursuits are replaced by new professors pursuing old ideas. The new recruits were carefully screened for their orthodoxy. They studied at leading departments, where they demonstrated their commitment to markets, economic growth, free trade and learned to respect the consumer as king. They were not exposed to other disciplines and they will never read an article published in the natural sciences.
Out of what bodily orifice is he pulling that last assertion?

On the contrary, there's evidence that economics programs might even prefer hard-science majors:

Preparing: Math. The most important thing in admissions is your math background (more than economics itself - I suspect most econ PhD programs would love physics and engineering majors).  You should definitely have multivariable calculus and linear algebra.  Statistics (that is, real statistics from the math department), real analysis and differential equations help too.  You're not really going to use all of it - though it really befuddles you at first, you'll eventually realize that a large part of the math in economics involves taking a derivative, setting it equal to zero and doing a bunch of algebra. Nonetheless, a strong math background - not just the classes, but good grades in them - is vitally important as a signaling device to convince programs that you'll be able to handle the rigors of the first year.
There's even an economics professor with a PhD in physics.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Undecidable “Elementary” Geometry

According to Augustus De Morgan (quoted in A Long Way from Euclid by Constance Reid):

What distinguishes the straight line and circle more than anything else, and properly separates them for the purpose of elementary geometry? Their self-similarity, Every inch of a straight line coincides with every other inch, and of a circle with every other of the same circle. Where, then, did Euclid fail? In not introducing the third curve which has the same property—the screw. The right line, the circle, the screw—the representation of translation, rotation, and the two combined—ought to have been the instruments of geometry. With a screw we should never have heard of the impossibility of trisecting an angle, squaring a circle, etc.
In some ways, the elementary geometry of points, lines, and circles is radically different from elementary geometry including screws. The former is decidable, a fact also covered in A Long Way from Euclid. (Betweeness and congruence can be expressed in terms of lines and circles and vice versa.) The latter, on the other hand, is undecidable. It includes a model for the Peano Axioms: The points on one side of a given point in the intersection of a line and a screw.

This is probably well-known but I haven't seen it anywhere …

Addendum: Mícheál Mac an Airchinnigh had some speculations along these lines over a decade ago:

It seems reasonable to put forward the working hypothesis that there is a geometry of curves which is computationally equivalent to a Turing Machine. Such a geometry of curves we call Geometria

On the other hand, the following claim differs from my result:
One might consider trying to construct geometrical equivalents to essential programming features. For example, it seems reasonable that the spiral ought to correspond to the loop.
In my construction, spirals are more analogous to counters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life as a Science-Fiction Story

This portrayal of life in 2008 sounds like something written by a grumpy right-wing SF writer in the mid '70s. (If it were written by a grumpy left-wing SF writer, it would include people dying in the streets from pollution and the excess wealth would go to major corporations instead of indulged kids.)

The biggest differences between reality and the hypothetical SF story is that Britain is the epicenter instead of the United States and it doesn't include a juvenile delinquent being rescued by space industrialization.

The Literati Haven't Changed

In the nineteenth century, a professional wordsmith made an astronomical mistake:

The novels of Sir Walter Scott (who was a contemporary of Gauss) were read eagerly as they came out, but the unhappy ending of Kenilworth made Gauss wretched for days and he regretted having read the story. One slip of Sir Walter's tickled the mathematical astronomer into delighted laughter, “the moon rises broad in the northwest,” and he went about for days correcting all the copies he could find.

In the twentieth century, professional wordsmiths made an astronomical mistake:

Correction: August 16, 2008
An article on Friday about the planned construction of two large solar power installations in California described incorrectly the operation of the solar panels in one, to be built by SunPower. Its panels pivot from east to west to follow the sun over the course of a day —not west to east.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Science Fiction and Reality

From Past Master by R. A. Lafferty:

But owing to his having only one kidney, Paul was now unable to drink water at all.
Overheard in a hospital:
There's some kidney involvement, so I'm not allowed to drink water …

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm a Discredited Author and I Approve This Message

The essay I'm Sigmund Freud, and I Approve This Message by Paul Waldman (seen via The Brothers Judd) is not a parody:

Meanwhile, McCain himself was sent out to pose in front of working oil rigs, to testify to his thirst for pulling more black gold from the earth. The message couldn't be plainer: See that itty-bitty, little tire gauge? If you vote for Obama, that's how big your penis is. If you vote for McCain, on the other hand, your penis is as big as this rig, thrusting its gigantic shaft in and out of the ground! Real men think keeping your tires inflated is for weenies.

There may not be a sign tacked to a bulletin board at McCain headquarters reading, "It's the sexual insecurity, stupid," but McCain's team of operatives, many schooled at Karl Rove's knee, know just what to do when an opportunity presents itself. They've been playing this tune for so long, they don't need to look at the sheet music: Our guy is a real man, their guy is a sissy, rinse, repeat.

I was about to call this a non-falsifiable argument until I realized that there was no actual argument. I guess it's a non-falsifiable irrelevance. (I've said that before, haven't I?)

I won't more than mention the fact that Freud is no longer taken seriously in psychology.

For that matter, real conservatives are unimpressed with other attempts at exploiting “sexual insecurity.”

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Left-Wing Young-Earth Creationists?

Apparently, the Obama campaign is planning an anti-nuclear-waste ad for Nevada, presumably on the grounds that the nuclear waste repository might leak. In view of the fact that there was a natural nuclear fission reactor on Earth a billion or two billion years ago and the resulting nuclear waste did not move from its place, the Obama faction must not believe fossil evidence.

On the other hand, maybe they want to appeal, not to all Americans, but to swing voters in purple states. That explains support of ethanol for Iowa and opposition to nuclear waste in Nevada. If they come out in favor of cheese-fueled power stations for Wisconsin, we'll know that their tactic is to appeal to the Bud Johnson vote.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Obama Salute

The Obama salute looks very like a goatse.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Is the Left the Nerd Side of Politics?

Where did the idea that the left is the nerd side of politics come from? Which side of the political spectrum got its prejudices from people who floated through college in a semi-conscious haze and made up for that by getting their ideas from people who were just as stoned? Which side of the political spectrum is opposed to the energy source discovered and maintained by nerds (i.e., nukes)?

On the other hand, there are leftists willing to give credit (although they think it's blame) to right-wing nerds.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Will Cheap Energy Lead to Blowing up the World?

The above question was asked at Marginal Revolution (seen via TJIC):

In Cleveland I posed a variant of the following question: let's say that you can blow up the world if a) you can exceed 1550 on your two main SATs, b) you are willing to spend $50,000, and c) you sincerely wish for world destruction for one month straight.

How long would the world last?

We may someday envy the problems we have now.

I doubt if cheap energy will destroy the world. (By “world,” I mean civilized society in general and not just the mudball we currently live on. Right now, the world is smaller than the Earth but that won't always be the case.) Cheap energy will also mean cheap mass and that can act as protective armor.

For example, the World Trade Center attack involved an energy release on the same order of magnitude as a small nuclear bomb. There's another way to look at this: A structure took a small nuke and nearly survived.

Peak Phosphorus?

The latest bullbleep crisis is “peak phosphorus.” According to the noted troll weev (earlier discussed here):

So we're at a new resource shortage. Global peak phosphorus happened in 1989. Phosphorus can be recovered though, so it isn't too critical, but it is definitely bad for growing grain. We consistently as a planet consume more grain every year than we produce. Eventually those fat stockpiles are gonna hit bottom, and then shit hits the fan. We have already seen tortilla riots in Mexico, and commodities shortages and export controls in nearly half the world.
You can find a debunking of “peak phosphorus” here. (By the way, considering that the stockpiles we're drawing down were probably the result of farm price supports, the alleged food shortage might simply be the result of moving away from a silly policy.)

The really odd thing is that the current alleged phosphorus crisis was apparently passed around from loon to loon for years without coming in contact with reality. A few years ago, I even saw a claim that Coca Cola will use up the world's supply of phosphorus in 40 years:

one exampel, just Coca Cola will whit in 40 years used all fosfor on the earth
I knew the left side of Nuts R Us hated Coca Cola, but this is ridiculous.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama's Energy Plan

  • Tax production.
  • Subsidize consumption.
  • Claim this will lead to independence.
Run that by me again?

But wait, he has more constructive plans:

  • Spending 150 billion dollars on allegedly-renewable technology. (Will Joseph Romm approve?)
  • Call for 150 mpg cars and a reduction in electricity demand by the far-off date of 2030.
Okay. He wants subsidies that are called unaffordable when applied to nuclear energy, a plan with a goal date that's considered too far in the future to contemplate when applied to offshore drilling, and a call for 150 mpg cars. That last reminds me of a well-known Shakespeare quote:

I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

On the other hand, maybe the best analogy is the Underwear Gnomes:
  1. Spend 150 billion dollars.
  2. Energy independence.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Secular Version of “The Great Desecration”

I've been trying to think of an appropriate secular analogy to P. Z. Myers's Great Desecration. I think I've figured out a possible analogy. It is that blasphemy against The State: destroying currency (earlier discussed here). Remember, from the point of view of a secular leftist:

“The march of God in the world, that is what the state is.” — Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
There is a difference between blaspheming the State and blaspheming the Church: The State really is able to burn you at the stake nowadays.

Disclaimer: I am not a believer in either religion under discussion (the Roman Catholic Church or Statism) so I might have misunderstood something.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ban Children's Haircuts?

One of the perpetual flame wars of Usenet has reached the blogosphere: There's a fight over circumcision on Samizdata.

The same reasoning that might lead people to ban infant circumcision could also be used to ban children's haircuts. After all, children do not normally consent to haircuts.

It's possible to argue that circumcision is the permanent removal of a body part, whereas hair grows back. On the other hand, I suspect that by the time a child circumcised today reaches puberty, circumcision will be reversible by minor surgery. On the gripping hand, if there is a remote risk of permanent “disfigurement,” we must recall the possibility of barber accidents. (“Never mentioned is the missing piece of his left ear.”—Ben Katchor)

To sum up:

  1. Haircuts have no proven medical benefit.
  2. Hair is part of the body so removing it is clearly mutilation.
  3. Ears are also part of the body and they do not grow back or even have a restoration option currently available.
  4. Even if one in a million objects to possible ear loss that is sufficient to ban parents from manipulating their children that way.

If it was good enough for Samson it should be good enough for everybody else.

Did Someone Blow a Whistle?

One of the eerier aspects of following leftist theories is the “someone blew a whistle” phenomenon, in which apparently someone blows a whistle and calls “ABOUT FACE!” and the proverbial herd of independent minds turns around and starts marching in the opposite direction. This is most clearly seen in the attitude towards the War on Drugs, in which the herd switched from “evil capitalists are harshing my mellow” to “evil capitalists are making addicts of inner-city children.” There are other examples: “we must make banks lend to the poor” vs. “we must protect the poor from predatory lenders” or “global warming is forcing a rethink of capitalism and economic growth” vs. “global warming can be fixed with a little alternative energy.”

Most recently, the herd has switched from “victory in Iraq is impossible” to “victory in Iraq is inevitable” … and Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Real Reason Little Green Footballs Has Been Fighting Creationism

It should be obvious that the real reason Little Green Footballs has been fighting creationism is to hide the fact that the lizardoids are actually dinosaurs.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Official Scientific Policies?

Greenie Watch quotes Hermann Burchard of Oklahoma State University as saying:

In Dr. Bienenstock's response to Lord Monckton he refers to the APS OFFICIAL POSITION ("on the contribution of human activities to global warming") surprisingly, twice. Activities of the APS, a scientific organization, should promote research and its publication, not adopt or sanction official positions on any facts of science. One hardly envisions laughable bulletins "protons and neutrons are composed of three quarks."

As a member of several mathematical organizations I don't recall the AMS (SIAM, MAA) ever having declared which theorems, algorithms, or teaching subjects they support or oppose "officially."

On the other hand, I seem to recall a recent call for the AMS to reject “dubious fear-based hypotheses” (earlier discussed here). Clearly, that would imply a rejection of global-warming hysteria … unless the call came from people who only reject right-wing instances of “dubious fear-based hypotheses” …

Friday, July 25, 2008

Over Whom?

PLanned Parenthood has adopted the slogan: Planning is Power.

Power over whom?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Peak Drilling Rigs?

The latest excuse for not increasing energy supplies is that it will take until 2030 to have an effect. (I suppose if they came up with a closer date, they think we'd ridicule their short-term thinking.) When we try looking for actual reasons, we see this explanation from Joseph Romm (Joseph Romm also measures nuclear costs by total amount spent since the technology was invented and wind costs by cost per day per household):

As she explained, the constraints on offshore drilling have little to do with the price of oil, but a lot to do with timing. Once the leases are available, it is a 5 to 10 years before you get to exploratory drilling. There is a tremendous shortage of drilling rigs and manpower. Plus, offshore drilling is so expensive, you don't want to make any mistakes. So you spend do a lot of seismic analysis to minimize your chances of a dry well.
Is this based on the idea that there's a fixed quantity of drilling rigs and oil workers? Are the drilling rigs mined from rig deposits dating from the Paleozoic? Do the oil workers themselves come from wells?

By the way, isn't the pro-drilling policy backed by supposedly short-term oil companies? Whatever happened to the left-wing cliche that corporations only think about the next quarter?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Iran Is Apparently Trying to Get Nukes

I suspect the real goal is to keep American conservatives from backing nuclear energy whole-heartedly, thereby preventing one of the more effective alternatives to OPEC oil.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Satan's Interior Decorator

The designer of the Objective Room in That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis has been found “in a mental hospital near her studio in Tokyo.”

Google's Next Business?

In the course of an attempt to criticize evolutionary theories, the Jewish Philosopher made an interesting suggestion:

This is basically comparable to someone illiterate attempting to publish books through random trial and error and customer selection. He would buy a printing press, open a bookstore, start printing and make more copies of whatever sold. At first he just arranged his printing type at random, printed and put the results on the shelves. No one bought anything since it was all gibberish. He threw all these failures into the trash bin and continued printing. Eventually, purely by chance, one small booklet actually made sense and in fact became a best seller. So he kept printing more copies of it. Occasionally, there would be some typographical error in the printing; purely by chance, a page would be smudged, a line would be missing. Generally these errors would cause the book to be defective and it would be thrown into the trash, however once in a while a typo would add more meaning to a copy of the book – perhaps a few interesting new sentences. People would ask for more copies of it. The illiterate author would then faithfully reproduce that typo. Gradually entire new books developed through this process of random typographical errors and customer selection.
Hmmmm… That might be Google's next business. It's the ultimate in “crowd sourcing.”

McCain and Obama Slogans about Iraq Policy

McCain: Things are wonderful and if something isn't done soon, they'll get even worse.

Obama: Iraq is in such terrible shape that even a Democratic adminstration couldn't produce defeat.

Essential disclaimer: The above slogans are not original (they come from a quip about a campaign of a few decades ago) but I don't recall the exact reference.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Conscience Clause

In accordance with the libertarian slogan Freedom, I Won't, I support the right of pharmacists to refuse to sell contraceptives that prevent implantation whenever a “pro-choice” activist is arguing with somebody who supports contraception and is thought to be borderline on abortion. (For some reason, the importance of embryos that fail to implant varies from debate to debate.)

Needless to say, I also support the right of pharmacists to refuse to sell calendars.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Speculation on the Future of “Cap & Trade”

Judging by the propensity of government-sponsored enterprises to need bailing out, I suspect there will be a multi-trillion dollar bailout of “cap & trade” organizations in another generation or two.

I don't know the details of the bailout, but there is one fact we can be sure of. It will be blamed on laissez-faire capitalism.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not a Way to Shrink a City's Ecological Footprint

The latest urban-planning idea (seen via Boing Boing) is vertical farming:

What if "eating local" in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food?

Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Despommier's pet project is the "vertical farm," a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact.

The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president in New York.

When Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a "food farm" addition to the New York City skyline. "Obviously we don't have vast amounts of vacant land," he said in a phone interview. "But the sky is the limit in Manhattan." Stringer's office is "sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm," and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor's office within the next couple of months, he said.

"I think we can really do this," he added. "We could get the funding."

At first glance this looks like a way to shrink a city's ecological footprint (the goal of eating locally). This will make it less necessary to get food from sprawling farms. After actually thinking about it, it looks more pointless. All those plants will need grow lights. (I realize the main advocates for this type of nonsense probably think grow lights are only needed for their favorite plant, but they'll be needed for vertical farms in general.) If the energy is generated by solar power, they'll merely replace the rural farms with rural solar collectors and import power instead of food.

The only way this even comes close to making sense is if the needed energy is generated by nuclear power plants. Wait a moment … It's starting to make sense now …

On the other hand, that will aggravate the urban heat-island effect. We'll replace global warming with even more uncomfortable local warming.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Unowned Is Not the Same Thing as Government Owned

According to Ralph Nader (as reported at Free Republic):

You, Rush Limbaugh, are on welfare.

As you know, the public airwaves belong to the American people. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is supposed to be our trustee in managing this property. The people are the landlords and the radio and TV stations and affiliated companies are the tenants.

The problem is that since the Radio Act of 1927 these corporate tenants have been massively more powerful in Washington, DC than the tens of millions of listeners and viewers. The result has been no payment of rent by the stations for the value of their license to broadcast. You and your company are using the public's valuable property for free. This freeloading on the backs of the American people is called corporate welfare.

The fact that the airwaves were unowned (until the radio pioneers homesteaded the airwaves) did not mean it was government owned. (If the government retained legal authority to shut down stations, that means it seized partial goverment ownership; not that it is otherwise giving it away.) The fact that the airwaves are still unowned as far as the right to receive transmissions is concerned (the sense in which they are public airwaves) does not mean they are government owned.

One of the best Free Republic comments said:

Let me explain the arguement. The government owns everything, so breathing air is accepting government welfare.
There are other examples of how Nader's theory is wrong. Shakespeare's plays are in the public domain but that doesn't mean public funding has anything to do with them. (I've made this point before.)

On the other hand

The theory that “the public” is identical with “the government” might be responsible for the copyright extension nonsense. You can think of copyright as a bargain between authors and the public negotiated by the government. That means copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away the public's rights, which should be a no-no. If the public were identical to the government, then the copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away its own property, which might be okay and should not be second-guessed by the courts.

Another Nader demand

In the same rant, Ralph Nader also insisted:

It is way past due for the super-rich capitalist--Rush Limbaugh from Cape Girardeau, Missouri--to get himself off big time welfare. It is way past due for Rush Limbaugh as the Kingboy of corporatist radio to set a capitalist example for his peers and pay rent to the American people for the very lucrative use of their property.

This is, of course, an example of Rule 4 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals:
Rule 4: Make your opponent live up to his own rule book.
Of course, nowadays we wingnuts will point out that this is a matter of “the sanction of the victim.”

Friday, July 11, 2008

What They Were Thinking at Google

While Googling the phrase "macrobiotic cheese" (I wanted to know if anybody else came up with the same phrase as in this post), I noticed quite a few blog entries from splogs consisting of random phrases. Google needed a random-nonsense detector and their version appears to have a few false positives. I suppose my blog (as well as Technoptimist and PrestoPundit) might look like random nonsense to people unacquainted with conservative/libertarian ideas.

Maybe Google needs a house conservative or two so they don't make such mistakes. Even The New York Times has David Brooks and John Tierney.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Support Everyone's Troops?

Robin Hanson has a “Support Everyone's Troops” bumper sticker. I suppose that means conscript armies should be supported in their goal of staying out of jail (sometimes this can be done most easily by regime change) and blackmailed armies should be supported in their goal of keeping their relatives from being tortured (sometimes this can be done most easily by assassinating terrorist leaders) and mercenary armies should be supported in their goal of earning a decent paycheck …

Hmmmm … Would “Support Everyone's Troops” (or at least support as many troops as possible) mean that the largest volunteer armed forces should be supported in their goal of victory?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Methionine Anyone?

A few years ago, I read that one of the few reasons to prefer organic food was the increased methionine content of organic food. Today I read that eating less methionine might slow the aging process.


Mencius Moldbug and How Libertarianism Can Go Wrong

A few years ago, I posted How Libertarianism Can Go Wrong. I just realized the political theories of Mencius Moldbug are an example of Nos. 2 and 4:

  1. ………
  2. Exaggerate parental rights. (You can think of the Elian Gonzalez case as a possible beginning.) Parents can sell their children into slavery. Any offspring of the slaves are considered offspring of the owners and thus can also be enslaved.
  3. ………
  4. Apply property rights with enclosure acts to government. (I was inspired by a discussion on Samizdata.) If property rights ensure that property is taken care of better, then clearly the government will be more competent if it is owned outright by an Emperor. The Empire must be hereditary to ensure that the Emperor wants to preserve the value of his property over the long term. If we do not currently live in an Empire, we must turn the government over to an Emperor as soon as possible.
In other words, the “How Libertarianism Can Go Wrong” post was not a collection of straw men.

I thought I'd celebrate Independence Day by disagreeing with UnAmerican ideologies. (In this case, monarchism.)

Speaking of monarchists, does Louis Epstein have a blog? On the other hand, maybe Louis Epstein is Mencius Moldbug …

Thursday, July 03, 2008

“The Spring of Next Year”

Would the song “The Spring of Next Year” from Dear World be a plausible anthem for Drill here, drill now, pay less? Consider some of the lyrics:

There will be a sweet taste in the air
Of industrial waste in the air
There'll be a sting
In your eyes from the smog in the spring
Of next year


See the apple trees blooming
As they're crushed into pulp
There'll be smokestacks consuming
Each available gulp
That's inhalable
There are a few minor problems:
  • The lyrics for most of the rest of Dear World are online, but not “The Spring of Next Year.” This may be an attempt to suppress a plausible right-wing song.
  • It was originally intended to be satirical. On the other hand, a typical voter looking at gasoline at over $4 per gallon might have trouble remembering why it was considered satirical.
  • The plot of the play is ridiculous. It was about a Sinister Conspiracy by Evil Capitalists to drill for oil under Paris. It's ridiculous because the French use nukes. Maybe it can be rewritten to be about uranium mining.

“Imagine All the People, Living for Today”

While considering the above well-known line from Imagine by John Lennon, I realized that it explains the common leftist tendency (discussed here) to dismiss reasonable solutions to energy problems with “but that will take years to lower oil prices…”

Monday, June 30, 2008

Speaking of “Not Bothering to Resist” …

It looks like Google didn't bother resisting clowns who tried flagging anything they don't like as spam.

Addendum: On the other hand, Google has claimed that the alleged spam was flagged by buggy software:

On Monday, Google would not explicitly rebut the idea that it had been tricked but said that the cause of the temporary blockage appeared to be elsewhere. “It appears that our anti-spam filters caused some Blogger accounts to be blocked from creating new posts,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said in a statement. “While we are still investigating, we believe this may have been caused by mass spam e-mails mentioning the ‘Just Say No Deal’ network of blogs, which in turn caused our system to classify the blog addresses mentioned in the e-mails as spam. We have restored posting rights to the affected blogs, and it is very important to us that Blogger remain a tool for political debate and free expression.”
The political opinions of Google employees might have had something to do with this, not in the sense that they're trying to suppress anything but in the sense that they think their mental models of political partisans reflect reality. It makes sense for the automatic spam-detection programs to include a “this stuff doesn't belong together” detector and such a detector might have been set off by blogs from anti-Obama Democrats.

In related news, my PageRank has gone to zero. Apparently, the “this stuff doesn't belong together” detector (a conservative who's in favor of open borders? an anti-Luddite who's against embryonic stem-cell research?) gave enough of an alarm for this blog to be flagged as resembling spam but not enough to be blocked. (Technoptimist also has a PageRank of zero, probably for similar reasons.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Immigration Laws as Suppressing Competition

According to George Will (when did he turn into a libertarian?):

The semiconductor industry's problem is entangled with a subject about which the loquacious presidential candidates are reluctant to talk -- immigration, specifically that of highly educated people. Concerning whom, U.S. policy should be: A nation cannot have too many such people, so send us your PhDs yearning to be free.

Instead, U.S. policy is: As soon as U.S. institutions of higher education have awarded you a PhD, equipping you to add vast value to the economy, get out. Go home. Or to Europe, which is responding to America's folly with "blue cards" to expedite acceptance of the immigrants America is spurning.

Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting -- often five or more years -- for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America's competitors.

You can think of our de facto immigration policy as a matter of suppressing competition. On the one hand, we have laws on the books that limit immigration. On the other hand, we don't keep people out. On the gripping hand, we punish people who can be shown to have hired illegal aliens. That adds up to a policy of allowing in manual workers but keeping out anybody who needs documentation to get a job, e.g., educated workers. In other words, New York Times readers get to hire low-wage nannies and gardeners but suppress anybody who might compete with them.

This is not done deliberately. I doubt if many people set out to suppress competition. (There are exceptions.) I suspect it's a matter of not bothering to resist the nominal opposition. In other words, when conservatives try enforcing blue-collar immigration laws, they are resisted, but not when they try enforcing white-collar immigration laws.

In related news

Another case of suppressing competition

The recent freeze on solar projects (discussed here) might be another example of the same thing. When environmental laws seem to indicate that solar projects should be delayed, it's possible that the current administration could resist it but won't bother.

Query: Is the same thing true for nuclear energy? Could nuclear energy be stalled simply because the people we might trust to push through nuclear project aren't bothering to resist?

I'm in Trouble

The next pollution crisis is toxic bad breath. Considering that I ate food with garlic and onions during supper …

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