Thursday, May 23, 2013

More interesting challenges

A follow up to yesterday's discussion with an old friend.  In this episode he mentions his eldest son, Paul, who is very conservative

From a Google search it appears that very few people understand the terms leftist and rightist which sort of suggests that they shouldn’t be used. I Googled ‘right wing dictators’ and got a whole list from many sources so perhaps you should concentrate on correcting this apparent misconception.

Yes.  I think the term "rightist" has been so abused and distorted by the Left that it should no longer be used. The Left use it for anything they currently disapprove of. They have only the most childish analysis of what it means.   I use "conservative" only and analyse at length what that means here and here.

In England the Tories were known for their “Laissez Faire” politics and I was always a supporter of that attitude and still am. My apparent leftist views seem to have come from a humanitarian attitude to those less fortunate and an unfortunate tendency to play devil’s advocate with people who express strong opinions about anything whether I agree with them or not. Essentially I am afraid of people who think they know what’s what.

That is a very conservative attitude

I do find it confusing when people take an attitude that is more the opinion of an ‘ism’ than one that springs from their own thought process or empirical experience.

Laissez faire in UK was often interpreted as ‘leave it alone’ which I guess is a literal translation but I preferred to see it as ‘don’t interfere when not strictly necessary’

In that light I really don’t get both sides of politics’ attitude to same sex marriage. I don’t see that it’s any of their business nor how it has any effect on people not immediately concerned yet Paul is dead set against it on the grounds that it is ‘leftist’?

Yes.  I am a libertarian there.  I don't think any marriage is any government's business.  Governments should keep out of bedrooms.  Marriage was originally a religious matter and I would be happy for it to remain just that.  And there are always civil contracts for those who are not religious.

But the subtext is important.  Homosexuals want homosexual marriage as a sign of acceptance.  But many people will never accept them so advocates of homosexual marriage  are pissing into the wind.  A distaste for homosexuality is normal, which is why it was long penalized.  And no Bible-respecting Christian could accept homosexuality as right and normal

It is really no surprise that Paul is a conservative as he was brought up to defend for himself and was only ever given things that encouraged him to save or be entrepreneurial. He did, after all, run our company from a tender age against his mother’s wishes. Jenny wanted him to get a ‘trade’ or ‘a career’. I had no objections to that but it wasn’t what Paul wanted.

He has learned from life largely

I do, however, think that Paul lacks compassion and an understanding of less fortunate people and other peoples likes and dislikes, it is possibly because he has never had to struggle and experience deprivation himself (unlike myself) and I think this is a lack in his personality. As much as I don’t understand people who like team sports, tattoos, religion, horse racing, guns, violence, I can still find things to defend people who do, and I certainly don’t take the position of considering them idiots because I know that not to be the case.

Paul is extraordinarily kind and compassionate towards his family.  That may leave less room for others.  He has played a largely fatherly role towards his siblings, giving them all sorts of support.  Deeds, not words, again

I think your suggestion that schools could be segregated into ethnic groups in order to accommodate different levels of learning is totally unworkable in practice and would lead to massive social upheaval. They can’t even yet adjust the learning methods to accommodate the different learning patterns of girls and boys, so I’m sure that the other option would be impossible to implement. You would actually have to integrate people of equal IQ regardless of race but don’t you think that having a variety of IQ’s together is more stimulating and creates greater competitiveness? When some kids see others running faster they try harder and so it goes with academic achievement; if you isolate the lower achievers they will not have exposure to anything better and will therefore have little incentive to try harder in the belief that everyone is the same. Any form of difference between high and low creates ‘potential’ in science as in life. People need to see what can be achieved with application combined with talent in order to stimulate their natural competitiveness, don’t you think?

The dropout rate of American blacks from High School is phenomenal so almost anything would be better. And those who do graduate High School are often barely literate.  But there were some all-black schools in the past that did produce well educated graduates.  And single sex schools to this day seem to get good results.  And standards were undoubtedly higher in the past.  So we have proof from the past that streamed schooling does produce better results

I am all for an homogenous society where we can all learn to appreciate each other’s ideas, foibles, idiosyncrasies, foods, music etc and indeed influence each other.

I suspect that you mean heterogeneous.  I grew up in a very multicultural town so handle that readily as long as I am free to choose my degree of participation in what happens there.  Most people get on best with those most like themselves and organize their contacts accordingly.  There is a Sudanese Mosque near where I live.  Have you considered attending it?  If not, why not?  I am sure it is very heterogenous


Trade as a means of Social Cooperation

Last week we explored the implications of man’s nature as a rational, and volitionally rational being. We’ve identified two major implications of this nature. The first of these is rights, which are the conceptual barriers to our self-owning actions and the negative obligation upon all others to honor such barriers. The second is trade. Trade is the process by which rational beings exchange or cooperate for mutual, but individually- and subjectively-calculated, benefit.

As the saying goes, “no man is an island.” This platitude is often lobbed at liberty advocates of all varieties, containing the unspoken assumptions that,

* coerced association is the only kind possible, and

* those who question its validity are advocating zero cooperation.

We can easily reject this classic argument just by examining these presumptions. The saying, however, is valid and illustrative of an undeniable truth about humanity. Humans have found interaction and interdependence to be both psychologically and economically advantageous to a degree that we can and should reject the idea of total isolation as an ideal. We need not reject this reality.

If we do accept that humans are better off connected socially, and cooperating, then the question is: on what basis should this cooperation be motivated? How do we obtain the cooperation from others we want or need, when each of these others is an individual self-owner who is entitled to her own determinations and free range of self-owning action? Trade is the answer to that question.

Trade is more than just a label for our economic activity. It is a concept that pervades all of our interaction with others. As an ethic for seeking and obtaining cooperation of other self-owners, trade requires that we honor their rationality and right of self-determination by finding a way to appeal to their desires as determined by themselves. This ethic can, and should, be applied to all of our social interactions.

* In a situation where we might be inclined to compel our child’s cooperation by a threat of punishment, guilt, etc., we might instead honor the logical capacity that they do have at a very early age by spending the extra time and effort to help them realize the way they individually benefit from the desired action.

* When we might expect assistance from a friend or family member in an endeavor to assist us out of obligation or as a response to a display of our need, we can instead find a way to appeal to their self-interest by offering an exchange, whether monetary or otherwise.

* We can see our marriages, instead of as a formality that entitles us to the obligatory endurance of our partner, as an exchange that we are required to continue to make desirable to the other in order to appeal to their self-interest.

One inescapable presumption contained in every act of voluntary trade is the validity of the self-interest of each participant. By making a voluntary exchange, whether I am exchanging a physical good, money, or my time and effort, I am presuming the validity of my self-interest and the self-interest of the other party to the exchange. Many of the “duties” imposed by our culture, whether governmental, traditional, or religious, seem to stem from an effort to circumvent this trade ethic and thus deny the principle of individual self-determination and self-interest.

As we can see, the notion of trade rests upon some very essential philosophical presumptions, and has some very undeniable implications. In future columns we’ll examine these in detail. Next week we’ll look specifically at the way trade requires diversity, and how voluntary trade (unlike its parasitic, coercive counterfeits) has formed the foundation and engine of everything we now recognize as civilization.



Life in The Sunstein State

Whether imposed by psychological nudges or outright commands, the regulatory state is deeply opposed to America's heritage of liberty


To protect the red-cockaded woodpecker in the 1980s, the federal government prohibited the logging of old pine trees where the bird nests. Timber owners responded with more intensive logging, harvesting trees before they grew old enough to become suitable habitats for the woodpeckers. Even the best-intended regulations can spark unanticipated and counterproductive reactions.

Cass Sunstein understands the limits of the regulatory state. He was head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—"the cockpit of the regulatory state," as he calls it—in 2009-12. But the Harvard Law School professor still believes passionately in the promise of good government—government that not only intends to do good but is really good at doing good. In "Simpler: The Future of Government," he offers a breezy tract on how to render regulation more user-friendly and effective.

Mr. Sunstein is a long-standing champion of the cost-benefit analysis of regulation, and his criticisms are often spot-on. The idea is simple and sensible: If the costs of a regulation are greater than its benefits, the regulation is shelved, regardless of how splendid its benefits are in the abstract. It is encouraging to read that Mr. Sunstein and his colleagues "focused on economic growth and job creation, and . . . sought to ensure that regulation did not compromise either of those goals."

And given Mr. Sunstein's previous work, 2009's "Nudge," with the economist Richard Thaler, it isn't surprising to find that "Simpler" is deeply informed by the insights of behavioral economics—a field of research that reveals several psychological quirks that affect human decision-making. Mr. Sunstein deploys behavioral-economics notions such as "framing effects" (our interpretation of facts is affected by how they are presented to us) and "status-quo bias" (we prefer the status quo, simply because it is the status quo, over potential alternatives) to promote what he calls "libertarian paternalism."

Government, he thinks, should change behavior using "nudges" instead of commands. Regulations can tap into people's psychological quirks and prompt them to choose "better" behaviors—while still leaving them free in many circumstances to act differently. Cigarette packages with grisly images of cancer-ridden lungs are an effort to nudge—rather than command—people not to smoke. (A federal appeals court last August blocked a proposed Food and Drug Administration rule requiring such packages.)

All good, and the reader of "Simpler" might wonder if this is the same Cass Sunstein who clerked for the progressive Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and was denounced by Glenn Beck as "the most dangerous man in America" upon his appointment to the Obama administration. "Simpler" makes it clear that Mr. Sunstein is no despot in professor's clothing. But he is emphatically not a limited-government kind of guy. He is an enthusiast for active, expansive, "progressive" government.

But his faith in government combines with a scanty appreciation of the creative and disciplining powers of markets to render his case for active regulation, whether imposed through nudges or commands, less than persuasive. The pages of "Simpler" bubble over with examples of adults' weak capacity to choose wisely, which, in Mr. Sunstein's view, calls for more expansive government.

In his new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government,” Cass Sunstein says that the act of choosing is a muscle that gets fatigued. The more choices people have to make, the more likely they are to make bad ones.
The author boasts, for example, that "to save consumers money, we required refrigerators, small motors, and clothes washers to be more energy-efficient." Apparently producers are too benighted to compete for customers by offering such money-saving products. And consumers are too distracted by their own weaknesses to choose such offerings. Similarly, Mr. Sunstein believes that huge numbers of people really want to be organ donors but are prevented from agreeing to donate their organs simply by inertia.

In this worldview, people's weak wills and eccentricities make them prey both to shameless hucksters and to their own strange psychological traits. Ironically, however, Mr. Sunstein fails to explain why the irrational and impulsively childlike people who are apparently the nation's citizens will elect a government that is itself not irrational and impulsive—or why government officials won't exploit, for their own corrupt ends, the people's cognitive weaknesses. True, individuals often make poor decisions, and hucksters are never in short supply. Surely, though, the environment most favorable to poor decision-making and hucksterism isn't competitive markets but, rather, politics. Milton Friedman didn't need behavioral economics to know that each of us typically spends our own money on ourselves more wisely than a stranger spends other people's money on us.

The author assumes, without much reflection, that government's role in protecting us from ourselves has few limits, either ethical or legal. Seldom in the book does Mr. Sunstein pause to ask if this well-meaning nudge or that benevolent order, such as those that govern our diets or our pensions, is permissible under the Constitution. Nor does he worry that government regulation might, in the long run, make people even more behaviorally quirky. If government succeeds as Mr. Sunstein believes it can at protecting us from our thoughtless dietary choices and poor investment decisions, might we not become even more infantilized?

There is a deeper threat posed by a paternalist state, however "libertarian" we might wish it to be, and it isn't easily accounted for by cost-benefit analysis. Friedrich Hayek highlighted it in "The Road to Serfdom" (1944): "The political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means . . . that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that the new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit."

The regulatory institutions championed by Mr. Sunstein are certainly not the worst that various secular saviors have proposed over the years. If I must be regulated by a progressive, I choose Cass Sunstein. But the regulatory state as envisioned by Mr. Sunstein is nevertheless deeply opposed to America's traditions of liberty and individual responsibility. Such regulation will chew away like a cancer at those traditions. If Mr. Sunstein's blueprint for regulation is indeed the future of government, we might, as a result, be well-regulated—but we won't be free.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


No comments: