December 2007


Yeah, I know Daniel Larison made that claim and then violated it twice. I’m consolidating a bunch of unrelated observations in this one post and there’s only one more day in the year, so I think I’m safe.

I got back yesterday and from the day before through my previous post I did not read, watch, or listen to any news or access the internet. I was surprised on the way home when I saw the headline of a newspaper in an Einstein Bagels (which was playing the worst versions of classic Christmas Carols ever recorded) and exclaimed “Oh shit, Benazhir Bhutto got killed” and was immediately chastised for cursing in front of small children. On that subject, the National Interest has been running a series of online-exclusive articles, with the latest from a favorite realist of mine, Anatol Lieven (see him debate a Wilsonian who comes off looking like a fool here). The unfortunately infrequently updated blog Exit Strategies has yet to say anything about it, nor has The Monkey Cage. Get on it! What are we (not) paying you for! Coming Anarchy has linked to a few news stories but said little themselves, as expected John Robb sees it as confirming his chaotic view of the world. I think Mencius Moldbug came out looking poorly in his response relative to his favorite punching bag Matthew Yglesias here and here. I’ll respond to MM’s post at his blog when I have the time. (UPDATE: Here. I remember being irritated when I first read the post but by the time I wrote my comment that had died down.) Robert Lindsay seems surprisingly knowledgeable on the situation there (how many pundits know what a Mohajir is?) but what makes me unsure of his grasp of the facts is his statement that Karzai’s Pushtun ethnicity is a drawback because Pakistan opposes Pushtun nationalism and therefore supports islamists in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s base of strength is Pushtuns and the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance drew its support form ethnic minorities (it should also be noted that much of the support for the secular left in Pakistan comes from minority Shi’ites). UPDATE: Lindsay responds well to my criticism in his original post and in the comments here.

I am happy to see that Keith Preston did not pop his head up in his last article only to disappear again, as he is in fine form going after Chomsky on Chomsky’s own non-individualist (Preston’s hero, Bakunin, was a collectivist anarchist and Chomsky calls himself an anarcho-syndicalist) left-anarchist terms. I’m surprised someone as radical and open to revolutionary methods as Preston isn’t disinterested in Ron Paul’s candidacy, but I’m glad he wrote it anyway and I hope his output doesn’t decline when Paul’s candidacy inevitably fails. UPDATE: Preston is back again defending Paul from left-libertarians, which oddly enough include contributors to the Austrian Economists blog.

Besides myself, Larison and Preston some other people have made (somewhat) surprising reappearances. Hopefully Anonymous made a comment (which he hasn’t done at Overcoming Bias or his own blog for some time) saying his blog would be back up this weekend, though checking it I don’t see that to be the case thus far. I accidentally outed Chip Smith’s publishing imprint and other things before he wished that to occur, so he’s made the announcement at his blog. He’s also got a new post on Ron Paul, evolution and homos. Smith and Anonymous are great folks to have around to read though they near opposites in many ways. If I didn’t revile Platonic essentialism so much I’d wish I could combine the two in a monster of the internet that kicked away your self-deceptions and entertained you at the same time.

Gene Expression and Steve Sailer have both expressed sympathy for Jared Diamond after reading this terrible article in the NYT (the author discusses it at Bloggingheads here). Though I have criticized Diamond elsewhere (even without having read the book I’m attacking), I think he’s a great writer and in addition to his books he writes short pieces that I find myself constantly linking to because of their broad applicability. Anthropology gets a pretty bad wrap in that post, but GNXP makes nice with the field here, pointing out positive contributions. (UPDATE: At my suggestion Robert Lindsay has a post on the matter, giving an insider’s defense of cultural anthropology) As long as I’m talking science, Chris at Mixing Memory blogs the bestpaperever here and one of his favorite experiments here. Dennis Mangan says that smoking is good for your IQ (cheers from Udolpho, jeers from Ilkka Kokkarinen). It may be the case that apes are descended from what we might call human (it walked upright, and the apes “progressed” to knuckle-walking and brachiation). I can imagine now an ape classroom in which a student exclaims “I wasn’t descended from some stinking human!”. I’ve also abandoned Charles Murray’s “Human Accomplishment” when I was in the middle of reading it for Steve Pinker’s “The Blank Slate”, which so far has been great, though I have some nitpicks. I think I’m more likely to post a review of that before Jeremy Lott’s “In Defense of Hypocrisy” despite what I had claimed earlier.

Someday I’ll get around to writing my thoughts on a libertarian conception of privacy (which I mentioned briefly here), but until then you’ll have to settle for this from the Distributed Republic and this from Volokh.

Everyone should read IOZ, but I think MM could benefit more than most (despite his “I was raised a Brahmin and don’t need to read them anymore” schtick) and some recent ones up (or at least near) his alley are here and here.

Kevin Carson sometimes talks about “vulgar libertarianism” and this article on the Mises blog, regardless of whether the position it advocates is correct or not, certainly seems guilty of it. Carson appears in the comments to kick ass and take names.

Finally, I’m likely to be busy for a bit. I plan on fixing up my mirrored site of Against Politics and also reading something and writing about it, but not in a half-assed manner like usual.

Even if you’re one of those hellfire-bound non-believers, I wish you the best this holiday season (the marginal cost of my doing so is about zero). My present for you is http://teageegeepea.tripod.com/AgainstPolitics/ which should have all the files from the old site, though it’s not quite as good. I might even tamper with the original by adding in a debunking of Mises’ prattling on probability by a Bayesian master ( and I’m not referring to Eliezer Yudkowsky) and changing the Amazon link to L.A Rollin’s Myth of Natural Rights to the Nine Banded Books page, if/when it gets put up. I’ll also add a main page to my tripod site so people know who the hell put all that up and can contact me (the e-mail address on the Against Politics site does not work) and possibly add that Critical Review pdf that’s been such a hassle. However, all that will have to wait a few days as I’ll be out of town visiting relatives and away from my computer.

Just a week or so after natural-rights oriented anarcho-capitalist blog no-treason.com went down [UPDATE: It is now back up], a recent favorite of mine, the non-cognitivist/positivist/contractarian market-anarchist site againstpolitics.com, disappeared down the memory hole. I set up a tripod site at teageegeepea.tripod.com/AgainstPolitics/ where I intend to host all the files that were there and fix up links, but I haven’t gotten much done so far.

I noticed the site was down after reading Keith Preston’s latest at Lew Rockwell and deciding to refresh my memory on his writings at the now-defunct site only to find it was gone. For curious readers of his LR article, I asked if he was referring to this when he made his remark about 1 out of 4 people working in security, and he replied that the article he was referencing was this one. I also told him he should get a blog, but for now you can just visit his site.

In this same issue, and having just about nothing to do with LR’s usual fare (it’s not Billy Beck’s site), Vivian Britton laments the decline and fall of the Guitar Hero (archetype, not game). Being of the opinion that music without instruments (drum machines and synths don’t count) is all crap, I am largely in agreement. Where we part ways is her anger at grunge, typified by Nirvana. I’m a fan of both that style and the punk and garage-rock genres that preceded it, even at their most amateurish. I think rock is at its best when it combines the uninhibited energy and expression of the punk family with the composition and musicianship of the more proggy metal gods that Vivian worships (that’s why I wouldn’t be quoting any Iron Maiden made after Number of the Beast if I were writing such an article). Blues and folk/country elements can be nice but are optional.

And now for something Vivian would hate

Scott Richert knows.

In related news, Vox Day discusses the difference between “cultural Christian” secular humanists like Richard Dawkins and “atheist atheists” like Michel Onfray here. I think I’m some kind of inverse of the former with a strong dose of the latter.

Finally, big ol’ queer and friend of a fetus-murderer IOZ plays down fears of theocracy here. Perhaps I should ask him to tell that to Chris Hedges or Kevin Phillips, but I’d like to keep the former as frightened as possible since he’s one of the few on the left supporting the refusal to pay taxes (on that note Chip Smith’s new publishing imprint Nine Banded Books is first set to release a novelization of Bradley Smiths “The Man Who Stopped Paying” retitled “The Man Who Saw His Own Liver”) nowadays. Perhaps he should be introduced to Vox’s ex-fugitive dad?

UPDATE: The Inductivist gets banned from the Chronicles site for defending Mormons.

UPDATE 2: Vox Day says he’s a culturally godless Christian while Dawkins is a culturally Christian atheist.

Bryan Caplan plugged his review of Expert Political Judgment by Philip Tetlock in it as well as Stephen Miller‘s “Conservatives and Liberals on Economics: Expected Differences, Surprising Similarities”. Miller provided a link to where you could view it with free registration. I found it annoying that it was all split up and I figure some people don’t feel like registering, so I compiled it all into one doc file.

Critical Review Volume 19 Issue 1.doc

For those of you who don’t like that format I’ve converted that file to pdf.

I’ve updated my old post with Thomas Sowell’s “Are Jews Generic” with a pdf version of that as well. For those that declined to check it out earlier, do so.

UPDATE: The online converter didn’t produce viewable pdfs and when I first tried using PDFCreator on the Critical Review document seriously screwed up by having some of the text printed over previously existing text. I got around that by changing the entire doc file to the same style and formatting, which isn’t quite as nice to read but is at least legible. Sowell’s piece had normal formatting from the beginning and so didn’t have any problems.

For some reason this one is still not working. I’ll try to fix it. For now you can find it at http://www.fs2you.com/files/51a0ebf0-a959-11dc-aba1-0014221f4662/ or if you use internet explorer and don’t mind downloading an accessory program you can access the pdf at http://friendlyfiles.net/dw_ho/e4c001299191/Critical-Review-Volume-19-Issue-1.pdf.html

UPDATE 2: The website I was hosting the pdf at is deleting all its old files, and since I have a tripod site of my own I am now hosting it at http://teageegeepea.tripod.com/CriticalReviewVol19Issue1.pdf

Radley Balko continues his excellent work on the Cory Maye case (which in turn led to the separate issues of the malpractice of Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West). In his latest post he notes that not only did Nixon bring us the “War on Drugs”, his people also thought-up no-knock raids which kill cops like Ron Jones and grandmothers like Kathryn Johnston. Nothing to do with enforcing the law, it just fulfills the politicians syllogism and gets votes (a good example of such a “tough on crime” politician who doesn’t actually reduce crime is Frank Melton, Worst Mayor in America). (more…)

The evolution paper you’ve been hearing about for a while (and if you haven’t, you must not be cool) is out. Authored by the “Murderers Row” of John Hawks, Eric Wang, Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending and Robert Moyzis it states that the rate of evolution has greatly accelerated in the last 40000 years. The rate of mutation has been fairly constant but much larger population sizes mean more beneficial mutations, some of which will inevitably reach fixation. Larger populations also change what is being selected for by introducing things like diseases with many available hosts and cultural evolution (the bow begat the bushman, agriculture begat the lactase enzyme). I haven’t had time to read the paper (I shouldn’t even be writing this post) but Razib gives a good summary and background here. Author John Hawks says in the Telegraph “We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals” and has a post on his blog about the paper which promises “I have some pent-up writing to do! Over the next few days, this will be acceleration central” and an FAQ later today.

UPDATE: At GNXP original, p-ter says the theory is fine and the conclusions arrive easily from it, but the evidence presented is weak.

UPDATE 2: John Hawks has an FAQ up, responding to p-ter’s critique.

UPDATE 3: In the comments to p-ter’s post author Henry Harpending says

Isn’t it interesting that the only scientific serious criticism that we have gotten, the kind of criticism that peer review ought to provide, comes from a blog? Seems to me there is food for thought about what the internet is going to do to scientific publishing.

Robin Hanson supports the Caplan & Glaeser position against Mankiw and Willkinson, because his feelings are important to him no matter what scoffing skeptics say. I tried to post a comment, but it got flagged as spam so I put it here:

I posted about this earlier, but since it’s appropriate I figured I’d notify people who might be interested, Chip Smith has been writing a series of posts in anti-natalism sparked by David Benatar’s book in part one. He shifts from Benatar’s utilitarianism to deontological ethics in part two, arguing that the libertarian non-agression principle and pro-life ethics both imply anti-natalism, and in addition reject genocide that utilitarian anti-natalism would seem to imply. He argues that Andrea Yates was a better follower of Christian dogma than most in part three, given the infinite negative utility of hell and the non-zero probability of being damned if allowed to live. In part four he discusses transhumanist immortalism and how the awfulness of aging and death support the anti-natalist position. He also notes that despite being anti-natalist atheist who sees nothing morally objectionable about abortion he thinks it should be legally prohibited. His most recent post discussed Michael Cook’s review of Benatar’s book at Spiked.

From an egoist perspective, I say nuts to the kids who must suffer because I spawned them. Parents tell their kids “too bad, so sad” and other I’m-the-boss variants all the time, so why not disregard any of their possible objections to conception?

I’m not really any sort of expert on relativity, but occasionally I play one on the internet. Any actual experts are encouraged to point out mistakes made below:

According to Einstein, space and time are really one and distorting space can also distort time. It is for that reason that a vessel could travel “faster than light” in a certain sense by expanding the space on one side of it and compressing it on the other side (although it is believed this would require more energy than exists in the universe). As you wind back time near the big bang space becomes so compressed that normal laws of physics cease to apply. At the very beginning there was no space and hence no time. It is thus meaningless to ask about the time before the Big Bang.

That is something I have often heard from scientists, so I am more confident in its accuracy. The next one gets into weird territory:

It is not merely the case that everything is pre-determined. According to Einstein we only subjectively perceive time to be moving forward from an absolute past to present to future, but in fact no two events can actually be objectively “simultaneous”, and when two different observers disagree over which of two events happened first there is not necessarily a correct answer. Space and time are one and every event is not simply destined to happen but in a sense HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.

I’ve heard fewer people push that line, so I could well be misrepresenting things, and quantum mechanics might also clash with the super-determinism I describe.

Via Karl Smith via Mankiw, (I’m not sure what the correct order should be in multiple “via”s) Arthur Laffer straightens things out:

I’ve never said all tax cuts pay for themselves. I never even said Reagan’s tax cuts would pay for themselves.

So will the vulgar supply-siders (Megan non-water-engineer calls them teacher’s unions of the right) go away now? It is also revealed that Arthur Laffer likes Clinton and nude modeling studios but dislikes Nixon and California.

Something completely different: Ron Paul rebukes the harmful effects on America’s foreign policy caused by a politically organized ethnic group. I don’t approve of these illiberal third world regimes any more than they do, but good for Ron to advocate something reasonable, whatever the New York Times thinks of it. If the National Interest hasn’t put him on their cover yet, they should.

I should disclose that I came in with a low opinion of McCloskey due to the Bailey thing.

Via Marginal Revolution, I found this review of Greg Clark’s A Farewell to Alms by Deirdre McCloskey. I could say in brief that it disagrees with Clark, but I would add that I am not sure they even agree on what the review claims they do. What they are supposed to have in common is praise for capitalism and “the bourgeois virtues”, but Greg only seems to be willing to acknowledge the effects of capitalism in (relatively) brief institutional differences, like East vs West Germany and North vs South Korea. In the long run inefficient institutions go belly-up (in this respect he is at odds with pretty much the entire economics profession). Furthermore, backward Malthusian England was, in Greg’s eyes, arguably more conducive to growth in institutional terms than post-Industrial Albion. Clark doesn’t even seem to think that the evolutionary process he posits made people more virtuous. It was the least charitable people who had the most children, so we are descended from the assholes of the past. Perhaps we are less physically violent, but that may be more due to he who runs away from a fight living to breed another day rather than growth in empathy. (more…)

The discussion got derailed on this Overcoming Bias post and Robin Hanson was nice enough to e-mail me a 900-word comment I wrote that he had earlier deleted. Everything I quote from before “You didn’t read to the end” is from Da Cracka, everything after is from Mikael. (more…)

That was what someone entered into a search engine, bringing them to my blog. I don’t think Google or Jeeves can answer that for you, and you can certainly do better than me. Perhaps Robin Hanson or Robert Trivers can answer your question. In case your query is never resolved, here’s hoping it becomes less pressing in the future.

Via the Distributed Republic comes this from John Hasnas. Just from what Micha quoted it seems rather sensible, and I’m certainly open to private means of defense (both self-provided and hired), but I would expect that the remedial state (distinct from the minimal state in that it subsidizes rather than monopolizes the minimal public goods) would still adjudicate disputes between a person and their security provider and ensure that the latter do not get out of line, in addition of course to preventing any competing state from taking its place (which is really what I’m interested in).

For a good critique of Ed Stringham’s hypothesized version of anarcho-capitalism from its author’s anarcho-capitalist colleague, see Peter Leeson’s “Anarchy, Monopoly and Predation”, which people of the lefty persuasion will like for its attack on concentrated power in “private” hands. Stringham joins up with Bryan Caplan against Tyler Cowen to explain why there will sufficient cooperation in anarchy for it to function well but not enough to create monopolies in Networks, Law and the Paradox of Cooperation. Per Bylund attacks all anarchists who speculate on how their preferred version of anarchy will replace the state as “blueprint anarchists” in The Statist Mindset of Anarchists. I rarely get tired of pointing out what Bob Black noticed in My Anarchism Problem: many visions of “anarchy” don’t really seem stateless, and it seems all anarchists actually agree on is to call whatever they dislike (in Bob’s case it’s work) “the State”.

There wasn’t much of a resolution to Cato Unbound’s IQ issue (if you can’t get enough Flynn, Gene Expressions has him for their latest ten questions), and now the next one is up. This time transhumanist scientist Aubrey de Grey argues for ditching all that “dying” business, or at least aging (which frequently results in death). It perplexes me that some people think that would be bad, but at the same time I don’t see it as the imperative that others do. I see that Mr. de Grey is a fellow non-cognitivist, which you might be too if you spent as much time arguing with bioethicists about the “wisdom of repugnance”. Eliezer Yudkowsky dumps on those same bioethicists here, but he and I apparently disagree (I am not sure exactly how we differ) on how we regard ethics in general. I am a well-wisher of the immortalists but I don’t know enough to have high confidence that they will be successful (I know from a Bayesian standpoint I should take their confidence as evidence, but they seem to be a small minority even among scientists which is counter-evidence) and I do not place it as high a priority as does my fellow egoist, Hopefully Anonymous (who unfortunately has been too busy to blog lately). Here’s to someday being able to earnestly say “I promise, I will never die“.

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