October 2007

I have obligations to fulfill that conflict with writing posts. Maybe I’ll start up again sometime next week, but I do not plan on doing so earlier.

In the meanwhile I note (via the Hoover Hog) that Jim “Answer Me!” Goad has a blog and a forum, though finding perma-links for the former is hardly convenient and the latter requires registration to post. Cosma Shalizi has followed his post on heritability with g, a statistical myth, which might have been in the works before the James Watson controversy (which Sailer has an article on here), but is timely nevertheless. Robert Lindsay has lots of stories about K-A-R-A-Z-Y folks, including some autobiographical ones. Three paleos from AmConMag have a foreign policy blog called Exit Strategies. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, whose podcasts you really should listen to, claims more for his predictive model than seems credible considering what Tetlock had to say on expert political judgment. Via Ilkka I find Ironic Sans making histograms that form pictures. Scott Aaronson’s ideas on quantum mechanics have been plagiarized by actresses/models in an Australian commercial.

I leave you with evil satanic homosexual rock and/or roll band Nazipenis.

Just recently the House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a bill I’m sure you’ve had your attention focused on. Nancy Pelosi and some other California congress-critters with sizable Armenian-American constituencies pushed Congress to declare the events that took place in Anatolia from 1915-1917 a “genocide” perpetrated by the government of the Young Turks. President Bush has wisely opposed this because avoiding upsetting allied/friendly countries (especially muslim ones) is of the utmost importance in the global war on terror (much of the supplies for our troops in Iraq come through Turkey). Armenia on the other hand is a thoroughly corrupt and undemocratic country that cannot enforce any laws within its own borders, let alone have anything to offer a superpower like the United States. It is only because its crafty diaspora has pull with political figures in other societies (they are incapable of building a functional society of their own, so it is said “Armenians can make money anywhere in the world…except Armenia“) that this is an issue. For an ethnic group whose most famous member is Jack Kevorkian, I’d think it unwise to seek a political spotlight.

Ordinarily I have nothing but praise for him, but Daniel Larison has been spending more time on the subject than seems healthy, all the while viciously excoriating anyone expressing doubts about the Armenophilic group-think dogma as morally bankrupt hacks liars and collaborators (even as he declares that the idea of fellow citizens being collaborators with a foreign power is the tactic of paranoid hatemongers). Perhaps a friend of his should intervene on behalf of his mental health against the poison in his blood. Out of my hope that things are not as bad as they seem, I’ve been looking in his posts for a secret message (perhaps in the form of an acrostic) revealing that he’s just been playing an joke on his readers.

King of hip Chosen People websites Jewcy has been beating the drum on this issue, and even had a protest outside the offices of the Anti-Defamation League. They have had a beef with Abe Foxman for some time now, and this is merely an extension of it. From them I found a link to the blog noplacefordenial where you can watch videos of Massachusetts liberals spout their bleeding-heart claptrap about how we murder people all over again whenever we don’t buy into the cock-and-bull stories we’re being sold. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart did his typical smarmy schtick, but I have to admit I laughed at “halfocaust”. An unexpected find also at Jewcy was this, which discusses the possibly pivotal but undiscussed role of the crypto-jews of Turkey.

Even though I am sure they will catch plenty of flack from the thought-police, some sane commentary comes to us from Coming Anarchy and, surprisingly, Firedoglake.

Lawrence Auster’s “View From the Right” does not have a functioning comments feature. You have to send him an e-mail. Maybe he’ll post it and maybe he won’t. Recently I sent him a few comments which fell into the latter category, so I figure I’ll put them here. (more…)

UPDATE: Niclas Berggren’s “Does Belief In Ethical Subjectivism Pose a Challenge to Classical Liberalism?” seems relevant.

I hadn’t updated this blog in a while, which is not such a bad thing since I am behind in my other responsibilities. Unfortunately I have not used the time I saved for those purposes, and it’s not entirely because I’ve been a bit sick either (perhaps the subconscious reason I delayed buying some Nyquil was that I knew I’d feel guiltier for not being productive without an excuse). One of the things I read when I had better things to do was this essay by Bryan Caplan. Here is the intro:

Ayn Rand is well-known for her view that philosophers'

positions in political philosophy are a logical
consequence of their views on more fundamental
philosophic questions.  While this theory does not
always hold up, no clearer illustration of it could
be found than in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.  This
paper briefly outlines Hobbes' positions on important
questions of metaphysics and ethics.

It then shows how these positions tend to imply and
cohere with a political philosophy of the total state.

What are his positions that Caplan has a problem with? They are the titles of the sub-sections “Materialism and Determinism”, “Ethical Relativism” and “Depravity”. That last one is not to say that he was depraved but that he disagreed with Rousseau on whether human beings are naturally good. Caplan thinks the positions that mesh with libertarianism are “a dualistic philosophy of mind, free will, moral objectivism, and an optimistic view of human potential”. On each point I am on the side of Hobbes against Caplan, and yet I am a libertarian. Caplan does admit that libertarianism has been combined with those positions, but I would still like to discuss it. So given that I agree with him on so much, why am I not a Hobbesian politically?

Perhaps I’ve been wrong all this time. Perhaps I should be a Hobbesian (I know a took a similar tack in my diversity post, and I intend to continue being unoriginal). My stated reason for libertarianism (and Mencius’ for formalism) is that it tends to minimize violent conflict so we can get on with our lives, however we perceive “the good life” to be. Hobbes used the same goal to advocate for Leviathan. Let’s not dismiss him out of hand. Stephen Pinker explains here how much more violent that past was compared to the present, despite how bad we think things are. One of the plausible explanations he gives for the decline in violence is Hobbes’ Leviathan. The rise of strong central states seemed to have put a damper on strife, and most conflict today takes place in barely governed “failed states”. John Robb of Global Guerrillas talks a lot about this and almost seems enthusiastic when he talks about big dumb states not being able to handle this future. Conservatives (and sometimes those on the left) often accuse libertarians of focusing too much on liberty at the expense of its prerequisite, order. As Douglas North puts it, we often assume away the issue and say “non-aggression [principle | axiom]” as if that magic phrase will actually do the work of ensuring itself. I haven’t gotten around to reading Proudhon yet, but I don’t find it completely credible to say “liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order”. That’s why I’m a minarchist. I want some entity to have a monopoly on violence within a geographic territory (which is not to say it will prohibit self-defense or security services) in order to fill the power-vacuum. I think the state is inevitable. The opportunity is simply too attractive to think it will sit out there like a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk without anybody picking it up. Peter Leeson and Bruce Benson can talk all they want about little stateless societies in the past, but states are everywhere I look, or at least where I’d like to live (which for now excludes the ocean and outer space).

Thomas Hobbes and his thoughts are not held in high regard today. My high school was hardly partial toward libertarianism, but they made sure we knew John Locke was the good guy and Hobbes was the villain. I can’t blame this all on their un-Pinker acceptance of the “blank slate”, since they didn’t like Rousseau either. Most educators of acceptably left or right nature still accept some American political theology, where there is something near-sacred in our humanist traditions. Many would not admit that this reverence for proper political order rather than divine providence would not have been feasible without Hobbes (though satirists in the style of Bernard Mandeville existed even in the classical civilizations). Partly this is because, as Pinker explains, we live in much less violent times. It is hard to separate Hobbes from the English Civil War. Unlike what is referred to in America as “the civil war”, it was an actual civil war in which the seat of government was fought over rather than a war of secession. Promoters of anarchy are not fond of the conditions that prevail during a civil war, but they may be said to be anarchic in some sense. There is no longer an unchallenged monopoly of authority but competition in violence. Giving absolute power to the current government is one way to avoid it. Those in power generally try quite hard to crush any possible rivalry. R. J. Rummel would tell us that “power kills”. He calls this democide. Matthew White refers to the great 20th century killings as the “Hemoclsym“, although a large part of this is civil war in China. Pinker concedes all these have happened in our century of war, but the past was even bloodier. Then warfare and massacre were not aberrant events that people mourned but a normal part of life, and participation in it was a glorious thing that brought a man great benefits (as long as he killed the other guy rather than being on the receiving end). The present is much less violent and we see peace as the norm. Herbert Spencer said there will come a time when men no longer see the need for the state and then they will have none. Libertarianism cannot exist unless peaceful order with voluntary cooperation seems feasible.

I could just leave it at that and say something like “He was raised in Egypt so he’s a Muslim, I was raised in Italy so I’m a Catholic”, but then you get to wonder what’s so special about your own circumstances that makes me think I’m right and the other guy is wrong. For one thing I live in the present and he lived in the past (in case you are wondering, the switch-over from one period to the next occurred when Sputnik was launched) . I know about events he couldn’t have known about. As Bertrand de Jouvenel pointed out, even in the age of “absolute monarchy” there wasn’t anything like the totalitarianism we see. All Hobbes really wanted to state to do was enforce contracts, while today it does all sorts of crazy things. I’ve seen how far the state can go and on the margin I want to move it back to something Hobbes would have preferred if he could see North and South Korea. Furthermore, I think there really are conditions in the world today less conducive to violence than those of Hobbes’ time. Aside for Mutually Assured Destruction, there is what Steve Sailer calls the “dirt theory of warfare“. The Hobbesian logic of all-against-all doesn’t apply anymore in our idyllic post-Malthusian age of information sector & human-capital driven commercial prosperity. All we have is our primate instincts making us do stupid things like invading Iraq, although things are so great it’s not actually that big of a loss (just think of Croesus or Napoleon 1 & 3 or Hitler for comparison). The United States in particular has oceans to thank for its isolation (even moreso than England the happy isle). Think Canada’s going to invade? Pssh, they’re just Americans that don’t realize it yet. Mexico? Their military can barely handle the drug-runners, and despite what Robb claims they don’t have that much political ambition. They want to sell, not pillage. Within America we’re content enough with killing people in virtual worlds to put off doing it in meatspace. I think liberty could be sustainable (achievable in the first place is a different story, as I don’t see opinion changing to the extent that secession would not be necessary), especially if Patri Friedman’s seasteading idea takes off.

I originally intended this to focus more on the connection between the positions Caplan points out and political beliefs. I don’t know whether the beliefs I share with Hobbes lead one away from libertarianism, but I know I did not adhere to them at the time I adopted libertarianism. I was optimistic in hoping that the challengers to liberalism had failed and the way forward was clear (even if I though Fukuyama’s “End of History” was overly historicist/Hegelian and reminded me of those awful atheist political theorists). I was confident in my Christianity and believed that there was an objective Good, which was just what God declared it to be and we gleaned from the Bible, though unbelievers could also participate in our liberal order. I was angry at liberals for denying free-will (and I still have a Szaszian position on personal responsibility) which now seems a bit odd since I was an ultracalvinist that believed in predestination. I know I believed we had souls, but I don’t think that really had much of an impact on my thinking. It was pretty much like accepting what your parents told you what were popular shows on when they were kids. My loss of faith and embrace of the emotivist/Stirnerite take on morality and hard to separate. I know when I first started reading Stirner I was still telling myself I was a Christian and this was just interesting heresy for my amusement. I had admitted to myself I wasn’t well before I finished Der Ego, though now I think I might not have read to the end had I not joined the godless and wished to fully understand the Word of Saint Max. He didn’t write to be readable, especially if you haven’t read anything from Hegel or those influenced by him. I’ve discussed more of my religious transition and how it relates to ethics here, but it was mostly a matter of becoming more acquainted with the scientific way of thinking and dropping beliefs with little connection to the observable world that served no purpose for me. Caplan seems like a fairly learned guy, which sometimes causes me to puzzle why believes in a lot of what seems to be outdated mumbo-jumbo, despite being a scoffing atheist who also realizes Objectivism is nonsense. Others have attributed this to his strong belief in the value of intuition, and I’d say I agree. Why he thinks so highly of intuition when he realizes how often our intuition goes wrong and needs to be corrected, I don’t know.

This is off-topic, but there’s a great parody of the Moldbug Transcripts here.

Now after I click “Publish” I promise myself not to read or comment at any blogs for the rest of the day. E-mail is still kosher, so if you want to shoot the breeze with me on the so-called Armenian “genocide” (more like holohoax, wink wink nudge nudge) I’m available. On that subject I see Daniel Larison has bought into those crafty buggers’ line, which likely wasn’t too hard of a sell since he’s also an adherent of an eastern orthodox branch of Christianity.

I don’t watch bloggingheads.tv as much as I used to because I don’t have the time. I had to watch a bit when I saw the title “You’re either with us or you’re … Charles Lindbergh?”. It discusses a recent bloggingheads segment where David Frum wailed about Mark Schmitt being too turned off by the administration’s hijacking of 9/11 to commemorate its memorial. Good liberals Henry Farrell and Paul Glastris both agree that the neoconservative went way overboard, and is perhaps too emotional because of the failure of his vision with regard to Iraq. I hold no high regard for Frum, whose Unpatriotic Conservatives tried kick opponents of this misadventure off the bus
. However, I also don’t see what is so horrible about Lindbergh. If opposing war makes you a traitor then Henry David Thorough, William Graham Sumner, Mark Twain, Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, Smedley Butler, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, Ayn Rand, William F. Buckley and I are all traitors. Oh, but WW2 was a “good” war, a “noble” one. Why? Because Hitler was so bad. Because he opposed war, Lindbergh must be some kind of crypto-nazi. What nonsense. Does opposing either Iraq war make one a Ba’athist, military action against Iran a Khomeinist, intervention in the Balkans a Serbian nationalist, Vietnam & Korea a communist, World War 1 and the Spanish American war a German/Spanish imperialist or the Mexican-American war a supporter of Aztlan? I have thrown out some less than popular wars there, but I will go further and say that opposing the War Between the States (civil wars are fights for political power within one political unit, like the Spanish or Russian civil wars, and do not include wars of secessions) does not make one pro-slavery. (more…)