March 2008

If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re sort of like Cato, only better. They take the Robert Higgs angle on foreign intervention but are more professional than the Mises Institute or LRC. The blog is here, found via the Lew Rockwell blog. Alex Tabarrok is affiliated with the institute and I hope he starts posting stuff there that MR’s readers would freak out over.

UPDATE: From Overcoming Bias Zombies! Zombies? and Zombie Responses.

We first had the dispute over “zombies” in this post at his blog. It has now continued in this one and this one. HA has said he likes to frame every dispute by asking how to make it an empirical question, and that is what I have done in the last link. Completely coincidentally, in his latest post on reductionism at Overcoming Bias, Eliezer Yudkowsky tangles in the comments with Richard from Philosophy Etc over the conceptual/logical possibility of zombie worlds. I think Daniel Dennet’s position is the same as mine, although I like to phrase it as “Our world is a zombie world”.

UPDATE: Not only can I not post comments, I can no longer even read any of their pages unless I mask my IP.
Oh, what will I do with myself now? If I’m not welcome in a place where freedom of speech is claimed to be respected despite how offensive comments might be, I guess there’s just no place for me.


Earlier I pointed out some cool bug-on-bug killing. This post is something of a sequel, as Balko points out an even more vicious species.

I advocated that half-jokingly here, but recently Keith Preston pointed out this by Walter “Defending the Undefendable” Block in which just that is promoted. Guess I’m not as weird as I thought I was. I would also note that Block’s comments in the beginning about Nazis and Communists that have not resorted to coercion seems to contradict what he said in Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism. EDIT: Later on in the “Response to Schwartz” Block echoes many of the ideas in TaLToGaPftCoS, for instance indicting “businesses that push for subsidies, top bureaucrats who promote statism, leading politicians, those in charge of the command posts of society, the highest ranking media people who offer apologetics for governmental excesses, the universities, statist intellectuals” for advocating rather than merely participating in coercion. Is the difference that Nazis and Commies in our society are on the margins and have little influence?

In the comments, ashen man links to an argument I had come across long ago that the evolution of our ability to digest gluten and lactose was driven not by its nutritional value but by the shift from a free-roaming hunter-gatherer society to one of agricultural civilization that we are not cut out for and need to be drugged in order to fit in. Some of you may not feel like visiting a lycos page with its annoying ads, so by googling the authors I found this duplicate. The paper is entitled “The Origins of Agriculture: a biological perspective and a new hypothesis”, by Greg Wadley and Angus Martin from the June 1993 Australian Biologist.

As long as I’m talking about mind-altering chemicals, Robert Lindsay has a new post on marijuana and brain damage, though he also discusses shrooms and coke. Hopefully Anonymous points out an article on scientists using cognitive-enhancement drugs (or “nootropics”).

Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before?

While Keith was accused of being a neo-nazi or at least one of their useful idiots, Daniel Owen asked why I link to disreputable people. I gave some explanation for that here and here.

Prozium takes on Zmirak and fealty to the Vatican here. (UPDATE: Zmirak has banned Prozium, but the spat continues) A previous occasion when a paleocon let his Catholic loyalties trump non-interventionist principles was when Buchanan advocated the U.S meddling in the Balkans to assist the Croatians (he was against Serbs before he was for them). I criticize a Slavic-Orthodox paleocon and stick up for paleo principles here (though Burke may not have actually advocated independence for India as opposed to just criticizing British actions there). Robert Higgs provides more backup for the Prozium take on World War 2 here. Finally, as long as I’m linking to Odessa Syndicate, they give Rev. Wright his props here. Like IOZ, they prefer him to Obama.

Completely off-topic: I once came across an argument that our ability to digest lactose and gluten was selected for not because of its health benefits, but because it causes us to be docile for the civilization created by agriculture (which is in fact less healthy) though we evolved to be hunter-gatherers. Despite searching I have not been able to find it again. If anybody else can find a link, it would be much appreciated. UPDATE: Thanks, ashen man!

I’ve suggested before that he get himself a blog, but this will do for now. I was discussing Mr. Preston and whether or not he is a racist Nazi at The Art of the Possible when someone mentioned he had a forum. I was surprised and asked where, and was pointed to here. If any others out there find his angle to be interesting, I hope to see you there.

Via Ilkka, I came across a bunch of philosophy games. Battleground God didn’t work, so I’ve just done morality play, which checks how parsimonious one’s conception of morality is. The two main types of questions were of obligation and responsibility. I don’t believe in the former, but I do believe in the latter (even with no free will we can still consider someone a causal actor and hold them responsible because we find it desirable to do so). I did have some issues with the test that I’d like to explain before giving my results below the fold. On question 15 I would have liked to say that there is no obligation to save either your own child or the ten others, but was not given that option. To decide between the two I took into account that parents are considered legal guardians of their own children, but not 1/10th that of others. On question 14 the obvious thing to have done rather than shell out more money for another drink is just not to send anything at all or perhaps a note saying “Happy birthday, I hate you, please die”. If you are aware that sending the poisoned drink will kill the person and you decide to do it anyways, that seems a clear case of homicide.


Via Hopefully Anonymous, the benefits of one beverage your parents told you to ease up on.

Via Balko, another.

Jonathan Wilde at the Distributed Republic riffs on the subject with a discussion of Hayek, Popper and rationalism in response to Jim Manzi at NRO’s Corner and has a nice roundup of links. When I read Jonathan say “When there’s a conflict between libertarian policy and federalism, I’ll favor federalism 99% of the time.” I wondered under which situations I would disfavor federalism against libertarianism, and I can’t think of any. Suggestions?

Manzi quotes William F. Buckley (whose obit list I am still expanding) saying “Now if, for instance, a society feels that its attachment to that society is substantially vitiated in virtue of the toleration, let’s say, of a movie based on a comedy treatment of Dachau, it tends to lose self-esteem. And to the extent that it loses self-esteem, it stands in danger of reducing that which is its principal resource in matters of emergency. An America that hates itself cannot possibly defend itself against the Soviet Union or anybody else”. On a certain level I agree that a society that cannot sustain itself will not long have its liberty and so some coercive measures may be necessary (immigration restriction is where I deviate from many libertarians). I just don’t see that example as fitting the bill. We are naturally pre-disposed to favoring ourselves and those we know over others. Laughing at a comedy about the Holocaust does not make us hate ourselves. Worrying about “self-esteem” is for empty-headed liberals; most people could use a good bit less self-esteem. At some point I’ll deal with the over-hyped “threats” and “enemies” used as a justification for the expansion of a government that does a piss-poor job of protecting us (at least on the margin), but for now I’ll link to some previous posts on federalism with regard to marriage, abortion, and in general.

The Daily Burkeman1 had a post observing how many cops are around and BMan1 wonders how many is enough. Since I happened to be reading an excellent book on the topic, I posted the following comment.

Here are some quotes from “The Supply Side of the Political Market” in Bruce Benson’s “The Enterprise of Law”:

After an extensive study of police performance, Lawrence Sherman, director of the Police Foundation, concluded: “Instead of watching to prevent crime, motorized police patrol [is] a process of merely waiting to respond to crime.” Sherman noted that the budget process rewards those who successfully dispose of cases after crimes are committed more than with the questions of how many police are needed and how big the police budget should be. Of course, the answers to these questions depend on what police must do, so police lobby for more budget and personnel in order to reduce response time and catch more criminals. Efficiency considerations would dictate that the additional cost of such resources be justified by improved performance of at least equal value. Is this a valid assumption?
A 1976 study by the Police Foundation and the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice found that cutting response time by seconds or even minutes makes little difference in whether or not a criminal is apprehended. […] Studies of police on duty have found that about half of an officer’s time is spent simply waiting for something to happen. Police officials claim that this time is spent in preventative patrolling, but systematic observation has discovered that such time is largely occupied with conversations with other officers, personal errands, and sitting in parked cares on side streets. […]
[P]olice offcials contend that patrol cars should have two officers because they can more efficiently deal with criminal incidents and are less likely to be resisted or harmed. A year-long Police Foundation study of one- versus two-man patrol cars in San Diego, however, contradicts these claims. The report found “clearly and unequivocally it is more efficient, safer, and at least as effective for the plice to staff patrol cars with one officer.” […] The primary differences were that two-man cars wrote several more traffic tickets, one-man cars received far fewer citizen complains, and one-man cars were far more cost effective. […] Furthermore, there were fewer cases of resisting arrest and assaults on officers in one-man units than in two-man units.
Is increasing the size of the police buereaucracy likely to solve these problems? Consider the impact of increasing the size of the police department in New York City between 1940 and 1965. Over that twenty-five-year period, the number of police was increased from 16,000 to 24,000, but the total number of hours worked by the entire force actually declined. The 50 percent increase in personnel was more than offset by shorter hours, longer vacations, more holidays, more paid sick leave, and longer lunch periods.

On a vaguely related note, I’m also cackling at what happened to Spitzer. If it weren’t for all the measures taken against white-collar crime (his specialty) he might not have been caught. He’s a victim of idiotic laws against victimless-crimes that he didn’t have a problem enforcing against others. Prison is unnecessary as he’s no danger to anyone out on the street…provided he no longer has his position of power. UPDATE: Skip Oliva and Rich Nikoley dismiss libertarian objections to punishing Spitzer. I view punishment from a purely consequentialist angle and I don’t see how it would disincentivise his abuse of power rather than solicitation of prostitution. EDIT: Skip clarifies in the comments that he doesn’t want Spitzer prosecuted, just removed from his job, so it seems we have no disagreement. UPDATE: It seems Spitzer helped put in place some of the harshest anti-sex trade laws in the country. Sort-of-update: Looks like another enforcer of law has gotten caught with his dick in the cookie jar. Will Spengler claim vindication? UPDATE2: Mona, Carson and Greenwald on Spitzer at TAOTP. Reihan Salam in a diavlog on it here, citing some figures from Bradford Plumer. I rant a bit at Who is IOZ?

For those brought here by the title, here is the original, here is the imitation and here they are combined. Via Ilkka, a possible technological substitution.

Two blogs I just discovered that I should have begun reading earlier are The Daily Burkeman1 and Left Conservative, both of somewhat paleo orientation. Two interesting posts from the latter are Immigration v. Non-interventionism and the single issue sweepstakes in which Latin American immigration is linked to problems in the emmigrants’ countries which are in turn linked to U.S foreign policy (I would highlight the drug war), making it in the end a form of “blowback” (I think relevant in light of recent events), and Reason Magazine, Populism and Ron Paul: An essay on the idiocy of the “libertines”, in which Paul, David Duke and Jesse Jackson are all saluted for their anti-establishment principles.

On an unrelated note, Chip Smith continues bringing back material from the print edition of the Hoover Hog (previously discussed here), with the latest entitled Race-Baiting on the Brink of Apocalypse, discussing Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints and the work of William Luther Pierc, most importantly the Turner Diaries. A review of Saints and a general discussion of the old paranoid “invasion literature” from a Spanish perspective is given by Michael Gilson de Lemos here (if anyone knows what he’s referring to by “Triage” and “Trio”, let me know). Elsewhere Chip points out that the other Smith (Bradley, author of this non-Shoah related book) has a blog devoted to asking Holocaust believers to name one victim of the gas-chambers and give proof. Being only an amateur believer who accepts the conventional wisdom of experts as Bryan Caplan would advise, I cannot do so, but I did suggest The Nizkor Project and Real Open Debate on the Holocaust as places where skeptical questions may be answered. As long as we’re on the subject of revisionism and WW2, “thorough-going revisionist” Mark Brady says based on early reviews that Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke fails to make the case that needs to be made.

A theory I find even less plausible than that there were only about 300,000 Jews in Europe or that nearly 6 million fled during the Third Reich is proposed by Hopefully Anonymous here. He ponders why the religious are focused on immortality whereas more scientifically inclined folks are skeptical even of atheist transhumanists and suggests that Jesus and other religious leaders “consciously (though non-transparently) created constituents for their future technology-based ressurection”. In the comments I scoff and give a hat-tip to my favorite theory of the “real Jesus” in Koenraad Elst’s Psychology of Prophetism.

Although lots of folks at Mises scoff at “empirical evidence”, they’re not above pointing it out when it supports their positions. Recently Stephan Kinsella highlighted something from Techdirt’s Mike Masnick suggesting that eliminating the patent system increases innovation. It’s actually Kinsella’s second post on Masnick’s article, the first is here. Kinsella has previously discussed empiricism and I.P here, here, here and here. His main attack on the concept is in Against Intellectual Property, which sounds suspiciously like Against Intellectual Monopoly. Stealing titles, eh? For a blog devoted to criticizing IP, see Intellectual Privilege by Tom W. Bell, who co-blogs with Glen Whitman at Agoraphilia. Responding to a debate between Bell and Whitman, Nick Szabo analogizes IP to the censorship powers of lords and nobles in the feudal era. That might make him sound less favorable to the concept than he actually is, since he promotes that era’s idea of property rights in governance as a preferable alternative to the modern totalitarian theory of sovereignty.

Finally, a post I found a long time ago, forgot and rediscovered recently and decided to share with you all is Skeptico’s How do you prove photography to a blind man?, which is a response to a psi-believer but I was reminded of by the analogizing here of atheist materialists to “a blind man who does not believe in color because he cannot detect it with his other four senses”. Vox Day claims science disproves rational materialism here (UPDATE: He elaborates here and here). In his most recent Overcoming Bias post Righting a Wrong Question, Eliezer Yudkowsky attempts to dissolve questions about beliefs into issues of our senses entangled with reality.

Via the Hoover Hog, a new antinatalist blog.

Via Ilkka, several variations on Stuff White People Like. Stuff Asian People Like is interesting in light of Half Sigma’s belief that the proprietor of SWPL was Korean, but an entry like Bad Pronunciation isn’t so much about their likes as just what they do. Stuff Educated Black People Like is quite similar to SWPL, but it strikes me as a major difference that the obsession with status markers is explicit here, whereas the rampant denialism among SWPL’s targets is a major part of the joke. The addition of “educated” (previously a background assumption) opens up the door for sites on the alternative, perhaps more along the lines of Cobb’s more down-scale post Stuff Black People Like. Who will make the site on non-educated whites, Jim Goad? Will all varieties of white trash be represented? For those of you unaware, the main prototypes are the West Virginia hillbilly, Boston lunkhead, Mississippi trailer trash, Jersey guido and Bakersfield speed-freak.

Ross Douthat responds to Tyler Cowen’s request for the best American 20th century conservative books, mostly with neo-conservatives. Many readers may be tired of my constant bashing of neo-conservatives, but like Steve Sailer I actually have a fairly high opinion of the earlier generation of social scientists that critiqued the stagnant liberalism of the 70s, before their lesser progeny (and Norman Podhoretz, though he was little more than a Normal Mailer critic in the first place) became associated with insane Wilsonianism. One I had never heard of before is Edward Banfield. You can read many of his works for free here, (and on the subject of free online reading, I hereby pledge to put Bertrand de Jouvenel’s On Power online at some time during this summer). I myself became a libertarian in no small part due to the neocons and their institutions. I was reading Milton Friedman’s Chicago School insights by way of Thomas Sowell (who has to my embarrassment written a lot of hackish dreck as of late) and the Charles Murray-AEI critique of the welfare state (though I’m not sure if I read any of Murray himself). I knew nothing of Burnham, Kirk or Weaver though the influence of Nisbet might have trickled down to me. I thought that’s what conservatism was (or at least hating Clinton and the left), so I was a conservative. Then when I heard that there was another ideology called “libertarianism” and that it advocated minimal government in any sphere whether economic or private, I recognized it as what I had already believed thinking I was a conservative. UPDATE: Dissent gives a thorough explanation of the history of the term “neoconservative” here.

2Blowhards has a post on the Stiglitz assessment of the costs of the Iraq war, but the main attraction is the spat in the comments between Mencius Moldbug and Greg Cochran. My opinion is that, like always, Cochran wipes the floor with his counterpart. I plan on having a sequel to the Moldbug Transcripts up relatively shortly which will cover a lot of the same territory. Previously they went at it at 2Blowhards here. I posted Greg’s thoughts on military spending here.

Odessa Syndicate gives its mission statement. I think they had one of those earlier, but this is a clarification.

Kevin Carson has joined the blog Art of the Possible and in his first post explains the evolution of his political thought. Mona of Unqualified Offerings has also joined. Charles “Radgeek” Johnson has jumped into the fray started by Knapp & UO’s Jim Henley and expanded upon by Carson.

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