May 2008

A week ago I sent an e-mail to Walter Block. I decided not to publish it here until our exchange was finished. So here it is.

Professor Block,
I had read your argument on matching funds before but I didn’t decide to send you mail until I read your exchange with Arakaky. Accepting state money is not analogous to breaking into Fort Knox. The state does not want you to break into Fort Knox and take its money. That is why it is heavily guarded. In contrast, the state whole-heartedly hands out money in the form of student aid, government contracts, welfare, subsidies and so on. As an Austrian economist you must agree that both parties to such a consensual trade benefit in an ex ante sense. The anti-statist must be like Max Stirner, who in The Ego and Its Own dismissed any “right” to free speech state legislators may have seen fit to grant him in their “Constitution” and instead seized that freedom for himself.

I have not read any Ayn Rand (nor do I have any intention to), but I did read your book Defending the Undefendable recently. I have a blog post on it at here.
Being of consequentialist bent (though I am an emotivist/non-cognitivist and so don’t believe in “utility”) I differ with you on certain issues. Behaviors that take place in a background of statism and violate public property can often be analogous to transgressing against the private property of others. Since a counterfeiter or litterer (two examples I dispute) do not have the capability of destroying the state, they cannot be considered heroes because they have not alleviated the burden of statism from anyone. Instead what they do harms others. Imagine if statism were all the more severe and we were all prisoners. We would be fed prison food made by the slave labor of prisoners. A person who spits in the food before it is served is defying the state and transgressing against its property, but he is also diminishing the quality of what food is available to the state’s victims. The congestion caused by cars on the road given the state’s monopoly is a significant harm which is why I have some (but not large enough to tip the balance) reservations about ending restrictions on taxi services.

In response Walter Block wrote “You make some very good points. I urge you to write them up formally, and get them published. In my view, it doesn’t much matter whether the state wants you to take its money; why should we pay attention to its desires?”.
My response is that I don’t care much for formal publication, so the blog is sufficient. The reason we are interested in the state’s desires is that it bears directly on whether accepting money it gives is analogous to its enemies stealing money from it. Imagine that our hypothetical pirate or bandit hijacks a truck full of government money. Under your theory that is commendable. Let’s specify further that the money was bound for grad students. The pirate has just prevented the grad students from taking government money. If preventing that is good, then how can the grad students taking the money also be so?

I was directed to it via GNXP, but the public radio show had a bunch of bullshit about nerd culture I didn’t feel like listening to, and I bet others feel similarly. So, I recorded the segment with Brecher and uploaded it to my tripod site. Now if only we can get a voice sample of John Dolan to see if they’re really the same person…

Interview with “Gary Brecher” aka “the War Nerd”

In other intellectual property news, I regret to inform everybody that Google Video rejected my upload of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil”, which is more than they could be bothered to do with “Can Dialectics Break Bricks?”. If, like me, you haven’t found the noir classic in any of your local video stores I recommend the Pirate Bay.

UPDATE: Watch Touch of Evil here.

UPDATE2: War Nerd interview on youtube. It’s just a still picture with the radio segment. I guess I can link to that rather than the mp3, but I don’t think I’ll delete it from my tripod site until I really need the space. Also, a review of the interview wondering who exactly the joke is on here by neutrino cannon.

I’m in the middle of reading a discussion between Jim Manzi, Razib and Steve Sailer (UPDATE: and Mencius too) on genetic determinism and Social Darwinism. In the middle of it a TAS contributor linked to an old post of his on political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita who I just can’t shut up about at Unqualified Reservations (or here). I wouldn’t have thought of associating the two subjects (though JA’s comment was not a non-sequitur) and found it a bit creepy for two disparate interests of mine to come together. It kind of reminds me of how I hear of stuff at the Hoover Hog I never would have thought of that nearly invariably fascinate me (though perhaps an initial good impression causes me to make a biased evaluation). Is it a downer to imagine that I’m not a unique person with an eclectic curiosity but rather a common type whose reactions one might be able to predict? I would say no but I suspect Hopefully Anonymous would accuse me of being of just that type to “perform” seemingly hard-headed deprecation of feel-good idealism.

My verdict: interesting, if disappointing because of the expectations Mencius Moldbug planted in me. It is more along the lines of Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter or Jeffrey Friedman’s Critical Review than a study of the media as I came in thinking it would be. I would note that it is a shame Lippman didn’t live to read Pinker’s “The Blank Slate”. Since I ended my discussion of Der Staat by noting Oppenheimer’s optimistic endpoint, I’ll do the same here. Lippman imagines advances in political science (or the “social sciences” more broadly) in line with the expertise (“technic” is his favored word) displayed by engineers and accountants. These disinterested and removed experts will diminish the silliness that characterizes politics or argument more broadly. The term we use now is “technocracy” or “technocrat”, which generally winds up being plain old bureaucracy. Politics and public discourse is just as stupid as ever today. On that note, I saw a paperback copy of James Q. Wilson’s “Bureaucracy” in Borders a few days ago for a low price, so that’s probably what I’ll get next. I haven’t decided which of the books currently on my computer I should get to next. Right now I’ve got The Unheavenly City Revisited by Edward C. Banfield, China Story by Freda Utley, As We Go Marching by John T. Flynn, Burke’s Reflections and Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist. I’m also thinking of getting one of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s books (like Liberty or Equality and Procustes: Against the Herd ) from the Mises site. In addition, Keith Preston listed his top three “desert island” books as Storm of Steel, The Ego and Its Own and God and the State by Mikhail Bakunin. I’m a big fan of the first two, so I’m considering reading the latter online though it seems quite long. If you’ve read more than one of the books listed, say which ones are more worthwhile.

I Row-Boat by Cory Doctorow. I heard of it via The View From Hell, the blog of a “non-practicing suicide”. The host of that blog, who goes by the name “Curator” has also been assisting Jim the anti-natalist against Hopefully Anonymous in the most extreme pro-natalist post I’ve come across. That post in turn is probably inspired by Eliezer Yudkowkskie’s magnum opus sci-fi fable that sums up a great deal of what he’s  written at Overcoming Bias and how it relates to his life’s work.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the subjects people just freak out about is children (won’t SOMEBODY think of them!?). Combine children and sex and it’s freakout squared (or due to synergy, possibly an exponent between 2 and 3). We knew Robert Lindsay had balls, but I think titling a post Kid’s Lie About Child Molestation takes the cake (and feminists say only pro-rape misogynists claim rape victims lie). So as to maintain the innocence of those precious snowflakes I would add that it’s usually adult authorities that badger them into lying, even insisting they tell the truth when refuted by videotape. If that doesn’t bother you enough his previous post discusses all the students that had a thing for him back when he was a teacher, and his regrets that he didn’t commit statutory rape.

Post title thanks to IOZ. More on that subject from the Distributed Republic. The makers of the Powerthirst commercial engage in pedophile humor here.

UPDATE: Robin Hanson on Paul Graham on lying to kids.

UPDATE 2: Roderick Long defends Mary Ruwart’s comments on pedophilia/child pornography here.

I had thought I’d have to purchase Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, but found that it’s freely available online. I wonder if Block would defend IP piracy? I read it in pretty much one sitting and liked it (it even has funny one-panel comic strips). My objections are to the sections on the non-government counterfeiter and the litterer on public property. Sure, we can object to the government intervention that forms the background for their acts. However, given that background their acts harm others and so they are not heroes. Some months ago I got Herodutus’ Histories but left it at home while I was at school. It’s pretty good and I just finished book seven. Given the frequent references to Thucydides in the notes and its current spotlight at Voxiversity, I am considering reading up on the Pelloponnesian war after the Persian ones. Meanwhile I’ve been at part four of Der Staat for some time now and after I finish that I’ve sworn to read Public Opinion. I think part of the problem is that as long as I’m on the computer reading these I’m too tempted to read other stuff online. Any further suggestions are welcome.
UPDATE: I’ve been inspired by my own lament to finish the rest of Oppenheimer. As it progressed it began to resemble Jouvenel, but viewed from a different angle. The conclusion was disappointingly optimistic, or “Whig” as MM is putting it now. It predicted that from the constitutional/capitalist state the forces of the economic means would eventually win their long struggle with the political means and so society would evolve to statelessness. He explicitly rejects the Marxist or “proletarian”/”anarchistic” theory of revolution, which would violently destroy much of society including the beneficial stuff like division of labor. In that respect he seems to resemble Herbert Spencer, who was inspired by biological evolution (though Lamarckian rather than Darwinian), though he cites the “pre-Manchester liberals” Adam Smith and Quesnay on that point instead. Spencer only gets a nod for scoffing at racial theories. I recommend reading it together with the contrastingly pessimistic On Power.

Some posts I came across today I figured I’d point out. At the Left Conservative there is a response to VDARE’s Arthur Pendelton on the “sellout” of paleolibertarians on race (which reminds me of MM’s charge that by linking to Greenwald Lew Rockwell is entering the “leftist fever swamp”). The interesting thing about the response is that it makes an argument under the assumption that race realists are right. I’ll note here that I agree with McMaken that the Mexicans are taking back what we stole from them whether we like it or not. Since I don’t live in the south-west I advise cutting our losses, handing it back, and building a fence. The call there for paleos to make common cause with black power types is also echoed for the goofy hippy types in Bill Kauffman’s review in First Principles of A Conservative History of the Left.

Moving then from race differences to gender differences, via TATP Charles “Rad Geek” Johnson points out the ambiguous nature of “spontaneous order”, which may mean either voluntary or unplanned. He uses Susan Brownmiller’s “Myrmidon theory of rape” as a non-benign example of unplanned order. I was among those “thin” types confused by Francois’ dismay at the anarchist implications of studies showing gender differences in monkeys, but Johnson’s post is still good. I was told Brownmiller was to blame for the ridiculous “rape is not about sex” theory, or at least its popularization, here. Further barely related linkery is below the fold. (more…)

Perhaps it’s not meaningless to talk about what happened before the Big Bang. Perhaps there were many (infinitely many?) Big Bangs before it, randomly appearing after quasi-eternities of nothingness. Sean Carrol claims the Arrow of Time should go backwards and forwards in a symmetric or indistinguishable manner here, though locally (after our recent Big Bang) it seems to go from low entropy to high entropy. Found via this post, in turn found via MR.

Do you like the Overcoming Bias blog but are sometimes frustrated by comment restrictions? Lucky for you, acting on Hopefully Anonymous’ suggestion Nick Tarleton has set up a forum.

Well, after three years I’m finally done and back home. Perhaps this will mean more blog time, perhaps not. I have absolutely no plans for the future.

Aschwin de Wolf has asked me to remove my mirror site of Against Politics, as all that material will be at the new site I have mentioned before and we don’t have the two to compete through Google. I am happy to do so, as I needed to clear up space to host Bertrand de Jouvenel’s On Power (I still haven’t bought it, but I plan on doing so). It will not be a doc or pdf like the Sowell transcription I did before, but an html with clickable table of contents and footnotes like the Stirner and Oppenheimer books also at the tripod site.
UPDATE: I have removed the Against Politics section of my site.

Yes, it exists and it’s called “A Force More Powerful”. Found via a comment at A Tiny Revolution. I, of course, find it quite silly. Roderick Long is wrong, and force has ruled the day for centuries for a reason. For those interested in a slightly more clinical sociological perspective, keep up to date on the latest from OrgTheory like this roundup.

Way back when a website I had just discovered and took great interest in went down. I copied all the files I could and created a tripod site to host them, which you can still find at
Now Aschwin de Wolf informs me the new transhumanist site, Depressed Metabolism, will begin hosting the most important pages from AP here. Not all of the Anthony de Jasay material will be there, as he has his own website now.

Starting with a thread the Agitator (incidentally, the IndyBay site he links to sucks and deleted all of comments after the first), I got into an argument with La Rana over Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”. Now via BlackDogRed comes this review of the book from Left Business Review. Interesting stuff.
UPDATE: It was pretty stupid of me not to link to this earlier post on the subject.

I came across this video at IranMilitary.Net.

The first segment (taking place in DC) is in CGI, with the Iranian portions using live actors. Apparently John McCain is a “senior White House official” rather than a crazy old man elected by voters. Their perception that George Soros has repeatedly attempted regime change through the use of opposition groups engaging in civil disobedience is accurate (though mostly for former Soviet countries), but the idea that the guy who thought preventing Bush’s re-election was the most pressing concern of his lifetime would be meeting with McCain or any current White House official is pretty funny. The domestic Iranian subversives are even harder to take seriously. Their ulterior motivation for serving as pawns of Uncle Sam is, get this…visas to enter the U.S! I know the cat might be out of the bag, but if you were in charge of Iran wouldn’t you not want to remind people of how much more pleasant life is in the U.S and how desirable it would be to go there? You would think people would learn after the communists mistakenly aired Dallas in the hopes of making capitalism look bad (no, I’m not going to link to that Washington Post op-ed, instead read Charles Paul Freund’s In Praise of Vulgarity). Fortunately the wayward youth involved in the nefarious plot (apparently involving a handgun in a duffel-bag) sends off troubled-teen rays to his mother, who is worried about who he’s hanging out with at late hours. She alerts the Stasi helpful authorities who let him off easy and all is well. I joke, but it is true that Iran has terrorism problems. There were some bombs planted near polling places around election time. My guess is that it was MEK (who our government continues to support even when Iran offered to turn over al Qaeda members in its custody in exchange for us selling MEK out) or separatists, who George Soros would want nothing to do with. UPDATE: Iranian propagandists have learned from the best.

If that isn’t enough Iran for you, enjoy some Iranian rap & rock and a half-hour preview of Persepolis.

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