May 2010

The following is from David Gress’ “From Plato to NATO”: “[Dominican friar Bartolome de] Las Casas, in 1551, decided to attack [humanist and classicist Juan Gines de] Sepulveda’s argument [in defense of colonial conquest of peoples who were by nature inferior] not at its weakest point, the Aristotelian claim that the Indians were by nature subordinate, but at its strongest point: the claim that any means available were justified in putting a stop to the absolute evil of mass human sacrifices. Las Casas began by noting that while it was true that cannibalism and human sacrifice were bad themselves, that did not necessarily entitle one to go to war to stop them, for such a war might be a worse evil than the evil it was supposed to remedy. He then claimed that, for the Aztecs, human sacrifice was the law of the land, and all people were required, by natural justice, to obey the law of their land.”

“Las Casas then entered upon an anthropological and philosophical argument that was sensational for its time. He concluded that using force to stop human sacrifice was wrong. He used two avenues to reach that conclusion. The first was that several instances in the Scriptures proved that God did not necessarily find human sacrifice detestable. Nor was cannibalism unheard of among Europeans, in case of dire necessity. The second avenue of argument was the more elaborate. This consisted in saying that the Indians like all human beings, had an inborn and instinctive sense of God. All people, granted this inborn sense of a supreme power, worshipped this supreme power according to their manner and devotion. The greatest gift one could make to the supreme power was the gift of life:
The most powerful manner of worshipping God is to offer him a sacrifice. This is the only act by which we show him to whom it is offered that we are his subjects, who are under obligation to him. Further, nature teaches us that it is right to sacrifice to God, whose debtors we are for many reasons, precious and excellent things, because of the excellence of his power. Now according to human judgment and truth, nothing in nature is greater or more precious than human life, the human being himself. That is why nature herself teaches and instructs those who have neither the faith, nor grace, nor doctrine, those who live by natural understanding alone, that without any positive law to the contrary they are bound to sacrifice human victims to the true God or to the false god whom they consider to be true, so that by offering him a supremely precious thing they can express their gratitude for the many favors they have received.”

A while back Bryan Caplan wrote The Lorelai Paradox and Parenthood as the Trump of All Past Regret. His argument is that because parents love their children as unique individuals and would not want to replace them with any other child, they cannot regret any event that resulted in said children turning out just the way they are. It always struck me as a poor argument, but I didn’t realize until a few days ago that Caplan himself had explained why. Here is what he said about Independence Day: “How about conservatives? They’re likely to say “This war created our country – of course it was worth it!” But without the war, conservatives would still have a country to get misty-eyed over – it would just be Britain instead of America. If you’re going to love whatever country you’re born in, it’s hard to see the point of fighting to make a new one.” Equivalently, Caplan would love his children even if they were different from how they are now, and if they had birth defects I am confident that he would prefer that they had been born without them. Caplan treats the situation differently because he is not a conservative. In case you are wondering, I think is Caplan is right about independence but not children.

Moving on to another matter, in the comments to a previous post, mtraven suggests that Caplan is inconsistent in declaring the “insane” to be rational while in another paper saying the opposite of poor criminals.

A few weekends ago I saw The Informant! It starts off entertainingly enough about an oddball executive spying/entrapping on behalf of the Feds against his agribusiness employer. The second half of the movie takes an unexpected shift in focus as you find out how much of his narration and the character he made for himself is a lie. A few days later I saw this post at Mind Hacks linking tohere on the inventor of the (quite wrong) “disease model” of addiction, who apparently faked his doctorate. That got me to start writing this post, but I didn’t have time to finish until some more impostors popped up. Before then I was already planning on mentioning serial-bullshitter and liberal hero William O. Douglas, particularly well known for getting a grave in Arlington without the service record to merit it. Two new scandals involve the Army again, with some faker attaining NCO rank through a made-up military history. You are more likely to have heard of Linda MacMahon’s opponent for the Connecticute Senate, who had been making claims about service in Vietnam when he actually made all the right moves to avoid said service. Then of course there is the undocumented studier at Harvard. The old story of the retired illiterate teacher will always have a special place in my memory though. Only the best for the children, who are our future.

Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life” spent a surprisingly large amount of space on con-men. I guess he had a fascination with them and how they take on a role especially subversive relative to the everyday two-facedness Goffman thought we all take part in. I wanted to provide a good quote, but my pdf of an early version of the book isn’t searchable. In searching for a good quote I came up with this, which isn’t quite on topic but interesting anyway.

Some other people in the news for getting fired are Jonathan Katz and Dennis Blair (surprise no mention is made of Chas Freeman in reference to the latter). Michael Bellisles, who was previously fired for fakery, is now back with a new book and being promoted as victim of a “swiftboating”.

In a comment at EconLog about his debate with Robert Frank (in regard to which I contribute other people’s two cents here), David Friedman gave Earl Thompson as another example of a leftish economist he has learned from. Where have I heard that name before? I think it was in a discussion of recreational ether use.

Bryan Caplan’s equivalent would be Bill Dickens. I would note that Caplan had Dickens as a teacher, and despite his distaste for Princeton style (elite/saltwater I suppose) economics defended Bernanke’s initial nomination as Fed Chair based on his grad school experience under him. Admittedly Bernanke’s own views may be closer to his old papers than the actual practice he’s followed these days, but I suspect there’s a near-bias going on here. He may have overestimated the quality of an economist based on the fact that he knew them personally (and surprise, they aren’t monsters!), and may be underestimating that of economists he disagrees with but does not know as well.

Pew has a new survey on the reception of different political buzz words by demographic characteristics.  “Socialism,” “Capitalism” and the like. It’s no surprise that the latter word elicits a more positive reaction among Republicans than Democrats than the former, and vice versa. But here is something interesting:

More than four-in-ten independents (44%) react positively to the word “libertarian,” while 32% have a negative reaction. Democrats are nearly evenly divided (39% positive, 37% negative). However, Republicans on balance have a negative impression of this term (44% negative, 31% positive).

I’m not sure how to account for this; perhaps the first part of the word “libertarian” sounds too much like “liberal” to Republicans? I admit it’s awfully tortured reasoning on my part.

Generally speaking the wealthier you are the more positively you respond to “Capitalism,” which should satisfy the liberal’s understanding of class interest. But the same goes for education – the more you have, the better you respond the C word – which could confound the liberal’s understanding of what college is supposed to teach one about the world.

But not too much can be read into this.  Responses to the words “Socialism” and “Capitalism” are not correlated:

Perhaps surprisingly, opinions about the terms “socialism” and “capitalism” are not correlated with each other. Most of those who have a positive reaction to “socialism” also have a positive reaction to “capitalism” [emphasis mine]; in fact, views of “capitalism” are about the same among those who react positively to “socialism” as they are among those who react negatively (52% and 56%, respectively, view “capitalism” positively). Conversely, views of “socialism” are just as negative among those who have a positive reaction to “capitalism” (64% negative) as those who react negatively (61% negative).

What is America trying to tell us, that it’s state capitalist?

So says Richard Ebeling. That would be in keeping with Gordon Tullock’s take on our government’s angling.

I linked to some Chiang revisionism here.

I’ve pointed out Austin Bramwell’s list of books most influential on him before, but I’m doing so again because I found that two of them are available online. John Henry Newman’s “The Grammar of Assent” is at a site dedicated to him, and Chateubriand’s “The Genius of Christianity” is available at and google books. The latter also has it in the original French, in case you can read that. Joseph de Maistre’s St. Petersburg dialogues on theodicy were only completely translated into English in 1993. You can read it all in French (volume 1, volume 2) or English excerpts online.

I recently finished Joseph Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” and just picked up David Gress’ “From Plato to NATO”. Email me if you’d like a pdf copy of the former. Razib has name-checked the latter a number of times. Its author corresponds with Sailer at VDARE on Scandinavia here. His book seems to be arguing against people like Stephen Davies.

Now a rather different angle: a number of people in the Austrian camp look favorably on Axel Leijonhufvud as their kind of Keynesian. I never really ingested Post-Keynesian econ despite resources pointed out by others and myself. But no use in asking if there’s a Leijonhufvud (or Post-Walrasian econ generally) for dummies guide out there.

David Henderson had an admirably empirical response to Bryan Caplan’s proposal that prisoners be segregated by weight. I figured there should be data for this and set about googling. I found Prison Victimization: High-Risk Characteristics and Prevention by Leslie A. Swales of Kent State which says the following on page 27:
The average weight of a sexual assault victim in prison is 141 pounds. This is lighter than the average offender. The offender also stands one inch taller than his target (Man & Cronan, 2001).

Bryan linked to an older post of his which referenced a study supporting his assertion about the size of victims in prison. In the comments Levi gave a bunch of stats about the rate of sexual assault at Ivy League schools:
Brown University, 8,020 students, 3 forcible sex offenses
Columbia University, 24,820, 9 forcible sex offenses
Cornell University, 19,800 students, 3 forcible sex offenses
Dartmouth College, 4,147 students, 6 forcible sex offenses
Harvard University, 19,140 students, ~17 forcible sex offenses
Princeton University, 4,918 students. ~12 forcible sex offenses
University of Pennsylvania, 19,816 students, 12 forcible sex offenses
Yale University, [11,593] students, 9 forcible sex offenses

Levi gave just 11 students at Yale, I replaced it with the total fall 2009 enrollment from here.

UPDATE 2: Henderson asked to know how large the weight-difference was between victims and offenders. The paper linked above cites Man & Cronan Forecasting Sexual Abuse in Prison: The Prison Subculture of Masculinity as a Backdrop for” Deliberate Indifference”. That paper in turn cites Alan J. Davis’ “Sexual Assaults in the Philadelphia Prison System and Sheriff’s Vans” as saying the average weight of the rapist was 157 pounds, compared to 141 for victims. Man & Cronan also cite Daniel Lockwood’s “Prison Sexual Violence” as saying victims average 15 pounds fewer than their aggressors.

Since April 1, apparently. I’m not surprised nobody told me, since it’s a low-readership blog. I only happened to check it out the second or third time I read Mitchell Porter’s latest and wondered why he was linking to a defunct blog.

Via Ilkka I found some articles by Kathy Shaidle on the hard-hat riots, which in turn led to an argument that those Kent State kids had it coming. I had usually just seen those pictures of the shot students without hearing about the student-perpetrated violence that had brought the National Guard on campus in the first place and possibly provoked them into firing. I’ve mentioned before that the standard narrative of of the era I got as a kid was of hippies promoting peace & love, possibly putting daisies in the barrels of guardsmen. Hearing about the violence associated with the great sixties freakout was a big surprise. As Rick Perlstein has written, we don’t usually hear the other side of the conflicts of that era. The exception is probably those hard-hats. I find it odd that conservatives take pride in them, since it hardly reflects well on your side to beat up some kids because you don’t like what they say. Even more bizarrely, the ex-hippie Shaidle quotes who experienced the event first-hand seems to take to share that view!

This leads me to the title of the post. The standard narrative of the Chicago Democratic convention is that it was a “police riot”. The “Chicago Eight” were charged with inciting a riot, and by that I don’t think the authorities meant inciting the police to riot. Lots of Democrats were upset that there was a “Recreate ’68” group for their presidential primary convention, which is odd since the McGovern commission essentially vindicated their grievances and reformed the Dem primary system accordingly. I have never heard what sort of riotous behavior the protesters were engaging in back in ’68, though many Chicago police still seem to think they did the right thing. Mencius Moldbug hates hippies and hates’em hard, prone to talking of the “hippie coup“, but when I asked him what sort of nefarious behavior they engaged in that night he didn’t have a response (similarly to when I asked him what was so bad about Reconstruction). I know my Chavez bleg was a dud (even the musical portion!), but this was a much more famous streetfight.

Back to the hard-hats: a while back I found a piece by Murray Rothbard in which he claimed that the hardhats & suits who beat up the hippies were representative of the parasitic state-dependent class, while the protesters represented the genuine people/proletariat/taxpayers or something like that. I can’t find it anymore, which is a real shame since it’s quite an unusual take. At the same time, Joseph Stromberg noted (again in a link that I can’t find) that he was basically a conservative in that Rothbard endorsed Rockefeller opening fire at Attica in “Libertarian Forum“.

One of the ring-leaders of the Attica prison riot was Sam Melville, New Left terrorist bomber though apparently not a member of the Weather Underground. His partner Jane Alpert. While she was underground she released a manifesto about ditching the left for feminism. The anti-war movement was so 1968.

UPDATE: Here is a report from a Yippie during the middle of the violence who claims that together with some gangs they did engage in riots & streetfighting.

A while back I tried unsubscribing to the attackthesystem email list, because it was taking too much time to go through all the messages in my inbox. My attempts apparently had no effect, because I’m still going through them. The recent hubbub has been about how some protesters beat up some Bay Area National Anarchists for demonstrating in favor of Arizona’s immigration law (which seems an odd thing to demonstrate about outside of Arizona). The most recent message was a link to a post Andrew Yeoman made at Occidental Dissent. O.D used to be Odessa Syndicate, which was on my blogroll back when it was more interesting through it’s promotion of Stalin and Huxley’s “Brave New World” (actually, the movie “Equilibrium”, but same basic deal). But this is all just an intro to the actual topic of this post.

An entirely different contributor there, the anti-death penalty for rhetorical purposes Kievsky, was in previous posts referencing a documentary titled Hashmatsa, in English “Defamation”. The movie is about anti-semitism, and as might be expected from a movie appealing to the O.D crowd, it pooh-poohs much talk of it (or at least that’s what I infer). It was made by an Israeli (a former border officer who made a documentary about that) who says because he is one he has never experienced anti-semitism and so wants to learn about it. I’ve just watched the first clip in which he talk to his grandmother (who is in her 90s) and what’s funny is how, as he points out, all the stuff she says about diaspora Jews is classic anti-semitism! I think a critical theorist would term that “internalizing the hegemonic discourse” or something like that. A somewhat similar documentary is Craig Boedeker’s (Hanson & Swain semi-endorsed) “A Conversation About Race“. The difference is that Boedeker is a white nationalist pissing out rather than a group-member pissing in. I engage in the latter with respect to Irish-Americans here.

UPDATE: The Inductivist is reporting results from a MIDUS survey on discrimination. His posts so far are Frequency of discrimination, The social construction of racism, and More on discrimination. If he had actually mentioned “MIDUS” in each post or put them all in the same category I wouldn’t have to link individually.

You don’t hear too much of that, perhaps because there aren’t many Iraqis around to engage in it and nobody cares about Kurds. Via Yglesias I found an old Timothy Noah piece at Slate on Jude Wanniski, who apparently did engage in such denial. From what little I knew about him, I was sympathetic to Wanniski. Both a well-known supply-sider and opposed to the Iraq War. Sort of like David Henderson I suppose (and though lots of commenters complain about him, he seems the most likable character at EconLog). Since the Gulf War went so successfully and Saddam was obviously an aggressor against Kuwait, far fewer people are given to criticizing it than Iraq War 2: With a Vengeance. A lot of Democrats learned the lesson not to oppose such things, and Al Gore’s support boosted his stature. Denierbud still complains about the role of the media in the run-up to the war and of course he engages in the more popular form of geocide denial, so maybe he’ll have something to say about Wanniski’s argument.

In this podcast for St. Lawrence University, Steven Horwitz defends Lenore Skenazy and her concept of Free Range Kids; kids should be less supervised and more trusted to navigate their own way through the world, better to prepare them for adulthood. Kids are seen as constantly in need of management, lest they fall victim to a physical or social danger – scraped knees and paedophiles, respectively. In a bit of gratuitous econo-centrism, he suggests that unlike most modern mothers, Skenazy is “thinking like an economist,” by keeping in mind the Bastian insight that the unseen negatives of not allowing kids to take chances are just as much a cost as the various perils that come more easily to mind. Sure, but that’s like saying people are thinking like economists when they hear the other side of an argument.

(According to Ron Alsop, Horwitz could be on to something. He believes the Millenial generation is spoiled, unable to take initiative due to a relatively coddled upbringing.)

Brink Lindsey, on the other hand, has made much hay of the fact that kids who are doted upon by micro-managing parents from day 1 are higher achievers in their adult life. From the planning of extra curricular activities to the contribution of a large word-sum score through a talkative home environment (“utterances” in the words of Betty Hart and Todd Risley), it would seem that the less “free range,” the better for future success. People like David Friedman have made the case for Unschooling, which I’m sympathetic too for Nockian reasons of  “elitist anarchism“, but it’s easy for Friedman to say, with his strong genes, Phd. and house in the leafy south bay area ‘burbs likely full of other nerds for his kids to play with.

Maybe these are two separate issues, one relating to obvious existential threats and the other to acquiring skills and habits crucial to a productive and well-integrated adult. I’m not sure. But it sure seems to me that an overly cautious, near-neurotic parenting style would, at the very least, imbue children with a sense of preparation and planning. In other words, my hunch is that being cognizant of safety (stranger danger!) and holding early success in school in high regard are positively correlated, as is the inverse.

I suppose there is a good deal of wiggle room between being an overbearing parent and being merely a parent that plans (perhaps excessively) for their kids to make their own plans.

Since April 30.