Moral posturing

Via Robin Hanson. This method also jibes with David Friedman’s  point on the irrelevance of responsibility. The problem people have with separating moral and practical arguments is one reason I want to strictly segregate the former from the latter (by the is-ought gap) and then abolish it (through non-cognitivism).

Pre-order it! It doesn’t really have any details other than the cover right now, those will be added when the Nine Banded Books site adds a page for it. The Hoover Hog has put up plenty of info on the book and the other stuff in it, like an updated version of Lucifer’s Lexicon (think something Ambrose Pierce would have passed around but not published). I don’t have any special info about the rest, but Chip Smith’s editing of my intro has been fantastic and as far as I’m concerned responsible for the bulk of its quality. It’s like a literary version of the philosopher’s stone, turning quickly hacked out page-filler into gold. I’ve only seen the original version of Rollins’ titular essay, but the writing there was good enough that it wouldn’t require much improvement. It’s a shame that someone of Rollins’ talents languishes in obscurity when Ayn Rand attained demigod status among libertarians, but not unprecedented considering that Crazy Frog topped the billboard charts in numerous European countries (which is not even to say that what it replaced was any good). In case some other publisher is reading this, Rollins and his pen are available with a wit as sharp as ever, though what he lacks is an e-mail address for you to contact him at. E-mail Chip from 9BB instead.

On the subject of books, my order for On Power was cancelled because it was out of stock. I should have knwon the $12 price was too good to be true. I bought a gift card with the exact amount ($16.72 due to taxes and shipping) specifically for that purpose, which means Borders still has my money and perhaps due to loss-aversion I feel I ought to get something out of it. I just have a sneaking feeling that if I shell out a little more to order one of the vast majority of worthwhile books priced higher than $12 it will get canceled again and I’ll have gotten sucked out of yet a little more. I guess I could have avoided that possibility if I used credit cards, but whenever I get offers in the mail I throw it out as soon as they mention an annual fee. I know retailers send kickbacks to the credit card companies, who are also standing ready to suck my blood should I miss a payment. I don’t feel like sending them yearly tribute for the privilege.

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’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.

Will Wilkinson and I got into an argument stemming from the FLDS raid that came to center around competent agency, brainwashing and “false consciousness”. Now Will has made a post dedicated to those issues. Join the fun.

Hopefully Anonymous and I were also arguing a little while back (not counting all the arguing we did before then) on the subject of “consciousness” (another term I do not find very meaningful/well-defined!). I assure you I had more respect for HA even before he said I had a good comment, so it is not mere confirmation bias. It’s an old thread that I’ve been delinquent in linking to, so I should also add that he responded to my first comment with this post on “zombies” and this catch-up post. His latest on the subject is a thought experiment aimed at people who claim: something passing turing test is conscious, but corporations are not conscious.

Glenn Greenwald (whose view of the press at the founding is quite at odds with Jefferson’s) and Megan McArdle have a diavlog on the obligation of journalists to pound the point home on the Yoo memos. I am largely in agreement with Megan non-water-engineer that The People are to blame. Unfortunately many people, including not only bog-standard liberals but radical anarchists like Kevin Carson and Murray Rothbard fall prey to The People’s Romance. Jack Ross explains the latter as just being Jewish. The good thing about Carson is that he seems to take the Moldbuggian view of objective journalism. Greenwald takes the MM view of the privileged nature of the journalistic profession, but sees that as a noble ideal they unfortunately fall short of. I am down on that kind of idealism because it leads you to be perpetually shocked, whereas the real measure of an accurate view of reality is not being surprised. The press is not a branch of government created to check the other ones. It is a self-interested outside power-center of the sort Bertrand de Jouvenel wrote about, expect it to behave like one. I’ve defended Greenwald before if only because he was being attacked on little basis, but in this dispute he seems to have behaved like a real ninny. As long as I’m piling on, his new book’s blatant hypocrisy seems like a good example of the Jimmy Johnson rule in action. I had suspicions about it earlier and was not persuaded otherwise by its editor at the time.

A little while back Chip Smith pointed out the sad case of Tim Masters. It’s the sort of thing you would expect Radley Balko to write about. However, there’s too much abuse of power for just one man to cover. Balko himself has recently finished an excellent story on years of police persecution of some old grandparents in Church Point Louisiana. It’s the sort of thing that inclines one to much less sympathy towards the police than, say, Peter Moskos in his diavlog with Will Wilkinson on his book “Cop in the Hood“. One interesting thing they discussed was how he could rationalize fighting a drug war he didn’t believe in. His answer was that he saw his activities as quality of life maintenance. Peter’s big idea is foot patrol. I laid out evidence on the effectiveness of different police patrol tactics here.

During the Duke Lacrosse brouhaha a Sudanese immigrant cab-driver was arrested on trumped up charges (a fare he had driven was convicted of shoplifting way back) because he had an alibi proving one of the accused was not at the scene of the “crime”. For defying the authorities (which he was taught to fear in his home country) and sticking up for an innocent stranger he was made Reader’s Digest Hero of the Year. Remember that no good deed goes unpunished and that economic freedom is just a kind of personal freedom as the authorities still haven’t finished screwing him over. Although he now has his citizenship Durham went after his license due to complaints from his competitors that he was “unfairly competing” (i.e offering a better product or service at a lower price than the politically connected) with them and so he is out of the taxi business. I recognize that public roads are a state subsidy rather than a feature of the market and that a free-for-all on the commons can mean congestion, but state licensing of cabs is simply rent seeking and an invitation for corruption. Tom DiLorenzo explains how good provided privately in the past were monopolized and then turned into supposedly “natural monopolies” here.

I’ve never found it in any rental place, so I saw it on youku through alluc. If you haven’t seen it, this gives a pretty thorough explanation. This is my third Peckinpah movie, with the first two being The Wild Bunch and Cross of Iron. There’ll be some spoilers below, so I’m putting the rest below the fold. (more…)

Keith Preston notified the members of his mailing list of this attack on Matt Welch and his Ron Paul column by Justin Raimondo at Taki’s Top Drawer. I wrote up a response, but Taki has a very restricted comment system, so I’ll have to put the post here and then link to it.

Both Welch and Raimondo aquit themselves poorly. Nowhere did Welch actually demonstrate that “whipping up white resentment” was unpopular, and any political analyst worth their salt knows that cosmopolitan libertarianism (correct on its merits or not) is a very minority opinion. The people at the Monkey Cage were right to mock the Reason crowd for their active fantasy lives. LeftConservative already wrote a good take on the Duke issue [he responds to this Raimondo post here].
Raimondo takes the typical mistaken oppositional view of the LR crowd that believes people are even aware enough of paleos to have it in for them. Reason was not “out to get Paul”; any centrist or leftist would have thought they were huge Paul boosters. It is the same mistaken view that led Raimondo to believe that Reason was going to fire Doherty for being pro-Paul. Welch explicitly denies that there is any evidence Paul was a racist in his article. Welch’s criticism regarding MLK isn’t simply voting against the holiday, but embracing J. Edgar Hoover’s take on him as a menace when Paul later called him a hero (it seems implied that Paul didn’t make the first statement). I can’t think of any excuse for Rockwell’s statement about recording the police, but I think there are legitimate reasons to work with members of the Communist Party, if not for communism.

Raimondo tries to paint Welch as dishonestly covering up his past, but he admits at here that before he “begged for U.S. leadership in a feckless world to stop the slaughter in Sarajevo” but after the Iraq war has shifted gears. I also wonder if Raimondo spoke similarly about Vaclav Havel in the past.

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?

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.


Award for worst equivocation of the year goes to Steve Sailer for comparing James Watson’s donation toward Barack Obama to Don (of Stormfront) Black’s contribution to Ron Paul. Steve himself had been defending Watson earlier and pointing out that he’s not some troglodyte but an intelligent though prickly political moderate. There really is no way to cast Don Black in a better light, and unlike Jared Taylor I don’t think he would even want you to. Even better, Steve could have pointed out that some white nationalists and neo-nazis (among them former Paul supporters) are down with Obama (I give more links in the comments there). Of course, you’re an idiot if you think that indicates Obama is a white nationalist or neo-nazi. You’re also an idiot if you believed that about Paul. (more…)

The clerico-libertarian anarchists at No Treason try to see how far I’ll go and I oblige.

As long as we’re talking rape, 2Blowhards is discussing the dispute between Heather Mac Donald and Cheryl Miller on the “campus rape industry” (I thought neocons weren’t supposed to paraphrase Finkelstein) here and here.

I accidentally let it slip before, but was chastened to keep it hush-hush for now, which is why I said nothing even after it was mentioned that I had written something for Nine Banded Books. Now it has been announced at the Hoover Hog and so I feel free, or perhaps obligated, to let my few readers know that L.A Rollins’ “The Myth of Natural Rights” is going to be published with an introduction from yours truly, along with some other of Rollins’ writings. I don’t quite know what a “post-paleo-libertarian” is, but I suppose it’s as good a description of me as anything else.

I highly recommend Myth, and I’m not just saying that because of my connection to it. If you have any interest in libertarianism and/or moral philosophy or if you just enjoy a good skewering of nonsense, you will probably enjoy it. It’s not available for order yet, but Bradley Smith’s The Man Who Saw His Own Liver is. Having read both the original one-man play (originally titled “The Man Who Stopped Paying”) online and its 9BB novelization, I can say the latter is a significant improvement. Though on its face it is about a war-tax resister fearing a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, describing it as simply that would not do it justice. It comes with the short piece “Joseph Conrad and the Monster from the Deep”, a meditation on guilt that I personally found to be more up my alley.

When I was writing my previous post on abortion I had forgotten about this old comment from the Mises blog, (I think) back when I still believed in God and objective morality (though I was still less bothered by abortion itself than the bad legal arguments for its Constitutionally protected nature). I still like my James Bond analogy. (more…)

I just posted a comment at the anti-natalism blog. There is moderation there so it won’t appear until James Crawford (aka metamorphhh) approves it, but until then I figured I’d turn my paragraph on abortion into a post of its own here. UPDATE: It is up. (more…)

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