Monday, December 20, 2010

New google thing

Can someone explain to me what this new google "Ngram" thing is all about?  Real quick explanation, dumbed down to my 2nd grade level understanding of technology would be much appreciated.  Thanks.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dworkin's website

As I mentioned earlier, Ronald Dworkin's new book was recently released.  In the Preface, he mentions that he will have a website responding to critical assessments of his work.  Although not yet in the full swing of things, here is the website:

I am extremely curious to see how this plays out.  You don't often have the opportunity to see a world-renowned philosopher engage in an on-going discussion with his critics.  Should be great.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Which Ron Paul Is Awesome

Ron Paul is not perfect. He does not advocate a complete abolition of the State. He, however, understands why the Fed is criminal and immoral.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Which Austrians Prove to Understand Economics Better than Keynesians

The esteemed Walter Block has compiled a bibliography, of sorts, of Austrian school economists/followers who predicted the blowing of the gigantic housing bubble that occurred in the USA thanks to the Fed keeping interests rates artificially low.

All the while, Keynesians the world over (looking at you Bernanke!) swore housing was not in a bubble.

End the Fed; Abolish the government

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Re Re Ostriches Revisited


First, I have not decided where I come out on dirty hands.  I am leaning towards condemnation, but it is a very tricky situation.  Second, I think you should assume in the example that we are in an anarchist political community where everyone legitimately consented to political institutions and unanimously decided upon democratic decision-making procedures.   Third, I think there is a gap in your analysis, for you failed to mention the context in which the choice is presented.  There is a second candidate who will win based on either a lie or a false belief, perhaps negligently false.  So Candidate A is presented with a dilemma: either (1) tell the truth, but lose the election because Candidate B was willing to pander to irrationalities, or (2) lie, win the election and implement policies you truly believe will help the economy. 

To better illustrate the dilemma, I will take the classic dirty hands example from Walzer.

We are now out of your ideal anarchist state.  Assume you are a citizen in a country with particularly corrupt electoral practices (hard to imagine, I know). Big Business and Big Union pours illegal money into campaign finance in exchange for post-election benefits.  Candidate A is an honest man and enters the arena with the promise to clean up the political scene.  Soon after starting his campaign, he learns that, in order to win the election, he must make a deal with a corrupt union boss, which involves the granting of government contracts to pro-union corporations.  Candidate A’s first instinct is: I can’t accept this offer.  But he is told by his experienced campaign advisors that if you refuse, the money will go to Candidate B, a dishonest man, and we will have no evidence to prove what is going on.  Worse, no one will believe us and the electorate will believe we are engaging in a smear campaign.  So Candidate B will win the election and you will lose. You will never be in a position to start cleaning up the electoral process.  So A’s choices are (1) reject the deal, and allow B to win and to continue the corrupt practices, or (2) accept the deal, gaining the chance to win.  Is Candidate A permitted to take option (2)? 

Re Ostriches Revisited

Ahh Hume, Hume, Hume.

Hume’s question implicitly brings to light two of my most hated mindsets – “the ends justify the means” and paternalism (i.e. “I know what’s best for you, moreso than you know what’s best for you).

Hume’s proposed course of action for Candidate A is fraud. That is, Candidate A is intentionally telling a lie, which lie will cause an individual to act in a way that he otherwise would not and the ultimate effect will be harm to that individual. He votes for “A” believing that “A” will increase entitlement programs and cut taxes. If “A” wins and then increases taxes and cuts entitlements, the individual has been fraudulently tricked into voting for someone who does not represent what that individual actually wanted.

Now, democracy is no less slavery than a fascist, totalitarian State. Rather than an autocratic ruler of one, an autocratic ruler of 50%+1 exists (and this is ignoring how modern democracy actually functions) and those in the minority have no option but to live under the tyranny of the majority.

But, I will not fight the hypothetical (even though “A’s” economic plan is ludicrously ridiculous!). Given the set up of a democracy, perhaps one would consider his right to vote to be analogous to a property right? It’s a tough sell, I think, but voting rights are central to democratic theory. In any event, “A’s” lies cause a voter to vote in such a way that he otherwise would not if the truth was known. As such, the voter’s rights have been violated.

Ugh, these hypotheticals are so difficult for me to answer.

Ostriches revisited

Danger began a back-and-forth by asking "how on earth can a politician telling the truth be a bad thing?"  I posed a question for danger and he responded.  I now have a follow up question for Danger and/or Gus:

Candidate A, an honest politician (oxymoron?), runs for president against Candidate B.  The economy is in bad shape (surprise!): the budgetary deficit is 15 per cent of the GDP, unemployment is rising, inflation is out of control.  It is A’s considered view that stabilization requires drastic cuts in the expenditures and tax rises.  Assume that this is backed up by the best available economic theory (don’t fight the hypo!).  B makes promises to expand welfare provisions and cut taxes.  A’s choices are (1) tell the truth, lose the election, and allow disaster to come, or (2) outbid B with ridiculous promises, win the election, and proceed to renege on his false promises and stabilize the economy.  Is A permitted to take choice (2)?  This is a classic example of “the problem of dirty hands.”

In Which I Describe What Is To Come

Very busy with real life work ... I hope to post a detail response to Hume's question (see below) in the coming days.

Jeremy Waldron and Gus

The more and more that I read Jeremy Waldron, the more I realize that Gus would find his political philosophy extremely appealing.

TSA screening

This is funny over at Concurring Opinions

Monday, December 13, 2010

Question for Danger


When Austrians discuss the perverse effects of the Fed, they often refer to how it distorts information and market transactions, with the assumption that these distortions are negative consequences from an economic point of view.  With respect to other governmental interventionism, they often point to the Hayekian argument regarding the use of knowledge in society, the ability of individuals to make better use of their contextual knowledge than central planners ever could, etc.  They point to the destabilizing effects of frequent and unpredictable governmental involvement, and how this affects the ability of individuals to develop life plans, which affects investment decisions.  My question is this: if the ability to act on local knowledge and plan for the future is central for the maintenance of an orderly economic system, how does an anarchist political philosophy fit into the story?  I am not equating Austrian economics with political anarchism.  They are two independent theories in independent disciplines.  But you are an anarchist with Austrian beliefs.  What assumptions does the Austrian/anarcho economic model make?  What does this model look like?  I am especially interested to see the assumptions regarding stability and predictability in market transactions.  What are the systemic effects of a free market in law and protection?  What kind of plans are individuals able to make? 

I am not familiar with Carson’s work, so maybe he has answered these questions.  But I think they are important and this is an issue I have raised in the past, something I am not comfortable with.  I have not seen a convincing anarchist argument regarding the fact of reasonable disagreement in a pluralist society.  In other words, even if everyone was an angel and always acted on their good-faith belief about the natural rights and obligations of their fellow man, there would still be considerable disagreement about the content of those rights and obligations, the boundaries they set forth, and whether or not these boundaries have been violated.

In Which I Add Perspective

Andrew Sullivan writes:

Anthony Fowler and Ryan D. Enos asked Americans to pretend they could buy a congressional seat for their preferred party:

In a recent YouGov survey, we gave respondents a hypothetical scenario. “Suppose that you alone could determine whether a Democrat or a Republican represents your Congressional district by paying a specific dollar amount? How much would you be willing to pay to ensure that a Congressman from your preferred party will win the office?” We expected that most Americans would place a high value on the party of their Congressmen. Shockingly, 55% of respondents said “ZERO” -- they would not pay even $1 to place their preferred party in power.

The lesson they draw:

[W]e have little evidence that Americans care about politics. They often say that they are interested in politics but they won’t put their money where the mouth is – even hypothetical money.

The second paragraph doesn't follow first. One can care deeply about politics and still be unwilling to pay for an electoral outcome on the grounds that it would undermine democracy.

I will offer another perspective - I would be unwilling to pay any amount because I view the illegitimate attempt by the State to coercible usurp power over me as immoral and in violation of my natural right of liberty and, derivatively, self-determination and self-governance. It matters not to me whether a criminal claims affiliation with the democons or the republicrats.

As always - End the Fed, Abolish the government

Too early?

Nah, I've waited well over a decade for this

First District Court to Rule Health Care Law Unconstitutional

Two other Courts (Detroit, MI, Lynchburg, VA) have upheld the federal law.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

200 years of health and wealth

This is a really interesting video

Friday, December 10, 2010

New releases

Two new releases arrived this week that are of importance to the legal philosophy field and moral/political philosophy in general.  First, Ronald Dworkin's Justice for Hedgehogs has finally hit the public.  I was able to read bits and pieces through manuscripts available via his NYU Colloquium, but I am eager to read it in its entirety.  This is more universal in scope, setting forth Dworkin's general theory of value, touching on everything from meta-ethics, to equality, to political and legal philosophy.  Second, Scott Shapiro's Legality finally arrived.  I am excited to read this, for his work has inspired much of my current interests in analytic legal philosophy (although more of a reaction than an inspiration).  Unfortunately, I am really busy over the next few weeks, so I won't be able to sink my teeth into these for a little while.  Nevertheless, I am still excited to get after it soon enough.

UpdateLarry Solum on Legality:

I've read multiple versions of several chapters, an earlier version of almost the whole book, and most recently the uncorrected page proofs. I feel confident that Legality is one of the very best books in general jurisprudence in many many years; it will certainly be on my list of ten selections from the Legal Theory Bookworm from 2010.  I suspect that Legality will be become a standard work for students of law and philosophy.  It is both deep and clear.
Everyone who engages in the academic study of law should read Legality--it is that important.  Buy it and read it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Greenwald on WikiLeaks

Well put by Greenwald:

To recap “Obama justice”:  if you create an illegal worldwide torture regime, illegally spy on Americans without warrants, abduct people with no legal authority, or invade and destroy another country based on false claims, then you are fully protected.  But if you expose any of the evils secretly perpetrated as part of those lawless actions — by publishing the truth about what was done — then you are an Evil Criminal who deserves the harshest possible prosecution.

Confirmation hearings and judicial perjury

A well-known legal philosopher made the following comment to me a few times over the last few months (paraphrasing a bit):

“According to almost everyone, every legal philosopher, law professor, and judge, it is impossible to reach a decision in all cases without referring back to your own personal morality and political morality.”

This does not mean that it is impossible to decide what the law is without referring to your own morality.  There is great disagreement about that (that is the schism between positivists and non-positivists / Dworkinians).  Rather, the point is that all legal rules are universal and general, many with vague language and/or (possibly) indeterminate language.  There are “hard cases” that come before judges.  On the positivist account, there are “gaps” in the law, and the judge most fill in these gaps by assuming a legislative-type role.  This is judicial discretion.  According to Raz, a judge has a duty to fill in these gaps in the best possible way.  Dworkin, on the other hand, claims that these hard cases do not represent gaps in the law, they are just hard cases, where a judge must do what she always does: engage in an interpretive enterprise.  The judge must select the rule that best “fits” the prevailing legal landscape and provides the “best justification” for the law.  On his account, whatever rule that satisfies this two-part interpretive test actually is the law.

Leaving this debate aside, what interests me is the fact that both the positivists and non-positivists agree on what a judge must do: refer back to their own beliefs moral/political beliefs.  What is interesting is that every potential federal judge and potential Supreme Court justice says exactly the opposite in their confirmation hearings.  “The judge’s job is to apply the law.  The judge is not to consult her own personal morality.”  What are we to make of this?  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as well as countless others, are prosecuted for lying to authorities, Roger Clemens specifically for lying to a Congressional committee.  Why do judges get a free pass?  This is especially interesting considering the existence of demanding legal and judicial ethical codes that require truthfulness in court, etc.  What gives?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Rough game last night, Gus.  I still believe Dirty is going to be a solid quarterback . . .

Friday, December 3, 2010

Unfree Market

"To say the latest financial debacle has roots in the free market is simply to confuse the competitive market economy with the corporate state, the competition-inhibiting partnership between influential businesses and government officials. Implicit taxpayer-backed guarantees to creditors, government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, deposit insurance that anesthetizes depositor wariness, Fed-organized bank cartelization — none of this has anything to do with the free market." -- Sheldon Richman

Amen brother. This brief excerpt, however, does not mention another glaring and enormous problem - the lack of a free market for currency.

A free market does not exist in America. People blame the "free market" for inequity and crises, but what ought to be blamed for the problems people note is the lack of a free market; the lack of competition and failure; the lack of opportunity.

Being the eternal optimist that I am, perhaps one day a free market will exist.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

No Words to Describe My Excitement


Who Wants to Work for Bizzaro Robin Hood?

In response to my post regarding the wage and benefit discrepancies between public and private workers, Hume asks “Does this mean there is greater incentive for the more qualified to pursue ‘public’ work?”

At first blush, the obvious answer seems to be “yes”. Upon closer inspection, however, I’m not sure “yes” is absolutely correct.

Many other factors need to be considered beyond average wage and benefit compensation, including, the “risk/reward” scenario (perhaps less risk of losing a public sector job, although that’s debatable, versus the potential gigantic reward of entrepreneurial endeavor in the private sector) and a desire to not work in a bureaucratic environment.

I think the incentives are viewed differently by different individuals. I will say, though, the greater average total compensation package certainly does not act as a deterrent to public sector work for those not otherwise predisposed against it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Follow up to Robin the Hood

"By comparison, the private worker earned $50,462 in pay and $10,589 in benefits, meaning that federal workers earn about half more in pay but four times as much in benefits, the BEA says."

Does this mean there is greater incentive for the more qualified to pursue "public" work?

Ethical Code of Hobos

An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:

  1. Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.
  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
  16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

The State Makes a Terrible Robin Hood

"Full-time federal employees earned an average of $81,258 in pay last year and $41,791 in benefits, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports.

By comparison, the private worker earned $50,462 in pay and $10,589 in benefits, meaning that federal workers earn about half more in pay but four times as much in benefits, the BEA says."

h/t Robert Wenzel,

Judging Wikileaks

I really enjoy Judge Andrew Napolitano as he is one of the very few sane voices on television.

I disagree with his starting point of constitutionality. I don't believe that a document agreed upon by alleged representatives of states should have been binding upon individuals 200+ years ago and I believe it even more ridiculous to claim a document that old could possibly be binding upon individuals today. I never consented to it, neither tacitly or expressly, and I am outright disclaiming its jurisdiction over me today (for the 100,000,000,000th time).

Regardless, still worth the few minutes to watch.