Friday, 25 September 2020

"The 'man of system' seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon the chess-board; he does not consider that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own." QotD


“The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which can safely to trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would never be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had the folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.” 
    "[This] man of system ... is apt to be very wise in his own conceit, and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it . . . He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon the chess-board; he does not consider that the pieces on the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it . . . It is to fancy himself the only wise and worthy man in the commonwealth, and that his fellow-citizens should accommodate themselves to him, and not he to them.”

          ~ Adam Smith, from his Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments

[Hat tip Richard Ebeling, from his article 'Milton Friedman and the New Attack on Freedom to Choose']

Thursday, 24 September 2020

"People who believe that slavery is an efficient system of production are people who are ready to impose 100% marginal rates of taxation in the belief that doing so is economically harmless." #QotD


"People who believe that slavery is an efficient system of production are people who are ready to impose 100% marginal rates of taxation in the belief that doing so is economically harmless.
    "Ancient Rome, Greece, Babylon, Egypt, India, China, and Africa too, all had slavery. None of them created the Industrial Revolution. Great Britain and the United States did create the Industrial Revolution, on a foundation of economic freedom and respect for individual rights. The great blemish of slavery played no greater positive role in the history of the US than it had played previously in the world, which is to say, virtually none....
    "Slavery is as much an economic benefit as holding up gas stations. Not only does the gas station owner lose what the robber gains, but both his motivation to produce and his means of producing are reduced. A world of robbery, which is what slavery is, is a world of great poverty.
    "This is why the standard of living of even the kings and emperors of the pre-industrial world was far below that of the average worker in any capitalist country today."

~ George Reisman, from his article 'Slavery vs. Capitalism: The 1619 Project Not Only Ignores Actual History, But Basic Economics'

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

"Groups that rose from poverty to prosperity seldom did so by having their own racial or ethnic leaders to follow..." #QotD


"Groups that rose from poverty to prosperity seldom did so by having their own racial or ethnic leaders to follow... The time is long overdue to stop looking for progress through racial or ethnic leaders. Such leaders have too many incentives to promote polarising attitudes and actions that are counterproductive for minorities and disastrous for the country."
~ Thomas Sowell, from his op-ed 'Too many incentives for polarising attitudes when it comes to race'

A debate is not an interview


No, that was not a debate.

Although a surprising number of you seem to think it is is.

A debate is an event in which participants address the issues and each other moderated only a fellow with a bell, not a clipboard full of his own questions. And in a real debate, all that fellow says is things like "fifteen seconds to go," or "time's up." And the candidates get to challenge each other, instead of the fellow with the clipboard trying to do it for them.

A debate is not an interview, which is what we had last night: a two-headed interview, conducted by a lacklustre over-talking interviewer who too often confuses himself for a participant, and too rarely allowed any actual debate to continue. An unscripted two-way interview with pre-coached leaders doing their best to say nothing of any substance. An un-debate. A kind of managed “reality television” in which important issues are safely ignored in favour of the hype, fluff, bluster and insults which are breathlessly reported as evidence that one of the candidates "won," and the other was looking "tired." (As if it matters how things are said rather than what they were trying to say, if anything.) And so we learned about as much from the interview as we do from every interview over which the over-talking fellow presides.

We may have learned as much (or as little) from an actual debate. But we'll never know. Because we don't seem to have them any more.

A debate, an actual debate, might at least give us some idea of the opponents' ability to choose their topics, to focus their attacks, to challenge their opponents' flaws or errors. Something about their character -- which, in an election in which most policy is "me-too!" is about all you have as a point of difference, is becoming all-important.

A debate is not an interview. I'd like to see one. It might be fun -- and even revealing.

PS: I didn't watch either of the other alleged "debates" happening last night --- was any more revealed in either of them?
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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

"He found ready adversaries among fellow Black Americans, whom he criticized as defining themselves in racial terms and as reducing the broader Black experience to one of victimization." #QotD


"He [Stanley Crouch] found ready adversaries among fellow Black Americans, whom he criticized as defining themselves in racial terms and as reducing the broader Black experience to one of victimization.
    "He vilified gangsta rap as “‘Birth of a Nation’ with a backbeat,” the Rev. Al Sharpton as a “buffoon,” the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “insane,” the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison “as American as P.T. Barnum” and Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” as “opportunistic.”
     "By contrast, he venerated his intellectual mentors James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, who, by his lights, saw beyond the conventions of race and ideology while viewing the contributions of Black people as integral to the American experience.”
~ from the NY Times obituary: 'Stanley Crouch, Critic Who Saw American Democracy in Jazz, Dies at 74'
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Monday, 21 September 2020

"When I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.'”


Gustave Courbet, Woman with a Parrot, 1866

“I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.'”
~ Gustave Courbet

About Courbet's famous nude (his first to be accepted by the Paris Salon in 1866 after a previous entry in 1864 was rejected as indecent), artist Michael Newberry explains that Courbet
shows us a special moment of freedom where there is no baggage, no pain, and no suffering –– as if they had never existed. This is significant because it aligns with Aristotle's eudaemonia and it aligns with a healthy psychology, the concept of holding a vision as a guide to what we are living for, which painting and sculpture are the ideal mediums to show what these visions look like.
    Her skin is aglow with health; her body speaks of flowing generous proportions; her hands are sensuously elegant; and her head is gently rotated and lifted. Her eyes are half closed in a dreamy indulgence of the moment. The high note of the painting is the gorgeous shape of her left hand on which the parrot is perched. She is not holding the parrot back, rather her hand is an affectionate, soft support, inspiring the bird to enjoy her human connection. Notice how complementary the shapes of her fingers are in relationship with the bird's spread wings. There is also a subtle bit of balmy synthesia: notice the warmish brown coloring of the shadows around her crotch, breast, and particularly around her languid eyes the hue gives off the slightly moist scent of musk. She is undoubtedly slowly waking up from a very satisfying dusky afternoon siesta.
(Excerpt from Newberry's upcoming book Evolution Through Art.)
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Friday, 18 September 2020

"To exist in this vast universe for a speck of time is the great gift of life. It is our only life ... the greatest value we can have. Cherish it for what it truly is ... Rise up and live it.”

 

"To exist in this vast universe for a speck of time is the great gift of life. It is our only life. The universe will go on, indifferent to our brief existence, but while we are here, we touch not just part of that vastness, but also the lives around us. Life is the gift each of us has been given. Each life is our own and no one else's. It is precious beyond all counting. It is the greatest value we can have. Cherish it for what it truly is . . . Your life is yours alone. Rise up and live it.” 
          ~ author Terry Goodkind, quoted as his obituary.

[Hat tip James Valliant]

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

"With regard to freedom of speech, there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards. It is unfortunate that it remains necessary to stress these simple truths."

 "With regard to freedom of speech, there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards. It is unfortunate that it remains necessary to stress these simple truths."

          ~ Noam Chomsky

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

"If you’re going to speak truth to power, make sure it’s the truth." #QotD


"If you’re going to speak truth to power, make sure it’s the truth. That’s a good maxim."
          ~ author Margaret Attwood, in an interview with The Grauniad
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Monday, 14 September 2020

"The problem with Australia is not that it is a nation descended from convicts, it's that it's a nation descended from prison guards." #QotD

 

Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market, yesterday ...

"The problem with Australia is not that it is a nation descended from convicts, it's that it's a nation descended from prison guards." 

            ~ David Moore

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Thursday, 10 September 2020

The answer is envy


"Today, the Goverment will borrow $950m. Next Thursday it will borrow the same amount. Labour’s new tax will raise $550m a year. This ain’t about revenue folks."
         ~ Thomas Coughlan
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Monday, 7 September 2020

"Institutional America is now organised around a Trump-led America... The Democratic Party has no message — literally none — apart from him... It feels like a co-dependent relationship." #QotD


"Institutional America is now organised around a Trump-led America. The news media will lose billions with him gone (and will be lost editorially). The Democratic Party has no message — literally none — apart from him. A surging activist movement will be deflated without him, along with a host of related fundraising groups and businesses... It feels like a co-dependent relationship ... "
          ~ Matt Taibi, from his post 'The Trump Era Sucks and Deserves to Be Over'

[Hat tip David P.]

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Friday, 4 September 2020

"Too much writing replacing the DOING of art, these days.So much hype & pseudo-intellectualism deployed to suppress & oppress real talent and skill." #QotD


"Too much writing replacing the DOING of art, these days.So much hype & pseudo-intellectualism deployed to suppress & oppress real talent and skill... I am simply talking about writings (by some artists, curators, etc), that surreptitiously aim to induce meaning and worth into art works, beyond what they could deliver, naturally, on their own."
          ~ artist Abiodun Olaku
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Thursday, 3 September 2020

"Whoever could make two ears of corn ... to grow upon a spot of ground, where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind ... than do the whole race of politicians." #QotD

"Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground, where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than do the whole race of politicians." 

          ~ Jonathan Swift, from his Gulliver's Travels

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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

"The use of physical force - even its retaliatory use­ cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens .... - the use of force against one man can­ not be left to the arbitrary decision of another." #QotD


"The use of physical force - even its retaliatory use­ cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors' intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are moti­vated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by preju­dice or by malice - the use of force against one man can­ not be left to the arbitrary decision of another."
          Ayn Rand, from her essay 'The Nature of Government'
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Monday, 31 August 2020

"If you think that one has a 'right' to burn down cities because George Floyd, you are against the concept of rights. If you think that citizens can look for a fight, and when they find it, kill people by right of 'self-defense,' you are against the Rule of Law..." #QotD


"If you think that one has a 'right' to burn down cities because George Floyd, you are against the concept of rights.
    "If you think that citizens can look for a fight, and when they find it, kill people by right of 'self-defense,' you are against the Rule of Law.
    "The Left says 'no justice, no peace.' The Right says 'there's a war on.'
    "These are the same in principle. And lead to the same in practice. Dictatorship."

          ~ Keith Weiner
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Saturday, 29 August 2020

'What can Aristotle teach us about happiness today?'


“The fundamental tenet of [Aristotelian] philosophy is this: the goal of life is to maximise happiness by living virtuously, fulfilling your own potential as a human, and engaging with others – family, friends and fellow citizens – in mutually beneficial activities. Humans are animals, and therefore pleasure in responsible fulfilment of physical needs (eating, sex) is a guide to living well. 
    "But since humans are advanced animals, naturally inclining to live together in settled communities (poleis), we are ‘political animals’ (zoa politika). Humans must take responsibility for their own happiness ... [but no 'god' has] any interest in human welfare, nor any providential function in rewarding virtue or punishing immorality.  
    "Yet purposively imagining a better, happier life is feasible since humans have inborn abilities that allow them to promote individual and collective flourishing. These include the inclinations to ask questions about the world, to deliberate about action, and to activate conscious recollection.
    “Aristotle’s optimistic, practical recipe for happiness is ripe for rediscovery. It offers to the human race facing third-millennial challenges a unique combination of secular, virtue-based morality and empirical science, neither of which seeks answers in any ideal or metaphysical system beyond what humans can perceive by their senses.” 
              ~ Edith Hall, 'Why read Aristotle today?'

Friday, 28 August 2020

Stephen Hicks on 'call-out culture': "Psychologically, chronic shamers are losers in their own eyes. Yet they get a reprieve from their self-loathing by bullying others."


"We’re all painfully aware of those who live to attack others for insensitivity, microaggressions, etc.," observes philosopher Stephen Hicks -- folk who are "constantly scanning, online and elsewhere" for deviations from whatever they deem to be norms. 
I’m reminded of this from Nietzsche’s 'The Joyous Science':

        "Whom do you call bad? — Those who always want to put others to shame."

Psychologically, chronic shamers are losers in their own eyes. Yet they get a reprieve from their self-loathing by bullying others. They feel a brief sense of empowerment — a negative self-affirmation from seeing others damaged or humiliated.
    It’s a kind of low-grade sadism, but one driven by an internal self-masochism.
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Thursday, 27 August 2020

“It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality." #QotD




“It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. It stands for no special ideal. It possesses no organising principle. It represents no detailed vision for governing. Filling the vacuum is a lazy, identity-based populism that draws from that lowest common denominator [former SC governor Mark] Sanford alluded to. If it agitates the base, if it lights up a Fox News chyron, if it serves to alienate sturdy real Americans from delicate coastal elites, then it’s got a place in the Grand Old Party.” 

[Hat tip Andy Clarkson

"Protectionism, by definition and design, makes goods rarer and more expensive. The Money-Maker[by contrast] makes goods abundant and affordable, not conserving the incompetent at the expense of the competent." #QotD

"Protectionism, by definition and design, makes goods rarer and more expensive. The Money-Maker[by contrast] makes goods abundant and affordable, not conserving the incompetent at the expense of the competent."
~ Bruce Andrew, summarising a point from  Ayn Rand's talk on 'The Money-Making Personality,' which implicitly rejects the fallacies of protectionism
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Wednesday, 26 August 2020

"No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful." #QotD


"No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful."
          ~ Ernest Hemingway, from A Farewell to Arms

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

"Many of us go through life with a list of made-up obligations. We wake up in the morning with a long list of 'must do' items. Such phony obligations get in the way of clear thinking." #QotD


"Another way many of us think unclearly is by going through life with a list of made-up obligations. We wake up in the morning with a long list of 'must do' items. After a while, our feet start dragging and we feel a heavy burden on our shoulders. But we 'must' press on. Such phony obligations get in the way of clear thinking. 
    "There is very little in the world that we actually must do. Let’s face it, unless we are in jail or otherwise detained, we have complete freedom about how to spend our day. The reason we don’t just pack up and go sit on the beach every day is that our actions lead to outcomes—and many of our 'have to’s' give us the outcomes we want. Going to work, for example, provides camaraderie and a feeling of importance, as well as the money to buy the things we need and want. The 'I must' person tells himself that he must go to work. The clear-thinking person says, 'If I work at this job for another year, I’ll be able to buy a house. I could quit my job today, but if I want that house a lot, I’d better show up for work on Monday morning.'
    "The 'I must' attitude increases our burdens and lessens our humanity. When we have goals in mind, we should reframe the issue from 'I must' to 'I want.' I want to go to work so that I can feed my kids, buy a car, buy a house, or change the world. If my goals don’t seem to justify the effort, then maybe I should rethink my goals and my overall strategy. When we act with clarity of mind, we cease being a fake prisoner and realise our true freedom."

~ David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper, from their book Making Great Decisions in Business and Life

[Hat tip David R. Henderson 'He Didn't Have To

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Monday, 24 August 2020

"Understand that this is an emergency..."


"This is not to say that there are not good reasons to use mitigations as a delay tactic... But mitigations themselves are not saving lives in these scenarios; instead, it is what we do with the time that gives us an opportunity to improve the outcome of the epidemic."
          ~ Maria Chikina and Wesley Pegden on A call to honesty in pandemic modelling'


"The Government wasted the 100 days New Zealand was free of community transmission... officials sat back and basked in New Zealand's relative success during past pandemics, which meant systems and plans were not reviewed to an adequate standard."
          ~ Nick Wilson and Michael Baker from 'Political Botch-Ups: How serious are the Govt's border botch-ups?'

"Public health policy should not be exempt from the 'non-aggression principle.' Force must be prohibited from interpersonal relationships, except when used in self-defence or retaliation.
    "In the case of a highly contagious lethal disease, I believe that screening potential carriers, and containing them via quarantine, represents an act of self-defence.
    "One of the few legitimate functions of the government is to protect people from physical assault. The transmission of a disease with significant lethal potential fits that description.
    "Therefore, it is appropriate to screen people reasonably considered potential carriers. It is completely proper to confine people found to be a threat to the lives of others until that threat no longer exists.
    "That's the easy part. The hard part is the science. Who poses a threat and who does not? How long should the quarantine last?
    "Here, panic and emotion must not cloud rational evaluation of scientific data. It would be a tragedy to curtail liberty through quarantine without a sound, evidence-based rationale. But it is also important to remember that all knowledge is contextual. We know what we know based upon the available evidence. We must be willing to revise our conclusions as more is learned. We must rapidly adjust the criteria for quarantine as new knowledge dictates."

          ~ Jeffrey A. Singer on Pandemics & Personal Liberty (2014).

"That's where reasoned opposition should be focussed. Understand that this is an emergency; that government does have a legitimate role; that if handled properly it will be temporary; and focus instead on having proper due process and getting things right: Talk about how people can do business safely in this pandemic. (Talk about the need for objective rules [rather than goverments deciding who's 'essential'] and for due process in introducing regulations and police powers)."
          ~ PC on 'Yes folks, it's real...'

"A safety standard, rather than essential-business standards, couldn't be set overnight. But it could have been developed over the past months." 
          ~ Eric Crampton on The Nation
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Friday, 21 August 2020

More alike than different...


"All our researches into [human] history lead us to conclude that the races are not different in their origin, and forbid the idea of inferiority, and of the necessity of one race being superseded by another. I am of opinion that man, in his desires, passions, and intellectual faculties, is the same, whatever be the colour of his skin; that mankind forms a great whole, in which the different races are the radii from a common centre; and that the differences which we observe are due to peculiar circumstances which have developed certain qualities of body and mind." 

~ naturalist Ernst Dieffenbach, from his 1843 Travels in New Zealand, Vol. 2

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Thursday, 20 August 2020

"Despite a host of eminent economists being stagnationists, economies nonetheless grew, a humbling reminder that perhaps economists don't have much influence on economic growth." #QotD


"There are a couple of lessons here. The first is that there is much criticism of economists that their theories say that economic growth is inevitable. For over three-quarters of the profession’s life that is simply not true. The second lesson is that, despite a host of eminent economists being stagnationists, economies nonetheless grew, a humbling reminder that perhaps economists don't have much influence on economic growth."
~ Brian Easton from his 2009 post 'Economic Growth Research in New Zealand: the Fathers That Begat Us'
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Wednesday, 19 August 2020

'Being Alive Means Knowing How to Want'


"She screamed: 'Now look at me! Take a good look! I was born and I knew I was alive and I knew what I wanted. What do you think is alive in me? Why do you think I'm alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest the food? Because I breathe and work and produce more food to digest? Or because I know what I want, and that something which knows how to want—isn't that life itself? And who—in this damned universe—who can tell me why I should live for anything but for that which I want?'"
~ Kira Argounova, in Ayn Rand's 1936 novel We the Living

[Hat tip Harry Binswanger, from his post 'Being Alive Means Knowing How to Want']
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Monday, 17 August 2020

"The preferability of democracy consists in the fact that it facilitates a peaceful transfer of power." #QotD


"If the masses of people oppose an administration that was formed by a minority, it cannot indefinitely survive. If it refuses to yield to public opinion, it will be overthrown by revolution. The preferability of democracy consists in the fact that it facilitates a peaceful [transfer of power]."
          ~ Ludwig Von Mises, from his book Notes & Recollections

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