Monday, 17 October 2005
Written by a very young Milton Friedman and George Stigler immediately after World War II and published by Leonard Read's Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), it points out the bad economics of price controls -- but as Ayn Rand pointed out at the time it would give politicians like Helen Clark and Michael Cullen much to crow about, as it asserts that the free market is just another form of rationing.
Those wondering why Rand fell out with the conservative movement can look to this very article for what represented the final straw for Rand.
Rand had great hopes for Read's FEE when it was set up (Henry Hazlitt outlines its beginnings here). Read had told Rand he "considered [her] one of the best and most strict authorities on the proper philosophy on our side, since he admired [her] ability to see when our cause had been given away by implication." Rand was equally laudatory of Read, considering him her "one last hope of a conservative who would act on the proper principles." Rand had allowed FEE to publish her 'Textbook of Americanism,' and agreed to act as the Foundation's 'ghost' to ensure that the cause wasn't 'given away by implication'; Read however never sent this piece to Rand to check, and as she said so vehememently when it came out, it does give the game away completely. "Collectivist propaganda," she called it. "The most pernicious thing ever issued by an avowedly conservative organization,” she continued.
She 'raised hell' with Read over the article. In a 1947 letter summarising why (there is a longer letter of September 1946 discussing it in much more detail), she said,
I raised hell with him for publishing that whole pamphlet (Roofs or Ceilings?) --- because it advocates collectivism in its premises and implications; because it hints that the nationalization of private homes might be the proper solution for the housing shortage; and because there is no excuse for anyone in his right mind to call the free-market, free-enterprise system a 'system of rationing'!After much analysis of the blunders made by Friedman and Stigler that 'give the game away,' she concludes her longer letter by referring to the "disgraceful performance on page 10" (that's page 8 of the PDF by the way):
Without any of my analysis, the last paragraph on that page prove that the authors are Collectivists. The Editor's Note proves that the publishers [ie., Read and his colleagues at FEE] know it... If the publishers classify their own authors as "those who put equality above justice and liberty," this means -- in plain language -- an admission they are publishing the work of Collectivists.As David R. Henderson points out, the older Friedman did get much better in his defence of capitalism -- Free to Choose was surely his high point -- but his manner of argument here in 'Roofs or Ceilings?' was surely a low, and it proved as she was often wont to say, that you can't divorce economcs and ethics as conservatives so frequently attempt to do.
It argues that firing up the station is a move back to out dated, polluting energy sources. Greenpeace says it is a terrible blow for the environment, for the local community and for efforts to tackle the world's greatest threat - climate change.Given that the last appeal for the last large power generator -- Genesis Energy's Whanganui River hydro project -- was effectively killed on appeal, there's no reason to hope that this apeal will be any better for the country's generating capacity, and for efforts to tackle one of New Zealand's greatest economic threats -- its inability to build new projects to keep industry powered up.
At the time of the Whanganui decision I quoted Alan Jenkins from the Electricity Networks Association, who warned that the principal objective of having enough power to meet demand is steadily being eroded. "It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word...hydro is suddenly becoming too hard...what's left?...we can't do everything on windpower," says Jenkins. If there's no power, there's no industry. And industry is our real lifeblood. Jenkins's warning is as relevant now as it was then.
Greenpeace's "campaign against coal has sent reverberations throughout the energy industry," boasts the Greenpeace website, as if that's a good thing. Think about Greenpeace next time there's a blackout.
Arabs have also seen the Iraqi people's struggle and their emerging political alternative to despotism and feudal autocracy.Let us hope so.
Zarqawi's murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to Zarqawi [noted here at 'Not PC' last week]. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing. According to The New York Times, Zawahiri told Zarqawi to attack Americans rather than Iraqi civilians and to "refrain from the kind of gruesome beheadings and other executions that have been posted on Al-Qaida websites. Those executions have been condemned in parts of the Muslim world as violating tenets of the faith."
In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.
[UPDATE: Alan notes below that doubts about the letter have been raised, first by Al-Qaeda -- well, they would say that, wouldn't they -- and also by Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Cole, who has been much-quoted, says the letter "raises questions for me as to its authenticity."]
[UPDATE 2: Iraqi Bloggers Central have their own thoughts on Cole's "gut" which tells him "the letter is a forgery." An "outrage to logic" is what they call Cole's reasoning.]
While we're on the subject of myths, there are few eras in history so full of myths and so crying out for those myths to be exploded as The Great Depression. President Hoover's inaction brought on the depression? Hoover's meddling was in fact one of the proximate causes of the great collapse. Government programmes helped lower unemployment. Wrong again. They made things worse. Roosevelt's New Deal saved America from the failure of free-market capitalism. The New Deal not only extended the depression for more than a decade, it even created a depression within a depresssion -- Roosevelt's policies were a disaster. For a myth-busting article on The Great Depression, read Lawrence Reed's 'Great Myths of the Great Depression,' (sixteen-pages in PDF).
Unfortunately, Reed's myth-buster itself still peddles a myth: he fails to tell the real reason the Great Depression was finally ended. For that we have to turn to Mark Skousen's (rather more technical) 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' -- Skousen shows that it wasn't war or any government action that saved the US economy, it was the savings built up by private individuals over years with barely anything available on which to spend their money. (Skousen's article is another sixteen-page PDF).
All highly recommended.
Friday, 14 October 2005
And in tribute to one of the world's great drinkers, here's some thoughts on the subject from Samuel Johnson:
- Boswell: "You must allow me, Sir, at least that it produces truth; in vino veritas, you know, Sir." Johnson: "That would be useless to a man who knew he was not a liar when he was sober."
- "Exercise!! I never heard that he used any: he might, for aught I know, walk to the alehouse; but I believe he was always carried home again."
- "In the bottle discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and bashfulness for confidence."
- Boswell: "I think, Sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life." Johnson: "It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational."
- "A man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting
- "Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
- "There are, indeed, few who are able to drink brandy. That is a power rather to be wished for than attained."
- "Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking."
- "This is one of the disadvantages of wine. It makes a man mistake words for thoughts."
- "I must entreat you to be scrupulous in the use of strong liquors. One night's drunkenness may defeat the labours of forty days well employed."
- "As soon as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude : when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants : wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love : I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight."
- "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern. A tavern chair is the throne of human felicity."
- "Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it."
The ripples of Greek civilization spread globally, and deserved to. There were no ripples from the Maya. No enlightenment. Nothing. Just art and masonry [some of it above] and the dried blood of long-dead sacrificial victims. That is not nearly enough.Inca culture was another blot on the landscape of history, and Tibor Machan is one who sheds no retrospective tears over its demise. Under the Inca for instance: "As many as 200 children used to be killed to please some god or another. And sometimes the sacrifice would involve cutting out the heart of a living individual." Nice culture that, the Incas. It brings to mind my favourite quote from Thomas Sowell:
Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives.Too true. As Tibor concludes:
The only thing that can be done that will make a difference is to stop all this collective praise and blame and to recognize that justice requires looking at and judging all human beings individually, based on their own choices to act well or badly.
The 25 Most Inappropriate Things An Objectivist Can Say During Sex
Rational Marriage Vows for Men
Top 10 Rejected City Slogans (Part 2)
25 Reasons Why McDonald's is Better Than the Catholic Church
In Defense of Large Fake Breasts
Bleeding Heart Liberal Arts -- Excerpts from a Liberal Liberal Arts Course Catalog
Why Philosophers will Rule the World
We are the original problem-solving discipline. We care about problems and are not afraid to play with a variety of solutions, ranging from quick fixes to deep changes to the underlying structure of reality.
Why Philosophers won't actually end up Ruling the World
I was the only person in the [Philosophy] Department who could fix the fridge on level six.
Globalisation and Third World Poverty
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (I)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (II)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (II)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (III)
Helen and Mike aren't the only ones who should read them.
And which current bands "have the VU spirit?" Cale's picks: Beck, Elbow and the Strokes. Who would have thunk it.
You can sample his album blackAcetate: at Cale's site.
So now there's a new site poll, reflecting the speculation that's emerging this morning that because the Maori Party can't go to bed with her, Helen's needs to sleep with Winston. Question is, will she put the tongue in?
LIBERTY 2005: THE ANNUAL LONDON CONFERENCE OF THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
AND THE LIBERTARIAN INTERNATIONAL
Saturday 19 November - Sunday 20 November, 2005, at he National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, London. Info can be found in here.
SPEAKERS AND SUBJECTS INCLUDE:
Mattias Bengston - "Statism: The Swedish Model and Its Lessons"
Prof. Gabriel Calzada - "The Privatisation of Defense"
Dr. Ben Cosin - "National Health Socialism: A Critique"
Prof. Frank Van Dunn - "Personal Freedom, Corporate Liberties: An Uneasy Mix"
Dr. Richard Ebeling - "Austrian School Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom"
Dr. Sean Gabb - "Cultural Revolution and Culture War"
Dr. Syed Kamall MEP - "The Dilemmas of a Free Trade Liberal in the European Parliament"
Sacha Kumaria - "Think Tanks and the Movement for Liberty"
Christian Michel - "Mafiosi and Oligarchs: The Making and the Unmaking of a Russian Legend"
Dr. Julian Morris - "Environmental Problems: Myths and Realities"
William Thomas - "Ayn Rand and the Values of Liberty"
More details here.
Print it out and read it to your kids tonight. They'll thank you for it later.
Thursday, 13 October 2005
Story here, webcam here. [Hat tip butter paper]
More interesting are his comments on why the Lions Tour failed to get off the ground, which will apparently be expanded in his book out soon, A Year in the Centre. I doubt that it will challenge Anton Oliver's sour book for genuine bad grace however, or Gavin Henson's.
The chaps end their discussion by recommending Menger's explanation of how money was not the creation of a conscious mind but, instead, evolved into use as an excellent if rather "elaborate macroeconomic insight." Using Menger as an example is somewhat ironic, because Menger's student Boehm-Bawerk declared "that Menger's system had spanned the chasm between microeconomics and macroeconomics, finally establishing economics as a true science." And Austrians might remind other economists that micro or macroeconomics without the entrepreneur is like trying to make beer without yeast.
Britons spend £700 million a year on it, and Americans pay a whopping $22 billion a year for this overpriced tap water -- yes, that' s right, America's two top selling brands, Dasani and Aquafina, are nothing more than reprocessed tap water, and the same process was used in the UK. Here at home, New Zealanders down 40 million litres a year, nearly two thirds of that from Te Waihou spring in Putaruru, which produces water from a source little better than what you use at home to clean your car. That is to say, just as good.
So why do people pay through the nose for what they could get out of the tap? Auckland tap water which mostly comes from dams in the Waitakeres and Hunuas is like having a meal, but it's by no means unpalatable, and what comes out of Auckland's taps is probably the worst of NZ's municipal samples. Even the world's great cities don't have a problem with their water, and in blind taste tests few people can tell bottled water from tap .
The water in Rome is fresh from the mountains; Spanish water is crystal clear and refreshing; even Parisian water is fine. Sure, Sydney water is like a three-course meal, but still drinkable once you get used to it; and London water used to taste as though someone died in it, and was so full of lime that shower heads, kettles and (probably) urinary tracts would regularly clog up -- it was said at one time that a glass of London water has already passed through at least five other people before it got to you -- but Thames Water and Southern Water have changed all that, and even at its worst chilled London tap water was still palatable. The water from Dublin's Liffey is reputed to be the reason Dublin's Guinness tastes so much better than Guinness made elsewhere (NZ water is just too damn clean to make good Guinness apparently) but Dubliners have no problems with what they get in their kitchen sink.
Now it's true that nearly a billion people worldwide don't have access to clean drinking water, more's the pity, and the water in places like Albania, Russia, Sudan and parts of Greece and India are surely to be avoided -- drink your Albanian cocktails without ice cubes just to be safe -- but paying more for bottled water here does nothing to help those who don't have access to clean water, and the horrors of Russian, Albanian and African water just reinforces how good is the tap water most of would enjoy if we didn't insist on paying through the nose for it from the supermarket.
As this chap points out, "do you suppose some water bottlers are having a laugh at their customers' gullibility? How many purchasers of Evian have noticed that this name spelled backwards is 'NAIVE'?"
And why drink bottled water when bottled beer is so much cheaper, and so much better for you? After all historically, bad water is the reason beer drinking caught on, and for most of human history humans consumed clean beer in preference to the dirty water -- why not, when for most of human history water was so contaminated that drinking it was like playing Russian Roulette with giardia. However, boil that water with barley, yeast and hops (a natural antiseptic), strain out the barley husks and let it all stand for a bit so the sugars ferment, and you have a tasty, nutritious, SAFE drink for all the family -- exactly as beer was for much of human history. (That this drink contained alcohol was of course a not unpleasant added bonus.) No wonder the invention of beer produced civilisation, as I might have mentioned once before.
Anyway, if you want to drink chilled bottled water, then just keep a bottle of tap water in the fridge like I do. And spend the money you save on something more worthwhile. Like me. :-)
And if I've inadvertently deleted you, then please let me know. Unless, that is, you've been looking forward to disappearing.
With this year's Frank Lloyd Wright conference at Taliesin West nearly upon those lucky enough to be attending, the 'Trib' dropped in on Taliesin to see what's afooot...
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After zigzagging happily through the wildness of northern Arizona I dropped down into the Phoenix megalopolis... [where], eventually, I took a left over an aqueduct and followed a winding road through the Sonoran Desert. Within minutes I was holding a glass of chardonnay in the courtyard of the great architect's winter home...
The large, fit stones gave the walls a raw, earthy, almost jigsaw quality. [Arnold] Roy [Taliesin Fellowship member] said: "Somebody once asked, `What did Frank Lloyd Wright have on the walls for decoration?' The walls were decoration."
"This is the last of a breed of building that tried to incorporate the wilderness of Arizona into the design," said ... fellowship member, Tony Puttnam, "His saying about `a view at the rim of the world'--what was he looking at? The whole complexity of things. It's more complicated than a native-based architecture...
Wright himself said that he designed not from ideas but from feelings. In an interview once, Mike Wallace called him an "intellectual" and Wright balked at the title. "I am not an intellectual," he argued. "I have my feet on the ground."
From the moment he saw it, he was attracted to the "vast battleground of titanic forces called Arizona." And, also, "the eternal and everlasting smile of the sun."
Anecdotes were trotted out: of the boy, living in a Wright-designed house, who wrote asking him to design a doghouse for his Labrador retriever. (Wright's design appears in the book "Barkitecture.") Of the nearby power lines, which so disturbed Wright that he wrote to President Truman requesting that they be placed underground. When Truman refused, saying it would create a precedent, Wright replied: "I have been creating precedents all my life."
[Article from the Chicago Tribune Travel section. Photos courtesy AvO and MvO]
Wednesday, 12 October 2005
STUFF:McCully's influence worries some National MPs
Three electoral defeats in a row, and the Nats are only now starting to talk about sacking the chief strategist. Where on earth he derived this reputation he wields as some sort of strategic genius I can't begin to imagine -- if he'd been in the pay of the Labour Party he couldn't have done a better job on their behalf. Time for McCully to get the Archer.
“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” said Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello.
Just reflect for a moment: Who really runs the country?** It should now be clear that it's not the Prime Minister, is it.
** Who runs the country? You do, of course. Each of you runs your part of it.
I'd wanted to refrain from criticizing the Pakistani government at a time like this, but the thought of children trapped in schools without means of rescue (quoted in the Slate roundup) prompts the following thought. We are told by the Pakistani government that there is no equipment to rescue these children. And yet Pakistan has atomic weapons. Is this not an odd inversion of priorities? Did the government of Pakistan think that they needed an "Islamic bomb" more desperately than they needed Chinook-type helicopters and heavy-moving equipment? Or that India (or Israel!) posed a greater threat to Pakistan than an earthquake of this kind?The Times reports that help to affected areas is painfully slow to arrive, evan as military helicopters "clatter by" overhead. “Why are they not stopping to help us?” asks a man who buried more than 60 people yesterday. “We need help here or more of our children will die.” Fair question.
The Muslim's blood cannot be spilled whatever his work or place, while spilling the blood of the infidel, whatever his work or place, is authorized if he is not trustworthy," said an audiotape broadcast on the Internet early Saturday.That's just in case you were in any doubt. Now have a look again at the post from the other day...
"Katrina is an especially poignant study in risk because the catastrophe was so widely foreseen,' observes Forbes. The weather event itself was not just foreseen, it had for some time been considered a 'once-in-200-years' event. Now, businesses view a 1-in-200-year event as having a1-in-3 likelihood of occuring in the average 77-year lifespan, and invested accordingly. Elected officials on the other hand saw a 1-in-200-year event as a1/50 chance of occurring in a four-year political term, and accordingly they failed to invest, with the consequences we all saw.
“This is a case where they did an exceptionally good job on the natural science and a really poor job on the social science,” says a commentator. But from the point of view of the elected officials, they were acting rationally. Read Forbes discusion on the risk management of disasters here. [Hat tip NBR blog]
And big ups to the Home Depot people: notes Forbes:
A day after the storm, all but ten of the company’s 33 stores in Katrina’s impact zone were open. Within a week, it was down to just four closed stores (of nine total) in metropolitan New Orleans. “We always take tremendous pride in being able to be among the first responders,” says Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli [in photo right with GWB].Now there's a case study that some of those elected officials and their cronies could learn from.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Many critics argue Christopher Columbus gave us a devil's bargain. In October 1492 that Italian explorer, working for Spain, opened America to his fellow Europeans. The result: We got a prosperous New World by impoverishing, enslaving and murdering the natives who were already here.Hudgins comes most unfashionably to praise Columbus rather than to pillory him. Good for him.
But this fails to distinguish between two types of exploitation, one over other humans and the other over nature. The former should be expunged from our moral codes and civilized society, the latter is the essence of morality and civilization.
Oh well, at least I can agree with her sentiment: "It leads me to the conclusion that I actually need a drink right now." Who could disagree with that (and who needs an excuse)? Who knows where thoughts might lead after a quiet couple?
You scored 57 Aggression, 57 Sophistication, and 71 Optimism!
You are intelligent, sophisticated, and the physical personification of the can-do attitude. No matter how many times something blows up in your face (figuratively or literally) or prized project collapses around you, you will pick yourself up and try, try again. There is a good chance that you are very skilled in problem solving and would probably make a fine engineer.
Your main weaknesses (and this is likely obvious to everyone but yourself) are your overconfidence and complete lack of perspective. When you inevitably fail at a task (you can’t possibly achieve all of the lofty goals you set for yourself), you tend to take it personally. If you are not careful, you can become thoroughly obsessed with what is not really a very meaty goal. Try taking a step back from time to time and figure out for yourself if it is really worth it, or if your talents could be best put towards a more rewarding goal. Also, your desire for things to work out the way you’ve planned can make you a bit gullible.
So, which Looney Tune are you? Take the quiz here. [Hat tip Maria von Trapp]
Carl Weiman won his prize for producing a Bose-Einsten condensate, meaning that he and his team had managed to cool a collection of atoms down to just billionths of a degree greater than Absolute Zero, the temperature at which there is neither molecular nor atomic motion. Nothing in nature occurs at this temperature -- the background temperature of deep space is some three degrees higher -- so as Weiman pointed out, he can say with complete confidence that his lab in Colorado is the coldest place in the universe.
Production of a small piece of matter this cold does two things: First, it confirms a prediction made nearly eighty years ago by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein; and second, it produces a bunch of atoms with some size that are in a single quantum state -- that picture above shows the representation of one of these 'superatoms' being formed; it is in the order of 0.1 mm across! Given that this 'superatom' can be produced on a table-top, instead of needing a cyclotron the size of a cricket oval or more, this is an enormous breakthrough, one offering tremendous opportunities for discovering more abut the quantum universe, and numerous potential technological spinoffs.
Weiman is also intensely interested in the methods of science education -- in his lectures he uses numerous ingenious java applets and other methods to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. Weiman's applets to support this lecture can be found here; his website chockfull of Interactive Physics Simulations is intended to help explain the fundamental concepts of physics, and it's also loads of fun.
The good news is that if this interests you and you missed last night's lecture, there are still two more to come. Details here.
Francis Till has a summary of the 2005 winners, which includes a fair smattering of expat New Zealanders. 'Smattering' might be an appopriate choice of word actually, since the winner of the Ig for Fluid Dynamics is a paper co-written by a kiwi "(“Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh — Calculations on Avian Defacation”) using the basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin to produce the projectile faeces for which penguins are notorious."
You can see why the awards are so well sought after.
John Soane's Museum (left) and his own Breakfast Room (right), both in his preserved hom in Lincolns Inn Fields, show that while working in the Classical idiom he had a well-developed spatial awareness, and (despite all those pots which he acquired for reference) an eye for simplicity in his detailing.
Monday, 10 October 2005
Writer/director Whedon has said the hero of 'Serenity,' Mal, is "certainly a libertarian, he's certainly a less-government kinda guy." A little girl in the film, questioned why 'independents' would resist 'civilisation' imposed by centralised government answers: "We meddle...People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."
Universal have a nine-minute trailer up on site so you can see in advance what you're going to get. And feel free to check out some of the enthusiastic reviews below. Keep an eye out for it.
[UPDATE, 1: Oops. What idiot forgot to put up the link for the trailer for 'Serenity.'
2. Mr Whedon's name corrected.]
"Serenity is not just a string of good chase scenes, but...a surprisingly profound meditation on what freedom means—both in politics and, perhaps more importantly, as a source of personal meaning." -- Julian Sanchez, Reason Magazine
[Hat tip, Helen Tucker]
So can the Tories find a leader from the existing stable of contenders to modernise the party, through off this stuffy image AND establish a clear place on the political spectrum to appeal to British voters sufficiently to win the next election.I think he's right.
The problem is, I don’t think it can.
"These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity," Robertson said in an interview with CNN, pointing to the coincidence of a major earthquake that killed thousands in Asia yesterday and recent killer hurricanes in the United States and the Boxing Day Tsunami.
What an idiot, trying to raise his profile on the back of disaster. If there were any justice, this should be the end of this idiot. Sadly, ...
Williams went on to accuse the media of hypocrisy. He said: “I have personally taken cocaine with the people who are now writing these stories.”
Williams said that he had attended a drug rehabilitation clinic and “it’s not fun”. He hoped Moss recovered because “she deserves to be happy. People should get off her back”.
He's right, you know. Times article here. [Hat tip Julian]
Google Earth Hacks allow you to see:
- what Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesien West looks like from the air; and
- where I used to live, work and play football in London.
- Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics, by P J O'Rourke
- The Key to the Name of the Rose, to help you understand just what the hell Umberto Eco was on about in his great novel;
- Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and the Skyscraper, by Donald Hoffmann
- The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand , by David Kelley
- Aspects of Wagner, by Bryan Magee
- All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster..., by P J O'Rourke
- The Cambridge Companion to Hume, edited by David Fate Norton
- The Common Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
- The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America, by Stephen D Cox
- Abolition of Antitrust, edited by Gary Hull
- Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, by Thomas E Woods
- Classical Individualism: The Supreme Importance of Each Human Being, by Tibor Machan
- Five Television Plays, by David Mamet
Sunday, 9 October 2005
My chosen brand of beer was priced at a modest $16.95 a dozen today, but it was pointed out to me that it will be on special Tuesday for a very tempting $13.95 a dozen. The dilemma was resolved in a moment: far preferable to get outside a few beers now, I reasoned, than to sit around until Tuesday with only a dry old promissory note for a cheaper dozen to keep me company.
As I quite happily paid over the odds in order to begin consuming beer now instead of days later (without of course ruling out consuming it on Tuesday as well) I reflected that this is clearly an example of 'time preference' -- a phenomenon first identified by WS Jevons and Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, and one seen every night in nightclubs across the globe, wherein people happily empty their pockets for a drink NOW rather than wait for satisfation on a later night.
It is a phenomenon that Ludwig von Mises called a universal (a 'categorial,' or a priori) element in human action; put simply, the theory of time preference reflects the overwhelming preference to have two drinks this moment rather than three drinks next week, and it is this universal desire, argues Mises, that explains the phenomeon of interest.
If, for example I borrow money from you today in order to buy a car this afternoon, I'm quite willing to pay extra in order to have the car now rather than next year; thus $1o,000 for that purpose put into my account now is worth more to me than my promise to pay, say, $12,000 over the course of the next two years. As Mises explains it in Human Action:
Time preference is a categorial requisite of human action. No mode of action can be thought of in which satisfaction within a nearer period of the future is not--other things being equal--preferred to that in a later period. The very act of gratifying a desire implies that gratification at the present instant is preferred to that at a later instant. He who consumes a nonperishable good instead of postponing consumption for an indefinite later moment thereby reveals a higher valuation of present satisfaction as compared with later satisfaction.The theory is not without its critics, of course. Some critics still insist that interest simply reflects the productivity of capital, a notion that both Bohm-Bawerk and Mises effectively dismissed -- there is no evidence, Mises pointed out, of a "time-structure" in the capital stock of a society; further, the present valuation of income-producing capital will already have anticipated the future income stream. Brian Caplan rejects Mises' time-prefence theory for a different reason, in that he puts the origin of interest down to diminishing marginal utility:
You don't need time preference to get people to divide their consumption between today and tomorrow; all you need is diminishing marginal utility. If you are stuck on an island with two bananas for two days, a perfectly patient person would still want to eat one banana per day. Even though he disvalues hunger today and hunger tomorrow equally, eating one banana today assuages his hunger more effectively than saving that banana for tomorrow.Lawrence White however argues that Caplan's criticism doesn't stack up. First off, Caplan talks about perishable rather than imperishable goods (contra Mises) and assumes too an ever-expanding economy; for another, diminishing marginal utility "doesn’t explain why, even when today and tomorrow are equally provisioned, the market characteristically values a dollar today higher than a dollar tomorrow. That’s a fact that we need time preference to explain." I'm with White on this one.
Israel Kirzner has another beef with Mises' theory, one I'm inclined to agree with; says Kirzner:
The pure-time-preference theory [that Kirzner has] written about is not based on a priori reasoning. I've merely concluded that time preference is a reasonably universal empirical phenomenon. I ask my students: do you know anybody who is indifferent between receiving a paycheck now and receiving it in ten years? The answer is no. To me, that is enough to provide the basis of the theory.As I drank my beer, I reflected that he's probably correct. And if true, it means that bankers and nightclub owners have more in common than might otherwise be thought, for they both earn their money by trading on the basis of this universal phenomeon of time preference.
Christopher Hitchens emphatically rejects claims that Islamo-fascist terrorism is caused by the policies of the West: he explains that 'Terrorist attacks aren't caused by any policy except that of the bombers themselves'. Concludes Christopher of the Bali bombings:
So, what did Indonesia do to deserve this, or bring it on itself? How will the slaughter in Bali improve the lot of the Palestinians? Those who look for the connection will be doomed to ask increasingly stupid questions and to be content with increasingly wicked answers.Meanwhile, Lindsay Perigo has examined George W's recent speech on the continuing war on Terror and finds much to savour in what the President says, but finds too a disturbing contradiction:
There is both reassurance and folly in George W. Bush’s speech on terrorist-maggotry today at the National Endowment for Democracy. It is reassuring that he appears to be unmoved by the tide of treacherous Saddamy lapping at his doorstep... Reassuring also that the President does not buy into the view that what Western civilisation faces can be dismissed as mere random madness... But it’s disturbing that he repeats the error of separating the species from the genus... Jihad, the slaying of idolators “wherever ye find them” is at the heart of Islam and permeates the Koran . The fact that most Muslims are not currently engaged in it doesn’t mean it’s not a requirement of their religion.If you still doubt these claims about the Koran, check out the Skeptic's Annotated Koran for the vicious intolerance and blind cruelty contained within. For on this point, argues Perigo, is contained the contradiction that Bush is yet to resolve :
Islam itself is a malignancy on the body of humanity. The actions of its consistent, true practitioner-maggots demonstrate that. But Bush can’t afford to say it. He himself is in thrall to a vicious religion that seems benign only because it has lost its political power—and under his Administration threatens to reclaim it. The President is undone by his own contradictions.Linked articles: - 'Terrorist attacks aren't caused by any policy except that of the bombers themselves' - 'Ignoble Islam'
Saturday, 8 October 2005
What a guy.
Make up your own signs using the Church Sign Generator. If you want to make them Biblically accurate you can find all the absurdity you'll need over at the Skeptics Annotated Bible. Weekends full of fun. :-)
-- Justice Joseph Story
(1779-1845) US Supreme Court Justice, 1833
"It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation's foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action."
-- Justice Arthur Goldberg
US Supreme Court Justice
Source: Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 1963
Friday, 7 October 2005
The enrollment of Jews began to rise dramatically. By 1922, they made up more than a fifth of Harvard’s freshman class. The administration and alumni were up in arms. Jews were thought to be sickly and grasping, grade-grubbing and insular. They displaced the sons of wealthy Wasp alumni, which did not bode well for fund-raising. A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard’s president in the nineteen-twenties, stated flatly that too many Jews would destroy the school: “The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate . . . because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also.”Harvard fought back, not with quotas initially, but by requesting 'character references' and the details of an applicant's private life. Princeton and other unis followed... Read on here.
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
There are of course good economic and geographic reasons to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, reasons so good in fact that investors should themselves be able to see the value in rebuilding. But why does rebuilding need to involve taxpayers ponying up $62 billion, I wondered to myself.
Why not, I thought, take the artifical hurdles out of the way of private investment and declare New Orleans, Biloxi, and the entire Gulf Coast as Enterpise Zones, wherein all businesses and those investing in them are exempt from tax and from all but the very lightest of regulation. As I thought, I read, and as it turned out the idea has already been floated ... by George Bush, and by John Stossel.
Thursday, 6 October 2005
Rather than the just repeat the arguments expressed here recently, I'll just point you to what was said before on the subject. Suffice to say that I don't agree with those who felt that the girl is to blame for being attacked. I blame misanthropic environmentalists.
Eaten by absurdity
A new environmentalism: Putting humans first
Protecting a predator
- First and most importantly, it is an argument for a change in ethics that recognises that 'environmental harmony' can only begin once it is recognised that humans have a right to exist, and that they exist by using and transforming nature (the clearest argument for this appears in Tibor Machans' book 'Putting Humans First').
- There is no such thing as 'intrinsic values' that inhere regardless of context or relationships -- as I argued in this comment, the very concept of 'intrinsic value' is a nonsense, and one often used to smuggle in a person's own 'subjective values.' I argue that 'value' has a context; it implies both a valuer, and a purpose: that is, someone to whom a thing is valuable, and an answer to the question, 'valuable for what?' I argue that real value is objective, not intrinsic. The problem with intrinsic values is outlined briefly here, and illustrated in too much misanthropic environmentalism. :-)
- The practical arguments for rational wildlife management is put here in Dr Graham Webb's PDF article, 'Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wildlife - an Evolving Concept.' I sumarise it very briefly in this comment. In essence, Webb argues you have to give local a property right in the animals in order to make the animals' protection a boon to them rather than a disaster, and he explains the means whereby to do that.
"It is nice to be officially recognised and it gives some sort of a stamp of approval, but we believed it within a few months because it was so bloody obvious," Warren told reporters... The two men made their discovery in the early 1980s, but it took a long time to convince the medical community, who viewed them as eccentric. "The idea of stress and things like that [as the cause of ulcers] was just so entrenched nobody could really believe that it was a bacteria," Dr Marshall told the Associated Press.They do now. Ulcers can now be cured with a short-term course of drugs and antibiotics, and I have formerly ulcer-ridden friends to submit as evidence the cure works. They and thousands of others have been raising a glasss or two to Marshall and Warren for years.