Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The political function of 'the right of free speech' is to protect dissenters and unpopular minorities from forcible suppression—not to guarantee them the support, advantages and rewards of a popularity they have not gained" #QotD

"It is forgotten that the right of free speech means the freedom to advocate one’s views and to bear the possible consequences, including disagreement with others, opposition, unpopularity and lack of support. The political function of 'the right of free speech' is to protect dissenters and unpopular minorities from forcible suppression—not to guarantee them the support, advantages and rewards of a popularity they have not gained... 
    "The right to agree with others is not a problem in any society. It is the right to disagree that is crucial." 
          ~ Ayn Rand, from her articles 'Man's Rights' and 'What Is Capitalism?'

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

"Under the principle enacted by 'hate speech' laws, the individual is no longer free to think and express his thoughts. Instead, he must seek every collective’s permission before speaking, making sure that no one is offended by his ideas and that no one takes his ideas as reason to hate anyone or anything." #QotD

"Under the principle enacted by 'hate speech' laws, the individual is no longer free to think and express his thoughts. Instead, he must seek every collective’s permission before speaking, making sure that no one is offended by his ideas and that no one takes his ideas as reason to hate anyone or anything...
    "'Hate speech' laws, however, are not the creation of the public but of academics and intellectuals. The reason such laws are becoming more and more widespread is that Western culture is losing its knowledge of why free speech is a value...
    "Free speech rests on the idea that knowledge is a value and that to be reached, it requires a sovereign, independent mind choosing to exercise its powers of reason. The value of free speech, in other words, rests on a specific view of the human mind. The dominant voices in the humanities today uphold an opposing view."

          ~ Onkar Ghate in an interview with The Undercurrent,
             collected in the book Defending Free Speech

Monday, 17 June 2019

"For Democrats climate is just virtue signalling — there are no numbers allowed. With climate, the only answer is 'Yes.' Should we spend $2 billion or $10 Trillion? 'Yes'." #QotD

"For Democrats climate is just virtue signalling — there are no numbers allowed. With climate, the only answer is 'Yes.' Should we spend $2 billion or $10 Trillion? 'Yes.'...
    "Democrats want voters to 'say yes to [stopping] climate change' but not to discuss the non-existent cost benefits. As I’ve said many times, the voters may 'believe' the climate is changing but they don’t care enough to pay for it. Only 3% of Americans name 'environment' as top issue. When it comes to funding, almost half, 42%, of US adults don’t even want to pay a paltry, pathetic, $12 a year to stop climate change. Globally, 63% don’t want their dollars spent on the environment…
    "Climate change is a badge people want to wear but not to pay or vote for..." 
~ Jo Nova, from her post 'Why the Democrats don’t want a debate about climate change'

Sunday, 16 June 2019


Today is the 16th of June: Bloomsday. Bloomsday: a day for Leopold Bloom: a commemoration, celebration and reincarnation of the trail taken around Dublin by Bloom and Dedalus and sundry other characters in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses on an otherwise uneventful day.  All the events of which are somehow modelled on the ten-year trip back from Troy taken in legend by Odysseus, yet somehow all taking place in Dublin the day and evening of 16th June 1904, as seen mostly through the eyes and interior monologue of Joyce’s greatest creation, Leopold Bloom.

Hence, Bloomsday.

"What people really want to do on Bloomsday is dress up, read aloud and drink lots of Guinness," says the manager of Dublin's James Joyce Centre. Nothing wrong with that. Just like Bloom himself, who enters a Dublin pub "blue mouldy for the want of that pint."

Bloom is a fellow whose interior monologue is easy to enjoy.

There are Bloomsday celebrations every year from Montreal to Buenos Aires, even "Bloomsday breakfasts" featuring Bloom's favourite, "grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” Nice if you like that sort of thing.

James Joyce once said his novel Ulysses was meant to provide a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared, it could be reconstructed through the book. But Joyce said many things, only some of them seriously.

Ninety years after its first appearance (and seventy after its last ban), Joyce’s novel still divides opinion. Even among folk I admire. Ayn Rand enthusiast Harry Binswanger, for example, dismisses it as “trash.” "The book," he says, "is practically impossible to read — the reason for its snob appeal."
Joyce's style [alternates] between gibbering wordplay ("mellow yellow smellow") and ponderous, woozy abstractions ("tentative velation"), the style conforming to Plato's dichotomy between perceptual concretes and ineffable abstractions.
And yet it seems to me he's missing something -- not least the joy.

Embracing the joy and wordplay (and helping to explain much of it) another of my favourite novelists, Anthony Burgess, reckons Joyce wrote the book “not just to rival classical achievement, but to contain it.” Not to
 dismiss romanticism but to extend it. Not to give meat to cloistered pedants and “bloody owls,” but to entertain, to enhance life, to give joy… 
    Ulysses is a great comic novel.. it is part of a total, cosmic laughter that takes in drains, love, politics, and the deathless gods, and feels guilty about nothing. Joyce…accepts the world as it is and relishes man’s creations (why, otherwise, glorify and art or science in every chapter except the last?).
It is ultimately an affirmative journey around the traps (the book ends with a "yes"-- a whole exhilarating series of them). Burgess maintains Joyce offers us a challenge, and as Ulysses’s Molly Bloom asserts at the end of the novel, part of being fully aware, fully alive, is saying “yes” to that challenge:
When we have read Joyce and absorbed even one iota of his substance, neither literature nor life can ever be quite the same again. We shall be finding an embarrassing joy in the commonplace, seeing the most defiled city as a figure of heaven, and assuming, against all odds, a hardly supportable optimism.
He's right you know.
It’s not a quick read. But nor should you want to hurry. (Think of it, if you like, as an Infinite Jest for adults.) One reader recounts the challenge:
I first started reading Ulysses in the late 1990s, as an undergraduate at University College Dublin. It seemed so vast to me, like something I'd never be able to crack. There it was with its sepia and green cover, with an image depicting the River Liffey. It was almost as if its size and physicality were mocking my love for the instant gratification provided by frivolous computer games (and my comically short attention span).
    But I dived in. I read it with expert annotations, read it with friends, read it alone, gave up, started again, laughed, cried, and then gave up once more. It became like a friend, though. One I felt I partially understood, and yet would probably never fully know. To this day, I have not read it through over a continuous period. Instead, I have digested it in parts over about five years.
Like Burgess,  I’ve discovered Ulysses is nine-hundred pages of brawling, sprawling, fabulous, crapulous, life-giving reflection and rambunctiousness. Like that reader above, I've only twice read it straight through, but mostly in parts at a time, enjoying their relation to the whole. And like Atlas Shrugged, I look forward to enjoying reading, re-reading and thinking about it for the rest of my life. (I don't see that I need to choose between them.)

And I look forward to joining  the Bloomsday celebration in Auckland this afternoon.

Maybe I'll see you there?

[Pics from Robert Berry's graphic novel Ulysses Seen]


"Stoic philosophy leaves us with no causal power to impact events, only at best the ability to voluntarily accept our leash and accommodate ourselves to the inevitable. This may provide a false sense of solace to some, but it isn’t exactly an empowering perspective on life." #QotD

"Over the past decade, the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism has seen renewed public attention... There are good reasons, however, to steer clear of Stoicism as a philosophy of life...
    "Popular treatments of Stoicism universally stress the Stoics’ point that some things are 'up to us' and other things are not up to us, and that it’s crucially important to distinguish correctly between these... The problem, however, is that Stoicism endorses determinism — the view that our actions and choices are necessitated by factors beyond our control. So, strictly speaking, nothing is up to us. And if nothing is up to us, what use is ... anyone’s advice ... ? There is no philosophically consistent answer to that question, except: 'None whatsoever' ...
    "Stoic philosophy leaves us with no causal power to impact events, only at best the ability (so far unexplained) to voluntarily accept our leash and accommodate ourselves to the inevitable. This may provide a false sense of solace to some, but it isn’t exactly an empowering perspective on life."For a philosophy to be useful as a guide, it must at least acknowledge that we have some genuine, volitional control over our actions and choices — actions and choices that make a difference to where we end up in life...
    "[Volition for the stoic however] is not a matter of possessing the ability to control or impact the events of our lives — it is about being free from the frustration and pain that comes from wanting events to occur other than they do... [Stoicism] 'does not offer us a means of achieving happiness, but only a means of resisting pain.' ... "From a psychological perspective, this approach to values is fundamentally an attempt to avoid pain, frustration and loss in a world in which everything you might want or love or care about is short-lived, easily lost and precariously kept. To the extent that you invest yourself in things over which you have no control, they hold, you will be perpetually unhappy. 
    "Now, it is true that intensely valuing life and the things you love involves the possibility of pain, loss and disappointment, sometimes acute. Stoicism’s advice is to steel yourself against that possibility by killing your capacity to value. This is not a recipe for inner peace; it is a recipe for destroying any possibility for happiness... 
    "To take seriously and to benefit from advice about what is up to us and what is not, we would need to reject any form of determinism (Stoic or modern) and embrace the fact that we have free will — and that requires thinking carefully about what precisely is within our power to change and what isn’t so that we can formulate our goals and orient our efforts rationally...
    "Contrary to the Stoic worldview, we live in a universe in which the achievement of genuine happiness is possible, provided we understand what is required to achieve it and we put forth the thought and effort it requires. And thus life can be, and properly ought to be, an ambitious and unrelenting quest for personal happiness and joy because the pursuit and achievement of these values is what makes life meaningful and worth living."

          ~ Aaron Smith, from his article 'The False Promise of Stoicism'

Saturday, 15 June 2019

"Science, though, is one thing, finance another. In science, progress is cumulative — we stand on the shoulders of giants. In finance, progress is cyclical — we keep stepping on the same rake" #QotD

"Science, though, is one thing, finance another. In science, progress is cumulative — we stand on the shoulders of giants. In finance, progress is cyclical — we keep stepping on the same rake...
    "Interest rates are probably the most sensitive and consequential prices in capitalism. They balance savings and investment, discount future cash flows, define investment hurdle rates, measure financial risk.
    "Yet the US Federal Reserve Bank [the Fed] and its foreign counterparts seek to manipulate or, at least, to influence, interest rates both long-term and short-. They can’t seem to keep their hands off them...
    "The artificially low rates of the past 10 years have advantaged investors, speculators and corporate promoters. They have deadened the risk sensors of even professional investors...
    "The same low rates—by some measures, the lowest in 3,000 years—have penalized savers, incentivized dubious risk-taking, expedited the growth in federal indebtedness, and perpetuated the lives of businesses that would have failed in the absence of easy credit. They have widened the gulf between rich and poor, thrown a spanner into our politics and inflated the cost of retirement...
    "The trouble is that the costs of radical monetary policy are dark and prospective; the gifts they bestow are bright and immediate. Those gifts are likewise transitory."

          ~ Jim Grant, from his oped 'Regime Change For the Fed — Honest Rates
[Hat tip Louis Boulanger]

Friday, 14 June 2019

"Dear Mr Umpire, I understand that a footy fan referred to you as a bald headed flog on the weekend. Please don’t take this personally. You are not part of the game. I mean that in the nicest possible way. You are simply part of the game’s infrastructure. Like a goal post." #QotD

"Dear Mr Umpire. 
    "I understand that a footy fan referred to you 
on the weekend as a bald headed flog. ... 
    "Please don’t take this abuse personally. You are not part of the game. I mean that in the nicest possible way. You are simply part of the game’s infrastructure. Like a goal post. So when the fans lean over the fence and yell abuse, they are actually screaming at the sky, not at your person, as such. 
    "Yelling at the footy has been going on since the Romans fed Christians to the lions. (Not the Brisbane Lions, real lions). Back then they screamed, “stultus es!” ["You are stupid!] which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. They yell because life isn’t fair. They yell because men don’t understand their wives and because wives do understand their men. They yell because someone took their carpark at the supermarket last Sunday, because no one changed the empty toilet paper roll at home on Friday morning, because they got fined for doing 42 kilometres an hour in a forty zone. They yell because they are not allowed to yell anymore! It’s not about you! 
    "If fans can no longer yell at the footy then footy is inpensius [ruined]. If a bloke can’t shake his fist at the footy gods and screech, “you white (insert other appropriate colour here) maggot” then life as we know it has ended. But you need to understand that you are not the maggot, you are simply the maggot’s avatar. The maggot is the pain he is feeling now, which is the happiness he had yesterday... 
    "Understand that being an umpire carries with it certain difficulties just as being a teacher does, or politician, or a proctologist. Let them yell. If they yell, they are happy. Happy in the sense that the grief no longer sits on their chest... 
    "You would take this away? Surely not. If you take offence at being described as bald, grow hair. Or get another occupation. 
          ~ Dips O'Donnel, from his post 'Umpire and Fans: Yelling at the Sky'

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Cause of death -- truth & fiction

Do you think the results would be too much different, or any less deluded, if the comparison were made locally ... ?

[From Our World in Data, hat tip Felix Mueller]


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Trump’s Long-Term Goal Is Not Global Free Trade

In this guest post Don Boudreaux offers several more reasons to dismiss the absurd assertion that Trump’s long-term goal is a world of freer trade. Trump, he reminds us, has pontificated for decades on trade, with words that reveal him as nothing more than a clichéd economic nationalist.

Trump’s Long-Term Goal Is Not Global Free Trade

The economic case against protectionism is practically invincible. While theoretical curiosities can be described in which an import tariff (or an export subsidy) yields to the people of the home country net economic gains, the conditions that must prevail for these possibilities to have practical merit are absurdly unrealistic.

Yet in their efforts to justify punitive taxes on fellow citizens' purchases of imports, protectionists regularly trot out these theoretical curiosities. And none is more frequently paraded in public than is the assertion that high tariffs imposed by the home government today will pressure foreign governments to lower their tariffs tomorrow, with the final result being freer trade worldwide.

Protectionists declare with straight faces such guff as: “Our tariffs are the best means for making trade freer and bringing about what Adam Smith and all free traders have desired: maximum possible expansion of the international division of labour!”

This protectionist apology for tariffs is as believable as is the apology often offered by today’s campus radicals for speech codes and the harassment of certain speakers: “Our insistence on silencing conservatives and libertarians is actually a means of promoting campus diversity and inclusion!”

Both declarations are Orwellian.

Trump Decades Ago

In the case of Donald Trump, the claim that he is at heart really a free trader who raises tariffs today with the aim of bringing about lower tariffs tomorrow — and all because he is committed to achieving free traders’ ideal goal of maximum possible expansion of the international division of labour — is especially preposterous.

Trump has pontificated on trade for decades, and every word out of his mouth clearly reveals a man who knows nothing about the economics of trade -- who is as clichéd an economic nationalist as can be imagined.

Behold this line from a 1990 interview he did in Playboy: “The Japanese double-screw the US, a real trick: First they take all our money with their consumer goods, then they put it back in buying all of Manhattan. So either way, we lose.”

Let’s examine this unalloyed gem of economic witlessness.

Overlooking Trump’s outrageous exaggerations, such as his claim that the Japanese buy up “all” of Manhattan, we start by stating an obvious truth: the voluntary purchase of a good is not a transaction in which the buyer is ''screwed” or has his or her money “taken.” Instead, the buyer’s money is voluntarily spent. While every person of good sense sees a foreign seller who makes attractive offers to domestic buyers as someone who improves the well-being of each buyer who accepts the offer, Trump sees this seller as a con artist or thief.

And so Trump ignores the value to Americans of the imports they purchase. In typical mercantilist fashion, he believes that the ultimate purpose of trade is to send out as many exports as possible in exchange for as much money as possible — money that in Trump’s ideal world is never spent on imports. His view on this matter is even more bizarre than that of ordinary mercantilists. For Trump, imports are not merely costs that we endure in order to export, they are actual losses. (Although it goes without saying, I’ll say it nevertheless: Trump does not understand that imports are benefits and that exports are costs.)

Furthermore, by describing the money spent on imports as “our money,” Trump reveals his belief that money earned by each American does not belong to that individual but, instead, to the collective. To America Inc.

In the fashion of the typical mercantilist, the presumption is that the nation is akin to a gigantic household whose members all share in and collectively own its money. And just as Dad justly superintends little Emma’s and Bobby’s spending to ensure that they don’t dissipate the family’s wealth, Uncle Donald must superintend his subjects’ spending in order to ensure that we don’t dissipate the nation’s wealth.

One other flaw in the above quotation from Trump’s Playboy interview is notable: he believes that foreign investments in America inflict losses on all Americans. He doesn’t pause to consider that when Americans sell assets to foreigners they regain ownership of some of the dollars that Trump, in his previous sentence, lamented are lost to Americans when they bought imports.

The ignorance is frightening.

Nor does he ask what the American sellers of these assets do with their sales proceeds. Perhaps they too invest some or even all of them. And if so, perhaps these new American investments will prove to be more profitable than are the investments made in America by foreigners. (By the way, contrary to another mercantilist myth, Americans are not made better off when foreigners’ investments in America fail. Quite the contrary.)

An even deeper error infects Trump’s “understanding” of foreign investment: he implicitly — and, once again, like all mercantilists — assumes that the amount of capital in the world is fixed. Only then would it be true that each American sale of assets to foreigners necessarily reduces Americans’ net financial worth (which is presumably what Trump means when he says that “we lose” when the Japanese purchase Manhattan real estate).

Trump Today

Trump continues to this day to warble the same cockamamie protectionist tune. To mention only one of dozens of recent examples, in April of this year, referring to the so-called U.S. trade deficit with China, he asserted that “we have been losing to China for many years, $500 billion a year.” Even ignoring the utter meaninglessness of that in which Trump finds deep significance — namely, bilateral trade deficits — how our voluntary purchases of goods from the Chinese, and how Chinese investments in America, result in our “losing” to China remains inexplicable.

Making matters worse is the release last month of a Treasury Department report that must be read to be believed. It’s a gusher of protectionist goofiness, evincing throughout an astonishing level of confusion about trade, as well as hostility to each country whose producers dare to sell to Americans more goods than American producers sell to that country’s consumers. Hoover Institution economist John Cochrane was being polite in describing this document as “institutionalised nonsense.”

It’s impossible to encounter the president’s incessant complaints and ignorant pronouncements about trade — as well as his inclusion among his advisors of wackadoodle protectionists such as Peter Navarro — and conclude that Trump’s ultimate goal in using tariffs is to achieve the free trade necessary to bring about the greatest possible expansion of the international division of labor.

The many people who today excuse Trump’s protectionism by attempting to camouflage it as bargaining aimed at making global trade freer completely ignore what the man says (and has long said). The only other possibilities are that these apologists are either as economically ignorant as is Trump or they are dishonest stooges. Whatever the explanation, none of these apologies for Trump’s tariffs warrants a smidgen of respect.

* * * * * 

Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with American Institute for Economic Research and with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He is the author of the books The Essential Hayek, Globalization, Hypocrites and Half-Wits, and his articles appear in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News & World Report as well as numerous scholarly journals. He writes a blog called Cafe Hayek and a regular column on economics for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

"There is no ‘mental-health crisis’ among young people. The real problem is that adults are actively encouraging the young to see themselves as mentally ill. This is a serious abdication of adult responsibilities.." #QotD

"There is no ‘mental-health crisis’ among young people. The real problem is that adults are actively encouraging the young to see themselves as mentally ill. This is a serious abdication of adult responsibilities...
    "The medicalisation of children’s emotional struggles means young people are now trained to see troublesome experiences as a source of illness...
    "Adults shouldn’t be giving children a medical diagnosis – they should be offering them inspiration and leadership. We should acquaint children with the moral virtues that can strengthen their character. Instead of obsessing over their vulnerability and fragility, we should be cultivating children’s capacity for moral autonomy and adventure, and encouraging them to develop a real sense of selfhood."

          ~ Frank Furedi, from his post 'Manufacturing anxiety'

Monday, 10 June 2019

"You ask why I do not give Trump benefit of doubt that his tariffs are bargaining chips to make trade freer? My main reason is that everything the man says about trade reveals him to be an economic nationalist of the most obtuse and cartoonish sort. Trump gives no evidence of understanding the first thing about trade" #QotD

"You ask why I do not give President Trump benefit of doubt that his tariffs are bargaining chips to make trade freer?
    "My main reason – which is sufficient – for not swallowing the argument that Trump’s long-term goal is global free trade is that everything the man says about trade reveals him to be an economic nationalist of the most obtuse and cartoonish sort. Trump gives no evidence of understanding the first thing about trade...
    "In short, there’s no more reason to believe claims that Donald Trump is really a free trader at heart whose hyperactive protectionism is meant to strengthen free trade than there is to believe claims that Elizabeth Warren is really a 'capitalist to her bones' whose hyperactive interventionism is meant to 'strengthen capitalism'.”

          ~ Don Boudreaux, from his post 'Repeating a Point'

Sunday, 9 June 2019

"One day, you’ll be too old to change? Very well; then repair your personality now before it’s too late!" #QotD

“'I’m too old to change.' The elderly routinely use this as an excuse for the aggravation they cause. Yet if you look down the game tree and do backwards induction, you’ll find not an excuse, but a blueprint for a better senescence. One day, you’ll be too old to change? Very well; then repair your personality now before it’s too late!"
        ~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'The Backwards Induction of Aging'

Saturday, 8 June 2019

"'An oppression of the weak by the incompetent and an exploitation of the poor by the lazy' - this is exactly what is happening in cities now to the people who have a relatively low income and a regular job." #QotD

"Albert Hirschmann used to [talk about] 'an oppression of the weak by the incompetent and an exploitation of the poor by the lazy,' and this is exactly what is happening now in [the world's most unaffordable cities] to the people who have a relatively low income and a regular job...
    "The test is: if a schoolteacher [say] who  has a job indispensable to the working of the city cannot afford to live within half an hour commuting time from his or her school, there is something wrong with our system: and this 'something wrong is entry due to to [planning and zoning] regulation. There is absolutely no reason for it."

          ~ Alain Bertaud, in conversation with Russ Roberts
             'On Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design'

Friday, 7 June 2019

"Will zero emissions bring World Peace? Why not. It can solve everything else." # QotD

"Will zero emissions bring World Peace? Why not. It can solve everything else.
    "The 'Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration' is run by two men from Melbourne who apparently long for the little ice age. To get back there they take the climate models that don’t work and amplify their worst guesses into an apocalypse. They pluck the most ominous quotes they can find to create a sense that the IPCC are just another bunch of bureaucrats hiding the awful truth. As if Big-government is on the side of skeptics...
    "Their new report is called 'What Lies Beneath', reminiscent of Jaws.
    "Their job is to make the IPCC look halfway sensible ... '[by claiming that w]ithout immediate and drastic action, reminiscent of efforts during World War II ... by 2050, climate change could become an “existential threat to human civilisation” that can never be undone.'"
~ Jo Nova, from her post 'End of Civilisation coming: 31 years 'til lethal hothouse "beyond the threshold of human survivability”'

Thursday, 6 June 2019

D-Day, 1944: "The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you... this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!" #QotD

Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speech to the troops before the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944:
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.      The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
    Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
    But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
    I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.
    We will accept nothing less than full victory!
    Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
Gen. Alfred Jodl, operations chief of the German high command, early 1944:
We shall see who fights better and who dies more easily, the German soldier faced with the destruction of his homeland or the Americans and British, who don’t even know what they are fighting for in Europe.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, 22 April 1944
The first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive. . . . [T]he fate of Germany depends on the outcome. For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.
Brig. Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat), arriving with his commandos to relieve the British airborne troops holding the Orne River bridges, 6 June.
I’m sorry we’re a few minutes late.
And finally, from Gen. George S Patton’s speech to his Third Army, given ahead of the Allied invasion:
Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper-hanging son of a bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake! ..
    We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have, or ever will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons of bitches, we’re going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket.
    War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you, and you wipe the dirt off your face and realise that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do! I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly, and we are not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time...
    There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now, when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to cough, shift him to the other knee, and say, 'Well, your granddaddy shovelled shit in Louisiana.' No sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, 'Son, your granddaddy rode with the great Third Army and a son of a goddamned bitch named Georgie Patton!' That is all. 

[Hat tip History on the Net and The Independent]

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

“The characteristic feature of a free society is that it can function in spite of the fact that its members disagree in many judgments of value.” #QotD

“The characteristic feature of a free society is that it can function in spite of the fact that its members disagree in many judgments of value.” 
    “The meaning of economic freedom is this: that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society. The individual is able to choose his career, he is free to do what he wants to do.” 
          ~ Ludwig von Mises, from Theory & History,
             and 'Thoughts for Today & Tomorrow'
             [quoted in the post 'How can China thrive without freedom?']]

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

You can't argue against socialism's 100 percent record of failure

After more than two dozen failed attempts -- every time and everywhere it's been tried, records Kristian Niemitz in this guest post -- Socialism  has proven itself to be a disastrous economic and social philosophy, entirely unsuited to life on this earth.

Socialism is in vogue. Opinion pieces ordering us to stop obsessing over socialism’s past failures, to get excited instead about its future potential, these have almost become a genre in their own right.

Consider Bhaskhar Sunkara's recent example, penned for the New York Timesin which he claimed (as most such articles have to claim) that the next attempt to build a socialist society will be completely different:
This time, people get to vote. Well, debate and deliberate and then vote—and have faith that people can organise together to chart new destinations for humanity. Stripped down to its essence, and returned to its roots, socialism is an ideology of radical democracy. […] [I]t seeks to empower civil society to allow participation in the decisions that affect our lives.
So too Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs, who wrote in that magazine that socialism has not “failed." It has just never been done properly:
It’s incredibly easy to be both in favour of socialism and against the crimes committed by 20th-century communist regimes.
    When anyone points me to the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba and says “Well, there’s your socialism,” my answer […] [is] that these regimes bear absolutely no relationship to the principle for which I am fighting. […] The history of the Soviet Union doesn’t really tell us much about “communism” […]
    I can draw distinctions between the positive and negative aspects of a political programme. I like the bit about allowing workers to reap greater benefits from their labour. I don’t like the bit about putting dissidents in front of firing squads.
And Brit populist Owen Jones can declare, in print, that while Cuba’s current version of socialism is not “real” socialism at all—it could yet become "the real thing":
Socialism without democracy […] isn’t socialism. […] Socialism means socialising wealth and power. […]
    Cuba could democratise and grant political freedoms currently denied as well as defending […] the gains of the revolution. […] The only future for socialism […] is through democracy. That […] means organising a movement rooted in people’s communities and workplaces. It means arguing for a system that extends democracy to the workplace and the economy.

And then there's self-deluded Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig who wrote an article with the self-explanatory title 'It’s Time To Give Socialism A Try':
Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at de-commodifying labour, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.
Despite differences in style and emphasis, articles in this genre share a number of common flaws.

Flawed Arguments

The first and most obvious flaw is this: that as much as the authors insist that previous examples of socialism were not “really” socialist, none of them can tell us what exactly they would do differently. Rather than providing at least a rough outline of how “their” version of socialism would work in practice, the authors escape instead into abstraction, and talk about lofty aspirations rather than tangible institutional characteristics.

“Charting new destinations for humanity” and “democratising the economy” are nice buzzphrases, but what does this mean, in practice? How would “the people” manage “their” economy jointly?

Would we all gather in Hyde Park, and debate how many toothbrushes and how many screwdrivers we should produce?

How would we decide who gets what?

How would we decide who does what?

What if it turns out that we don’t actually agree on very much at all?

These are not some trivial technical details that we can just leave until after the revolution--as Karl Marx did. These are the most basic, fundamental questions that a proponent of any economic system has to be able to answer. Almost three decades have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall—enough time, one should think, for “modern” socialists to come up with some ideas for a different kind of socialism. Yet here we are. After all those years, they have still not moved beyond the buzzword stage.

The second great flaw is this: that the authors do not even realise that there is nothing remotely new about these lofty aspirations to which they aspire, and the vapid buzzphrases they employ. Giving “the people” democratic control over economic life has always been the aspiration, and the promise, of socialism. It is not that this has never occurred to the people who were involved in earlier socialist projects. On the contrary: that was always the idea. There was never a time when socialists started out with the express intention of creating stratified societies led by a technocratic elite. But, inevitably, socialism always turned out that way. It was not always the intention; but that result was always baked in.

Socialists usually react with genuine irritation when a political opponent mentions an earlier, failed socialist project. They cannot see this as anything other than a straw man, as a cheap shot. As a result, they refuse to address why those attempts have turned out the way they did. According to contemporary socialists, previous socialist leaders simply did not really try, and that is all there is to know.

They are wrong.

The Austro-British economist Friedrich Hayek already showed in 1944 why socialism must always lead to an extreme concentration of power in the hands of the state, and why the idea that this concentrated power can be "democratically" controlled is an illusion. Were Hayek to come back from the dead today, he would probably struggle a bit with the iPhone, Uber and social media—but he would instantly grasp the situation in Venezuela.

Hayek's successor in this line of criticism, George Reisman, understood Venezuela's fate as early as 2007, and has explained in compelling detail why this is always and inevitably the endpoint of socialist government: why, in his words, "Marxism/socialism [is] a sociopathic philosophy conceived in gross error and ignorance, culminating in economic chaos, enslavement, terror, and mass murder."

This is the result of the third great flaw of the socialist system: that contemporary socialists completely fail to address the long-understood deficiencies of socialism in the economic sphere. Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk explained as long ago as 1896 that
Marx’s economics was disaster heaped upon blindness, was “contradiction … heaped upon contradiction,” and that “the great radical fault of the Marxist system at its birth; from it all the rest necessarily springs” was his blind attempt to force his economic theories to fit into the Procrustean bed of his formal “dialectic” methodology.

And Böhm-Bawerk's student Ludwig von Mises drove the final nail into socialism's economic pretensions by pointing out that that socialism could never work because (without a price system) it could never distinguish more or less valuable uses of social resources, predicting in 1920 that the system would always end in chaos -- Mises's arguments proved to be unanswerable.

Socialists ever since have talked a lot about how their own particular version of socialism would be democratic, participatory, non-authoritarian, and nice and cuddly. But they could never prove Hayek, Böhm-Bawerk, Mises et al wrong and magically make their version work. So inevitably, to make people work they were obliged inevitably to resort to threats and violence.

What starts in fantasy always ends in slavery.

Economics Matters

Many of today's socialists, just like those of the past, would prefer to be able to avoid the Gulags, the show trials and the secret police next time, the avoidance of which would obviously be an immeasurable improvement over the versions of socialism that existed in the past.

But even without those inevitabilities, socialism is still left with a dysfunctional economy, and no other way but threats to even try to make it work.

Contemporary socialists still maintain the fantasy however that a democratised version of socialism would not just be more "humane" but also economically more productive and efficient: reform the political system, and the rest will somehow follow. The key word is "somehow." Because there is no reason why it should, and nowhere it ever has done. Democracy, civil liberties, and human rights are all desirable in their own right, but they do not, in and of themselves, make countries any richer--and no strict socialist society has ever been able to enjoy these fantastic promises for very long.

A version of East Germany without the Stasi, the Berlin Wall, and the police brutality would have been a much better country than the one that actually existed. But even then: East Germany’s economic output per capita was only one third of the West German level. Democracy, on its own, would have done nothing to close that gap. (And East Germany never enjoyed that boon.)

A version of North Korea without the secret police and the labour camps would be a much better country than the one that actually exists. But even then: the North-South gap in living standards is so vast that the average South Korean is 3–8cm taller than the average North Korean, and lives more than ten years longer. (Even if they ever had it, democracy alone would not make North Koreans any taller, or likelier to reach old age.)

Ultimately, the contemporary argument for socialism boils down to: “next time will be different because we say so.”

After hundreds of millions dead in more than two dozen failed attempts, that is just not good enough.

* * * * * 
Dr. Kristian Niemietz is the British Institute for Economic Affairs's Head of Health and Welfare.
A version of this post previously appeared at FEE.


Friday, 31 May 2019

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." #QotD

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."
          ~ Milton Friedman, from a 1975 interview on PBS’s “The Open Mind”

Thursday, 30 May 2019

"Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is." #QotD

"Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is."
          ~ Joseph Campbell, from his book The Power of Myth

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Trojan Horse of a Wellbeing Budget

The Government's Budget delivered tomorrow will, unusually, purport to measure not just the usual gobs of government spending but the anticipated effect of all those ill-gotten gobs on the "wellbeing" of all New Zealanders. But on what  are such heady anticipations based? As our guest poster Thomas Di Lorenzo points out, research rooted in several dubious assumptions and directed down an unsurprising path: that poverty and servitude to the state are superior to prosperity and freedom.

A very large literature has built up over the past several decades in the area of so-called "happiness research." Such research is based on several very dubious assumptions: namely, that people's utility is cardinal and measurable after all; that interpersonal utility comparisons can therefore be made; and that the great unicorn of economic theory — the "social welfare function" — has finally been spotted. Armed with these assertions, socialists around the world believe they have finally discovered their holy grail.

Now that governments supposedly know with "scientific certainty" what constitutes "happiness," there can be no argument (or so they think) against virtually unlimited government intervention in the name of creating happiness.

Affluence, i.e., general prosperity, is actually a disease that generates massive unhappiness, claims the Australian author of a popular book in this field, entitled Affluenza. The government of Brazil is in the process of enshrining this notion into its constitution, and similar movements exist in Great Britain and other countries.

These assumptions rest on the proclamation that public-opinion surveys are sufficient measures of cardinal utility.

The economists who make such assumptions studiously ignore all of the reasons why economists have disavowed such practices — especially the notion of demonstrated preference — for generations. As Murray Rothbard explained in his essay, "Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics,"
The concept of demonstrated preference is simply this: that actual choice reveals, or demonstrates, a man's preferences; that is, that his preferences are deducible from what he has chosen in action. Thus, if a man chooses to spend an hour at a concert rather than a movie, we deduce that the former was preferred, or ranked higher on his value scale. … This concept of preference, rooted in real choices, forms the keystone of the logical structure of economic analysis, and particularly of utility and welfare analysis.
Rothbard continued to explain the folly of relying on public opinion surveys, as opposed to the actual demonstrated preferences of economic decision makers:
One of the most absurd procedures based on a constancy assumption [i.e., the false assumption that people never alter their preferences] has been the attempt to arrive at a consumer's preference scale not through observed real action, but through quizzing him by questionnaires. In vacuo, a few consumers are questioned at length on which abstract bundle of commodities they would prefer to another abstract bundle, and so on. Not only does this suffer from the constancy error, no assurance can be attached to the mere questioning of people when they are not confronted with the choices in actual practice. Not only will a person's valuation differ when talking about them from when he is actually choosing, but there is also no guarantee that he is telling the truth.

The one economist who is arguably the leader in the field of "happiness research" (at least among economists) is Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich. When I asked him at a conference in Prague several years ago about the age-old criticisms of replacing actual demonstrated preferences with questionnaires, his response was that his "data" were no worse than GDP data. As bad and as unreliable as GDP data are, "happiness research" questionnaire data are at least no worse, he said.

But in fact, much of the happiness-research data are much, much worse.

European socialists in fields outside of economics have gone even further with their research of "happiness." A bestseller in Europe is The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The book is an excellent example of the misuse and abuse of statistics by these two British epidemiologists. It is an abuse of statistics because the entire book is a fishing expedition for simple correlations between the degree of material "inequality" in a country and myriad other variables. Wilkinson and Pickett don't even attempt the use of multiple-regression analysis, as is typical in their own field, in economics, and elsewhere. Consequently, they arrive at contrived statistical conclusions that greater material equality in a country supposedly leads to improvements in community life, mental health, drug use, physical health, obesity rates, intelligence, teenage births, recycling, violence, imprisonment, social mobility, dysfunctionality, anxiety, and self esteem.

(One critic of this research mocked its abuse of statistical methods by presenting a scatter diagram that purportedly showed a positive correlation between recycling and suicide, suggesting that the more one recycles, the more likely that one will commit suicide!)

According to these scientific-sounding conclusions (which have been lavishly praised by politicians, of course), the people of the former Soviet Union must have been the happiest people on earth, since the pursuit of equality was always the pronounced objective of socialism. As F.A. Hayek wrote in the 1976 edition of The Road to Serfdom, socialism was originally defined as government ownership of the means of production, and then changed to mean the redistribution of income and wealth through the auspices of the welfare state and progressive income taxation. In each case, "equality" was the ultimate end; only the means changed over time.

"Happiness researchers" make no mention at all of the long-recognised deleterious effects of welfare statism, including destruction of the work ethic, family breakup, the growth of dysfunctional citizens who are paid by the state to remove themselves from the work force, etc. [And nor will the NZ Treasury's researchers take account of the effect on involuntary taxpayers of their own pockets being fleeced to make other folk happy - Ed..]

Bruno Frey is no socialist, but the area of research that he champions is nonetheless being very enthusiastically embraced by a grab-bag of interventionists, socialists, and would-be central planners. Frey himself explained this in his June 2002 survey article in the Journal of Economic Literature entitled "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?" (with Alois Stutzer). Among the many things economists can "learn" from this strange branch of psychology, Frey and Stutzer approvingly report, are the following:
  • "Happiness functions have sometimes been looked at as the best existing approximation to a social-welfare function. It seems that, at long last, the so far empirically empty social welfare maximisation … is given a new lease on life."
  • Income has increased dramatically since World War II, but "happiness" supposedly has not. The counterintuitive implication is that work, investment, and entrepreneurship — the ingredients of economic success — do not produce happiness, but human beings nevertheless keep doing more and more of it year in and year out.
  • Interpersonal utility comparisons have also been resurrected, supposedly proving that "social happiness" can be created by the state's theft of one person's income and the redistribution of it to another (while keeping a tidy sum for "administrative expenses").
  • "Wealthier people impose a negative external effect on poorer people but not vice versa." The supposed negative external effect is the envy of "poorer" people. Welfare parasites are assumed to impose no negative effects by being given the income of their hardworking, taxpaying hosts.
  • "If unemployment rises by 5 percentage points the inflation rate must decrease by 8.5 percentage points to keep the population equally satisfied," write Frey and Stutzer. Thus, the rotted corpse of the Phillips curve — and of Keynesianism — is given new life by happiness research.
  • Welfare payments should be increased "to compensate for a larger family," write Frey and Stutzer, so as "to maintain the subjective well-being of the family." Again, there is no mention of the harsh negative effects of welfare statism, or of the negative effects of massive tax increases on economic growth rates. (Affluence is a disease, remember.)
  • "The fight for relative positions is socially wasteful, and … the high-income recipients, as winners of these races, should be more heavily taxed," happiness research informs us. Thus, Frey and Stutzer define hard work, saving, production, and entrepreneurship as merely "the fight for relative positions" in society, and a rather trivial "race" rather than a job-creating engine of prosperity.
  • Not surprisingly, Frey and Stutzer point out that the socialist John Kenneth Galbraith is widely regarded as the "father" of "happiness research" because of his numerous anticapitalist, pro-socialist books such as The Affluent Society.
  • "Raising everybody's income does not increase everybody's happiness," but improving one's income "in comparison to others does." These, like other claims mentioned here, come from the two British socialist epidemiologists mentioned above.
If one were to go to a university library and survey some of the top economics journals, it would be easy to find dozens of articles that seem to employ a blur of mathematics in page after page, followed by mind-numbing econometric pyrotechnics that prove water runs down hill. (For example, I can recall reviewing a book on innovation for the Southern Economic Journal that required 66 equations to arrive at the conclusion that businesses are likely to invest more money on innovations that promise a higher rate of return on their investment.) Much of happiness research that is conducted by economists is exactly like this, very often stating conclusions that are extraordinarily simplistic and downright comical. The following are a few examples from the Frey/Stutzer article in the Journal of Economic Literature. Every one of them could be appropriately concluded with the expression, "Duh."

  • "Persons with higher income have more opportunities to achieve what they desire."
  • "British lottery winners … reported higher mental wellbeing the following year."
  • "There is more to subjective wellbeing than just income level."
  • "On average, persons living in rich countries are happier than those living in poor countries."
  • "Happiness of unemployed persons is much lower than that of employed persons."
  • "Experiencing unemployment makes people very unhappy."
  • "Freedom and happiness are positively related."
  • "Happy people smile more during social interactions."
  • "People receiving an inheritance reported a higher mental wellbeing in the following year."
  • "Persons with higher incomes … can buy more material goods and services" and can therefore "achieve what they desire." This contradicts the other statements about how increased income supposedly does not increase happiness.

[It is on the basis of banalities such as these combined with the paeans to poverty and servitude that Grant Robertson will be "revolutionising" budget delivery on Thursday - Ed.]

One thing these mundane, pedestrian statements do demonstrate however is that "happiness research" has indeed been a gold mine for résumé-building academic economists whose econometric game playing is no longer limited by the requirement of digging up actual economic data. Instead, they can make up all of their own data by simply mailing (or emailing) out questionnaires.

Bruno Frey himself has published dozens of articles and several books of this sort, and may well win the Nobel Prize in Economics for them. That would be an enormous boon to all the socialists of the world, who have never let economic reality or economic logic stand in their way. As explained in an excellent critique of happiness research in the form of a book entitled The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-Checking the Left's New Theory of Everything, by Christopher Snowdon (p. 147),
Apologists for Marxism have made myriad excuses for their ideology's failure to provide the same standard of living and liberty as was enjoyed in capitalist nations. Until recently, few have been so brazen as to claim that lowering living standards and curtailing freedom were the intended consequences, let alone that people would be happier with less of either. In that sense, books like 'The Spirit Level' represent a departure for the left. Limiting choice, reducing wealth and lowering aspirations are now openly advocated as desirable ends in themselves.
Thus, "happiness research" is really a crusade to persuade the public that poverty and servitude to the state are superior to prosperity and freedom. It is what 20th-century communists referred to during the last days of Soviet and European communism as "socialism with a smiling face."

Welcome it aboard, New Zealand.

* * * * * 
Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the senior faculty of the Mises Institute. His post previously appeared at The Mises Wire.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” is now a graphic novel, and its timing couldn’t be better

If we finally achieved an equal society, would the quality of life improve for all? Ayn Rand's classic novella "Anthem" has now been converted into a graphic novel and, as guest poster Maeve Ronan explains, it now literally illustrates the answer to that question for every millennial and Gen-Zer so enraptured by the dream of collectivism for all ...

Rebirth of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s portrayal of a dystopian collectivist society in ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel illustrates the harsh reality of valuing equality of outcome over individual freedom. ANTHEM is a story about a future in which no man can be better than another. The people in power say this arrangement is for the greater good, yet they’ve regressed hundreds of years in innovation, and the citizens are unhappier than ever.

The novella Anthem was first published in 1938. Ayn Rand wrote the story of Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 to expose the dangers of collectivism and to condemn it outright. In the foreword to the 1946 edition of the novella, she wrote:
Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name. They must face the full meaning of that which they are advocating or condoning; the full, exact, specific meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, of the principles upon which it is based, and of the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead.
Writer Jennifer Grossman and illustrator Dan Parsons worked together to adapt Anthem (now out of copyright) into ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel, published in 2018, as part of the Atlas Society's new artistic approach of introducing the philosophical ideas of Ayn Rand in a more visually engaging way. Grossman and Parsons also produced an animated video version of the graphic novel, which is another dynamic take on Rand’s classic novella:

Consequences of Collectivism

I found this story especially intriguing because this equality-based society is what many millennials and Gen-Zers so willingly advocate. As a young free-thinker living in Boston, I hear a lot of excitement about democratic socialism. Many young people are captivated by the idea of free everything for everyone, so much so that they tend to skim over the consequences of this social structure.

If young socialists were to read Rand’s work, they might begin to understand the reality of what they are supporting. Adapted by Jennifer Grossman and Dan Parsons, ANTHEM is a revolutionary take on one of Ayn Rand’s most powerful Objectivist pieces. Detailed visuals, along with short sentence structure, make it easier for the reader to digest Rand’s philosophies. The read is not arduous, it is enchanting -- as we follow the thought-provoking story of an oppressed man who stands up for individuality.

Living in an envy-ridden civilisation powered not by technology, but by humans, Equality 7-2521 breaks the rules by taking time to be alone with his thoughts. He experiments underground with scraps from the old civilisation—including light bulbs, metal, and wires. When he discovers electricity, he is shunned.

Lack of Innovation

This interaction shows that this collectivist society is purely for the benefit not of the citizens, but of the few in power. Through Equality 7-2521’s discovery, Rand demonstrates that when equality of outcome is valued over equality of opportunity, society at large regresses for lack of innovation.

When people are not given the chance to reach their potential, they are unable to contribute their greatest inventions to society since they’ve been deprived of the opportunity to imagine.

Most importantly for young people, ANTHEM illustrates how society is hindered when we abandon individual freedom and individual rights.

Rand’s philosophy holds that man’s primary purpose is his own life; I urge millennial and Gen-Z leftists and borderline socialists to consider the societal repercussions, illustrated in the story, of interfering with an individual's right to pursue his primary purpose.

Most importantly for young people, ANTHEM illustrates how society itself is destroyed when we abandon individual freedom and individual rights.

Why not pick up this quick, insightful read? After all, you as an individual still have the right to read whatever you please, regardless of whether or not you agree with its principles. Yet.

* * * * * 
Maeve Ronan is a Gen-Z contrarian who writes about the virtues of individualism and liberty. She has interviewed over 100 successful individuals from around the globe, gathering unique and personal insights for her upcoming book on self-improvement. This post first appeared at FEE.

Friday, 24 May 2019

He said she said David said G. said

Jacinda said we should be kinder. Hate is wrong, said J. We need "a global effort to shut down hate speech," she said.

People asked "What's hate speech?" And J., who was like, not letting a crisis go to waste, said trust me: "you'll know it when you see it." And Helen said, like "Yeah. Right on J.!" And Emmanuel rang her and said: "Let's do this!"

And Louisa saw it all. Going on. Out there, in the media. She wanted to slap them. The media. (And tried to.) "The Fourth Estate," said Louisa, angry, must be made, like, an arm of the state; have imposed a "Duty of Care"; have their "social contract," you know, "formalised." There ought to be a law! she said.

Louisa got angry. (Louisa is one of J.'s people, so is a good person, so it's all safe and all when she gets angry and stuff and talks about laws on talking.)

Right on, said good Golriz, right on time. 'Cos G. knows right-on stuff. Even if Judith thinks G. is "just a kid," good Golriz is a good person who really knows stuff. "It is vital," said G. (who likes pop singers, selfies, and passive verbs) it is vital, she said, that "we" all have "a conversation" about "what speech meets the threshold for being regulated." Regulating being what they do up in the Big House when they all sit around and start a conversation and stuff.

And we others all wondered who "we" might be? Because "we," said G., need to decide "what mix of enforcement tools” the people in the Big House needed to stop bad people saying bad things. Because bad people need to be "deplatformed," said G., on her platforms. "It's now a public-safety issue!" she said. And G. must be a good G. because bad people are all bad to her.

One of those bad people, who everyone knows is a bad people -- let's call him "David," who you know is bad because of all of his bad mates -- said that "such an idea, and by extension politicians who promote it, is a danger to our free society." Lots of people agreed with David about that, but everyone knew they were bad people.  And then David, when aksed by someone about G.’s rap about regulation, David said to them he thought that G. was, he said "a menace to freedom."

And everyone who knew better said this was really bad. Everyone who knew best said David was being mean to G., who bad people were already being really mean to. Which was mean, and they knew mean when they saw it (and they would, these people, know it, I mean). David was inciting this mob of bad people, said these good people, who were (the bad people) being really, really mean to G.

Trevor, who runs the Big House so is a really, really top people, said David was, like, being "a bully" to G. (and Trevor would know) and David should really stop (and when Trevor says "stop" everyone in the Big House has to, like, listen).  So G. hinted David shouldn't ever be part of her "we" or their conversations at the Big House about tools about talk and regulations and stuff. Ever. 'Cos he was obviously and all a bad person. Like everybody had already told him but she told him now for real, because now she needed to be like "protected" around the Big House. And it was all David's fault. The protection and stuff.

And Louisa and Jo wrote David a letter. They didn't actually send David the letter, because it wasn't really for David but for all their bffs. They (Louisa and Jo, who agree with each other even though they're from different teams, so you know they're good people) said that they and all their bffs in all the Big Houses around the world all also think David was being mean, said Louisa and Jo in the letter, and they all wanted to tell him to his face he was being mean (even though Louisa sent the letter to the Fourth Estate instead of to David because now, you know, whatever). So David should say sorry, tut tutted Jo and Louisa (in the letter). And in public (like the letter).

And Judith, dear old Crusher, who had been away from the headlines for a day or so, after reading all the letters and all the Fourth Estate and all focus groups and stuff, well, she tut tutted too. Why not all be "a little bit kinder towards each other" tut tutted Aunty Judith. Especially to G.  Can't we all just be nice to G., smiled Crusher, who was being ever so nice, which was hard. Even if it was a good headline.

Stephen wasn't nice. He argued back at G. Which G.'s friends or good persons would never do, so you know he's, like, not. Stephen called her names too. Made fun of it. Other people had called G. "Golly G." ('Cos of good Golriz G.s name and surname and like too.) But Sam said this was racist. 'Cos Sam's one of those good people who just knows. Calling a POC "Golly," said Sam, is racist, racist, racist. Stephen was being bad, being "unsafe" and threatening," said Sam. (Who would know.) And so were Stephen's friends, said Sam. All of them. Unsafe. And threatening. And so Sam told Stephen's teacher on him for being unsafe. (Sam is also, like, one of J.'s people, so did it to be kind. Because he knows it when he sees it. Another good person.)

So Sam's twit-mob piled on too, but only to be kind too. "Racist, racist, racist" they chanted. But not in a, like, hateful way. These woke-persons know where the lines are. They were all of them being kind. They just needed Stephen deplatformed. They told the teacher on him too. Nicely. 'Cos they're nice.

'Cos they all know where all the lines are. They know what's nice and what's not.

They know what saint J. and good G. would like, and what's hurtful.

They know it when they see it.

They know who needs to be deplatformed. Whose speech needs enforcement. Whose social contract needs to be, like, "formalised." Who exactly this "we" is -- and who should be allowed to have a conversation about the rules.

And who shouldn't.

They know them when they see them. Bad persons. They know. What's unsafe. What needs to be shut down. Who should be run over. Who run out of town. Who you can threaten, and who you can't. They know from incitement, these good persons. They all know their lines....

Dave Rubin reckons "Of course the Left is moving to 'speech is incitement.' First they did 'everyone I don’t like is a Nazi,' then it was 'you can punch Nazis,' now it is 'speech is incitement' -- and next it’ll be 'you can jail the Nazis over speech.'"

Are we there yet?

It seems it's time for a good discussion on free speech: it's meaning, its threats and its controversies. To get it, like, out of the playground. Because this free speech thing needs way more than just kindness and wokeness and carefully-curated conversations about niceness and the "tools" needed to enforce this -- it needs an adult kind of willingness to hear other people talk even when you disagree with them. And not to make rules discouraging that, or declaring it illegal.

And look, here's one of those discussions right here:


"The thing that strikes me more and more is the extraordinary viciousness of political controversy in our time. Nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters as long as you can score a neat debating point." #QotD

"The thing that strikes me more and more is the extraordinary viciousness of political controversy in our time. Nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters as long as you can score a neat debating point." 
          ~ George Orwell, 1944

Thursday, 23 May 2019

"'The greatest sign of success for a teacher' said Maria Montessori, 'is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.' ' Modern schools don’t work to get students to this point. They strive instead to indoctrinate." #QotD

"If you want to know what’s wrong with education ... — arguably the root of all our problems — then look no further than [the contrasting educational philosophy of] Maria Montessori.
    "Montessori was one of the greatest educators of all time.
    "In recent decades particularly, most schools have done the precise opposite of what Montessori very wisely thought and taught. That’s why we’re in such trouble.
    "Consider one of her greatest quotes:
“'The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, '‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.''
    "[Modern] schools don’t work to get students to this point. They strive to indoctrinate."
          ~ Dr Michael Hurd, from his post 'Maria Montessori: She Got Education Right'

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Cynicism in the Service of Statism

Otto Von Bismarck was the inventor of the Welfare State. He was explicit about his reasons, saying in support of Germany's 1883 welfare-state laws:
“That the state should assist its needy citizens to a greater degree than before is not only a Christian and humanitarian duty, of which the state apparatus should be fully conscious: it is also a task to be undertaken for the preservation of the state itself. The goal of this task is to nurture among the unpropertied classes of the population, which are the most numerous as well as least informed, the view that the state is not only a necessary but also a beneficent institution.”
As philosopher Stephen Hicks summarises, his reasons were:
  1. a political application of Christianity, and
  2. a way to get the “unpropertied classes” to think well of the state and
  3. become dependent upon it, thereby
  4. ensuring the unpropertied’s ongoing support of the state.
You might call it Cynicism in the Service of Statism.

Reflect on that when you're wondering why the Welfare State will seemingly never go away, despite its long-term and lingering failure to ever relieve the poverty that it ever maintains to be its aim.