Friday, February 19, 2010

Patriot or terrorist?

Is he a crazy terrorist who demonstrates the failure of the liberal Obama security policy?

Or is he a brave, if desperate patriot fighting back against Obama's socialist taxes?

The spin could go so many ways. But my prediction: right now he'll be called a man driven to insanity by big government. 6 months from now this will be listed as a security failure.

Who says you can't attack the President and change your stories too?

Monday, February 15, 2010

The efficiency of the market and Nazis

Godwin makes everything better.

It is often claimed the the free market produces the most efficient distribution of resources. There are many ways to criticize this, but I will choose two: Nazis and happiness.

Efficiency as an end in itself
There is something seductive about efficiency. It draws you in. It's almost like the thrill of an action movie, explosions and guns and no point at all. There's where the problem comes in: What is the point of efficiency? By itself it is nothing; a tool at most. Tools are useless without something to work on and are terrible is used for the wrong purpose.

Enter the Nazis. They were efficient in many tasks. Such as killing millions of people. Despite the hyping up of health care, Obama's death panels would have a hard time killing millions of people in less than a decade. No matter how many Hitler mustaches and swastikas you paint on him, he is not as efficient as the Nazis.

The Holocaust was efficient, but clearly, efficiency itself is not a noble cause. In contrast modern factories are very efficient and that let's us all (exclude those who are excluded) have a higher standard of living. That is good. But again, efficiency in itself is not good. Instead what matters is the purpose of the efficiency. What goal does the market have? That goal is the true measure of it, not its efficiency.

Efficient happiness
The market produces optimal distribution of goods by allowing us to maximize our happiness through rational exchanges of goods and products. Right? Well that depends on what you're measuring.

If we are looking for the total happiness in the world, then huge gains would be made if you were half as wealthy and that was divided up among the poor. This isn't due to some socialist enlightenment or freedom from materialism. It's simple diminishing returns. Having a car, house, refrigerator, and computer will yield a huge gain in happiness compared to not having those. Spend that amount again fora bigger house, better food in the fridge, and faster computer and you won't have double the happiness. In fact, you're likely to have less, due to additional stress from work and financial strains to afford the luxuries. In terms of arbitrary numbers, it's a case of 100+5+5+5+5+5+5+5+5+5 being less than 90+10+10+10+10+10+10.

If we are looking for individual happiness, well then the free market works very well if you're on the 100 side of the addition, less so on the 5 side.

You are bad and should feel bad
Individual happiness and total happiness are different measures and are unlikely to be reconciled, unless one thing changes: tie individual happiness to total happiness. In other words, give rich people a huge guilt trip.

That's not likely to happen. If someone doesn't feel guilty about corporate policies that cause pandas to be killed by orphan child soldiers, what could possibly cause them to feel guilty?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creationism will lead to witchcraft

Creationism is based largely on an inability or refusal to objectively evaluate evidence.
Creationism is based on active misinterpretation of a book of parables based on the unchallenged assertion that it is absolute literal truth.

Put these together and what do we arrive at? Active suppression of thought and objectivity. Suppression of experimentation, of controls, of science and knowledge. What will take its place?

Some would like it to be Christianity. That is the plan of the Creationists. And in all likelihood, it will happen. Partially.

But ignorance and stupidity are not innately drawn to any particular system of beliefs, or any system at all. They drift and fumble in the dark, grasping at whatever they stumble across.

Much of what the ignorant find will not be Christianity, but older religions, or even older still, spirit-worship, voodoo (which actually is somewhat new, but the ideas of it are old), and all manner of heretical beliefs and practices. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that should creationism drive science out of teaching, we will see a rise in witchcraft.

Prepare for unintended consequences.