Friday, April 29, 2005

Medical Malpractice

A man waited for nine hours in the hospital while his wife underwent complex surgery. The surgeon, haggard and blood spattered, approached and said that he had good news and bad news. Actually there were two pieces of bad news. In the first instance, the wife's spinal cord had inadvertently been severed in the cervical region such that she was paralyzed from the neck down and lacked control over most of her bodily functions. Secondly, the anesthesia had been administered improperly such that oxygen to the brain had been woefully inadequate. As a result, the wife was all but in a vegetative state. She had just enough brain activity to be considered legally alive but otherwise would never regain awareness of her surroundings. In sum, the husband faced the prospect of a future of cleaning up after and caring for his quadriplegic and nearly brain dead wife. "What is the good news?" he asked the surgeon who replied, "I'm kidding; she's dead."

The Long John Silvers Jones

If I were on death row and offered a last meal, I might order Long John Silvers fish and chips. I love LJS. For two years in high school, I had lunch there almost every day with my buddy Tim "Mr Catamount" Olds. We drove like maniacs to get there, order and eat during our 45 minute liunch break. I slathered on the imported (from Kentucky) malt vinegar while he ate a whole bottle of catsup with his.

There is no LJS anywhere near me in New York. There used to be one in downtown Manhattan, and I made a pilgrimage to its address only to discover that it had long been closed.

When I go home to Dalton "Carpet Capital of the Known Universe", GA, it is all anyone can do to keep me from taking every meal at LJS. The existence of truly superb barbecue lures me away on occasion as does the hope of truly authentic biscuits and gravy. There is an LJS in Wilkes-Barre "Why in God's Name Would Anyone Live Here", PA, and its existence is sometimes enough to induce me to visit in-laws there. When my wife visits her kin, I always ask her to bring back a goodly supply of fish and chicken planks, BUT SHE NEVER DOES. She fails this love test woefully since the LJS is slightly out of her way. 21 years of marriage evidently count for so little.

We stayed in Blue Ridge, GA one year when we visited home, and the LJS there was closed and operating as a no-name fish joint that I dared not try. Why would an LJS ever close?

Why is there no LJS in New York? Is there some regulatory obstacle? My only fish and chips choice, as far as fast food goes, is Arthur Treachers operating as part of Nathans Hot Dogs, and AT is to LJS as feces are to fudge.

I need some LJS bad. I need the crumblies on the side soaked in malt vinegar. I need the hushpuppies and the limp fries. I am dying here. Please open an LJS within 45 minutes of my home. Poughkeepsie would be OK. I would even cross the Hudson into Newburgh if need be.

There is simply no better way to eat fish than encased in LJS's signature batter and deep fried.

UPDATE: It turns out that there is an LJS in Newburgh just 16 miles from home. It is part of a combined KFC/LJS, and I found it on the LJS web-site store locator. Please let it be there when I drive to Newburgh tonight.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Wingnuts for Central Planning

My conspecifics of the wingnut right subspecies usually agree that central planning fails in the economic sphere. After all, how can central planners replicate the efficiency of the free market in fulfilling individual preferences and determining appropriate prices? Why would they let the government decide what kind of cereal to eat?

With respect to the economy of ideas, however, the wingnuts are all for central planning, especially when it comes to normative propositions. Of course, central planners should dictate what moral system one should live by. After all, there is only one true morality, and they know what it is. Everyone ought to buy into these ideas, so it is no imposition on anyone to lead them to the truth.

Egads! Zounds! This is why they are called wingnuts. If the marketplace of ideas, including normative ones, is replaced by central planning, we will surely get it wrong. Laissez faire, say I. Let there coexist as many ideas and memes as possible, and let them duke it out in the ideational marketplace. Maximum diversity is the best way to insure that some of us get something right. The best ideas will survive and become widely distributed, and they will evolve to meet changing conditions as long as we eschew ideational central planning.

Libertarianism, minarchism and anarchy are systems which would admit the maximum diversity of ideas and lifestyles. Provided that you did not do violence to your conspecifics and that you respected property rights, you would be free to live and believe as you pleased. A wide variety of social structures and normative systems might coexist peacefully.

Another reason to avoid ideational central planning is that it will lead to perpetual strife over increasingly minute matters. Christian theocracy in place? Will the sprinklers or the dunkers be in charge? Dunkers prevail? Child or adult dunking baptism to prevail? Trespass or Debtors in the Lord's Prayer? Calvinists or Arminians? Alcoholic or non-alcoholic communion beverage? There is no compromising truth; therefore, the tendency to schism will lead to civil warfare.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

New Jersey's Solution to its Low Income Housing Problem

I don't know whether I got this right, but my conspecifics from the Garden State have informed me that New Jersey values class diversity so much that it mandates that each town provide for a quota of low and middle income housing. The idea is that the people benefit from contact with different classes. The lower classes get to learn from the example of the virtuous bourgeoisie and avoid "ghetto effects" associated with "concentrated poverty", and the other classes are reminded of the existence of their inferiors to whom they owe noblesse oblige.

But wait! It turns out that affluent towns can pay other towns to handle their low and middle income housing. Upper Saddle River can pay Newark to build more low income housing and house Upper Saddle River's meaner would-be denizens.

But how is it that low and middle income folks came to be priced out of the tonier confines in the first place? It seems that a number of these towns have enacted restrictive zoning ordinances that render it unprofitable to erect anything other than a stately manse. Two acre lot mimimums, 12% house to lot ratios, restrictions on multi-family structures all keep out the riff raff as do exorbitant property tax rates. These are not private covenants; these are coercive zoning and building laws.

So, let's get it straight. Government interference helps to create an artificial shortage of low income housing in certain areas; therefore, government must legislate to fix this problem by adding on another layer of market distorting rules. On top of this, there is rent control.

Alternate Reality

I sometimes think I live in a different universe than most of my conspecifics. Perfectly nice people are able to declare over lunch or around the water cooler that killing innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan is self defense. Firebombing civilians in Germany and obliterating entire Japanese cities in acts of terror were "unfortunate" necessities of war. They explain that "we" have to protect "ourselves" from "them" as if we were actually part of the states to which we are subject.

My moral objections to war and my insistence on prosecuting war justly are "radical" and "unworkable" in the real world. One gentleman actually said, "We can't wait around to see if one of these other countries is about to attack us before we act." I asked if the 9 year old who killed his schoolmate (another recent news nugget) might perhaps have merely engaged in a preemptive strike, but this was immediately declared to be entirely distinguishable from state action. I was berated for my sophistry and told to apply "common sense". I still don't know why something is immoral if an individual does it but becomes honorable if done in the name of the state.

My boss confesses that Jesus is his Lord and is a devout Catholic. Yet, he is able to espouse total war and to advocate indiscriminate killing if it saves American lives and money. Does he read from a different Bible? Is his Christ militant and destructive?

I suspect that our universes differ because we hear and read a different narrative of it. After all, each of directly experiences only a small part of the complex world and only at most contacts a few hundred folks (outside of traffic relationships). We make sense of the wider world through the media, and the choice of media may influence our interpretation of the world. My conspecifics get their news from Faux News and CNN and WSJ, while I eschew the MSM. The MSM makes evil seem normal. The MSM sees the world in simpleminded dualities of them and us, left and right, conservative and liberal. The MSM is surely poisonous.

I have come to depend on blogs and alternative media for news, and I feed off the blogroll of the Mises Institute and LRC. I suppose I should support them financially, and I plan to, but my addiction to this end of the blogosphere is of recent origin.

Being the resident anti-state crackpot is lonely, and the libertarian blogosphere is a sanity preserver.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Parable of the Apple Eating Pig

A traveller was driving along a country road when he spied a farmer in an apple orchard. The farmer was holding up a pig to the lower branches of an apple tree so the pig could eat the apples hanging there. The traveller pulled over and remarked, "Wouldn't it save time to shake the apples off the branch and let the pig eat them off the ground?" The farmer pondered this for a moment and queried, "Yes, but what's time to a pig?"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Getting the State out of Marriage

Vox Day, at

opines that Christian men ought to avoid marrying under state law and should instead simply record the fact of the marriage in the family Bible. This keeps the couple out of the belly of the state domestic relations leviathan and makes sense because the benefits of a state sanctioned marriage are greatly outweighed by the burdens and the intrusiveness of the state. I agree, and I extend this advice to non-Christians as well.

In my work in family law, I have noted that marriage is often a strategic blunder for couples who have nothing to gain from it. Poor folks, for example, often have no employee benefits to extend to a spouse. They have no estate to distribute at death and no significant property to distribute when they break up. They don't pay income taxes. Child support will be enforceable even if the parents were never married via state procedures. In fact, marriage makes it harder to get certain welfare benefits and becomes a big honking expense when the relationship goes bad and divorce is needed. The statistics about children born out of wedlock are not that disturbing to me, since I understand that state recognized marriage is irrational in lower socioeconomic strata. When folks decry bastardy, they are really saying that poor folks ought not to reproduce. Marriage, in and of itself, would do nothing to solve the social problems correlated with bastardy.

Marriage, as a state sanctioned institution, has been stripped of most substantive content and, as Vox Day points out, is not all beer and skittles even for couples who might get some benefit. What do you get for the pains of getting married via state license?

  • You submit all your property and savings and earnings to redistribution in family court on separation or divorce in a manner which probably bears no relationship to what the parties intended and understood. This may be a benefit or a burden, depending on where you stand. You are free to provide for the distribution of property any way you please absent the marriage, but you will lose this freedom when you enter into the one-size fits all marriage contract offered by the state. Rights on dissolution will be determined without regard to notions of justice or fault.
  • In a community property state, you render yourself liable for the debts of your spouse, and this is hardly a benefit to the couple.
  • In some places, you may own real property by the entirety, but most of the benefits of this can be enjoyed with joint ownership with right of survivorship and a covenant not to sell without permission of the joint owner. Indeed, ownership by the entirety may not be desireable as it complicates transfer of property interests.
  • You can die without a will, and your spouse will still get to inherit.
  • You get to compel third parties to recognize your relationship by extending employee benefits to the spouse and through eligibility for any government largesse directed to married persons. You can also sue for criminal conversation if your spouse cheats on you.
  • You get to file taxes jointly, and you get to contribute to an IRA for a non-earner spouse.
  • You get to make health care decisions for your incompetent spouse and are entitled to visit your spouse in the hospital or in prison.
  • You can have conjugal visits with your spouse in prison.
  • You are presumed to be the father of your wife's children born durung marriage, and this may be a benefit or a burden if the little woman has a roving disposition.

I am sure that there are others that I have missed, but they don't add up to much (except for the employee benefits) compared to the hassle factor if you ever fall out with your mate. If employers provided domestic partner benefits, it would be safe to say that state sanctioned marriage would make sense for very few people. Most of the benefits could be handled via contract and estate planning. Why gays would want to marry via state license is mystifying.

Trouble is that in some states you can become married by common law, and then you get socked with the marriage burden. Here in NY, there is no common law marriage, but the state will recognize your marriage if you spend even a little time in a common law jurisdiction and meet the criteria while you are there. A weekend in the Poconos could get you married if you are not scrupulous about avoiding the criteria for common law marriage in that Commonwealth.

NY jealously guards the marriage monopoly, and anyone who solemnizes a marriage where there is no license or performs a marriage ceremony where there is no license can be criminally prosecuted. If you want to have a ceremony, best do it out of state.

Marriage, in its meaningful sense, is the relationship between partners, and state recognition adds nothing to it. In a sense, state involvement has been killing marriage as a substantive institution of civil society ever since the state began to intrude and to define it as nothing more than a particularized economic arrangement. Get the state out of it, and let the institution evolve to meet the demands of the new millenium.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Objective Truths

I have often witnessed arguments between relativists who appear to deny even the existence of objective truth and absolutists who argue that not only is there an objective truth but that they know what it is. They almost always seem to talk past one another. I am both a relativist and an absolutist and able to reconcile the two positions easily. Then again, I am smarter than your average bear or your average American.

The important point brought out by postmodernists, IMHO, is that there is no particular reason to believe that humans are capable of discerning universally objective truths. Ultimately, any statement depends on one or more unprovable assumptions. This is particularly true wrt normative propositions, and this is where these kind of arguments usually get started. The relativist says that every religion is equally valid, and the absolutist says that there is one true religion. They both may be right, depending on context.

I follow a particular religion which I regard as correct and predicated on truth; however, I recognize that I cannot prove the truth or falsity of my religious views since they ultimately rest on a set of arbitrary assumptions taken by faith. Either you believe these or you don't. My Muslim neighbor believes that his religion is true, and this belief is ultimately predicated on metaphysical assumptions that differ from mine. In this sense, our religions are equally valid. As an anarchist or minimalist libertarian, I am obliged to respect the opinions of others on such matters by acquiescing in their right to hold those opinions and to act on them as long as my own rights are not infringed. I may choose not to associate with conspecifics who have views incompatible with my own, but I cannot consistently support any coercive measure that privileges my point of view over any other.

To me, one of the most compelling arguments for libertarianism is that it offers a system in which the maximum diversity of opinions and values may run their course and compete in the marketplace of ideas. Since we cannot know which of these ideas will be truthful or which subjective values everyone ought to have, we would be well served as a species in the long run to provide for as much heterogeneity as possible consistent with the non-aggression principle. This improves the chances that some of us will get something right and that our species will flourish.

I do not welcome the absolutist, however well intentioned, who seeks to impose his opinions and values on me and others via coercion. This includes those pc absolutists who employ relativist arguments to support a coercive agenda which values as absolutely correct the principles of egalitarianism and multi-culturalism with a religious fervor. I loathe the religious right that seeks to impose disabilities on some people because of their sexual orientation and to privilege others, and I loathe the pc left that would compel anyone with a scruple about homosexuality to associate with and honor homosexuals. I loathe the religious right that seeks to interpose the state in a woman's most intimate decisions about her health and fecundity, and I loathe the pc left that would oblige everyone to subsidize abortions and bastardy.

The debased civil discourse in this country is not a debate between absolutism and relativism; rather, it is a debate among absolutists competing for the privilege of controlling how you think and live. The right has been calling the left "relativists" because this appeals to the stupider people in their constituency. This is code for "we are pretending that we intend to impose your religious views on America".

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why Did We Not Evolve to Be Even Smarter Than We Are?

I am fascinated for no good reason with the notion of general intelligence, or g, its heritability and distribution. Assuming the existence of g and its heritability, what is it about relatively high intelligence that keeps it from becoming dominant in the population? That is, why doesn't the average IQ increase through evolutionary pressures to 130 since such an IQ doesn't seem to require bigger heads? Obviously, the higher IQ did not confer a reproductive advantage to our foraging ancestors, but why would this be so?

One explanation might be that the blessing of high intelligence comes with a curse or complex of curses such that there is a stable polymorphism at work. There may be a connection between high IQ and myopia, for example, or other instances of what I call the Geek Factor. Maybe, really smart foragers weren't all that good at foraging or were too busy pondering the existential meaningless of the foraging life to get ahead. Maybe they weren't all that attractive, since the benefits of a really high IQ probably don't kick in until industrialization (and then the demographic transition kicks you in the testes). It's as if the whole foraging period was analagous to high school in which all the dumb jocks got all the girls, only there was no college and white collar careers where the bright ones would get their chance to excel. (How many openings for Shaman were there?) Maybe the bright guys went for the dumber girls. Maybe there were no meaningful and consistent bases for assortative mating.

I bet my imaginary readers have some views on this topic.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Wingnut Christians are Heretics

As a Christian, I am moved to pity the so called Religious Right. Vast numbers of innocent dupes are being misled by cynical false prophets in search of wealth and power. This generation of vipers will surely have a bad time of it come Judgment Day. You know who you are.

The key to the holding all these folks in thrall is stifling spiritual growth and keeping them at the level of convert. This is what comes of what I term "Four Spiritual Laws" Christianity from the Campus Crusade tract of that name. This brand of Christianity, known also as the Arminian Heresy, teaches that what is necessary for salvation is saying a simple formulaic prayer and that the highest calling of a Christian is to get as many folks as possible to say that same prayer. The idea is that the grace of God is insufficient to save and that salvation requires a continuing act of will on the part of the saved. Salvation can be lost if the believer's will is not strong and they lapse into apostasy.

The implications of this heresy are that believers are required only to manifest their continuing will to believe, mainly by following legalistic commandments and eschewing an ever increasing catalogue of sins. This makes the believers especially susceptible to manipulation by unscrupulous religious leaders and pastors. There is no motive or call to manifest inward transformation and discipleship. There is no basis for acting out Christ's love in the world and the here and now. Rather, one hopes only that the end times will come quickly while you are in your precarious state of redemption. The believer is maintained in a state of arrested spiritual development dependent on the guidance and instruction of the false prophet. How else can you explain "Christians" who advocate unjust war and want to exercise coercive power over their fellow men?

What is wanted is a religious revival in which would be Christians are liberated from the yoke of the heretics. Then we may see a political movement of Christians toward individual liberty rather than statist oppression.

Chronic bronchitis sucks and so does the SciFi channel

Three times a year or so, I get asthmatic bronchitis and am laid up for a good week. I usually have to go to work at least part of the time, so I am consoled by the possibility that I might make other people sick. Whatever trifling cold or allergy attack I get moves to my lungs and becomes an infection calling for antibiotics and rest. I took off Friday and did nothing all weekend except stay in bed with the SciFi channel on in the background. Big mistake. It seems that the SciFi channel has some kind of schlock giant insect/mutant monster/other unusually large or aggressive varmint movie factory and/or owns the rights to the most godawful of the genre.

In and out of consciousness, I alternated between my own nightmare world of giant vermin attacking my house and the SciFi movie of the moment. One involved harry Hamlin and mutant rattlesnakes threatening a housing development. The shortsighted and greedy developers would not even warn the public, let alone shut down the project in time for a massive government study and eradication project. Bought off mayor wouldn't back up the concerned fire chief. I fell asleep, but I assume that the developer and mayor got their comeuppance by snake. Jaws and Night of the Lepus were the ultimate of the genre, and every other movie is just a pale imitation of one of these classics. Piranha was pretty good, too.

I prefer the variation on the theme where it is the government itself that unleashed whatever horror is at work because of some weapons program or mind control scheme. Them comes to mind as the paradigm. And most of the Godzilla movies are of this ilk. I read somewhere that Godzilla is America. Big, hulking monster destroys cities but ultimately befriends Japan and only destroys cities out of benevolent motives. Later, monster buys lots of consumer goods on credit and destroys cities only during shopping sprees.

Anyway, my weekend of "horror" has addled my brain. To SciFi, I say, I need more Battlestar Galactica and other quality SciFi fare. Pick up some series that didn't make it on the networks, like Enterprise or Firefly. Play some reruns of old science fiction programming like Red Dwarf or Dr Who or Babylon 5, for God's sake, but don't make any more giant vermin pictures. Do we really need Mansquito, for crying out loud?

The natural disaster flicks also sucked. As much as I enjoyed seeing Manhattan reduced to rubble in Aftershock, I couldn't help but compare this to the original Earthquake with Charlton Heston and Victoria Principal. A little more destruction and a lot less Sharon Lawrence agonizing over her mothering skills next time, please. And the one about the Superstorm really hugged the root. You didn't even have any decent special effects so it seemed just like a regular hurricane. And if the government knows how to stop hurricanes, that's great, not sinister, so the whole evil military story line made no sense at all.

And to think I asked my wife to spring for the more expensive cable package just to get access to this crap. If only I could have found the remote.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Another gratuitous attack on pit bulls

Whiskey Bar, at

gratuitously slurs pit bulls by comparing them to Dick Cheney. I love Billmon and am a regular reader of the blog, but this time he has gone too far. Pit bulls are lovable and amiable and would never exploit their lesbian daughters for political gain. No pit bull has ever used a position of trust to enrich its business associates at the expense of the public. No pit bull has ever badly served his company's shareholders by incompetently buying an asbestos tainted company with no apparent due diligence. No pit bull has ever participated in lying his country into an unjust war for the enrichment of his rich friends and then f***ing it up through arrogance and ineptitude.

Pit bulls are due an apology, Mr Billmon. Cheney does not even look like a pit bull. He lacks their noble bearing and guileless simplicity.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"Activist Judges"

Wingnut acquaintances and relatives often bring up the complaint about activist judges whenever a court has done something disagreeable. This usually involves the court's having obstructed some legislative or executive wingnuttery as unconstitutional. It seems to me, however, that it was the legislature or executive that was "active" in the first place and that obstructing them is about as conservative as you can get.

In all fairness to the wingnuts I know, they are almost all well intentioned dupes who long, as I do, to return to Constitutional principles of limited government and individual liberty. My wingnut acquaintances and relatives are just too busy and/or stupid to realize that the wingnut leadership does not want this at all; rather, they want power for themselves and will say or do anything to get it. The leadership rightly sees the judiciary as an obstruction to their consolidation of power, and they are not calling for curbs on the judiciary to restore the lost Constitution.

Indeed, if we want to restore the lost Constitution, let's start with the really activist branches, the legislature and executive. Think proposed legislation goes beyond the enumerated powers of the federal government? Vote against it, Congresscritters! Veto it, Mr President! I thought so. The wingnuts no more want to see the restoration of the Constitutional order than they want to see the return of Jesus Christ. Either eventuality would see them out of power.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Politically Incorrect Guide to American History

I bought and am reading the Thomas Woods Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Woods confronts the received interpretation of a number of events in American history in a lucid and highly readable manner. If I were king, I would decree that this be part of the high school history curriculum as long as public schools are still in operation. I remember the dismay that I felt after reading on my own after my formal education ended, when I realized that everything I had been taught in public school history classes had been distorted into a neat little narrative of progress and enlightenment compliments of the USG.

I imagine that if I had been taught at a tender age that history is open to interpretation I might have found history a lot more interesting. I might also have been less of a tool of the state.

Purpose Driven Life

The 40 Days of Purpose, a program based on the Purpose Driven Life, kicked off this week, and my small group had its first meeting. We will meet for 5 more weeks and discuss the book based on reading a chapter a day. I was gratified to learn that I do not have to buy into the Arminian heresy of the author in order to participate and that I can just disregard the heretical aspects of the author's theology.

The author, in the simulcast sermon that kicked off the program, went off on evangelism and the need to "save one more for Jesus". He stated explicitly that God wants to save everyone but that His will might be thwarted because I failed to reach someone with the message. Yikes! What if I turn them off with a badly phrased message or a hamfisted delivery? Am I still responsible for their hellboundedness? This is the kind of thing that sent me to the arms of the Calvinists.

That said, I am hoping that the program will be beneficial and lead to some fruitful discussions in the group and in the church community as a whole. Anything that promotes growth should be a good thing.

The idea of figuring out the purpose of this life is attractive. In my fundamentalist upbringing, this life was just a misery to be endured and nothing compared to eternity. In my apostate period, this life was all there is and devoid of inherent meaning. Either way, it seemed pretty pointless. This program suggests that we were created for God's pleasure, in the first instance, and that we are individually designed to utilize our particular talents and gifts to the benefit of our conspecifics. I will keep the imaginary readership posted as I go along.

I am also looking forward to contemplating eternity other than hell. When I was a kid, all we ever got to talk about or hear about was hell, and we glossed over heaven. I never had any good idea of what heaven was supposed to be like. I liked the version in Defending Your Life except for the reincarnation part. The heaven in What Dreams May Come was pretty cool, too, and reminded me of Tipler's virtual heaven in The Physics of Immortality.

I am toying with the idea of eternity as timelessness rather than just infinitley long time, in which case the resurrected self might well embody every moment of one's life all at once. After all, doesn't every moment exist forever as itself lost to us as our consciousness is washed along with the flow of time? If anyone out there knows, fill me in.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Wingnut Israeli Settlers

I watched the Frontline documentary about radical Kahanist settlers in Israel, you know, the guys who murder Arabs and plant bombs at Arab girls' schools.

It was an enlightening program, and I learned more about Israeli terror cells than I imagine I would ever learn from the MSM in 10 years of viewing/reading. But the thing that stuck me the most about the program was how much these guys look and act like the so-called antiglobalization slackers that show up at protests in Seattle and elsewhere.

All the guys were pretty skinny, mostly 20 something, with flannel shirts and wool skull caps. They had scraggly beards and longish hair and danced around like they were on ecstacy (or whatever slackers take nowadays). All that was missing were a few hackeysacks, and I swear you could have been at Woodstock III (or some analogous event, God I'm out of touch).

The big visual difference was the women. They probably didn't shave or wear makeup, but they all wore dark hats or scarves and modest dresses with sensible shoes. Nobody showed anybody their tits (at least not on Frontline).

Of course, the biggest differences were not visual. The Kahanists were celebrating the release of some of their brethren from jail on suspicion of murder. They are looking to drive the Arabs out of Israel and then to establish a Jewish theocracy. They aim to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple. I'm pretty sure slackers aren't looking to kill anyone or to establish a religious tyranny.

That there are such intractable conflicts and irrational elements in Israel leads me to affirm my long held belief that Israel/Palestine will not have peace until the Crusader States are reorganized and a Christian king sits on the throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. As luck would have it, Elizabeth II of Britain is the rightful heir to that throne, and she has a couple of extra sons one of whom could easily be seconded to the Middle East to rule as King. The other could be named Prince of Antioch.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Does the Public Benefit from Special Education?

In defending taxation for public schooling statist apologists frequently argue that educated children benefit everyone in that they grow up to be more productive citizens. I reckon parents get most of the benefit from children and their subsidized education, but even if one buys the argument about public benefit, how can special education be justified? This is some of the most expensive education of all, and such kids will probably never amount to anything more than taking tickets for the Tilt'aWhirl, a job that requires no book learning.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Salience and Competence WRT Birds

I have theorized in the past about the dynamic connection between salience and competence and have applied this to sport. The more you know about a sport, the more interesting it is, the more you want to know, and so on. The first time I saw cricket, it seemed to me that nothing was happening. I eventually learned more about the game and am now a fan. I have travelled to test matches and have in the past spent entire summers of weekends at limited overs matches. Soccer seems to me to be random running around on a lawn, but I know that if I bothered to learn the game it would become more interesting.

I decided to try to identify the birds that visit my garden and have been looking them up in my Petersen guide. It is amazing to me that, once I have identified a species, I see them everywhere when I never used to notice them at all. They have become salient because I am competent to identify them. And I find that I am becoming keen to know more about the habits of the birds I can identify. Is this connection between competence and salience exploited in education?

So far this year, the following birds have been seen feeding outside our kitchen window: junco, chipping sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, tufted titmouse, black capped chickadee, mourning dove. In the back garden, I saw a robin today, and crows have been filing across the lawn since the snow melted. A turkey vulture was sighted on the road last week, and wild turkeys are frequent visitors to the wetland next door. There are some raptors, but I have not been able to identify them with any confidence.

We hung a woodpecker feeder by the fence, and we hope that this will entice some other species. Spring's arrival should bring more species to the house.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Synthesis of Wealth Flows and Capital Investment Models of the Demographic Transition

The demographic transition, where more developed countries and wealthier folks in any country have relatively lower fertility than less developed and poorer counterparts, has been explained on the one hand on the basis of flows of wealth and on the other hand by differential capital investment. The models based on flows of wealth predict decreased fertility when more wealth flows to younger generations than from them to older generations. Accordingly, farmers who get lots of work out of their children may be expected to be more fecund than accountants who get little, if any, work from their offspring. Movement from an agricultural to an industrial economy changes the dynamic of flows of wealth. Capital investment models predict that more affluent countries and classes within countries invest more in each individual child and, therefore, will have fewer higher quality children while poor folks, who expect to invest little in their children, will have relatively more low quality kids. I have simplified these models egregiously, but the foregoing is enough for our present purposes.

These models are problematic because it appears that, taking everything monetary into account, children almost never pay their own freight. Farmers don't actually profit from their children's labor since they have to support them and usually have to set them up in life on their own at some point. The capital investment model does not predict fertilty differences all that well and seems to depend on positing an inherent difference between rich and poor in the value of children and the calculus that goes into childbearing decisions.

I think both models could be fit into a larger consumption model that sees fertility decisions as involving cost benefit analyses that include the intangible value of children to potential parents as consumer goods (albeit of a special type) and, most significantly, opportunity costs. This eliminates the need to posit an across the board class-based difference in the subjective value of children.

In the model I am proposing, children are valuable to parents primarily for their entertainment value. Parents derive enjoyment and satisfaction from their children in ways analogous to pet ownership or other hobbies. The value placed on this will differ among individuals, but this difference is not dependent on class status. It is not necessary to say that folks with more children value them more than folks with fewer or that folks with more value each child less than folks with fewer children. The difference is entirely subjective and individualistic and, in modeling large groups, can be plugged in as a hypothetical average value.

I submit that the most significant difference between rich and poor countries and people will be in opportunity costs and that this will prove to be the best predictor of fertility. Assuming that two families find children equally amusing, the family with the greater costs, including opportunity costs, will be less likely to reproduce than the other family. A potential mother with an MBA and earning potential in six figures will have significantly greater potential costs than a potential mother with no advanced education or work skills. Staying home with an infant will cost the former many times more than it will cost the latter. Moreover, the MBA may derive significant satisfaction from her career in contrast the satisfaction enjoyed by a fry cook at BK (notwithstanding the fabulous new breakfast sandwiches). If the MBA outsources her childrearing to a nanny or day care, this will both increase costs and reduce the net entertainment value of the child to her.

In addition, the more educated and affluent family may consider that childbearing means that they will have to forego alternative amusements, such as a social life or cultural life or travel. The poorer family doesn't do those things anyway and mostly stays home. Child raising is one of the few amusements available to them.

Finally, in a nod to the capital investment model, the richer family will have to throw more money into their kids for status reasons. Just as they might drive a luxury car when an economy car would be just as serviceable, they will feel the desire to provide their children with costly educations and accoutrements in keeping with their station in society. The poorer family can raise children on the cheap, relatively speaking.

In sum, opportunity costs, in the form of lost earning power and foregone alternative consumption, dampen fertility and drive the demographic transition. Ultimately, folks on either side of the transition have as many children as they can afford.

Consent Withdrawn

I am often confronted by statists with the idea that some state program or policy is part of the "social contract" and unassailable. Education often comes under this argument. Well, for the record, I did not sign any social contract and I do not consent to any such contract. I withdraw any consent given on my behalf by my ancestors or any other person or entity.

And while I am at it, let the record show that I do not consent to the authority of the government of any level. If I obey government edicts, it is under duress and coercion. The government is not legitimate as far as I am concerned.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Are We Too Stupid to Be Free?

I read a lot of libertarianish blogs and am gung ho for freedom myself. One thing that troubles me, though, is how the free society is supposed to work when we are such idiots. I know from my anthropological studies that mankind lived without much government for most of our existence, but it does not take much to run a foraging band or a smallish group practicing subsistence agriculture.

But in our complex world, are we smart enough to govern ourselves? Half of us are below average in IQ. And average folks and those in the first standard deviation clustered around the average don't really strike me as rocket scientists or philosophers. I fear that we could have a free society on Sunday and by Wednesday some wicked operators will have worked up my idiot conspecifics into recreating a powerful state. Propaganda travels fast, and we are so used to turning to the state to solve our problems, that it would take the slightest overexaggerated threat to get us to vote ourselves into subjugation.

The first problem libertarians should address then, if they ever hope to live in a free society and to keep one if they can create it, is to come up with a set of libertarian memes that even the stupidest of us can work with and act upon. I would place my bets on a religious basis for libertarianism as the most likely to succeed and sustain itself. If it's what God wants, the sheeple will at least pretend to go along with it out of fear of hell mainly.

So all you atheist and anti-religious libertarians out there should adopt Christianity as an example to your inferiors and work with the Christian libertarians to figure out a way to tie libertarianism to Christ. Remember how the Israelites clamored for a king even though God warned them against it? That was God announcing his libertarianism. Remember the Commandments against stealing and killing? That was God for private property and non-aggression. Remember God telling the Israelites to kill the Canaanites? Forget that, we have the New Testament now, and Jesus was firmly in the non-aggression, property respecting libertarian camp.

Even wingnut fundamentalist Christians can be won over. They can hate homosexuals and secular humanists to their hearts' content in the free society. They can coalesce into compounds of like minded wingnuttery and live their version of the righteous life in peace. And they won't have to worry about teaching evolution in public schools-- there won't be any public schools!

And liberal Christians will get on board when they realize that they will have so much more disposable income thanks to low taxes that they can fund the good works and charitable concerns they care so much about.

I have convinced myself, and perhaps some of my imaginary readers, that a Christ based libertarianism is a must if we are ever to achieve and maintain liberty. We will never be able to make a convincing intellectual argument for libertarianism because there is insufficient intellect to engage.