The Feel-Good Franchise

Sheldon Richman seizes upon the senseless sequester squealing as an opportunity to make more general points (via Cafe Hayek). There’s nothing strikingly original, but it’s all impressively sound. The point of departure is Bryan Caplan’s analysis, which Richman summarizes as the question: “…if the ‘informed voter’ is a chimera, how can we expect democracy to yield desirable outcomes?”

Since democratic large numbers drown out both the effectiveness of any vote, and the private consequences of subsequent policy …

… it’s costless to vote for the candidate who makes you feel good about yourself. As Bryan Caplan has shown, given these incentives, people tend to vote according to their biases, which for most people embody economic fallacies.

Yet the keepers of the system (pundits included) play a game in which they pretend that voters are informed and make wise decisions.

Common rhapsodizing about democracy notwithstanding, the details of what Leviathan does are beyond comprehension. (Remember, members of Congress don’t read the bills.) Even an enthusiast for big government can’t tell if this government’s policies do good or harm. Yet the cult of democracy aims at maximum participation in elections. If a small number of ignorant voters is not good, how can a larger number be an improvement?

Here’s a better idea: let people cooperate with one another in the free market, and leave as few matters as possible to the overrated democratic arena.

Good luck with that.

March 11, 2013admin 16 Comments »
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“The truth is kind of a dark thing”

Tortured liberal Robert Huber writes on the race-crushed culture of Philadelphia (via Sailer), vividly describing people psychological broken and warped by fear — the author, of course, among them.

I yearn for much more: that I could feel the freedom to speak to my African-American neighbors about, say, not only my concerns for my son’s safety living around Temple, but how the inner city needs to get its act together. That I could take the leap of talking about something that might seem to be about race with black people.

I wouldn’t do that, though, because it feels too risky. …

But this is how I see it: We need to bridge the conversational divide so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia — white people talking to other whites, and black people to blacks — but a city in which it is okay to speak openly about race. That feels like a lot to ask, a leap of faith for everyone. It also seems like the only place to go, the necessary next step.

Meanwhile, when I drive through North Philly to visit my son, I continue to feel both profoundly sad and a blind desire to escape.

Though I wonder: Am I allowed to say even that?

(No.)

ADDED: Not a tortured white liberal. “Both the Progressives at the beginning of the 20th century and the liberals at the end started from the same false premise — namely, that there is something unusual about different racial and ethnic groups having different achievements.”

March 8, 2013admin 37 Comments »
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Natural Law

“Some critics of Morsi argue that the U.S. should let him fail,” reports David Ignatius, as Egypt spirals down the drain.

Let X fail is the cosmic formula for getting policy right.

March 7, 2013admin 4 Comments »
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Cybernetic De-Activation

It really isn’t that complicated:

Once the State enforces quasi-monopolies and cartels, inefficiencies rise because the feedback from reality (i.e. price) has been severed. This is how you get an economy where a biopsy costs $70,000, new fighter aircraft cost $200+ million each (six times the previous top-of-the-line fighter) and a conventional (i.e. non-Ivy League) college education costs $120,000 – $200,000.

March 6, 2013admin 21 Comments »
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Reaction Points (#1)

The concept of world citizenship leads naturally to the progressive antithesis of the Moldbuggian thesis — to all voice, no exit — in a word, to democracy. The world is that from which there is no exit.
Nydwracu

Spandrell introduces two engrossing discussion themes to run with. Are contemporary trends in robotics leading to a Marxian revival? (Or: Is atavistic tribalism the wave of the near future?) Also: What do we really think HBD is telling us?

This is a strong candidate for the most thoroughly decent thing I’ve ever read. (It helps that the topic is an unfashionably decent man, and a once-decent country). These remarks (December 29, 2012 at 10:40 pm), however, are pure tantalization: “I’ve been thinking about writing something about the difference between some reactionaries who believe a multi-racial society is possible if we stop pretending that everyone is the same (and make other adjustments, see Singapore or Rhodesia or other historical societies) and white nationalists. I’m in the former camp.” [ditto]
Occam’s Razor lays out the pessimistic case.

Radish has changed formats, so I can open the damn thing at last … (crikes!)

It is really easy to kill cockroaches… yet they exist and prosper. Woolly mammoths are hard (and quite dangerous) to kill, yet they do not exist. Which is bitcoin more like?
— Nick B. Steves (March 5th, 2013 at 7:48 pm)

March 6, 2013admin 24 Comments »
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Bitcoin Horror Stories

Bitcoin Dies, Moldbug ventures, perhaps sometime this year. Following a broad DOJ indictment for money laundering, targeting any and everybody remotely connected with the free currency, the “BTC/USD price falls to 0 and remains there.”

“[R]emains there” — how cute is that? Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Bitcoin R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

Bitcoin simulates gold, and once ‘mined’ it lasts for ever. If it “falls to 0” it has to remain there, for eternity, because it can never be finished. It can die, but never be destroyed. It’s built for undeath.

‘Moldbug Monetary Theory’ attributes the value of money exclusively to speculation. If the speculators are terrorized sufficiently, BTC drops onto the flatline, and “remains there.” The market would be totally extinguished. What Mao failed to achieve, let alone sustain, USG would somehow accomplish, perhaps by exhibiting greater revolutionary ardor and ruthlessness.

Ruthlessness would certainly be necessary, for the obvious reason that flatline-BTC has zero downside risk. It’s a one-way bet that someone, somewhere, will re-animate it (“nothing is unstable” (thanks to fotrkd for the reminder)). If a genius was designing irresistible speculator-bait, zero-degree bitcoin would be hard to improve upon. It’s free, and it’s only worth nothing if the cops can secure the crypt flawlessly, and forever. Did anyone say ‘free money’?

Speculation messes with time, by bringing the future forward. If undead BTC were ever to be re-awakened, it already has been. Its economic potential flows back down the timeline, modified by a time-preference discount. The feedback becomes strange, and difficult to confidently calculate, but it works as a vitalizing charge, and the corpse unmistakably twitches. Whatever money at t0 is worth, if it’s anything at all, at t0-n it almost certainly can’t be zero.

The Necronomicon describes flatline-BTC with creepy exactitude:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

ADDED: An alternative take on Bitcoin and undeath from Yifo Guo, interviewed here (H/T Nick B. Steves, in this comment thread): “… the point is, the idea will never die. Even if bitcoin dies, an alternative will arise, one that addresses the vulnerability that was previously exploited. Then you get bitcoin 2.0.”

March 5, 2013admin 43 Comments »
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Non-Shock

Information is surprise value (improbability). Given that definition, does this article contain any information at all?

March 4, 2013admin 9 Comments »
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Bitcoin vs Leviathan

Moldbug’s prediction: Freedom loses (as usual).

The question is this: Which dominates? The malignancy of Leviathan, or its incompetence? How radically can the metastatic cancer-phase State shape reality in conformity to its vision?

Bitcoin — which is essentially an experiment in Austrian monetary theory — provides the model test-bed in which this question can be lucidly decided. Its current rising fortunes only accelerates the decision. If Bitcoin can’t be stopped, Leviathan is exposed as a paper tiger.

The best way to make the bet, of course, is to buy (or short) BTC. Outside in has been too apathetic to put resources behind its hunches yet, but (for the zilch it’s worth) our intuitions run contra Moldbug on the topic. Compared to Cyberspace, where bitcoin is entrenched, the State is weak, unintelligent, uninformed, parochial, poorly designed, and — in each respect — getting ever more so, in both comparative and absolute terms. The truly stupendous idiocy of Leviathan thoroughly swamps its evil, as is demonstrated every time it tries to get something done.

The digital Outside, in contrast, is already far beyond recall. The germ of a free economy is under construction.

[UF on Bitcoin (June 2011) here]

March 1, 2013admin 108 Comments »
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Harsh, but true

This argument is both empirically and rationally impeccable:

If you cooperate to kill and eat large animals, that is a lot more cooperation than if you live on fruit, nuts, and insects.

If you cooperate to make war and genocide, that is a lot more cooperation than if you cooperate to kill large animals.

Chimps and men kill and eat deer, monkeys and suchlike. Chimps and men make war. Therefore the common ancestor of chimps and men made killed and ate large animals, and made war – was a killer ape. The ancestors of men are that branch of the lineage that ate meat more heavily, the ancestors of chimps are that branch of the lineage that ate meat less heavily.

Cooperative killing is the killer application for intelligence.

February 28, 2013admin 19 Comments »
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The Living Faith

Comedy gem of the day, from Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian:

“You can fool a democracy only so long.”

February 28, 2013admin No Comments »
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