Review of “When Gravity Fails” by George Effinger

August 26, 2010

This book is another detective sci-fi novel.

It’s one of the better ones that I have read, in that it manages to be both legitimate science fiction and legitimate detective story. The sci-fi is probably the more interesting part, but the two intersect nicely.

It’s set in a world in which the Soviet Union and US collapse at roughly the same time. The result is that the first- and second-world revert to small principalities or kingdoms. The book is set in the Muslim portion of the world – and the Muslims are getting set to take over the world. I found this setting interesting and absolutely believable.

The other interesting bit is that people have Matrix-style inputs directly into their brains that allow them to take on different personalities or to instantly knowing everything about any subject. Needless to say, this creates some interesting possibilities for a detective novel.



The meaning of a priori

August 26, 2010

Will Wilkinson says the following:

First, I don’t believe in a priori anything. My view is very similar to my one-time grad advisor Michael Devitt in his aptly titled paper, “ There Is No A Priori.” There is only one way of knowing: the empirical way! . . .

Where I definitely part ways with the conservative is that I think it is both possible and desirable to critically evaluate our “full-bodied tradition” — to identity inherited habits of feeling, such as patriotism, that have generally pernicious consequences, and to argue against them on those grounds. (Perhaps Foster should consider that I’m hard on patriotism not because I don’t appreciate the overriding power of moral emotion, but because I do.) This evaluation isn’t done “on a chalkboard,” but through a delicate, messy, and indeterminate process of seeking wide reflective equilibrium — the process of detecting and eliminating internal inconsistencies within our traditional moral judgments, and then detecting and eliminating inconsistencies between our refined judgments and the well-established findings of the psychological, social, and other relevant sciences.

The problem with this is that it’s wrong.

Wilkinson believes that "the only way of knowing" is empirical. By this, he seems to me that he can "critically evaluate our ‘full-bodied tradition’" and render judgment unto it (from on high).

The conservative belief is that this action is impossible for one human being – or any group of human beings – to do. No one can: 1) completely conceive of the entirety of our tradition; 2) understand all possible alternative states; and 3) determine which state would be best.

Wilkinson, however, believes that he can. This belief of his is an a priori belief. There is absolutely no empirical reason to believe that 1-3 are possible. He takes it as a priori true that it is possible. Finally, this belief is obviously the most conceited possible belief that a person could hold. I think it’s difficult to believe in an omnipotent God, but it’s fucking crazy to believe in an omnipotent Wilkinson.

He then goes on to discuss patriotism, which he blithely tells us has "generally pernicious consequences."

This example illustrates my point. Does patriotism have "generally pernicious consequences?" Some types of patriotism do, some don’t. When patriotic societies are compared to unpatriotic or apatriotic (if I can invent a word) what do we see? It’s hard to say, since the latter types don’t last long.

Modern art?

August 26, 2010

Nope, just a normal scene from a diverse neighborhood

More on liberaltarianism

August 25, 2010

Ok, apparently a lot people think this is a good article, so I’m going to rebut each point:

1. In the US, they believed the prices of goods and services should be set by the government. Ditto for wages. This took the form of the NIRA in the 1930s. It took the form of multiple industry regulatory agencies like the ICC and CAB. By the late 1960s and early 1970s they favored “incomes policies” which were essentially across the board wage and price controls. Today they generally favor letting the market set wages and prices. Very liberal Massachusetts recently abolished all rent controls.

The US government, for all intents and purposes, now runs the financial industry. Virtually every financial company that isn’t already quasi-nationalized may be quasi-nationalized at any moment. Honestly, is this really better than fixing gas prices from a libertarian standpoint?

Basically everyone now works for the government. If the government employees such a huge percentage of the population, it no longer needs to fix wages explicitly – it does so implicitly.

Finally, rent control has been abolished because it failed, not because of some liberal coming-to-Jesus moment.

2. In the US, they believed the government should control entry to new industries. They have abandoned that belief in many industries, and based on recent posts by people like Matt Yglesias, are becoming increasingly disillusioned with remaining occupational restrictions.

I’m willing to bet that the number of jobs requiring qualifications has increases substantially since the 1930s or the 1960s. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not persuaded unless I see some aggregate numbers.

The government has also outlawed entire industries during this time – it’s not clear how this should effect any aggregate assessment.

3. They favored 90% tax rates on the rich. Today they favor rates closer to 50% on the rich.

Now we’re talking. This is the meat of liberaltarianism. If liberaltarianism succeeds, this will be a typical "success." The liberaltarians don’t want to take 90% of your marginal income, only 50%! Someone put that on some yard signs. Electoral success is sure to follow along with broader libertarian paradise. Murray Rothbard would be proud.

4. In most countries liberals thought government should own large corporations. Today most liberals around the world think large enterprises should be privatized. Over the next few decades there will be trillions of dollars in new privatizations, and very few nationalizations.

Except banks, companies that manufacture stuff, companies facing emergencies, pay-day lenders, rating agencies, healthcare providers . . .

Of course we no longer call these actions "nationalizations." Instead, we call them "emergency capital injections," which are totally different than nationalize because . . . er . . . for the reason that . . . well, never mind.

A new pinnacle of chutzpah?

August 25, 2010

At The Money Illusion, it is written – apparently in all seriousness:

But the long run trend around the world has been strongly liberaltarian, and will almost certainly remain so for the foreseeable future. Just the other day Denmark decided to cut unemployment benefit eligibility from 4 years to 2 years. Think about what that means. Two French researchers (Algan and Cahuc) found that Danes had the most liberal/civic-minded attitudes on Earth. They argued that Denmark was the country most suited to have social insurance programs, because the non-deserving would be less likely to abuse the programs in Denmark than in any other country. Yet even in ultra-honest Denmark it was found that a large number of workers mysteriously found jobs immediately after their unemployment benefits ran out. So they are cutting back. Denmark already has the freest markets in the world, and now they are shrinking their welfare state. No wonder the Danes are so happy, despite dreary weather.

Is this a new height of chutzpah?

During this same time, unemployment insurance in the US has been extended to basically forever! What makes this particularly ironic is that these benefits were extended by the Democratic majority in the US government, which is in place largely because of libertarian compromises with liberalism during the last election cycle.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that virtually any system of government will work in Denmark, or Sweden, or Minnesota. The same is not going to be true in DC, for example. This fact is deeply un-liberal.

(HT: Aretae)

Defending SWPLs

August 24, 2010

Steve Sailer has some kind things to say about SWPLs.

I like living near SWPLs. I liked it a lot more in Minnesota and Seattle – when there were no NAMs around – than in DC or St. Louis. SWPL ideas do very little harm in NAM-free zones. Improving public transportation in DC, for example, isn’t always the best idea.

To Miss with Love

August 24, 2010

Seems to be blogging regularly again. Good stuff, as usual.