I’ve been engaged in some high-energy debates over the past few days, which have stimulated me to write mini-essays on various topics of my own interest.
On Boxing Day 2009 I pull some excerpts of what I’ve written off the various pages I have been debating them on and put them on my own front page. I have newly edited some of these to eliminate extraneous matter and focus them.
On Whether I’m Reasonably Intelligent or Fucking Stupid
Speaking of science, I have a question about your temper. Is it possessed of infinite energy, or is it living disproof of special relativity? It seems that it must be one or the other, as it appears to take you from Reasonably Intelligent to Goddamn, This Guy Is Fucking Stupid at faster than 186,000 miles per second.
– Thomas L. Knapp, Publisher, Rational Review
A man does not get to judge himself intelligent or stupid. That’s for somebody else to judge. One could hope for an objective judge but the truth is that most people think someone is smart when they say something they agree with, and stupid when they say something they disagree with.
I’m a writer. I lay myself open to have what I write judged every day I publish my thoughts here.
Am I smart? Isn’t that the last question that needs to be asked?
Am I just saying things to make me popular among a set of people with fixed ideas? That would make me seem smart to those people. It works for Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and Bill Maher.
Do I care about the truth of what I write or am I just writing to win debating points?
Do I care about being clever more than I care about discovering truth?
When I write something short and to the point, am I being merely pithy or insightful?
Am I a simpleton or can I boil the complex down to its essentials?
I’ve been a published writer for close to four decades. An awful lot of my stuff can be found just by Googling what I’ve written as a guest columnist on Rational Review for years. Or reading my books, several of which I’ve made available to be read free on the web. Or just reading what I’ve posted daily for close to two months here.
I’ll let my readers decide.
On Global Warming
The proof that Global Warming is not science but a scam can come down to two easy to understand points:
1) The major greenhouse gas on planet earth — 95% of greenhouse gas — is water vapor. Carbon dioxide — which comes out of our mouths when we exhale — and methane — which comes out our asses when we fart — are a tiny fraction of the atmosphere compared to water vapor. Yet these con artists have gotten away with the idea that fractional increases in fractional gasses which living things make will destroy the environment. It’s an obvious lie which anyone with an IQ above room temperature can understand.
2. Climate change on earth tracks closely with measurements astronomers have made of climate change on other planets in the solar system, where human beings don’t exist, where living things don’t exist, where capitalism and industry don’t exist. That makes it obvious that the sun controls the major climate changes on this planet, not human beings, living things, or capitalist industry.
Either one of these is a proof that man-made capitalist global warming is horse shit. You don’t need to know more science than this to understand that they’re lying for reasons of seizing political power.
And when they cripple the energy supplies human beings need to survive and suggest the cure for global warming is reducing the population, you understand the object of the fraud is totalitarian control.
To come to the conclusion that fractional changes in the amount of a single gas — carbon dioxide — in the earth’s atmosphere could create a catastrophic change sufficient to flood continental lowlands one has to be able to make a firm statement that “all other things will remain equal.”
No scientist could ever make such a firm statement. The human biosphere is pretty much a closed system. Solar weather and rare impacts of large extraterrestrial objects are the only major external factors from outside the atmosphere, and eruptions from underneath the earth’s crust entering our biosphere are the other major external factors.
Leaving those aside for a moment, and concentrating just on human-caused factors, we’re already having to account for the impact of 6.7 billion humans going about their daily lives before you could focus on the changes of a single factor such as carbon-dioxide emissions.
Every time someone made a fire, you have to account not only for the release of carbon dioxide — which theoretically could have a warming effect — but the fire releasing particulate matter into the atmosphere, which would have a cooling effect.
Every time someone put a pot on the stove to boil water the release of the major greenhouse gas — water vapor — would have to be accounted for.
Every time someone changed the tiles on their roof from a dark, solar-absorbing color to a light solar-reflective color one would have to account for the difference.
Is your swimming pool full or empty? Do you have a cover on it? Major factors that would to be accounted for.
A water desalination plant removes salt from sea water and it’s released back into the ecosystem as fresh water. Major changes that need to be accounted for.
A city switches from diesel buses that release particulate matter into the atmosphere — blocking sunlight — to a fleet of Clean Natural Gas — “greenhouse gas” methane — buses. Has to be accounted for.
A heavy snowfall at the sources of rivers can change the saline content of the bays they empty into — has to be accounted for.
Now you have those extra-bubble events for which human beings have no control: meteor impacts, volcanic eruptions, changes in solar weather. A single volcanic eruption can shoot more sunlight-blocking particulate matter into the atmosphere in a few days than is contained in the entire history of human industrial pollution.
Is this enough? Anyone who lives in the world and has an elementary-school understanding of earth sciences — or at least when I was in school a half century ago — could figure out pretty quickly that for anyone to claim that minor changes in a single fractional gas — carbon dioxide — to be able to be claimed as causing global warming, you would first have to be able to account for all these millions and millions of other independent factors.
It’s obviously false. To state the obvious isn’t arrogant. To call people who state as even possible such an absurdity anything less than liars or dupes is to doubt one’s own sanity, one’s entire understanding that we live in an ecosystem far too complex for any real scientist to make categorical predictions worthy of crippling the production and supply of plentiful human sources of energy in favor of this crackpot Big Lie.
Even if we were to concede, as a thought experiment, that Al Gore’s worst-case scenario were true — and the addition of carbon dioxide and methane into earth’s atmosphere was going to cause massive flooding of coastal lowlands — why should anyone assume that trying to limit industrial release of greenhouse gases is the most cost-effective or even achievable solution?
How about paying to move human settlements to higher ground? Or building seawalls for lowlanders, like in Holland? What about new floating cities with people living in houseboats and working on floating platforms? Or just really big floating platforms, like oil-drilling rigs or aircraft carriers.
Surely global warming makes polar-adjacent lands currently uninhabitable due to cold more attractive for new migration, development, and industrialization?
The neat thing about having alternative solutions not dependent on crippling current industry — as my friend Brad Linaweaver points out — is that it costs far less to makes plans for a global catastrophe in case it ever happens than to blow trillions of dollars — and destroy economic growth — on the dubious premise that God and Al Gore have ordained it as a future certainty.
And why assume polar bears can’t stand warmer weather? They have heat reflective white fur, and might be far more comfortable in warmer climes than their brown and black-furred relatives.
Isn’t the first lesson of Darwin and Spencer that adaptability to a changing environment is a necessary survival trait? Since when did the human species exempt itself from the necessity of adapting to changing environmental conditions, and instead demand that we air-condition the earth to our chosen comfort zone?
I don’t know who asked it first — I’ve heard it attributed to Dennis Miller — but would someone please tell me the exact ideal temperature to which we’re supposed to set the Global Thermostat?
Information Objects as Property
You go into a Waldenbooks and plunk down cash for a book that says on the cover “ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.” You get it home … and the first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Now, what you bought is a book and this book has got everything that makes a book a book: a binding, hundreds of sheets of paper with printed ink impressions on it, and a cover. Let’s even pretend that the book you took home has the same number of pages, the same dimensions and weight, the same binding and style of printing as the book with the composition called ATLAS SHRUGGED. Do you have any just cause of complaint if the composition of words inside the book turns out to be something other than what the cover says? If you answer no, then you got everything you paid for. But if you answer yes, then you are saying that the composition of words makes this book a different commodity from the book you thought you were buying, and therefore you are rightfully entitled to a copy of the composition of words labelled ATLAS SHRUGGED.”
–J. Neil Schulman, Informational Property: Logorights
Does the difference in composition of words make an otherwise identical physical object a different thing — yes or no?
Did the buyer who expected to get a copy of Atlas Shrugged and who got a copy of A Tale of Two Cities get what they paid for — yes or no?
If the answer is yes to the first of these questions or no to the second, then you have conceded that the composition of words — the logos — is the sole differentia between two physical objects — and therefore the logos is what makes it a different thing.
If the logos makes these two otherwise identical objects different things then that which makes them different things is what gives them their value — and the property rights case for the logos is made.
The real-world difference between two otherwise identical books — one with the composed text of Atlas Shrugged and one with the composed text of A Tale of Two Cities — is the composition of words. These are objective differentia that can be discovered by either human readers or even machine intelligence. The compositions, as information, have different mathematical values that can be calculated.
It is a true statement that there are minute differences in every single object that exists. But the word “duplicate” is a meaningful term in that the essential utility of a book is to be read (yes, I know books can be used by interior decorators and also be used to hold up a broken table leg or as a paper weight) but the essential quality of a book — why human beings go to the trouble of manufacturing them — is that they are convenient means of recording and transporting the printed words, symbols, and art work on the pages.
Atlas Shrugged is identified as a distinct commodity by its words, whether they exist printed in a hardcover book, or a paperback book, or read aloud as a recording, or as bits of data stored or transmitted digitally. The entity that is Atlas Shrugged is an information object — a real-world thing — separate, distinguishable by man or machine, and valued apart from the multiplicity of physical forms on which it may be recorded or performed.
The usefulness — utility — which human beings have for this objectively and observably distinct information object — this thing — is based on the presence, intactness, completeness, and availability of that objectively and observably distinct information object.
The subjective value which any human being will or will not assign to this objectively and observably distinct information object will be based on the objectively and observably distinct identity.
A human being will take action with respect to acquiring, using, keeping, or discarding that objectively and observably distinct information object because no matter how many different objects, forms, or transformations it goes through it’s identity is the same and therefore it’s the same thing.
That which makes it a distinct thing — that which gives it distinct utility — that which makes it distinctly an object of desire by a human being’s subjective perceptions and choice — is its material identity.
That which makes it a thing makes it ownable.
He who creates it is its first owner.
Those who respect property rights must respect that if a thing can be identified as unique and different –- and can be recognized as a thing created by someone — that its creator owns it.
The rest of my logorights argument uses commonly accepted theories of ownership and history of property rights transactions in the real world — to show how ownership rights in material identity can be claimed, recognized, traded, and protected — just like all other naturally occurring property rights — without the existence of the State.
On Economics as Science
Translating supposedly complex ideas into simple English:
The labor theory and cost principle are logically entailed in man’s nature as a being who maximizes utility and (more to the point) minimizes disutility. [...]
Translation: Men tend to be lazy.
A producer will continue to bring his goods to market only if he receives a price necessary, in his subjective evaluation, to compensate him for the disutility involved in producing them. And he will be unable to charge a price greater than this necessary amount, for a very long time, if market entry is free and supply is elastic, because competitors will enter the field until price equals the disutility of producing the final increment of the commodity.
Translation: Nobody’s going to sell anything if it’s not worth his while, and it might not be for a while because of competition.
Such statements require no verification beyond an a priori understanding of human nature. Mises himself wrote on the self-evident character of the axioms of praxeology, repeatedly and at length…
Translation: This is obvious to anyone with two brain lobes to rub together.
Similarly, the labor theory of value is based, not on an inductive generalization from the observed movement of prices, but on an a priori assumption about why price approximates cost, except to the extent to which some natural or artificial scarcity causes deviations from this relationship.”
Translation: If the author thinks the cost of production has anything to do with the value of a good to a buyer, the author has never been to a liquidation auction.
Economics has been called the dismal science, but that is using the word “science” only in the most generous way, where the epistemological rigors of the scientific method are nowhere to be found.
Economics is a soft science because it attempts to make generally true statements about the behaviors of billions of individual volitional actors, and neither experiment nor real-world testing of a premise is possible because all predictions require a ceteris paribus never possible in the real world.
But then again — in the day when astronomers have to take a vote in a latter-day Nicene Conclave as to whether Pluto is a planet — even traditionally “hard” sciences have gotten quite fuzzy.
When one reads through the major works of the Austrian School of Economics — as I have done — one does indeed have to crawl on one’s belly over a stinking corpse-filled battlefield of dead ideas to get to a few fresh ideas that have provided some useful analytic tools to the arsenal of the social sciences. The assumptions of Austrian extreme a priorism — as von Mises well understood — are as arbitrary as the rules of Chess. Like math, some of them can be applied within specific contexts to answer certain real-world questions. They are maps, not the territory.
The usefulness of Austrian Economics is that it denies all attempts to treat human beings and human transactions collectively. It recognizes that economics is a study of unpredictable actors. It understands by its first assumptions that it rests on the assumption of individual free will.
On Being an Anarchist
If Zen has any lesson to teach, it’s the same ones Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics try to teach: labels lie, categories lie.
So what if I am or am not an “anarchist”? What the fuck difference does it make? Is there some Board of Anarchists who’s going to censure me if I don’t stick to the Anarchist Party Line and recite the Anarchist Catechism?
I want individual freedom … as much as is offered on the menu. Everything else is debating strategy and tactics.
I’ve called myself an anarchist frequently. What I’ve always meant by that is that I do not see the State, or coercive government, as a good way for human beings to organize their affairs. It is inefficient, encourages and rewards bad behavior, tends to demented analysis and consequently solutions with harsh unintended consequences, legitimizes criminal behavior and outlaws decent and benevolent behavior.
But I have also been awake on Earth for over 56 years in this lifetime, and except for the first dozen or so I’ve had a pretty good chance to get a sense of how things work on this planet.
There are no societies on this planet which have no government. There are territories in constant states of war between contending factions to form a government, but they are violent places with even less respect for rights than places with functioning monopolistic governments.
As a practical man I note that I live in a world which does not offer me the possibility of living in anything close to what I would consider a reasonable or benevolent social order.
Every place on this planet — including the high seas — is within the reach of powers representing governments that I think should not exist.
I also think that there is nothing in the nature of the human species that precludes achieving better forms of organization.
But I also note that achieving any sort of approach to reorganization of human affairs along the lines of recognizing individual human rights and forgoing violence and coercion in dealing with others is — despite several centuries of trying — beyond the reach of those who have tried.
I am therefore left two alternatives. Live a life of pure protest and have nothing to do with the rest of the world, or make accommodations with the rest of my species who to one extent or another approve of and participate in State- and government-related activities.
I choose the latter.
I regard the federal government of the United States of America as a severely degraded version of the Republican principles of the Constitution of the United States, particularly the Bill of Rights. But at least those documents give us a lofty standard by which to judge its lack of fidelity to its founding principles.
That, to me, makes American government — as shitty as it is — superior to governments throughout the rest of planet earth with no such history of documentary idealism.
I am proud to be an American because of the ideals of the American Revolution and the love the American people have expressed for those ideals — often with “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
But I find that a lot of anarchists and libertarians are unable to make distinctions and relative judgments between and among one government and another. They are binary rather than textured in their cognition and analysis of politics.
Not America good.
It’s downright Animal Farm.
Not playing that game anymore, and I have little use for those who still do.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!