Free Trade Is Great

In general.

But we do not live "in general." We live in particulars. And free trade may not be so great in a particular case. An example:

If I had been the king of the United States in 1985, I would have been worried about the fate of Detroit. Yes, the U.S. auto industry has become sclerotic, and things had to change. But I would have worried about the impending death of a great American city. What I would have done is declare a tariff on foreign automobile imports, set high enough in year one to protect Detroit's current sales, and then declining over, perhaps, 20 years, so that at the end there was no tariff at all. This gives the people of the city time to adjust their lives to the new reality. Other Americans would have paid somewhat more for cars during that period, but it would be worth it... to protect the common good of American society.

Of course, I made myself king in the above scenario. An obvious problem is that in reality, once the tariff was established, there would have been intense lobbying to keep it in place. But these practical difficulties are merely indicators that our politics has lost the sense of seeking the common good, and are not a problem with judicious trade regulations themselves.

I'm liking Nassim Nicholas Taleb more and more

I've been following him on Twitter, and now I found this:
What's a IYI?

Intellectual Yet Idiot: semi-erudite bureaucrat who thinks he is an erudite; pathologizes others for doing things he doesn't understand not realizing it is his understanding that may be limited; imparts normative ideas to others: thinks people should act according to their best interests *and* he knows their interests, particularly if they are uneducated "red necks" or English non-crisp-vowel class.

More socially: subscribes to the New Yorker; never curses on twitter; speaks of "equality of races" and "economic equality" but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver; has considered voting for Tony Blair; has attended more than 1 TEDx talks and watched more than 2 TED talks; will vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable; has The Black Swan on his shelves but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence; is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist uses statistics without knowing how they are derived; when in the UK goes to literary festivals; drinks red wine with steak (never white); used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; takes statins because his doctor told him so; fails to understand ergodicity and when explained forgets about it soon later; doesn't use Yiddish words; studies grammar before speaking a language; has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; has never read Frederic Dard, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, or Joseph De Maistre; has never gotten drunk with Russians and went breaking glasses; doesn't know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; doesn't know that there is no difference between "pseudointellectual" and "intellectual"; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past 5 years; knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: doesn't deadlift.
I especially like this one: "speaks of 'equality of races' and 'economic equality' but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver": I always love being lectured on racism by white liberals who have known about five black people in their lives, each of whom had a graduate degree. I always want to take them into the illegal, after-hours hip-hop club in Sunset Park I was in at 5 AM a few months ago, and watch them shit themselves.

Hat-tip to Leslie Marsh.

My Presidential Endorsement

I know you've all been waiting!

Given Trump's disappointing VP pick, I now support Jill Stein for president. I think a number of her positions are foolish, but I said peace would be my top priority, and I am sticking with that declaration. And Stein is now, to me, clearly the best candidate in that regard.

What impertinence!

"Those who speak only the language of individual rights will never treat a social or political problem pertinently." -- Pierre Manent, Beyond Radical Secularism, p. 79

Democratic Schizophrenia(?) on Illegal Immigration

On the one hand, Democrats are always portraying themselves as champions of illegal immigrants, contrasting themselves with the mean Republicans who actually want to enforce our immigration laws.

On the other hand, they never seem to recommend actually repealing all immigration restrictions, thus establishing "open" borders (with perhaps some restrictions on the entry of felons, etc.), which would seem to be the best, easiest fix for the plight of illegal immigrants. (I'm not saying it is best for the United States, but perhaps it is best for people who want to immigrate here but cannot enter legally.)

This is kind of weird... unless the Democrats' actual goal is to have a large client population of disadvantaged people ready to support them, where it is precisely their difficult circumstances that Democrats are counting on to cement their support for Democrats..

Calling reader Scott

Can you contact me by email? (gcallah at mac dot com) Thanks!

The great game of complaint

"This ridiculous tyranny [of appearance over reality] affects our Muslim citizens as well, forcing them, too, to live on this artificial stage, the vanity of which is as evident to them as to anyone. It is true, as I said, that their first movement is often take advantage of this arrangement, and to enter into the role that is offered to them. In doing so, moreover, they are only participating in the great game of complaint that has for sometime been the preferred vocal register of the constituent groups of our society... In any case, the transformation of the public conversation into a tearful quarrel has deleterious consequences for society as a whole and for each of its parts consequences that are all the more serious for those parts that are more distant from the heart of national life." -- Pierre Manent, Beyond Radical Secularism, pp. 75-76

Politics as a mise on scène

"By their determination to lay down the law concerning social perception and the words that translate them, our governments are increasingly abandoning actual political action. They proceed as if social life were a spectacle and as if the parts of the body politic were objects the perception of which were subject to command: politics becomes a mise en scène. Through ever more emphatic words and gestures, they go to great lengths to command us not to see." -- Pierre Manent, Beyond Radical Secularism, p. 75

It is interesting to contemplate what we are "commanded not to see" here in the United States. For instance, although black people in New York City commit homicide at roughly 30 times the rate of white people, and a white person is many times more likely to be killed by a black person than vice-versa, we are constantly being told about how dangerous it is to be black, due to white racism.

And merely to point out these facts, which really anyone living in New York senses already, is to risk a charge of racism. We are being commanded not to see. I recently received a post on social media about how some black guy left the house to play Pokemon Go, but wound up spending all of his time worrying about being a victim of racist violence. The very same day, I saw three black teenagers walking through my mostly white neighborhood, playing the game with no apparent worries about being subject to violence... and rightly so. Incidents like the one in Howard Beach, where a group of whites beat one or more black strangers, are so rare that they are remembered thirty years later. These black teens are at far less risk of violence in my neighborhood than they would be in most black neighborhoods in the city.

This would be a farce if it were harmless, but it becomes a tragedy when black neighborhoods receive less policing due to charges of racism against cops, with the result that more black people are killed. Playing make-believe about real social problems guarantees that they won't be solved.

Computers on TV

If they don't want to bother getting what characters say right, why not just completely make things up? Why use real software engineering words, but use them to spell nonsense?

Here is Reid from Criminal Minds:

"C++, which is a programming language that uses hexadecimal code..."


Not getting the trade argument

Libertarians love their abstract analysis of the benefits of free trade. And that analysis is not wrong: just partial and incomplete.

But what they are doing is essentially this: they are coming up to a guy who lost his factory job nine years and hasn't been able to find more than part-time work since. He lives at home with his elderly parents, whom he cares for, because they certainly can't afford outside care. His wife left him to move 500 miles away to a city where this is work. His brother gets by through running a meth lab up in the hills. His town is a dilapidated wreck, unemployment is 30%, the jobs there are pay little, most kids are born out of wedlock, and more people died last year from drug overdoses than from natural causes.

And libertarians are telling him that free trade has worked out great... "Because look how cheap your flat-screen TV is!"

Turning a probability vector into a state

The problem I faced was in programming a Markov chain application, I wanted to turn a probability vector into an actual state of affairs. Here is what I came up with:

This seems to do the job, but is there an easier way?

UPDATE: As soon as I looked at this again, I realized I did not need to create a map or do two loops:

And an Example:

A plain fact that methodological individualism will block us from seeing or accepting:

"The facts authorize us -- no, they oblige us! -- to say that Islam as such, Islam understood as a meaningful whole, is in motion, that it strives and struggles, in a world [where] it is an actor on the stage of history that must be taken very seriously. Thus the world in which we must live and act is a world marked by the effort, the movement, the forward thrust of Islam." -- Beyond Radical Secularism, p. 39