You Won't Believe Who Kevin Durant Is Reportedly Dating

I saw this headline today. Well, if you tell me "you won't believe who Kevin Durant is dating"... that might be true. If I found out, for instance, that he was dating Theresa May, I would be very surprised.

But once you add in the word "reportedly," then statements of the class "You won't believe the X is reportedly dating Y" are false for all possible values of X and Y. If you tell me "Donald Trump is dating Beyoncé," I will find that very difficult to believe. But if you tell me that somewhere, someone is reporting that Donald Trump is dating Beyoncé, I will just shrug my shoulders, and say "Of course."

The fable of our time

Is the emperor's new clothes. It can be applied again and again and again.

All over our culture today, we see ideological constructs that are clearly illusory (the emperor is actually naked), but for which the illusion is sustained by the threat of reputational destruction for anyone who states the obvious.

I will give you one example of what I mean, and you can generate many more yourself. Consider the barrage of ads that have been showing this winter and spring, claiming things like "sports knows no gender."

Applying this principle, the US women's soccer team talked about going on strike, because although they were doing "equal work" to the men, they were getting paid less.

Well, that same women's team just lost to a JV high school boys team by a score of 5-2. So the very best women's team in the world just lost to a group of 14-year-old boys from a single high school!

Clearly, far from being equal to the best male players in the world, the very best female players in the world would have great difficulty in making a top-notch boys high school team. I would guess that not a single one of them could make a decent Division One men's university team.

So how could anyone possibly believe all these advertisements? It is like advertisements were claiming that the average American is 20 feet tall, or were selling you dirt, telling you it is a tasty and nutritious food.

Well, they work, because to question the illusion at all is to invite utter social condemnation. Just the way the illusion that the emperor had a grand new suit of clothes on was maintained.

Bad vinegar?

My distilled vinegar says it is only good until January 28, 2021.

What happens after that? Does it turn to wine?

What is the scientific basis for Halal?

I was looking up the rules for Halal food, because I was cooking for a Muslim student of mine. One of the things I found online was frequent questions, from Muslims, along the lines of the title of this post.

This just goes to show how deeply scientism has infected the entire world culture. Why in the world would some religious dietary restrictions need a "scientific" basis? Isn't the fact "God told us not to eat this" enough?

And if you're eating a certain way because you're convinced of the health effects of eating that way, than you are no longer doing it for a religious purpose!



A Peasant Surprise

"When peasants in developing countries lose their direct access to land and the means of production, and become reliant on markets for food, land, and wage labour, they can actually become more dependent and even more vulnerable than they would have been in a peasant society with limited market influence..." -- Bas van Bavel, The Invisible Hand?, p. 6

PS -- Apple voice recognition rendered the previous text as "Bas van Bavel and the invisible hand." This suggests a new series of Harry Potter novels, e.g.:

Harry Potter and the tragedy of the commons
Harry Potter and the prisoner's dilemma
Harry Potter and the paradox of thrift
Harry Potter and the fable of the bees

Etc.


COBOL woes

The language won't die, but that doesn't mean the programmers won't!

Funny quote:

'"Just because a language is 50 years old, doesn't mean that it isn't good," said Donna Dillenberger, an IBM Fellow.'

Right Donna: it's the fact that COBOL sucks that means it isn't good, not the fact that it is old.

The Clinton Foundation is old hat

"The Iraqi elites started to immobilize their wealth in waqfs, or religious and charitable foundations, partly in order to shield it from taxation by the state. The waqf, as an unincorporated and inalienable trust, appeared on the stage around the mid-eighth century and grew in importance by the ninth century, especially in Iraq... A major motive for the foundation of a waqf was the wish to serve a religious, charitable, or public purpose... For the founder, some additional advantages of using this instrument was that he could appoint himself as an administrator of the waqf, he could set his own salary to be paid out of the waqf's funds, he could nominate relatives to positions paid for by the waqf, And he could designate his children as his successors. This last advantage help to circumvent the Islamic inheritance laws… What the same time he could shield the family property from taxation by public authorities." Bas van Bavel, The Invisible Hand?, p. 76

It will be an integer, between -1 and 1

Those frustrating times when we think of the perfect comeback, but too late:

Bryan Caplan was presenting at the NYU colloquium on market processes. His paper relied on a notion of "rationality" that certainly could not pass philosophical muster.

In attempting to show the weakness of his notion of rationality, I commented, "Let us say that someone is working on the assumption that the Bible is the revealed word of God. Wouldn't it be rational for that person to act differently than your 'rational actor' would act?" (I was trying to point out that his notion of rationality could not rationally defend its own assumptions, and that given different assumptions, what constituted a rational action might appear quite differently.)

He responded, "What, we should pay attention to some book written thousands of years ago by some desert shepherds?" (I quote from memory.)

Let me note that Professor Israel Kirzner was sitting next to me in the room at the time Bryan said this. Caplan surely knew that Kirzner is an orthodox rabbi, so his response was pretty much a slap in Kirzner's face. I think I was too flummoxed by the degree of disrespect Caplan showed (to a much greater thinker than himself) to respond as I should have:

"Gee, Bryan, 2500 years from now, how many people do you think will be reading your work?"

The answer is in the post title.

More on liberal "tolerance"

Liberal say they are "tolerant of everyone but the intolerant."

By "the intolerant" they mean "non-liberals."

In other words, liberals will tolerate… other liberals!

How accommodating of them.



The Invisible Hand?

My latest review assignment is The Invisible Hand? by Bas van Bavel. Here is the main thesis:

"the rise and dominance of markets for land, labour, and capital are self-undermining, as... feedback mechanisms results in welfare declining again and markets losing their quality in facilitating successful and rapid exchange, with a relative or even absolute downfall of the market economy in question." (pg. 2)

Market-dominated societies have arisen before, and they always self-destruct, and in the same way, and for the same reason: they are fundamentally anti-human.

So let's try it again!

Our line-up for Critics of Rationalism

BSing with phony precision

The problem with the claim that every H1B visa creates 1.83 new American jobs is the absurd precision with which this result is put forward. We are dealing with a topic of vast complexity, where a myriad of causal factors are interacting to produce the observed outcome, and for which we have no control group and no ability to do repeated experiments using a controlled environment.

"But we used the most sophisticated statistical techniques to produce our result!" the researchers might respond. Very amusing: I guarantee that, with the same data set, an anti-H1B visa group could produce a study that "proves" that for each H1B visa issued, .794321 American jobs are lost.

"1.83" is an attempt to snow the reader with precision: "Wow, if they can cite the number to 2 decimal places, they must really know what they are saying!"

Here is a claim I would be willing to believe: "Based on our research, we are pretty sure that each H1B visa issued creates between one and three new American jobs."