Friday, July 31, 2015

Rednecks versus Progressives

Out in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, I run into a fair number of rednecks. Many of them are way too free with their use of the "N-word."

But if they ran across an actual black person waving for help by his broken-down car along the side of Route Six, many of them would stop to help, and even let the driver use their cell phone to call a friend or spouse.

In gentrified Brooklyn, I run into boatloads of progressives. None of them ever, ever would use the "N-word."

But in many cases, if a black person has broken down along the side of Fourth Avenue, and he is blocking their way to the buy-one-get-one-free sale on miso-infused kale chips at the Park Slope Co-op, the black fellow better be ready to jump for the curb.

Question authority

One of the silliest posters seen in the halls of our educational establishments. You're supposed to take it on the authority of your teacher or professor that you ought to "question authority"!

In fact, to become educated at all, you must except the fact that all sorts of people are authorities in subjects in which you are not yet (and perhaps never will be) an authority. When I hire a student finishing his PhD as my math tutor, I must recognize that he has an authority discussing mathematics that I have not, otherwise the hiring of him is completely pointless.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Patriarchy? What Patriarchy?

"However, what I kept saying in Sexual Personae is that equality in the workplace is not going to solve the problems between men and women which are occurring in the private, emotional realm, where every man is subordinate to women, because he emerged as a tiny helpless thing from a woman’s body. Professional women today don’t want to think about this or deal with it." -- Camille Paglia

"The same, of course, is true of the colossal architecture which we call infant education: an architecture reared fully by women. Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male child is born closer to his mother then to his father. No one, staring at that frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the quality of the sexes." -- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, p. 97

Chesterton goes so far as to argue that feminism represents a complete victory for the male in the battle of the sexes: females have (almost) completely surrendered this enormous advantage. As someone put it at a conference I attended, American women have abandoned the unimportant task of raising and molding the views of the next generation of human beings so that they can do truly important things, like working as assistant human resources director at a marketing firm.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Warring Protestant Sects

"Thus, mankind has a nearly all places in seen that there is a soul and the body as plainly as that there is a sun and moon. But because a narrow Protestant sect called Materialists declared for a short time that there was no soul, another narrow Protestant sect called Christian Science is now maintaining that there is no body." -- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, p. 95

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A link between increased immigration and increased crime?

While researching the cause of the apparent (as Shonk noted, it may be an artifact of bad stats) spike in the homicide rate in the early 1900s, the tremendous immigration of that first decade popped out as a possible cause. I googled to find out what has been said about that, and discovered papers like this.

What is interesting is that researchers have been purporting to answer the question of whether a high rate of immigration might lead to a surge in crime, but in fact seem to be answering the question "Are immigrants more likely to be criminals than the native born?" The paper linked to above discusses earlier studies, and they all seem to have proceeded in the same way, by examining incarceration rates for immigrants versus natives, to see if immigrants are more likely to be criminals.

But that is only one possible way in which a high immigration rate might cause a high crime rate. And that worry should not be discounted: for instance, if the United Kingdom discovered that hordes of American police officers were migrating there, they might want to close the border.

However, there is an entirely different vector of disturbance by which an increase in immigration might cause an increase in crime: there are culture-specific customs for smoothing over conflicts before they turn violent, and natives and recent immigrants are not likely to share those customs.

Let me share a memory: it was my first weekend living in London. At my local pub, I met a Jamaican bloke. After we talked for a while, he said, "I'm going to a dance club: why don't you come along?" It seemed only polite to acquiesce, and so off we went in a cab to God knows where.

I found myself in a West Indian night club in which I was just about the only white chap. At one point, as I stood in line to get a drink, a dread next to me informed me, "M' rolling a spliff: don't bump me!"

Well, not ten seconds later, a very drunk patron crashed into me, throwing me... you guessed it, right into the dread. Knocking his half-rolled spliff to the floor. He immediately glared at me, and violence was in the offing.

Luckily, I had spent a lot of time the previous decade-and-a-half around Jamaicans, so instead of trying to explain how "It's not my fault," I looked him in the eye and said, "I'm buying your drinks tonight."

"Cool, cool," he replied, and all was fine.

But if this had happened to me a fifteen years earlier, I almost certainly would have responded differently, and probably would have found myself on the floor soon thereafter, perhaps digesting a bullet.

In the "inability-to-peacefully-resolve-conflict" model of increased immigration leading to increased crime, immigrants need not be more criminally inclined than the native-born: they might even be less so. And the incarceration rates for immigrants and the native-born need not differ: instead, they would both rise together, as conflicts that, had they involved two members of either culture, would have been resolved peacefully, instead escalate into violence through mutual misunderstanding.

It is obvious to me that some problems of this sort will arise whenever culturally different populations newly mingle. How pervasive they are is an empirical matter which I haven't researched: but, it seems*, neither have the people seriously studying this area.

* I am just going but what I read in that one paper linked to above, but, as I mentioned, the authors cite earlier studies, and those seem to use the same method. However, if I wanted to make a blanket statement about this, and remove the "seems," I would have to do much more research.

One Place Mises Went Very Wrong, and Marx Was Correct

Mises held that labor is (almost) always something to be avoided in life, that it has disutility, and that the only point of it is to be able to purchase consumer goods. Interestingly, he recognized an exception: himself. He didn't dislike his work; in fact, he lived for it. So he created a separate category of human being to explain this: the creative genius.

But the truth about labor is that life is incomplete without it: everyone needs meaningful work in their life:

"As a former Marxist, his analysis always held labor, particularly when self-directed or done voluntarily in cooperation with others, in high esteem because of the ethic of responsibility it produced. Work wasn’t, or shouldn’t be, just a means to put food on the table or a roof over your head. Rather it provided meaning, dignity, and moral instruction, something not found by repeating mind-numbing tasks over and over at someone else’s direction."

Contemplate the history of homicide in the US

(Hat tip to Noah Smith.)

What is striking to me here is this weird double-humped shape and the huge variation in the amount of murder. Look at the spike from 1900 - 1934: the homicide rate went up about ten times! In fact, in the first decade of that period, it rose about five times. Prohibition can explain some of the rise in the 1920s, but clearly the real lift-off happened well before that: so what caused that rise?

Also of note: the "everything is getting better in every way" folks point to the recent drop in homicide as evidence supporting their thesis. But if you run your trend line back to 1900, that's not going to work, is it?

Monday, July 27, 2015

There's no third way?

Mises famously contended that there is no third way between socialism and laissez faire. This was an odd contention on his part, since we'd also have to say that according to him we've always been on a third way: pure socialism is not possible (I think Mises was right about this) and we have never had a pure market economy (also, I think, not possible).

Now, Mises was terribly wrong about some things, but he certainly wasn't stupid, so: how did he reconcile these two seemingly disparate ideas?

(I am thinking about this as I begin my research on distributism.)

Can you use them old U. S. Blues?

"that an Empire whose heart is failing should be specially proud of the extremities, is to me no more sublime a fact than that an old dandy whose brain is gone should still be proud of his legs." -- G. K. Chesteron, What Is Wrong with the World, p. 52

Sunday, July 26, 2015

And that statement is totally subsumed by philosophy

Someone on my Facebook feed, who seems to be a fairly clever person (but not very wise), posted an essay in which she wrote, "Philosophy has now been totally subsumed by computer science."

We come upon this sort of foolishness regularly: before computer science, philosophy was going to be totally subsumed by the physical sciences. It may be instructive to look at a couple of the problems with a view like this.

First of all, her statement itself is quite obviously not a finding of computer science! Computer science doesn't even contain a category called "philosophy," and so also can't contain any statements about philosophy. Computer science studies algorithms, and there is no possibility that the study of algorithms, however wonderful or brilliant those algorithms are, can reveal anything about subject A being subsumed by subject B, since computer science knows nothing of "subjects" or what it might mean for one to "subsume" another. In fact, the only subject that might be capable of making such a claim about two other subjects is... philosophy.

Secondly, her claim is based on some wooly notion that "the universe is an algorithm." On the face of it, this is sheer babble. What in the world does it mean to say that a beautiful sunrise, a woman giving birth to a child, the death of Cicero, a wolf eating a lamb, Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and the firebombing of Dresden are all "an algorithm"? Were the screams of the children being gassed at Auschwitz a for loop? The Mongols sweeping across the steppes an if statement?

But if there is any sense to her statement, just which subject might be fit to evaluate what that sense might be? Could it be... philosophy?


"The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the boredom of learning him; the glow of the sea-bath comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon... The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. Freeman any woman, as such, are incompatible." -- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, pp. 36-37

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Chicken and the Egg

"Leaving the complications of the human breakfast table out of account, and an elemental sense, the egg only exists to produce the chicken. But the chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist. Being a conscious life, he is, or may be, valuable in himself." -- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, p. 14

Notice how Richard Dawkins deliberately tries to invert this natural hierarchy: he claims we conscious beings only exists as vehicles for our genetic material! This spiritual state is what is meant by "demonic possession."