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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More on WWII

Rudy Rummel reports new death-by-government figures for China:
Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered
Rule over China (PRC) 1949-1987 = 76,000,000 murdered

Boy, the US sure did the Chinese a big favour by "liberating" them from the Japanese and handing them over to Mao, didn't it?

Home improvement

How about new appliances?

Human Action

I was browsing through a book on Budhhist philosophy the other day and found: "Human action has an aim. That which is aimed at is an object, i.e., that which is desired."

This Misesian style of analyzing action is common in the history of philosophy -- you can find it in Aristotle, in Kant, in Augustine, in Aquinas, and, apparently, in Buddhism. It is only those indoctrinated in the scientistic philosophy trendy at the moment who find Mises's approach quirky or idiosyncratic.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Buy Something Day

British friends, today I urge you to go out and buy stuff. It doesn't matter what, just anything will do.

Why?

Today is marked by the crazies as Buy Nothing Day in your part of the world (and Japan). Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day in the U.S. and Canada (my neck of the woods).

But don't worry, you won't be alone. I will go and buy stuff here in solidarity with you. Maybe some garbage bags, maybe a cup of tea, maybe a hat or a scarf, or this t-shirt. Hey, every day is a good day to enjoy capitalism.

Mercer Misunderstands Christian Forgiveness

In this piece I believe Ilana Mercer misunderstands the Christian approach to forgiveness. It is true that God is just. However, Jesus bore the punishment for everyone else's sins--that's why Christians say "He died for our sins." (Someone used the analogy that God is a judge whose own child comes before him in court. Because He's just, he still levies the fine, but because He loves His child, He gives the child the money to pay the fine. Just so you're not confused, in this analogy the child is us, not Jesus.)

There are plenty of Biblical passages where Christians are instructed to forgive, regardless of the contrition or not of the trangressor. Also, one can forgive without "forgetting," in the sense that you could still not let a murderer babysit your kids, even though you forgave him for his previous crimes.

It's particularly interesting that Ilana (we know each other--I'm not using her first name because she's a woman) took this tack, because I think this is actually one of the major differences between Judaism and Christianity. In my view, God basically said to humans: "Okay, you want a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for moral behavior? Read Deuteronomy. You can't do it, huh? OK, so just love Me and love each other."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh no! We're headed back to Bentham

I don't know how Austrian this is. I bet it probably isn't very Lionel Robbins-ish. He, after all, said "every mind is inscrutable to every other, and no common denominator of feeling is possible." If he's right, then measuring happiness is ridiculous. Maybe you think so, too.

My dissertation at the LSE was on the economics of happiness. Somewhere along the way I guess I was convinced that we could measure happiness or, at least, give a 'good enough' account of it. And, since some prominent economists--especially Richard Layard who let me use a manuscript version of his book "Happiness" as I was doing research--are using happiness data to plump for more statism, I thought throwing a wrench into those works would be a good idea.

A synopsis: We're (Westerners) wealthier, healthier, and more educated, but we're no happier than we were 60 years ago. People call this a paradox. They don't really bother too much about the fact that something like 80 per cent of us claim to be 'happy,' which compares favourably with any other non-capitalist nation you care to pick. The solution to the paradox is that, after some point, what matters is relative, not absolute, income. So since the Jones's also have more, none of us are much happier by way of comparison. That's the story.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Oh No! We're Headed Back to Smith

I attended the Southern Economics Association meeting over the past weekend. There, I had a very distressing conversation with two young "Austrians." Both of them were advocating wealth maximization as the proper normative criterion for policy evaluation. This is a regression to the views of Adam Smith, and an idea that I should have thought was utterly discredited by the work Menger, Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, and Rothbard.

The two problems with wealth maximization as a norm are:
1) The notion of "society's wealth" is itself incoherent. We can say how wealthy an individual is because he potentially could sell his assets on the market, and we can make a good guess as to what amount of money their sale would bring. But who is "society" going to sell its assets to?
2) It recommends any policy that increases some measure of wealth, whatever the means it employs. I have no doubt that the US could increase the material wealth available to residents by forcing unemployed people into slave labor camps. The "goodness" of such a policy is the necessary conclusion of the wealth-maximization criterion, and it is only met by a lot of evasion on the part of those advocating it.

One of them declared to me "it's the best measure we have." But if the "best measure we have" is rubbish, then why not just admit that we can't measure anything resembling "social wealth." We're the folks who showed this can't be done, remember? It's as though, after proving you can't build a perpetual motion machine, we then signed onto a project designed to create one, because "it's the best effort available."

Ben Powell -- an Austrian who hasn't forgotten what the core of our views is -- offered the following tale to the two wealth maximizers:

A young economist travels to a remote, seaside Mexican village. While hanging around the docks, he spies a local fisherman coming ashore with a great catch. He stops the fellow and asks him what he does for a living.

"I fish for a couple of hours a day."

"Then what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I go home, have a little tequila, make love to my wife, and then play some music in the cafes at night."

"No, no," the economist says, "this is no good. You're a great fisherman, and we're going to make you wealthy. First thing is to get you some employees and more boats. Then we'll get you a contract with an American cannery. Next, you'll open your own canneries in California. Soon, you'll be the top fish supplier in the world. You'll be a multimillionaire."

"And then what will I do?"

"Why, you can retire to a little seaside Mexican village, fish for a couple of hours a day, go home, drink a little tequila, make love to your wife, and then go out and play in the cafes at night!"

Friday, November 18, 2005

Laughter Alert

Julian Sanchez -- look, there's a link to him over to the right side of this page, OK? -- has directed our attention to Overheard in New York. Check out this thread, and learn what Vicodin can do for you.

Or, in another sample:
Guy #1: What time is it?
Guy #2: One o'clock.
Guy #1: What? How long has it been one?
Guy #2: Less than a minute?

What P.M. Jaworski Said

Some time ago, I was walking down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I stopped at a news agent's -- wait, what do we call them again in the States? -- and browsed the headlines. Most were about the Kobe Bryant rape case.

About half a block later, I came upon a restaurant with a sandwich board outside of it listing the day's specials. The lunch special was the "Kobe Burger."

The burger you just can't say no to.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

You can't make this stuff up


Yes, you read correctly. Have some Ranch Chicken, and become aware of the Vegan lifestyle.

My front porch


I wake each morning and go to school with this as my first sight out the door. "Liberty." Sweet.

Some days, I'm wearing this to drive the point home:

Monday, November 14, 2005

Google ads

An ad on my own page caught my eye. It said something about the Jaworski Family album, and I was intrigued. I'm sort of curious about my past family, and if anyone has any info stored somewhere on my family tree.

The website turned out to have all sorts of "Jaworski" references. But they wouldn't let me take a closer peek inside any of the supposed "Archives" or "family photos" and so on. In fact, there appears to be an "International Jaworsk Family News."

Wow.

And then I saw this as the address bar:
http://www.ourfamilynewsletter.net/official.asp?name=Jaworski

Changing the variable after "name=" to some other nifty things yielded (just as I suspected) this, this, and this.

Ha ha ha. Stupid web shells.

Some good news

What must be a rarity in the news biz, a paper reports on someone using a gun to defend herself! Said the would-be victim who kicked royal ass:
"He was 6 feet tall," she said. "He could have done something horrible my granddaughter and me. That's exactly the reason you need to learn how to handle (a firearm) and keep it with you."
In more good news today, Canadians don't trust their government. Or so says a poll. What's amazing isn't that "only" 27 per cent of Canadians trust their government to do the right thing mostly or always, but that a full 27 per cent do trust the rogues. Have a quarter of my fellow Canadians been hiding under rocks the last little while? Why isn't this number hovering around 10 to 12 per cent (the percentage representing civil servants and politicians)?

In cool news, it turns out that there are about 2,000 Canadian-specific words. You can take a look at a few of them here. Just the other day, for instance, I was talking to my buddy David Faraci about train tickets. I asked him "how much is the fare return?" He was confused. When I told him I meant, 'how much was the ticket to go to your location and come back to where you started from?' he informed me that Americans don't say "return." They say "round-trip." Now, we say "round-trip" too, but we also say "return."

Other Canada-specific turns of phrase or words include: shit disturber (you Americans or Brits say "shit stirrer," which sucks compared to shit disturber.) I guess we say "Chesterfield" to mean couch, but I've never said that. "Double-double" means two cream and two sugar in your coffee. I didn't know that was distinctly Canadian. To "deke" out your opponent is to get past them by way of a trick, or fancy stick- or foot-work. We call a warm hat a "tuque," and they're "serviettes" where I'm from, not always napkins. Then there's "dick all" to mean nothing, and a two-four to mean a case of beer (this goes out to the moron border guard from many moons ago who asked me what alcohol I was bringing across the border. I told him I had a two-four, and he frowned like he was confused and asked in this snarky [that's Canadian too!] voice, "what's that?" I told him twenty four beer. He lectured me that that was a "case of beer." I should have shoved each one up his ass. Instead, I said "yes.")

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sexuality and Onions

Julian Sanchez wonders if it's OK for parents to give their children a drug that "cures" them of homosexuality. In pondering the point, he writes: "If you really and genuinely (at the end) prefer one gender, are you really likely to resent that you don't (anymore) prefer the other?"

That reminds me of a joke Jan Lester told me.

A man hates onions, but, unfortunately, lives in a country where they are a part of almost every dish. His doctor, who knows about the man's dislike and the troubles it causes him, during a check-up is pleased to inform the fellow, "I've got a solution to your problem!"

"What's that?" the man asks.

"There's a new drug out. If I put you on it for a few weeks, you'll love onions!"

"But I don't want to love onions!"

"And why not?"

"They're disgusting!"

Friday, November 11, 2005

methinks the lady doth protested too much this time

I normally don't read Tom Palmer's blog unless someone mentions that he's posted another one of his hysterical but hilarious rants, so I was quite amused this morning when I saw that Jeremy Sapienza over at Anti-State.com had not only linked to the latest barrage of drivel but also had quite a lot to say about it. Then I got to the part where Sapienza complains about Palmer censoring Sapienza's rebuttal to mistaken accusations (or outright lies?) Palmer has made about Sapienza. Shame, shame Tom: a good argument consists of two honest players.

William the...

My oldest son was playing Age of Empires this morning, and had taken the role of William the Conqueror, invading England. It occurred to me that it must have been really discouraging to the English people when they heard "William the Conqueror" was on his way -- no wonder they lost! If only it had been "William Who Was Stopped at the Cliffs of Dover" or "William Who Took Sussex but Then Was Routed," I'm sure the English would have put up a much better fight.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More Price Gouging!

We saw gas for $2.39 a gallon the other day -- after seeing it over $4 2 months ago. I want to say I think it's disgusting how the consumers are price gouging the oil companies. As soon as supply rose, they ruthlessly slashed prices without any concern for the welfare of the millions of employees and shareholders in the oil industry. Congress should pass a "Windfall Savings" law to tax away the money they selfishly have saved.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Embarrassed...

One day a fourth-grade teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, and so forth.

But little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied:

"My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and make love with him for money."

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"

"No," the boy said, "He works for the Republican National Committee and helped re-elect George Bush, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

(Circulating the Internet via e-mail.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

El Presidente

This article makes me think of my son, Clark. He's 2 weeks shy of one year old. Bob and I carry every item he could possibly need, and attend to his every need, because he can't. Oh, but Clark doesn't wear a watch. He does wear a pacifier, though.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Intelligent Design and Falsification

Some critics of Intelligent Design theories say that they are not falsifiable. However, ID says, "Mechanism (organ, etc.) X is too complex to have evolved by random mutation and natural selection." Therefore, it can be falsified by showing that X could have evolved that way.