Showing posts from 2022

Misunderstanding dynamical systems

I once argued with a woman online — can you imagine? Me, arguing online! — Who claimed that global warming couldn’t possibly be due to human activity, because of the small amount of CO2 our activities release compared to the total in the atmosphere.  So I slipped her 500 µg of LSD, and said “Let’s see what small amounts of a chemical can really do!” Ha ha! It was online, so I could not do that. But imagine if she had never encountered ice but only water between 100°F and 32.5°F. I’m sure if I tried to explain to her that the next drop of 1° would make a huge difference, she would scoff, and say “No, the water is just going to get a little more dense and a little more sluggish.” Dynamical systems experience phase transitions, where a small move past some point throws the system into a whole new form of behavior. 

"It Tastes like Sawdust"

I recalled reading a mildly right-of-center pundit offering a recipe. When it came to the seasoning, her recipe called for pepper, and she made a point of saying "Freshly ground only! Pre-ground pepper tastes like sawdust!" Of course, pre-ground pepper doesn't taste anything like sawdust. It taste pretty much like freshly ground pepper, only not quite as pungent. So why would she say this? The remark makes perfect sense if you understand it, not as her report on what pre-ground pepper tastes like to her, but as an expression of class solidarity. "Hey, I may be slightly right-of-center... but I, also, am the sort of person who would never use pre-ground pepper!"

It's Good in and of Itself!

Business Insider ranks countries on health . One of the "plus" factors is you get more points the more the government spends on health care. What the hey? If that spending is effective, shouldn't it show up in some other health stat ? And if it doesn't... why is it a positive factor?

BZ: Don't ask me questions in the comments!

As I mentioned, for some messed up Google reason, I am unable to comment on my own blog. And no, I absolutely do NOT wish to spend any more time addressing Block's ridiculous misinterpretations of what I wrote.

BZ: My response to Block

 Apparently, I can't comment at my own blog! I kept trying to post this but it never shows up. So  here is my response  to Block.

Mises vs. Marx

 Ludwig von Mises attempted to dismiss Marx's class analysis based on the fact that capitalists compete with each other for capital, for workers, and for customers. All that is true. And yet it does not refute Marx. Consider: the football players on the Bengals compete with each other for playing minutes. And yet when they go up against the Rams, they will all unite to help defeat this opponent. People can compete within some class, and yet unite as a class when faced with a challenge from a different class.

Would Marx have imagined this?

Faced with the prospect of revolt from the proletariat, the liberal state created a new class: the permanent underclass. Whereas proletarian man was connected to society only as a factor of production, underclass man is not even a factor of production. If proletarian man is like an ox, underclass man is like a rat or pigeon: living a separate existence on the fringes of human society, collecting whatever scraps and refuse come his way. But he serves a purpose: he is the canary in the coal mine for the worker. “Not happy working 40 hours a week in a repetitive, stressful factory job for a barely adequate wage? You better keep showing up for work, or you could wind up in that housing project you drive past in the morning, with your kids getting beat up on the way to school every week.” UPDATE: And of course, Marx saw that liberal reforms would serve to prop-up liberal society, not to genuinely reform it.

Yes, Let's Talk About Sloppiness

UPDATE: Sorry, I just saw I failed to link to Field's essay! Corrected. Laura K. Field, in a five-part essay attempting to trash Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed , accuses Deneen of sloppiness. For instance, she writes: "Bacon was not merely interested in 'torturing' nature to discover her secrets, as Deneen repeatedly alleges." I just re-checked my copy of Deneen, and: He never says Bacon was "merely" interested in "torturing" nature. This just happens to be the aspect of Bacon's thought he is interested in. The book is not a intellectual biography of Bacon, nor even an intellectual history of liberalism. So why would we expect a full picture of Bacon as a thinker? That itself might take up the whole book, and Deneen would never get around to discussing liberalism! He does mention this notion... just once . Not "repeatedly." Field writes: "I do not know where Deneen got the idea that Francis Bacon had no interest

Prices going up? Prices going down?

 Ball of confusion It's climate change today Hey hey! Or at least, there are people out there who would like to blame every single bad thing that happens on "climate change." Listen, I am a climate conservative: I think we should mess with our atmosphere as little as possible, and I believe we might have messed with it too much already. But ... Today, I saw someone on Twitter blame recent price rises on... us "cooking the planet." Uuuugh... Earth is warming up some, but it's been far warmer than this in the past. What's more... earth don't care! It's a friggin' planet! It will be fine even if we wipe out the human race. Not every bad thing that happens is due to climate change! The January 6 riot did not happen because of climate change. China persecuting the Uyghuts is not due to climate chnage. And the recent bout of inflation is not due to climate change: It is due to the Fed flooding the economy with cheap funds for a dozen years. Got it

What Is This Life?

Rationalists pride themselves on believing in evolution, unlike dopey creationists. Per the theory of evolution, if we find that all, say, woodchucks engage in some behavior, and expand a great deal of energy in doing so, we should suspect that that activity is important to the woodchucks’ survival, even if we are not sure how. It would be very non-Darwinian of us to dismiss this behavior as “Just stupid woodchucks, doing something ridiculous and pointless.” And yet when it is noticed that all human societies ever have engaged in some form of behavior that can be characterized as religious, and have spent a great deal of energy doing so, these rationalists dismiss this behavior as “Just stupid humans, doing something ridiculous and pointless.”