Archives for category: Quora

I believe I am transgender, but I keep feeling doubts. I think a lot of people would be surprised, I never always knew I was transgender (mtf) like some transwomen. How do I get over my doubts?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . . 

Without knowing your age, and without hearing you express your reasons for belief as well as for doubt, no one on Quora would be able to give a good answer.

But a word of caution: your feelings of sexual desire and sexual identity are not primarily a social concern, or something that other people can determine for you, or even should influence your ruminations much. My advice to young people on most matters is the same: be true to your experience and to yourself as you make the decisions that create (or remake) yourself. Growing up is a matter of discovery, mostly. Before you obsess about any category you may or may not fit into, or the approbation or disapprobation of any clicque or tribe, make sure you are not defining who you are and what you feel and how you think mainly to meet others’ expectations of identity, their interpretations of their experiences, or their commitments to any trendy ideology.

Seek truth. Attempt always to learn. Try to attain some mastery of some endeavor. Be responsible.

twv

If libertarians had their way, would they pay entry level unskilled workers much less than today’s prevailing minimum wage?

 . . . as answered on Quora. . . .

If libertarians “had their way,” they wouldn’t allow you or anyone else to prohibit any adult from accepting a job from anyone else at any rate of remuneration mutually agreed upon. Further, libertarians would prevent you from bullying or threatening employers from offering lawful jobs at any rate to any adult.

“They pay” is a weasel phrase. Most libertarians are like most people, and do not hire anyone for wage contract work. They are themselves wage contractors, or else professional service contractors, or artisans who make things and sell them. When we discuss economic policy, we should not use weaselly phraseology. It is not a question of policy makers “would pay” anyone, it’s a question of allowing wage contracts to form or not.

The questions in policy pertain to when and why and on what terms the state and political actors employ threat of force to interfere in free contract of whom. Libertarians want merely to defend freedom of contract. Of everybody.

Libertarians would allow people to be paid what they are worth as determined by bids, asks and deals on the labor market. More people would be working. More people would indeed be working at lower wages. And thus more people would be rising in rates of remuneration as they develop more skills on the job. This scandalizes the easily scandalized, but people with some common sense should be able to see the relevant factors involved.

twv

Is Ludwig von Mises relevant to economists?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

He was relevant to many economists in his day, and at least two of his contributions to economics — his business cycle theory and his economic calculation argument about socialism — were well respected beyond even his circle of seminar attendees, which included Fritz Machlup, Gottfried Haberler, and F. A. Hayek. Among his admirers were Lionel Robbins.

For some reason he was never given much credit for clearly spelling out an ordinalist approach to marginal utility before big names like Hicks and Allen. I have read histories of marginal utility theory that ball up the Austrian School understanding of marginal utility, from which Mises emerged and to which he contributed. So the whole approach is definitely not well understood outside the actual Misesian readership.

Several economists of high fame, today — Nobel Laureates James Buchanan and Vernon Smith, prominent among them — wrote about and praised Mises’ contributions.

Mises engaged in a kind of formal theory that deprecated mathematical exposition, so his method ran counter to much of Anglo-American economics from World War II onward, and (rightly or wrongly) he would have regarded the bulk of the statistical work of contemporary economics as “history.” That being said, there is a whole school devoted to his general approach, and only ideologues of state-worship and scientism dismiss him out of anything other than ignorance. Still, let us be frank, most economists have never heard of him, much less studied The Theory of Money and Credit or Human Action.

twv

Why are libertarians against raising the minimum wage to $15.00? Do they expect the working poor to subsist on $7.25 forever and somehow not be a burden on taxpayers?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

  1. Because it is based on coercion, threat of force.
  2. Because a legal wage minimum does not raise wages, it prohibits employers from hiring workers at rates less than set, so it is de facto an unemployment technique — which some libertarian aficionados of history note was why many of the early minimum wage laws were in fact enacted, to harm the employment opportunities of “undesirables.”
  3. Because libertarians know that, ultimately, wages are paid to workers on the basis of productivity (marginal productivity, to be exact) and that regulations and prohibitions like minimum wage laws are attempts to get something for nothing, and never work out as billed. That is, such regulations have “unintended consequences” — though how “unintended” those consequences are is in doubt, because some folks malignly do promote these regulations knowing about their negative effects. (Many politicians advance bad ideas merely to appease the rubes.)
  4. Because libertarians believe that people should aim to be more productive, not seek for Salvation from the State.
  5. Because libertarians know that most people in the workforce who start out at the lowest wages in the marketplace do not stay at the low rates, but increase their remuneration rates as they develop skills.
  6. Because libertarians know that competition among employers for good workers do in fact reward workers with higher wage rates than the minimum.
  7. Because libertarians expect people to aspire to better themselves and the lives of their families, not depend on others for charitable or forced aid. People with low productivity shouldn’t start families, for instance, but wait until they have proven themselves capable of productive living before engaging in unprotected heterosexual intercourse and launching babies onto the world — babies that somebody’s got to take care of.
  8. Libertarians realize that if you make it easier to live without producing, you will get more non- and under-producers. So “burden on the taxpayer” is one of their concerns. And making some people unnecessarily unemployable, by minimum wage regulation and by unemployment subsidy, is no way to decrease this burden.
  9. Because libertarians generally prefer distributed responsibility to centralized and socialized responsibility, knowing that the latter turns people into dregs of society, economic leaches — and minimum wage laws set higher than the productivity of the potential workers does increase unemployment and prevents the lowest-skilled workers from developing working skills in the most effective manner: by actual labor.

I could go on and on like this, but you get the idea: minimum wage laws don’t work as political activists pretend they do. Intent does not determine the utility of a law, outcomes do. Libertarians have wit enough to see the reality of such programs. And they are more than familiar with inconvenient facts about these de facto employment prohibitions. They understand that such regulations actually hurt the employability of the lowest skilled workers. And will likely regale you with statistics about how African-American teen unemployment, for example, increased over the decades with each effective increase in the minimum wage.

But most voters regard legislation and regulation as magic. So they simply deny truths repeatedly demonstrated. Economic policy is not a means to an end, for many voters, but rites in the cult of the omnipotent state, which they worship instead of a deity, and in defiance of reality. The state is not omnipotent. It has limitations. It does not work by magic, no matter how cultic its adherents prove themselves to be — as routinely revealed in the perennial nonsense over minimum wage laws.


Oh, and why not raise it higher than it is now, to $15/hour?

Well, a federal regulation of this nature would do more harm than a local regulation in a wealthy region, for some regions of the country can bear only very low wages: increasing the minimum would disemploy more people in Arkansas and Missouri than in New York or San Francisco.

The higher the minimum is raised, the greater the number of workers who would be negatively affected.

This is why no one in his right mind demands a $1000 per hour “raise” for “everybody” using this method.

Only fools make a bad policy worse.

twv

The hard question for Anarchism and Libertarianism is “How do we protect children?” So how do we protect children?

 . . . as answered on Quora. . . .

The legal status of children in a regime of liberty would seem to be a problem, at least theoretically. In The Methods of Ethics, in his two-page critique of the libertarian idea, Henry Sidgwick regarded this as one of the most obvious difficulties. But, to get into the spirit of his criticism, let us consider how he characterizes the libertarian notion of justice:

There is . . . one mode of systematizing these Rights and bringing them under one principle, which has been maintained by influential thinkers, and therefore deserves careful examination. Many jurists have laid down that Freedom from interference is really the whole of what human beings, originally and apart from contracts, can be strictly said to owe to each other: at any rate, that the protection of this Freedom (including the enforcement of Free Contract) is the sole proper aim of Law, i.e., of those rules of mutual behaviour which are coercive and maintained by penalties. All Natural Rights, on this view, may be summed up in the Right of Freedom: so that the complete attainment of this is the complete realization of Justice; the Equality at which Justice is thought to aim being interpreted in this special sense of Equality of Freedom.

This is a very precise, steel-manned statement of the Law of Equal Freedom promoted by Sidgwick’s liberal contemporary Herbert Spencer.

Within this vision of social order, however, how would children fit? Children do not have the liberties of adults in any society known to man. And not without reason. Children are by their nature weak; ignorant; foolish; irresponsible; and on their own often endangered and not infrequently dangerous — almost by definition. Sidgwick states the problem concisely:

[I]t seems needful to limit somewhat arbitrarily the extent of its application. For it involves the negative principle that no one should be coerced for his own good alone: but no one would gravely argue that this ought to be applied to the case of children, or of idiots, or insane persons.

But the Libertarian Party, back in the 1970s, had in its platform a plank on children’s rights stating a simple principle: “Children have the same rights that adults have.” [from memory]

Now, I was 20 when I read that. And, though I called myself a libertarian soon after, I did so while recognizing that the Children’s Rights plank was, almost self-evidently, idiotic.

A quick view of the most similar plank of the platform of the current Libertarian Party of the United States, we see this:

Parental Rights

Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs, provided that the rights of children to be free from abuse and neglect are also protected.

Much more circumspect.

But it doesn’t seem very “libertarian,” does it? Libertarians defend rights to liberty, not rights “not to be neglected,” which is merely a curiously negative formulation of a positive right, with the right’s corresponding positive duty.

There are three basic positions libertarians have held about children’s rights:

  1. Children are property of their parents.
  2. Children are free.
  3. Children have certain positive rights against their parents, which may be enforced by third parties.

I hold, with some necessary nuance, to the third position. Individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker held to the first, as many readers of his journal Liberty: Not the Daughter But the Mother of Order found to their shock. The second position — which I regard as preposterous — has been upheld by numerous libertarians, but none more ably than anarchist-communist Viroqua Daniels in the pages of The Firebrand, a fin de siècle anarchist rag from Portland, Oregon.

The evolution of Herbert Spencer’s view of the matter is instructive, but a full analysis would require a treatise. Consult the first edition of Social Statics with the abridged and revised edition, and especially with the chapter on children’s rights in the fourth part of The Principles of Ethics, the fascinating Justice. Spencer derived his view of a political-legal normative order from the “law of life” that, among adults, “benefits received must be in proportion to merits possessed” while for children, prior to the development of the capacity to cooperate productively, benefits must be directed in reverse proportion to merit. Both children and adults have a right to life, in this view, but this expresses itself in two distinct regimes: children requiring sustenance, and sustenance and education being therefore a right; adults capable of reciprocity and mutually advantageous cooperation, therefore for the fullest flowering of advance there must be rights to liberty.

Spencer thus elaborated, in his mature philosophy, a variant of the third position I suggested above.

One way to look at these basic rights is to take antagonism and menace as a given, and see how basic rights can prevent calamity. A right to freedom prevents parasitism and predation from strangers and neighbors, a state of liberty being the compromise position between A killing B and B killing A; A stealing from B and B stealing from A. Because adults are capable of reciprocal action, including the negotiation required to cooperate, freedom makes sense, because it promotes general advance and wealth and health, etc.

A child, on the other hand, starts out with such limited skills and even limited capacities of self-control that he or she cannot work to acquire property or maintain it, or even be trusted to trade it. So children constitute a standing threat, of sorts. Their freedom doesn’t prevent outrageous moral horror — it can even increase it, straining adults’ resources. Which is why their freedom even in a free society has been limited, and responsibility for their actions placed upon those who bring them into the social world (usually their parents). Further, parents are usually charged with the responsibility — indeed, obligation — to feed, clothe and house their own children, and instruct them so that, upon maturation, they can become responsible adults.

The point of basic rights is to distribute responsibility broadly so to decrease burdens and allow progress. Adults should not be burdensome to other adults, so that the burden of raising children — who do actually require great sacrifice — can be efficaciously met.

Which is why libertarians criticize socialized education efforts. For that is a move away from distributed responsibility to centralized responsibility, and generally makes adults less responsible. And, over the generations, state-run education raises children who become adults with decreasing senses of their own capacity to govern their lives. In a truly free society, children possess basic rights, but the obligations to meet those rights would fall upon parents and guardians, not on society at large through the agency of an activist state.

Which leads to the current outrageous moral horror of the current pandemic panic, with whole societies acting in utter cowardice and servility to “the experts” — who prove themselves to be liars as well as reckless gamblers with fate.

Libertarians, as I see it, would protect children with a rule of law and with a distributed — not centralized — regime of responsibility. A free society is a responsibilitarian society. Children would grow up in such societies to possess virtues, not “be good consumers” or loyal voters of political factions.

Children are not adults, and do not have — should not have — the exact same set of basic legal rights. But the rights they would possess in a free society should enable them to mature into the status of free individuals capable of reciprocity, self-defense, defense of others, and of negotiating cooperative endeavors for mutual benefit and (thus) the progress of society at large.

twv

(1790–1864)

Why are marginalist ideas and economists mainly antagonistic towards their classical predecessors?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

Is this true? Are they? Were they? Of the marginalists I have read, they acknowledge the great successes of their predecessors.

Indeed, after writing the Grundsätse — which provided a more coherent foundation for value and price — Carl Menger went on to tutor Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, and spent most of his economic teaching effort emphasizing, not disputing, classical doctrines.

W.F. Lloyd, a brilliant precursor, built off of Say’s Law of Markets, sparing us the invective.

W.S. Jevons, the most anti-Ricardian of the bunch — and it was against David Ricardo whom he directed most of his ire, if memory serves — was filled with admiration for predecessors in the French Liberal School, and his never-finished Principles of Economics contains this reverential preamble:

An excellent way to begin a treatise on economics is to notice and analyse the manner in which [Nassau] Senior treats the subject in his work on Political Economy. It would be difficult, indeed, to find anything more logical and accurate than the few first pages of this excellent introduction to the science. As we shall afterwards see, Senior may not have followed his own ideas to their ultimate result; but, so far as they go, they form the best exposition of the basis of economics.

Now, I read Senior before Jevons, and I heartily concur. What a mind Senior had! He is my favorite classical-era economist. But he was also part of the Oxford catallactic trend, which was mostly uncomfortable with Ricardian economics and labor theories of value and cost. It was filled with proto-marginalists, like Lloyd. And, as H. Dunning Macleod later indicated, it might best be regarded as part of what he called “the Third School of Political Economy,” which dominated French and even American discussion. That is, it was a separate thing.

The marginalists of the last third of the 19th century were plying a new, more precise and even revolutionary theoretical toolkit. But it fit within much of classical theory, and the marginalists on the whole were not too proud. If Jevons seems cantankerous on occasion, remember, it took a long time to get the new ideas accepted, and not a few of those that did accept the ideas, like Alfred Marshall, did so by trying to incorporate the new with the old as half-measures. Austrians and Walrasians, for example, came to hone their ideas over time, making them more sui generis, inevitably finding the Marshallian/Clarkian mainstream antagonistic to them. So some of the later antagonisms to the classicals we cannot help but note — especially among some of Ludwig von Mises’ students, like Murray N. Rothbard — are no doubt the result of long-festering disputes in which the dominant school was more dismissive than anything else . . . in the manner dominant schools tend to be. And those dominant schools (which went through a Walrasian phase, to make this more complicated) tend to carry on old mistakes while scoffing at the objections of the economists they, in effect, “marginalize.”

twv

Why are QAnon followers suddenly saying that there’s no such thing as Qanon?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

Well, few of the promises/prophecies made by the QAnon group panned out. So of course many people who had once expressed hope in Q came to accept the irreality and spurned it.

Now, I follow some Trumpsters on Gab.com, and a few of them are doubling down, repackaging Q-like rumors into a sort of neo-QAnon Q2. Very much like the Millerites did in the 19th century, they are rebooting the cult.

But most folks lived and learned.

One of the things they have learned, though? Never cease mocking your enemy. And the “No Such Thing as Q” meme may very well be a play off of Democrats’ all-too-common Antifa Denial. It is not just the new president who has argued that since there is no centralized control of Antifa, it really isn’t a thing. That is obvious nonsense, of course, so we may assume that some Q-adjacent folks are pulling our leg in a parodistic manner.

Which probably would be the wisest course. QAnon was something. We have heard a few exposés, revelations of “Q’s” alleged real identity, and maybe some day we will know for certain. But mysterious or no, it was a psy-op. It had real effects. Followers of Q may some day learn what really went on, and precisely what agenda was being served.

Maybe they already know. I do not. While I was always interested in Q, and never contemptuously dismissive, my interest was limited and I never immersed myself in the culture. Most of it seemed unbelievably fabulistic, but I possessed few facts to falsify the tales.

I do know this, though: the left has no cause to gloat. QAnon was not the only bad faith player engaged in a psy-op this past half-decade. The left is, generally, as deluded as the right.

I think we should all let up on our enemies long enough to realize that we are all being played. (Some folks are even “playing” themselves!) Maybe we should take comfort in the likelihood that being made to look foolish is a common feature of politics, as is the self-delusion that only others are deluded.

twv

As a libertarian, are you more of a conservative libertarian, a centrist Libertarian, a bleeding heart Libertarian, or somewhere in between two of the three given choices?

…as answered on Quora….

I am closest to a centrist, but with a caveat: I regard liberty itself as a moderating principle, as “centrist,” and always have. Liberty is the middle ground between you killing me and me killing you; you enslaving me and me enslaving you; you stealing from me and me stealing from you.

Liberty is an ideal compromise.

But since we live in an unfree, illiberal world, compromises with the existing order are inevitable but not easy. Still, most of us pay our taxes, and I am not advocating a tax rebellion. We muddle through all this, and I am open to alternative notions of reform, acceptance, resistance, and rebellion. Libertarians should be able to argue about this sort of thing. Rationally.

I am not much tempted by either the left or the right, though I respect the good intentions of both movements while rejecting the vices of both. That being said, the silly, witless “bleeding heart” metaphor is not for me, and though I am not a conservative, I have gotten rather tired of typical lefty attitudes on a whole bunch of issues, so I often sound more conservative now than I used to: I don’t think “slut-shaming” is a moral horror, I am not into “trans acceptance,” and I think immigration is a bigger challenge to beltway bleeding-heart-ism than most of my friends do. Further, I do not think that racism and sexism are any more inimical to liberty than older-style vices like greed and pride. Bleeding Heart Libertarians — who think that liberty should promote “social justice” and oppose icky “reactionaries” — don’t like this take.

I just think people should treat each other with respectful reciprocity, granting each other their baseline freedoms while holding each other responsible for their actions. But if most of us ignore most others, and fall short of the rigors of Universal Love and Full Dignity, I think that is OK. Similarly, as useful as religions are for in-group cohesion, all of them are wrong and I can accept none of them, which makes me a non-conservative, I think. My commitment is to philosophy, not tradition or religion, no matter how useful they may be for the masses.

“As a libertarian,” I think we should emphasize liberty, not these other standards, like Tradition or Social Justice. Liberty should adjudicate between the competing claims of these other paradigms.

twv

Do you think Jesus was libertarian?

…as answered on Quora….

The man whom Christians call Jesus Christ, whom Muslims call Isa, and for whom skeptical historians have been scouring ancient histories and the dust of the archeological record to get an objective fix upon, is a puzzling figure. Many contradictory things are imputed to him. Is he the Prince of Peace — or did he come not to bring peace but a sword? Arguments abound.

I was raised a Christian, but soon after I ceased believing in Christian dogma I found myself distancing myself from America’s statist dogmas, too — indeed, within three years of my apostasy I became a libertarian. Which is a kind of political apostasy, really. And, since that time, over forty years ago, I have witnessed religion and politics echoing each others’ concerns, myths, methods and madness.

But was Jesus a libertarian? No. Another Quoran answered this simply: he was a monarchist. Libertarian ideas may have been percolating in the background of political life and philosophy, but they had not boiled over yet, certainly not into the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul or elsewhere during the first century of the current era.

We could end the discussion there, but…

I have recently come to be more than half-convinced by Ralph Ellis, author of many books, including King Jesus and Jesus, King of Edessa — convinced of something relevant to the question: the Historical Jesus whose discovery has eluded our academic scholars is not really so elusive after all. He can be found in the pages of Josephus’s histories, identified by various names, “Jesus of Gamala” being the most prominent.

The parallels between the dramatis personae of the Jewish revolt that Josephus wrote about in The Jewish Wars and the cast of characters of the New Testament are astounding, and after carefully sorting through the peculiar pesher techniques of the rabbis who wrote the Talmud, and some obscure references in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient documents, Mr. Ellis has uncovered what he believes is the historical man behind the myths: King Manu VI of Edessa, known as “Izates” and “Izas” (hence our “Jesus”): this was a real, world-historic figure, descended from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Parthian royalty, leader of the “fourth sect of Judaism” (the Nazarenes/Nazarites), and instigator of a tax revolt with the uber-ambitious, ultimate aim of becoming emperor of Rome.

Josephus, argues Ellis, secretly wrote the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts to obscure the real history and thereby cook up a version of Judaism (Christianity, what Ellis calls “Simple Judaism”) that would allow the counter-revolutionaries Vespasian and Titus to rule somewhat peaceably.

Slyly jiggering with Jesus of Gamala’s revolutionary statements (particularly about taxes), Josephus — whom Ellis describes as the Flavians’ paid propagandist — made Jesus seem peaceful and almost Rome-friendly. Jesus of Gamala was not, of course. He was ultra-political, a king who was trying to become what Vespasian became, perhaps more. But the Jesus of the Gospels was depicted as less threatening to imperial power: “render unto Caesar” and all.

The key to Josephus’s psy-op was placing his characters back in time two score years, with the grand denouement in the short epoch of Pontius Pilate’s procutorship.

But what about liberty? What Josephus writes of the Nazarenes/Nazarites in the eighteenth book of The Antiquities of the Jews is interesting:

These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain. And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans.

While Josephus’s “Jesus of Gamala” was hardly a libertarian, we individualists might wish to learn something from the cult, what with its resistance to established authority and its “inviolable attachment to liberty.”

twv

Should there be straight pride?

…as answered on Quora….

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To opposeheteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv