Archives for category: Quora

What does it mean to go “full QAnon”?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

I am not going to pretend to offer the correct explanation. I am going to try to offer the most logical one, based on the lore I’ve encountered so far.

The “Q” lore has many elements. Going “full QAnon,” to my way of thinking, would be to believe and spread the core ideas and then go on further, to embrace some of the whackier and most extreme notions.

  1. Donald Trump is (a) a super-competent outsider who nevertheless (b) knows what is really going on in the Deep State, who (c) has the skills and (d) knowledge of fighting the malign, devilish forces therein.
  2. He is allied with godly/angelic beings in the fight against the wayward principalities and powers.
  3. He is a traditionalist who was selected by God to save America.
  4. The Deep State and the Democratic Party are filled with child-raping Magick addicts who are bent on turning America into an anti-Christian totalitarian socialist technocracy with no freedoms except for the elite.
  5. These enemies have made deals with the ancient and mysterious Rulers of the Earth — the Satanic aliens — and they must be arrested and brought to justice, and their strongholds deep in the Earth’s crust must be bombed out of existence.


Now, I didn’t have facts to disprove most of these outlandish theories, going into the last election. But with the failures of Trump to retain office, despite over a ten million vote-count increase over 2016 (a truly amazing thing, by the way), it is obvious that the most basic Q beliefs have been disproved, that is, falsified:

Donald John Trump is

  1. not super-competent,
  2. knew little going in about the nature of the American State,
  3. lacked the skills necessary to destroy the enemies within the government who immediately began plotting his destruction, and
  4. was not even much of a traditionalist, though when the Democrats hunkered down for his immediate ouster, he tried hard to do a few very conservative things, particularly about regulation and Supreme Court Justices.

It has been fun watching some Q sources scramble to retain the old-time prophecies. A relevant book to read for this re-grouping period is When Prophecy Fails, by Festinger et al.


Why can women forgive their cheating husband, but men can’t? (or, Why, traditionally, have women more easily forgiven their cheating husbands than men forgiven their cheating wives?)

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

A basic element, here, is that while

  • women have a rather limited number of eggs and bear the natural, biological burden of investing in progeny prenatally, as well as being better adapted to nurture young children (breast milk, for starters),
  • men have a startling amount of sperm and do not bear the natural, biological burden of prenatal investment in the production of children, and are less well suited to raising children in their very young years.

Because of this inequality, the “deals” men and women make in sexual relations have tended, across cultures, to demonatrate quite distinct supply and demand schedules. Women have tended to offer sure paternity of their children to their spouses in exchange for the man providing physical and political and “economic” security.

A woman who engages in sexual activity with a man not her spouse betrays the essential element of the deal. This is a direct abrogation of the basic agreement. A man who engages in sexual activity with a woman not his spouse is not directly violating the terms (or basic requirements) of the “deal.”

But a husband who ceases to support — or slacks off in supporting — his wife while diverting his resources to a mistress, say, that would be on the level of a cheating wife.

It has been a staple of feminist thought that there is something horrible about this double standard. The more I investigate the nature of sexual relations, the less sense this makes to me, since the very contract itself is based on a double standard — or, better yet, like almost all trades, the deal is, in essence, the satisfaction of two distinct sets of priorities. So a double standard is precisely what we would expect to see evolve.

Now, in couples who do not have, cannot have, or do not want children, the nature of the deal changes. Also the importance of the deal tends to lessen as well, which is why we would expect to see more divorce and more “cheating” in families with no children.

So, no wonder wives tend to forgive cheating husbands more often than men forgive cheating wives — at least in the past. These days, with fewer children being produced and with more households dependent upon the State (taxpayers) for the maintenance of children, we should see this double standard weaken, perhaps even to the point of reversal — in cases where other pressures are brought to bear.

In fine, we should expect distinct behaviors and value-standards along sex lines for a sexually dimorphic species.

N. B. I assume a mix of naturally selected habits and attitudes and economically-induced ones, as well as culturally variable influences. We always expect variety. But patterns of behavior can nevertheless be teased out, with causal relations introduced in multiple dimensions, honing in on a number of factors. The fact that, in complex systems (such as societies) there are outliers and divergent behaviors does not preclude the making of generalizations subject to the usual caveats and statistical distributions.


Photo: Ralf, Flickr, some rights reserved

Is Socialism the cousin of Communism?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

Economist Yves Guyot was puzzled by this, too. So he consulted the literature and the politicians who promoted one or the other or both. Here is what he wrote in Socialistic Fallacies (1910), about Marx and Engels’ infamous word choice:

They chose “communism” because the word “socialism” had been too much discredited at the time, but they subsequently resumed it, for the logical conclusion of all socialism is communism. The word “collectivism,” says Paul Lafargue, was only invented in order to spare the susceptibilities of some of the more timorous. It is synonymous with the word “communism.” Every socialistic program, be it the program of St. Mandé, published in 1896 by Mr. Millerand, which lays down that “collectivism is the secretion of the capitalist régime,” or that of the Havre Congress, drawn up by Karl Marx, and carried on the motion of Jules Guesde, concludes with “the political and economic expropriation of the capitalist class and the return to collective ownership of all the means of production.

These are terms of art, and some of the art is subterfuge. The general tenor of all socialistic thought is the replacement of private property and free exchange with public property and a command economy.

What we call it is less important than identifying its dangers.


How do Libertarians respond to the idea that a libertarian society is far too Utopian?*

There are a few standard responses that are neither tendentious nor special pleading. Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful:

  1. The complaint about utopianism is contextual to a specific time and place. Abolitionism was considered radical, and a completely free labor workforce impossible, in the American states of 1850, by most people. Twenty years later abolition of slavery had been achieved, if messily and at great cost. There were a few libertarians of that time who noted that a more peaceful end to slavery may have seemed utopian, but it was that seeming and that charge that allowed Southerners to stick to the slavery position and the Northerners to their bloody union position that led to the impasse and mass death. Had both unionists and secessionist slavers taken the “utopian” position more seriously, they would have avoided devastation. But they couldn’t, because the utopian charge itself prevented sane reason. Sometimes, the “far too utopian” charge is itself the problem. And everyone today recognizes this truth — but only about past impasses.
  2. In Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974), philosopher Robert Nozick explained what liberty — which is what libertarians offer — does for utopia. It provides a framework for utopian experimentation. It is not itself utopian. Most utopias fail. So what? So do most businesses. That does not mean we should not provide the framework that allows multiform cooperation, including of market trade, innovation in firms, families and communities, and in the more subtler forms of utopianism that Nozick discusses in his book. Libertarianism isn’t utopian. It merely allows for the greatest diversity of utopian projects.
  3. If I remember correctly, Chris Sciabarra argues in his several books that the key distinction to maintain is between radicalism and utopianism, and that libertarians tend to be radicals and not utopians. 
  4. Following hints by Hayek and more explicit argumentation by Thomas Sowell, perhaps the key to utopian thinking can be in the vision of human nature and social causation of two distinct approaches to political thought. In Sowell’s schema, the “unconstrained vision,” where human nature is regarded as extremely malleable — perfectible — under the direction of “rational” moralizing and the overwhelming onslaught of institutional design, is the central element of utopianism, whereas in the “constrained vision” man’s characteristic limitations suggest not merely humility but also (perhaps) explicit limits from which liberty itself is defined and derived. So while some libertarians may in fact be utopians because of their Godwinian attitudes about the place of reason in progress, others are more Hayekian in regarding reason as just one tool in the social uplift toolkit, and failure an ineradicable part of sociality. Libertarian figures such as Herbert Spencer dialectically united both perspectives offering a whiff of utopia in their generally hard-nosed and somewhat pessimistic progressivism — Spencer explicitly incorporating decay (dissolution) into his grand schema of organization (which featured growth, that is, evolution, leading to equilibrium and then ineluctably to de-systemizing).
  5. Libertarians often sound their most utopian when they give specific conjectures about how a freer society would work. Why do they do this? To aid people to think through how free people can form orderly solutions to problems of scarcity and conflict. Marx wouldn’t do this for his “scientific socialism,” and thereby hid from the world the impossibility of his designs. Alas, when libertarians attempt to comply with a seemingly commonsense demand for specifics, their offered thought experiements sound more contrived in a utopian manner than libertarians’ main position actually is. The future is unknowable; libertarians usually acknowledge this, insisting that the ways in which humans freely cooperate to adapt to changing incentives and disincentives, opportunities and menaces, are manifold almost beyond comprehension. And innovation cannot be dreamt up before the opportunity for implementation is more fiction than factual, thus smacking of utopian. Libertarians’ faith in freedom is not utopian so much as warranted by past experience. And this faith is more of a bet on good odds than the faith of the cult of the omnipotent state. Libertarians’ trust in freedom is more categorical than magical in form, and does not take the distinctly utopian forms upon which statism actually depends: the belief that a few exceptionally smart people appointed by political means can figure out and implement optimal solutions without devastating failures that wind up getting written into the warp and woof of standard state practice. That is a utopian faith — in that it defies all experience. Here, libertarians get to play realpolitik scoffers at fools’ outrageous dreams.


* This answer has been submitted to the Quora page “The Screaming Libertarian.”

Why do I feel like a different person now?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

I might be able to answer if you felt like you were me. I know something about me.

But if you feel like some random different person…. Maybe I am not the right person to ask.

Can you ask that “different person”? What does he/she/ze say?

Seriously, do you feel alienated from your own self? This could be worth looking into from a psychological perspective, with the help of someone trained in problems like this.

But it might have to do with (a) being required by circumstance to act outside of your normal comfort zone, or (b) learning a new set of skills, which takes artificial concentration before mastery and psychological identification. These are not unheard of conditions among the young. Further, people who have experienced great loss or failure, have been abusively excluded or denigrated, or are riddled with vice . . . these people often find themselves (c) succumbing to a sort of hidebound self-identification with their negative qualities, and not with their better potentials. This is a trap. It leads to misery, in the end, to despair. Do not get trapped. If you are trapped, figure a way out. But you must understand the nature of your entrapment. If you do not think you are challenging yourself, if (d) you are on neutral, so to speak, then a certain hollowness of life can lead to quirks of mind such as you indicate. And to worse, as mentioned in (c).

So your question could indicate a problem of possible major consequences. At least in potentia.

I think it is important not to get into a “morbid consciousness” of one’s own self. And self-alienation is definitely on the cusp of that, if not that precisely. Instead, pursue worthy goals according to time-tested plans. The goals can be quite individual, quirkily yours and no-one else’s, and still be regulated by methods well established by cultural tradition, religion, philosophy, or whatever institutions you find yourself within.

You might consider whether the institutions that envelop you might not be part of your problem, though. Perhaps you need to change social contexts.

Take heart, though. We all face problems of this sort, on some level. Becoming a rational being is not necessarily easy, and certainly not foolproof (by definition).

But I would investigate (if not exhaustively) the worthiness of your possible goals. Do not focus on vocations or avocations that are anti-social in a fundamental sense. And try to conform to reasonable moral rules. If your goal is “to become rich,” avoid crime. (I would also say “avoid politics,” too, but many people would disagree with me on that. Many people today find advance through such avenues. Political corruption pays.) But “becoming rich” does not strike me as a very good goal, naked and alone. Becoming successful, by hard work, intelligent marshaling of resources, and offering legitimate advantages to others? Yes, that is good.

Whatever you do, try to master something. But recognize that you cannot master everything. Everybody fails at most things — and everyone dies in the end. We concentrate on what we do best, for as long as we can. Do not get worked up about your inadequacies. Accept them. If someone calls attention to them, do not take offense. Move on. That person has inadequacies too, and may merely be adept at covering them up. A socially successful person is in a way like a magician: the magician directs our attention away from what we “must not see.”

Be realistic as well as “idealistic.”

You might consider reading some well-regarded recent work in the psychology of personal development. Are you familiar with Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s Flow? Dr. Jordan Peterson’s self-authoring procedure?

Best wishes, and forgive me if my opening jests seemed offensive. If you can. I was trying to indicate a metaphysical interpretation of your question . . . but obliquely, by play, rather than with philosophical analysis.


After writing the above, a dozen other possible answers came to mind, not excluding “You’ve grown.”

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.