Must every generation that kicks a rock on the sidewalk pretend it has just discovered stone?

There are ideas that twist in on themselves, involving paradoxes that trap weak minds.

The most interesting of these are memeplexes that (a) suggest actions or even full policies that (b) yield results that, in turn, (c) seem to bolster the ideas themselves, but which (d) actually logically undermine the ideas because the policy (e) artificially produces the effects of the memeplex itself.

My favorite example is the idea, common in the South before emancipation, that Africans were not capable of education and responsible living, so it was better (for their own good!) that they be slaves. This is the “natural slave” notion. The thing is, the allied act, or policy, was to prohibit slaves from being schooled, and prevent them, in general, from acting responsibly. This kept the enslaved African-Americans ignorant and unpracticed in the arts of living, thus “proving” that they were inferior to white masters and white freemen. But of course a moment’s thought should show the flaw in reasoning here. The evidence for inherent inferiority is artificially produced by the very acts that the thesis suggests. So what is proven is no natural inferiority, but an artificial one. A policy-driven one.

Keynesianism shows another such implicit paradox. Keynes argued that markets cannot equilibrate after a sudden deflationary shock because of “sticky wages,” that is, inelasticity of a factor of production, which naturally produces unemployment. But Keynes and his Keynesian acolytes did not attempt to remove any government policies that made wages inelastic — and as Sidney Webb privately cursed, there were indeed policies of unions and governments that very much did make wage rates inelastic. Instead, the Keynesians sought a workaround in fiscal (and later monetary) “stimulus” . . . that catered to the popularity of the prejudice for wage rate rigidity by placing the focus elsewhere, which in turn exacerbated the stickiness of wages, thereby “proving” that wages are naturally sticky.

(This was all something of a red herring for curing depressions, since the real problem after an unexpected deflation is sticky long-term loan rates, holding borrowers to terms that become increasingly difficult to pay off in the context of plummeting prices, as Irving Fisher so ably explained. But the Keynesian policies effectively distracted policymakers from reforming wage contract policy and thereby fueled evidence for the sticky wage rates.) 

What we see in these instances is

A. a theory about cause and effect that
B. by association of ideas (intuition) goes hand-in-hand with a policy or set of actions that
C. produces effects that seem to confirm the theory A.

My chief conjecture about this process is that people tend to develop notions like Theory A because such theories suggest Policy B, which is what they really are concerned with. Policy B does not, as intuited, offset the unpleasant or seemingly disvalued effects of Theory A, but instead reinforces them. Whether the “naturalness” of Policy B’s perverse effects are understood consciously by inattentive people (which has to be often the case, since in politics and government most people run on intuition, not reason and evidence).

The most common example of this process is in state aid policies. Here people theorize, for example, that discrimination and poor education and inadequate nutrition leads certain grouos of people to lag behind the average in productivity and economic success. That is the Theory A. Naturally, and not implausibly, since one does not like the effects of Theory A, one seeks to help people . . . through an extensive welfare state. That is Policy B. The problem is, Policy B provides sufferers of poverty (in this case) many disincentives to advance on their own. And the policy actually incentivizes people to ape behaviors that would trigger and even increase their subsidies, effectively taking them out of the market. Which is what we have seen, with the trendline in poverty sloping downward before the War on Poverty and leveling soon after the “War” commenced.

twv

The Onion: “World’s 22,000 Polar Bears Forced to Share Last Remaining Iceberg

This is a joke, and a funny one. And especially bizarre since the image, when I placed it above, captioned itself as “Floating iceberg, Antarctica.” Polar bears live in the Arctic. Another level to the joke, I guess. I’m chuckling.

That being said . . . according to the charts I’ve seen there has been no appreciable decrease in the extent of the summer Arctic ice sheet, much less the winter’s.

The Arctic sea ice extent in recent times.

What is going on? Well, the much-publicized Arctic warming has mostly occurred in the winter. Remember the freezing point of water? Well, if it is less cold than before, but that warming is still below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, this amounts to bupkis in melting. 

What we get from scientists and the media is largely a series of badly contextualized data that serves to paint us a wildly incorrect picture of climate change. 

Which is real. It is just very different from what we are being fed

Still, hilarious doctored photo. Kudos to The Onion

Unless, of course, this came from the CIA as part of a clever plan to make us just a little more crazy in precisely the way the Deep State wants. 

I know this sounds nuts, but this is as I see it: James Hansen, formerly of NASA, has pushed global warming relentlessly for 30 years, with predictions that never come true — he and his acolyte Al Gore have repeatedly prophesied a summer Arctic absence of an ice sheet “in ten years,” kicking the catastrophe down the road another decade after their failure stares them in the face, hoping for a confirmation . . . some day.

Until a decade ago, I gave this pair a lot of leniency, simply because I could not believe any respectable public figure could be so far off the mark, which would suggest either witlessness or lying. Since I do not believe folks like Hansen and Gore are witless (Gore’s execrable Earth in the Balance notwithstanding), I have some trouble seeing anything other than a psy-op here.

twv

Politically correct manspreading:

Billy Porter at the 2019 Oscars.

I have made my position about “gender” about as clear as I can make it, on this blog: “gender” is inconsistently used even by its main proponents because it is mostly incoherent.

The obsession with gender-as-imposition of sex roles (“socially constructed”) has been countered with a liberatory concept of self-definition (“display as”) without specifying the range of possibilities from social convention to social conspiracy to individual assertion to individual accommodation. Because of this lack of multi-factor analysis, gender theorists turn their pet concept from a supposedly sociological theory (or schema) into a cult dogma.

But where “gender” really errs is by focusing on categorization (“gender” has roots in the concept of “genre”/“genera”) as an identity determinant — that is, as a theory of individual identity formation — instead of individuation as a prime component of personal self-definition. It is all very confused because the normative move from socially constructed (imposed) role identification to individually constructed (self-defined) role identification fixates in both cases on a group identifier. It denies that social identification of roles might be quite copacetic with vague ranges and that individual definition of role might not need a category to make common cause with similar persons.

A person might be satisfied merely to identify himself or herself or whatself without any direct competitors for a possible mate — or none — and cooperate with a found mate without heavy social identification.

Identity could be, in some cases, primarily an individual existentialist concern rather than a class essentialist concern.

Which means: sex remains the most convenient categorization criterion, with its standard biological binary, and “gender” mostly worthless.

Sex serves as a Schelling Point criterion, while gender is too complex to negotiate in any large society.

My anti-gender position is, of course, considered absurd by the recent college-grad crowd. But what is absurd is allowing “trans girls” into women’s sports where natural male physical superiority overwhelms female competitors — sometimes to the point of crushing a female skull.

Screenshot from the YouTube vid.

Alan Shepard was the oldest man to walk on the Moon, at least according to NASA (I love putting in that caveat). He was in his 48th year when he became the fifth Apollo astronaut to trod the lunar surface. 

Charles Duke, the tenth to do so, was in his 37th year — and the youngest — when he became peripatetic so far from home.

Four of these temporary selenites still survive. Eugene Cernan, who was the last astronaut to have walked there, died two years ago.

Buzz Aldrin and Edgar Mitchell, the second and sixth lunar perambulators, along with Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden, claim to have seen UFOs while manning their respective Apollo spacecraft, and took (and “passed”) lie detector tests to add weight to their claims. Mercury and Gemini astronaut Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. — who was scratched from an Apollo mission — claimed, in his autobiography, to have seen UFOs not in space but as a pilot of an aircraft. 

Meanwhile, your spaceflight dreams could be made real, if you have enough money, or (this is a longshot) drive some backroads late at night and wander into a UFO amenable to hitchhikers or especially interested in probing your nether regions. Always wear clean underwear.

as answered on Quora:

What prevents countries from attempting libertarian policies?

Not enough libertarians.

That is the main reason. All other reasons are speculative.

But there is, I think, a baseline reason for why there are so few libertarians, and I am not referring to genetic predisposition or the current early stage of libertarianism’s development. What is that reason?

Statism is a trap.

The dirigiste state — the robust modern state, as well as the various states of limited-access societies in the past — presents people with a set of incentive traps that embroil them in self-defeating behavior.

Think of statism as a hole, and all we have are shovels — and, further, that the loosest loam is under our feet, not on the sides. It takes longer digging steps for an upward ascent. So people — mostly distracted, living their lives — convince themselves that digging further downward is the obvious response. It sure seems easier.

They forget that the first rule to apply when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging downward.

The social sciences provide some familiar and not-familiar-enough terms that help define and explain aspects of our predicament: rational ignorance, preference falsification, the Thomas Theorem, the prisoner’s dilemma, public goods, rent-seeking, market failure, and the like. But people get confused by the situations identified by these terms, and are tempted to see in further state-control and -interference solutions to the problems state-control itself causes.

Example? Take that term “market failure.” It is a term of art that economists use, but it often confuses even economists. It is not, like it sounds, about the failures of markets. It refers to the failure to establish the groundwork for markets. The most common market failures are in government.

It sounds paradoxical.

But it isn’t.

It is just a bit complicated.

Smart people are supposed to be able to unravel such convolutions, untangle these puzzles. But the dirigiste state presents smart people with a huge temptation: to live at others’ expense — gain unfair advantage — all the while feeling self-righteous in advancing “the public good.”

But what if the public good can only be achieved through the establishment of the limits that liberty provides? What if it is only by limiting coercion so that people have to get ahead by serving others through trade and other forms of voluntary coöperation that redounds to the general benefit?

Well, smart people would have to work a bit harder, in such a system, and might have to live with dumber people getting ahead of them. So smart people just naturally find the statist modes of the ancient world’s limited-access societies and revive them through licensing, regulations, taxation, even subsidies. And, in the process, “just so happen” to set up their class as dominant. Technocracies don’t run themselves!

It “just so happens” that the biggest winners in a modern dirigiste state are members of what we call the cognitive elite.

It is almost as if intellectuals — good students, remember, great test-takers and essay writers and bright young scholars — saw the world of market capitalism at the end of the 19th century, where anyone, regardless of IQ or credentials, could advance by leaps and bounds so long as they provided services to others on a contractual, voluntary basis, and said “fuck that shit.” It is almost as if they set up a system of massive coercion all built around the guidance of “trained professionals” wherein said professionals would achieve the security that markets do not readily provide, at least for so little real work.

It is almost that!

That, my friends, is Progressivism.

And, with the smart people — er, the good students and dutiful drones of the collegiate crowd — almost all on board with statism, and in control of the commanding heights of the culture — public schools, higher ed, major media and the entertainment industry, not to mention the many bureaucracies and government contractors — it is very hard to make much headway against the trap that they have fully set.

Amusingly, these geniuses routinely set up systems that self-destruct. At least, after entangling increasing numbers of the population into servility or exploitation or both. So, we run headlong into crisis . . . and move from crisis to crisis. There may be some hope in a growing realization that these long-term cycles of the dirigiste state are not All to the Good. But my hopes are not very high.

And, lastly, at the basis of the trap, at least in terms of democratic action, is this: government programs are routinely judged not on the merits of their ostensible and original purposes, but on whether they establish beneficiaries. That is — constituencies. But all programs establish that. So all government programs tend to grow, and kludge must become the rule.

While retreats from such kludge can be made, and have been made, historically, they are politically costly, difficult to negotiate.

Statism is the “it” of our situation:

Stelter’s tweet is rather like Cain’s reply when asked where Abel was. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Well, Cain’s rhetorical question implies a truth: we are not our brothers’ keepers. But that was hardly the point, was it? Cain had murdered his brother. Cain used his rhetorical expression of a truth to conceal a crime. He had made himself the keeper, so the tale goes, of his brother’s corpse.

Just so, Brian Stelter — I would be tempted to call him the most witless man on television, except that he is on CNN and he is way down the line of nincompoopery — expresses a truth: one faked victimization event does not negate any other real crimes of a similar variety. But that is hardly the point, is it?

The reason we stick pols’ and journos’ noses into this foul fraud is that they fell for the hoax without questioning it — indeed, they fell all over themselves touting its cultural importance, as yet another example of their political opponents’ evil natures. When discovering that their celebrated cause was indeed a hoax — that their honored victim was a liar — they should have expressed shame, made an apology. Not a defensive excuse.

What the event revealed was that they, the major media and cultural and political elite, are themselves bigoted, racist and evil. Not their opponents.

twv

C. -F. Volney, at This Is Common Sense.

Social media often takes the full brunt of the blame for the current ideological/political divide. Take this BigThink post:

Two [sic] reasons why social media is bad for us, politically:

1. The echo chamber: I think a huge part of why we’ve become so divided as a society stems from the binaries mentioned in Jason’s piece [“To My Friend, the Radical Leftist,” by Jason Gots, July 11, 2015]. Just as conservatives reinforce their anti-liberal sentiments by watching Fox News (and vice-versa with liberals and MSNBC), folks on Facebook curate their audience to form an echo chamber. It’s basically self-structured propaganda, which is inherently anti-liberal by the classical definition. Flashier, more inflammatory ideas rise to the top of the conversation thus fueling the sorts of radical biases and heuristics that subconsciously radicalize people. The middle ground shrinks as rhetorical forces seek to push people farther left or farther right. I don’t think that’s healthy for a society, especially when radicalization comes attached to a sense of mean-spiritedness against the other side.

2. Tactics and tone: The whole public-shaming culture bugs me because it portrays conflicting opinions as, at best, the stupid ramblings of uninformed idiots; at worst, straight-up evil. People act differently online than they do in person, often for the worse, because we see other people online as characters in a larger digital drama rather than real human beings. It engenders a sense of enmity against our peers that ought not have any place in a respectful and democratic society. It also kills me to see people shun, demean, or shame the ignorant, because ignorance is not always the result of volition. Demonization is lazy. It alienates people who might otherwise have come around to your beliefs had they not been made to feel bad. Social media and the SJW mindset (as much as I hate that term) both promote a shouting-down of the opposition rather than a thoughtful attempt to sway opinion. It, by design, divides rather than unites.

3. Memes are the lowest form of political discourse: I mean seriously, come on…

Social media is turning us into thoughtless political extremists,” Robert Montenegro, BigThink, July 13, 2015


This sort of thing would be more convincing if my own experience fit the depiction. 

I have believed and written the same sort of things for most of my adult life as I do now on Facebook. But in the old days, prior to the Internet, only a few thousand people read Liberty magazine, for example, a zine that I helped start in the summer of 1987. And those people only read it after jumping over the hurdle of a hideous cover as well as the stigma of that word, “liberty.” That was a bubble. Now, on social media, I reach neighbors and friends and family and their friends and families. And strangers who click into my feed, perhaps from Quora or my blog or even, heaven forfend, Twitter (I really do prefer Gab, but Gab mirrors posts to Twitter). So, what I do on Facebook and linked sites now probably reaches a greater diversity of people than my writing in Liberty.

Before the current era, and in the Gutenberg dimension, a fractured publishing world separated us. And, in person, politesse did. It was a rare thing to discuss at length “religion and politics.” Now, however, on Facebook, anyway, these natural barriers fall down. Because inhibitions of manners are less effective, because we do not see into the eyes of our interlocutors.

But two things: (1) I have noticed, over the past few years on Facebook, that my friends and family and neighbors who disagree with me interact with me less than they did ten years ago — they may be re-establishing the bubble of politesse, by shunning; (2) on the few issues where I have changed my mind, or grew open to new obsessions, it is on those ideas that I have received the most pushback.

This latter point is illustrative of the major problem with social media bashing, which, after this piece by Robert Blackmountian — and, more importantly, the election of Donald Trump — has become an international moral panic. Since I get the most flak for recent changes in opinion, there is certainly another attempt to embubble hot, divisive topics. But I persist, and slowly open up a few minds. And this does not indicate that my experience has led me or anyone else to increased “extremism” — I feel a pressure to conform, but the ease of posting emboldens my dissent, and new ideas do get circulated. People changing their minds is not necessarily extremism. And sometimes, after all, the truth does lie at an extreme — falsity being at the other pole, and fiction and irony in lines orthogonal.

OK. I bend. What we are witnessing in the present time is partly the result of social media. Sure. But much of this is good. In earlier times, we could all pretend that democracy was not what it definitely is: a factional contest to inflict one’s values on one’s enemies. This is no longer possible, because actual differences are demonstrated interpersonally on the Net. The extremism was always there, but hidden by convention and institutional subterfuge.

What we are reviving is the manner of democracy before the establishment, in the late 19th century, of the secret ballot. Adopting the secret ballot was necessary to disenthrone constitutional limits on government. When everyone knew how everyone else voted, there was some social check on extremism in factions. Your vote was known to your neighbors, and you had to look them in the face when you sicced the state upon them through your pet policies. There was a reason you had to moderate your politics. But with a secret ballot — which, we should remember, J.S. Mill had the wit to oppose — all participants had cover, and could nurture secret hatreds and resentments against others and call it Good Policy.

So the all-against-all war emerged in the progressives’ “new republic,” as predicted by Volney:

Under the mask of union and civil peace, [cupidity] fomented in the bosom of every state an intestine war, in which the citizens, divided into contending corps of orders, classes, families, unremittingly struggled to appropriate to themselves, under the name of supreme power, the ability to plunder every thing, and render every thing subservient to the dictates of their passions; and this spirit of encroachment, disguised under all possible forms, but always the same in its object and motives, has never ceased to torment the nations.

See “An Intestine War,” October 23, 2012.

Now this is all out in the open. We all know what is at stake: capturing power in the imperial capital means inflicting on others the programs and policies and laws with which they disagree, often are even disgusted with. We know where everybody stands.

And today’s progressives feel especially attacked, and thus desperate. Their power at the commanding heights of the culture has been challenged. They thought things would always go their way. Things would “progress.” They have not. They received pushback. Their dominance in major media and in the academic realm has been eclipsed by “new media” of the Internet, which social media helps spread far and wide. And after a century of progress in the size and scope of government, they became frightened. And crazed.

Their reaction to Trump was comic, of course, though they were not laughing: before the election, when they were sure Hillary would win, they were aghast when The Donald demurred in possible “acceptance” of the results of the vote; after the election, and the results became clear, it was they who could not accept the outcome. So of course things got even uglier. For they had given up on the old democratic decorum of understanding that you can’t always get what you want.

The putative conservatives, on the other hand, are used to losing — they have lost all the culture wars, have they not? — and now have this notion in their head that they should win occasionally. But with Trump in office — a centrist sinner with only a few points of overlap with Reaganite conservatism — they are, on net so far, only stemming the progressive tide. A Universal Basic Income, for example, sure looks imminent.

So the battle lines are drawn.

And the solution? The truth of the matter is as Volney put it: peace can come only from the liberty that limits intestine war.

Until we all learn this lesson, and set down some limits again, the war must go on. And ugliness increase.

And I am not going to blame social media for that — I will give it some credit, for transparency. But the blame goes to the system itself, and its historical place on the arc of its own involution. For the truth must come before the solution can even be understood. Social media has helped lay bare the intestine war.

To call a truce, we must not deny truth, but accept it.

twv

This month the administrative state and its allies — the major media most prominently, but also the left in general and the Democratic Party in particular — moved from dippy, loopy and creepy to fully lunatic, evil, and creepazoid.

We learned about the origin of the official investigation into the Russia Collusion scandal: it was after a cadre of Deep State operatives unsuccesfully plotted to leverage the 25th Amendment against an elected president, and undertaken on the flimsiest of pretenses (none criminal on Trump’s part).

We saw a series of elected Democratic officials in Virginia get caught up in uncomfortable ideological scandals, touchy subjects including infanticide, rape and blackface tomfoolery. With only the 30-year-old blackface photo really bothering journalists or Democrats in general.

A major “hate crime” scandal erupted with major Democrat pols coming out pushing additional (and quite unnecessary) lynch laws in response — only to discover the alleged crime was a hoax.

And, for the pièce de résistance, a new congresswoman made waves by offering something she calls a Green New Deal. This preposterous program, if enacted, would inflict upon these benighted states a wide array of social and environmental “reforms”: a universal basic income, a bizarre goal of reconfiguring every building in the United States up to a strict energy efficiency standard, and, within ten years, getting the country off of fossil fuels completely. When pressed, that congresswoman admitted that many homes would have to be torn down, that the airline industry would be permanently grounded, that flatulent bovines had to go, and that this all needed to be done so quickly because in twelve years, otherwise, human civilization would be over. This whole plan is radical hubris of an almost old-fashioned communist sort, and the doomsday cries were environmentalists’ typically paranoid catastrophism, offered without evidence — just assertions from “scientists” and “experts.” Reckless beyond any rational standard — crazy talk. Nevertheless, most of the declared Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race heartily endorsed it.

We might have thought that the Republicans, in electing Trump, had proven the old Millian charge about conservatives constituting the Stupid Party. But no. By electing Trump, Republicans have driven Democrats quite mad. And Trump may be well on his way to re-election.

Modern politics now reads like a Tom Sharpe satirical farce. I have been hankering, recently, to re-read Wilt, Blott on the Landscape, and Riotous Assembly, but it just really isn’t necessary.

Who needs satire when we have political reality?

I know it is cliché to say that, these days. My excuse? Each of the three terrific Sharpe comedies I mentioned sports the same sort of climax: an outrageous police siege with bloodshed, guns blazing, and plenty of explosions. Sharpe’s may seem as if mere cap gun pops compared to what we would witness were the Green Ten-Year Plan actually be implemented.

twv

The Sharpe novels readiest at hand in my library. Riotous Assembly must be somewhere….

On Gab before the proof came in about the hoax.

It used to be a joke. Old people would regale us with all the difficulties that they had had to endure when young: walking home from school, splitting firewood, etc. Some of this was funny because it was such a cliché, some because it spoke to real progress but was said with such fondness, and some because . . . well, I walked a ways away home from school, and with a French horn case; and I split, and threw and stacked firewood, too.

Nowadays it is the youngsters who regale us with the horrors of their lives, their ordeals. We “just do not know” what they go through. They now often tell us of all the racism and homophobia that gets directed to them.

Their lip-smacking glee in the telling, however, is less innocent than the oldsters’ old complaints, and their most obvious guilt is the fact that many of the worst, most celebrated instances of victimization turn out to be hoaxes. Ah, Jussie Smollett is just the latest.

There is, as Gad Saad often asserts, a sort of Münchhausen’s syndrome in play: get attention by malingering, by pretending to be sick; get attention by pretending to be a victim.

Note that the hoaxers are not pretending to any great heroism or achievement: that would be jejune! They pretend to be victims.

If you ask me, there is more honor in pretending to have achieved something one has not achieved than in pretending to having been victimized when one has not. At least the former promotes achievement; the latter promotes resentment.

These are the days of the Last Men. They are only grimly funny.

twv

The point being that you need moral leukocytes.