Showing posts from May, 2020

Why I Hate Libertarianism: Part XXIV

I'm a mild mannered man.  OK, that could be an exaggeration.  Let's compromise on a "nonviolent person."  One thing that has long reduced me to incoherent fury is libertarianism.  I remember being outraged by it in high school and college. So let me try to be slightly more coherent.  I've thought about it a lot, and I think I can finally clearly identify the part I object to. Man is a social animal.  Not quite as eusocial as an ant or honeybee, but obligately social nonetheless.  The essence of any society is the principle that we are all in this together, and libertarians reject this explicitly.  So, for me, libertarianism is both antisocial and anti-human. The other part of my anger is watching how libertarianism works in practice.  The US is perhaps the most libertarian society in the advanced world and the result has been a system in which the wealthiest and their corporations loot and pillage the general populace with the support of the government.  Of

Theory and Practice

Some time ago I was flying in an aisle seat when a tiny stewardess was having a tough time closing the overhead compartment directly above me.  I happened to be reading a book on Theory of Vibrations.  The stewardess would grab the compartment door in both hands and do a massive two-handed slam.  From my vantage point directly underneath, I could see that the force of her attempts was generating rather large waves in the compartment door. After three or more tries she stopped to catch her breath or perhaps to contemplate her choice of career, and I reached up, gently pulled down the door, and pushed it shut with one finger.  By this time her antics had attracted the attention of several nearby passengers who burst into laughter.  I gave her a smile, and she said something like "I'll get you," and went back to her duties. My point here is that our actions and decisions are guided by a theory of the world. Partly because of the book I was reading, I could form the idea

Well that was Lame: John Locke

One of my besetting faults is a tendency to want to begin at the beginning - a tendency sometimes useful but often disastrous.  So it was in my encounter with noted political philosopher John Locke.  The mistake I made was starting with the first of his two treatises on government.  It is, it turns out, intended to be a "confutation" of the work of Sir John Filmer, an extreme defender of the divine right of kings.  The divine right proposition doesn't have that many modern defenders - Donald Trump and William Barr being the only ones I can think of - so I quickly found Locke's argument tedious. I only got a short way into the book, but it seems that Filmer derived this supreme authority from the primacy of Adam but didn't otherwise  justify it.  So one sentence was all the argument I needed.  Consequently, in my Encounter with Prominent Philosophers contest, we have: Locke - |1| Measure - 0

Quarantine Days: Book Report

Now that classes are over, what intellectual stimulation I get comes from books and jigsaw puzzles.   A few books I have been reading. John Grisham, The Reckoning :   A murder/tragedy in three acts.   The main character walks into a church and guns down the popular preacher.   The central character is a war hero whose travails as soldier, prisoner of war, and guerilla fighter in the Philippines after the Japanese invasion form the core part one.   A why done it. Isaac Asimov, Foundation: I found this science fiction classic pretty boring.   The hard science is either magic or overcome by events, character development is nil, and tense standoffs resolved by Deux Ex Machina. Dan Simmons, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion: Two self-contained volumes of a four volume series.   The reference to Keats in the titles of the book is not incidental.   Keats and his poetry are prominently mentioned.   The first volume is structured as a series of Cantos, pilgrims’ stories modeled a

Early Openers

Several States in the US have reopened for business despite little or no evidence that they had Covid-19 under control.  Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida have already seen substantial spikes in infection rates.  Arizona and Wisconsin have had rather modest numbers to date, but Texas and Florida seem poised to become major infection centers. We can hope that people will display common sense and that big time increases won't happen, but indications to date are not promising. We should have clear indications by early June. So what happens if those States are festering masses by then?

Degree of Difference

Mortality figures at all ages have been declining at least since 1900.  This trend is long standing in the advanced countries, but in the US, there has been a break in recent decades in one large demographic group - middle aged non-Hispanic whites.  Among them, we have seen a steady increase in mortality. Interestingly enough, this increase has occurred almost exclusively among whites without college degrees.  This fact is at the center of a new book by Anne Case and her economics Nobel winning husband Angus Deaton:

The 200 Club

The nations that have suffered more that 200,000 Covid-19 infections are members of a Hall of Shame that right now has only six members: Britain, Italy, Spain and new recruits Brazil and Russia, and of course the US, which has more infections than the next six nations combined.  Comparing these losers to the countries which have had many fewer, like New Zealand and South Korea suggests the role of government incompetence.  An even more disastrous performance is that of Belgium, which at least has the excuse of hardly having any government. I know a lot about the sorry performance of the Trump regime, and a bit about the mistakes of Britain and Sweden - another unpopulated loser, but not so much about what went wrong elsewhere.  Of course Brazil is ruled by a Trump knockoff bozo, and Russia by Putin, but what about them. Anybody have any clues?

Quarantine Days: Prophecies of an Unreliable Cassandra

1)After Covid, the economies of the West will be crippled or smashed. 2)The US will probably not be able to maintain strategic dominance. 3)The Dow will be sub 15,000 at Christmas. 4)About half the jobs lost will not come back anytime soon. 5)Many jobs in stores and warehouses will be automated. 6)China will move forcefully to assert number one status.