Monthly Archives: October 2002

On Voting..

Today’s blog comes from my post on the ASC forum

Voting by definition is a process that involves forcing your will on others. Some actions of government (or its agents) are clearly coercive in that they limit your liberty directly, while others don’t involve initiating force, but rather define just what the initiation of force involves. Either way, voting is a process of forcefully restricting the actions of other people. If it weren’t forceful, they we could just ask, pay, or convince them to do whatever without going through the hassle of elections.

Statists think voting is a legitimate way to coerce anyone into doing anything, or in other words, that there is no higher, independent moral authority other than the “voice of the people.” Classical liberals (and their variants) on the other hand think that man has rights which are due to his nature as man (either because God said so, or that’s just how man is.)

Voting is not of course “the most important right” as some statists claim. Elections are only one of many safeguards used to protect the real rights, which are life, liberty, and property. Unfortunately, without constitutional safeguards on liberty, “voting” is just another word for “mob rule.” (Incidentally, so is anarcho-capitalism, where votes are replaced by ballots made of guns and money.) Now, many people who (correctly) think that the government of the US initiates force on a regular basis choose not to vote because they do not want to implicitly legitimize the system even when they vote for less force.

Such non-voters are mistaken. Whether you believe that voting is not a sufficient means of protecting liberty (as a classical liberal) or voting is a completely illegitimate means (as an anarcho-capitalist, for example) the fact remains that voting is the best means you have of changing the actions of government. It is also arguably the only nonviolent means you have of limiting the actions of government (at least until your private army is big enough so that the US military gives up without a fight.) Whether you like it or not, unless our whole society decides unanimously to change to another social order, voting will remain the most effective non-violent means to limit the growth of government.

This is not to say that the anti-statists of the world will be able to vote themselves into freedom, or even shrink the size and power of government – as a philosophical change in the public’s view of the role of the State is the best and only way to achieve liberty in the long run (which is why the LP will never succeed without adopting a philosophy of liberty.) In the short run however, the freedom lovers of the world must use every practical means to stop, or at least slow the growth of the leviathan state NOW, and short of non-violent protest in the form of tax evasion and such, voting remains our most effective way of doing so.

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Marxism and Quantum Physics

I can’t believe I haven’t head about this, but apparently, in 1996, Alan Sokal, a physicist at NYU, wrote an article titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, in which he parodied cultural studies, postmodernism, and so on, writing a paper full of gibberish using dozens of Marxist, Socialist and other “Post-Modern” writers. The hillarious thing is that he actually got the paper published in a peer-review journal, “Social Text” — which as you might imagine, is full of such postmodern crap.

What’s really hilarious is that the paper is full of complete gibberish, yet makes fun of all the “post-modern” crap that has been popularized in academia, and shows how “a liberatory postmodern science” leads to blatant nonsense when subjectivism is applied to scientific knowledge.

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Scientists Shake Hands over Internet: Porn Industry Interested

As this Reuters story reports, scientists are developing a way to “recreate the sense of touch” over the Internet.
Says Reuters:

“Pushing on the pen sends data representing forces through the Internet that can be interpreted by a phantom and therefore felt on the other end,” said Mel Slater, Professor of Computer Science at University College London (UCL).
“You can not only feel the resulting force, but you can also get a sense of the quality of the object you’re feeling — whether it’s soft or hard, wood-like or fleshy.”

I don’t think I need to point out that as soon as this technology becomes viable, the porn industry is going to explode, and we’ll all become mindless cyber-sex addicts.

In other news, it seems that there was a slight miscalculation in the amount of gas that was injected into the Russian theatre to free the hostages, killing at least 120 of the hostages by the toxic gas, while only one person died from being shot during the raid. I’m no fan of the terrorists, but I think the Russian government showed gross incompetence on many levels by not calculating the effects of the gas, not providing medical attention shortly after the raid, and then not informing the doctors of what the toxic agent actually was, so that they could provide the proper antidote. Afterwards, the Russian government refused to reveal the status of the hostages, the number dead, or the nature of the gas that was used, and told the doctors involved to stay mum or else. I think the general problem can be characterized as a complete disregard from human life by the Russian government, Soviet-style incompetence, and a disregard for free speech.

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Economic Freedom and Prosperity

For my econometrics class, I am comparing the relationship between economic freedom and prosperity, and I just got my first regression results for 2001 for 155 nations. The results are very preliminary, but the evidence is clear: there is an extremely high correlation between economic freedom and prosperity, explaining over 73% of the variation in wealth. This means that 73% of the difference between the wealth of nations is explained by the economic policies of their government, with only 27% accounting for differences in natural resources, location, climate, culture, other nations, etc.

This fact alone is not very surprising (unless you’re a socialist, in which case you’re probably ignoring these results), but it is interesting to see which specific factors affect per capita GDP the most. Not surprisingly, property rights and the fiscal burden (taxes) of government have the greatest effect, and significantly monetary policy (inflation) -which shows that (as Lenin said) the best way to destroy capitalism is to go after the currency. Factors which (to my surprise) do not affect prosperity individually are foreign investment and regulation – which may not be true if these variables are significant jointly -I’m not sure yet.

After my analysis of economic factors is complete, I am going to see what effect non-economic factors such as political freedom, government welfare, and population control have on prosperity.

(Note: while the black market correlation is highest, this is more a result of government regulation than a cause, which is why I don’t consider it a factor. Data comes from the 2001 CIA Factbook and 2001 Heritage Inst. Economic Freedom Index. The 2001 data was used because 2002 GDP’s are not available for all nations yet.)

Here is the regression output:

Model 3: OLS estimates using the 155 observations 1-155
Dependent variable: indGDP

VARIABLE COEFFICIENT STDERROR T STAT 2Prob(t>|T|)
           
const 20723.3 2201.61 9.413 <0.00001 ***
Trade -1186.36 434.009 -2.733 0.007042 ***
FiscalBu 1538.63 467.05 3.294 0.001238 ***
Governme 1003.78 583.324 1.721 0.087407 *
Monetary -627.609 326.967 -1.919 0.056873 *
BK -793.975 646.082 -1.229 0.221083  
Wagesand 1420.41 650.191 2.185 0.030513 **
Property -2108.96 663.036 -3.181 0.001794 ***
BlackMar -2899.29 522.668 -5.547 <0.00001 ***

Mean of dependent variable = 8854.32
Standard deviation of dep. var. = 9169.89
Sum of squared residuals = 3.43936e+009
Standard error of residuals = 4853.58
Unadjusted R-squared = 0.7344
Adjusted R-squared = 0.719847
F-statistic (8, 146) = 50.4624 (p-value < 0.00001)
Durbin-Watson statistic = 2.13614
First-order autocorrelation coeff. = -0.0694149

Excluding the constant, p-value was highest for variable 11 (BK)
(Variables are explained here: htp://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/2002/chapters/chap5.html)

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UFO-Mania!

Reports MSNBC: “Calls for the U.S. government to be more forthcoming on what it knows about UFOs increased following the release of the poll results. That RoperASW study, sponsored by the SCI FI Channel, shows that 72% of Americans believe the government is not telling the public everything it knows about UFO activity.”

I’m inclined to believe that the majority of Americans actually think that little green men have come millions of light years just to give anal probes to hick farmers. Now, maybe I could see little green men coming millions of light years to give anal probes to VIP’s like politicians (heck, I’d be all for that!) but hicks?? And why do they always crash in the middle of nowhere? If aliens were going to come to earth, wouldn’t they want to check out developed and populated areas like NYC instead of the middle or the New Mexico-frikkin desert?

But seriously, the UFO-mania is indicative of a pervasive mysticism that comes from a today’s flawed philosophical view of the world. Unlike more primitive civilizations, the citizens of America and other industrial nations have witnessed the power of the human mind to create great things, but instead of embracing the creations that have increased the lifespan and prosperity of every man and woman, they have shrunk back in fear of technology and progress and reverted to what can only be called primitivism.

Most “experts” often say that technological progress is happening “too fast” for the average person, but this is utter nonsense. Technologically, I live light-years ahead of most people – not only because computers are my life, but because I eagerly look forward to all the technological innovations that promise to make life better and easier for all. Yet I suffer no techno-phobia, no “deep moral questions,” no desire to embrace environmentalism and yearn for a “simpler time” in which I would live a hard, short, brutal life, but remain “close to nature.” No, these are the acts not of a civilized human but of a caveman dancing around a fire and kneeling to his witch doctor, not someone who employs tools to shape the world to his desires, but a man who is at the mercy of whatever unknown and mystical forces affect his life.

The difference is of course philosophical. I have confidence that the reality I perceive is the only reality possible, that no other mystical realm exists, and that only by employing our minds, not divine (UFO or otherwise) intervention can we improve our well-being. And like me, the men of the mind in every age rejected the mysticism of their day in whatever format, whether it was witchcraft, quackery, environmentalism, or UFO-mania.

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Iraq kicks out foreign journalists…

From MSNBC: “The Iraqi government is upset about foreign reporting of an anti-government demonstration outside the Iraqi Information Ministry in Baghdad earlier this week, said Eason Jordan, CNN president of newsgathering.”
Demonstrations??? But I thought the vote was 100% Mr Hussein? Why would anyone want to protest?? Oh well, the’ve probably been shot by the time I write this. I’ll be waiting for any liberals who care about about “human rights” to bring this up next time they talk about Iraq….
Meanwhile: “Iraqi officials claimed CNN fabricated a report that government authorities had fired one or more guns into the air to disperse demonstrators earlier this week. Jordan said CNN had footage of the gunplay.”
Anybody seen this footage (or any other protests) in the news? It’s nice to hear so much about how the citizens of Iraq love their leader, but even this was mentioned only in passing in another article…

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Touchstone

I came across this line in the Touchstone, Texas A&M’s local liberal loony paper:
“Greedy capitalists will not likely relinquish their firm grip on the currency. The future therefore looks bleak.”
I appreciate the compliment, but there is a small error in this logic: the government is actually in control of the currency, not “greedy capitalists.” The more general reply is that liberals have no idea what money actually is. Instead of writing a long rant on it, let me refer them to someone who wrote a much more graceful essay on it. To quote from it:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

One more quote from the same piece: “The bottom line in commercial radio is the bottom line, and entertainment is merely a by-product, if there is any at all.”
Let me quote my friend Tim on this:

“No one will listen if they have no reason to (unless they are simply bored and like listening to ads, which some people do)
The one reason radio stations continually repeat ‘popular songs’ is to hook the commuter who only listens while driving (or working out) and wants to hear their favorite song.
So, just like any other company that truly has to work for their money (via advertisements, etc.) they must have something to sell. And the reproduction of entertainment certainly follows that line of reasoning.

Nevertheless, the Touchstone writers insist that socialism is not only inevitable, but desirable: “[According to] dialectical analysis…the only rational and humane conclusion is to do everything we can to bring about socialism.”

What can I say to that? According to Marxist theory, socialism may indeed be the inevitable conclusion, but if it’s really inevitable, there’s no point worrying about it, since we are merely products of our linguistic chains and “capitalism [cannot] go on destroying lives and the ecology indefinitely.”

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Bush

In response to the ridiculous claims by Democrats that Bush in effect pushing seniors of a cliff by “privatizing” social security, the RNC has released an even more ridiculous cartoon about Bush “saving” social security, as if this Ponzi scheme of the ages can (or should) be saved:

SSN1
The Republicans also reassure us that Bush’s scheme is NOT in fact privatization:
SSN1

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Ideas Matter!

Dante said in the Divine Comedy that “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in time of great moral crisis.” For those of us who understand the dangers of collectivism and its growth in America during the 20th century and especially now, the time of great moral crisis is upon us NOW. However, among those aware of the dangers of omnipotent government, there are two kinds of people.

One has grown weary or apathetic of the fight for freedom and compromised with the dominant ideas of the day. They include many prominent libertarians and conservatives as well as organizations that promise to “defend our rights” while conceding the argument that “some” rights should be limited. Some of them have gained fame, fortune, and success, and claimed that “compromise” with the other side is necessary because “idealism” and “radical ideas” will never be the “practical” thing to do.

However, there is a second, smaller group of individuals who recognize that, as Ayn Rand said, “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” They realize that in the process of compromising with their opponents, they concede that statists have a point, that maybe the government really does have the right to interfere in our lives, and the question is only how much of our lives the government may run for “the social good.” This second group recognizes that the problem with conservatives is that they can only say “slow down!” on the road to serfdom. By compromise, they may gain all sorts of recognition and win the battle, but inevitably, they lose the war because they betray their own side.

There is an even smaller group of intellectuals among those who refuse to compromise with evil. These are people for whom the fight for freedom is not a burden but a joy. Many of them are alienated and belittled by their fellow intellectuals, lose opportunities for prestigious academic positions, have a hard time getting their books published, and are frequently lambasted as “radicals” by the media. However, they generally manage to live happy and successful lives and rarely, if ever, complain of their fate. I believe that the distinguishing feature of such men and women is that they care about ideas – they believe that what is True and Good is True and Good no matter how unpopular it is and no matter how much misfortune their views give them. As one jailed Soviet dissident said “I cannot do otherwise.” Not all of them are right, and in fact many of them differ with me on many views, but all of them believe that life is only worth living when it is lived on one’s own terms — or as Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

If I were to worship anyone or anything in this world, it is these men and women that I would worship and proudly call my heroes. Their greatness comes not from their willingness to make great sacrifices or act with unusual bravery, as society tells us, but simply to life every day of their lives with the proud motto that ideas matter. They wont think twice about sacrificing worldly success, material values, or even their lives for that they believe in: for them it is not a sacrifice but the preservation of the only terms they are willing to live their lives by. As Howard Roark said in The Fountainhead when he acted on principle and forfeited a major commission, that is “the most selfish thing you’ve ever seen a man do.”

These men are not just an abstract ideal: there are many examples of them in real life. I would like to recognize one you might not have heard of: Ludwig von Mises. I think Mises the best and most dedicated defender of classical liberalism of the 20th century. He developed his idea in a climate of increasing state worship and socialist revolution across the world. He staunchly defended laissez faire economics during a period of growing government involvement in every level, and wrote his epic, Human Action, shortly after the world was getting out of a the Great Depression and into a major world war, as government was being accepted as the cure to every social and economic problem. He lost out prestigious university positions and had trouble printing his epic work when Keynesianism “proved” him wrong. Most of his former students turned away from his ideas and told him that he was his own worst enemy, and that everything he published was only hurting his career. As Lew Rockwell says, “Mises was surely aware that he was not advancing himself, and that every manuscript he produced, every book that came to print, was harming his career ever more. But he didn’t back off. Instead he chose to do the rarest thing of all in academia: he chose to tell the truth regardless of the cost, regardless of the trends, regardless of how it would play with the powers that be.”

Mises prevailed. He gained a small but growing following of new intellectuals who saw the truth in his views. The Mises Institute, established after his death, has been a major success, placing many free-market economists in university positions and becoming a major source of economic research, education, and support for free – market economists. Certainly neither Mises nor the Mises Institute are right on all the issues, but you will never find such dedication to ideas among the nihilistic and pragmatic liberals of today.

So here is my tribute to heroes. I hope I can live up to my heroes by living according to my own ideals and never forgetting that ideas matter.

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Saddam gets 100% of the vote!

In other Axis news, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein won re-election for another six years by – get this – 100%. No, not 99.7% like last time, a full 11,445,638 to ZERO vote of the ENTIRE ELECTORATE. Never mind that there are active Kurdish rebel movements in the country, and many remote areas are not accessible or under Iraq’s control — apparently they put down their arms and came to vote in “loving support” of their glorious leader.
ABC news suggests ordinary Iraqis are pleased as well:

“This referendum and the 100 percent shows that all Iraqis are ready to defend their country and their leader,” said Khaled Yusef, hopping up and down among a cluster of men dancing on a street corner.

Who woulda thunk it? (Oh, I guess the fact that Hussein was the only guy in the ballot and anyone voting against him was unceremoniously shot kinda helped. ya think?)

Oh well, who are we to question another culture or infringe in Saddam’s divine right to terrorize his slav, err “citizens” as he wishes? After all, it’s a “democracy”.

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