31 January 2012

What’s So Scary About Nukes?

China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and the UK all saw declines in their total militarized dispute involvement in the years after they got nuclear weapons.  A number of these are big declines.  USSR/Russia and South Africa have higher rates in their nuclear versus non-nuclear periods, though it should be kept in mind that for the USSR we only have four years in the sample with no nukes, just as the Cold War is starting.

After accounting for a decent number of variables, the general trend still holds:  acquiring nukes is more likely to lead a decrease in military activity rather than an increase. Of course, extrapolation doesn’t prove anything, but the historically observable fact is that acquiring nuke does not automatically lead a country to act more aggressively.

Incidentally, only one government has ever detonated nuclear weapons during war, and that was the United States’ government during WWII. Perhaps, then, foreign policy experts are projecting our intentions onto the Iranians.

Whatever the case, the United States does not have the authority to tell sovereign states what weapons they may or may not acquire.  As such, Iran has the right to pursue nuclear weapons if they so desire.  The United States, therefore, may find advantageous to start behaving with more diplomacy and less bravado when dealing with foreign powers.  Especially if we go bankrupt and can’t afford a military anymore.

Global Warming Is Definitely a Religion

And it’s based on less evidence than the Christian faith:

The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.
The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.
Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997. [Hat tip: Vox Day.]

The assertion that environmentalism is a religion should be considerably stronger if environmentalists who see this evidence persist in their belief in global warming.  Incidentally, any persistence in believing in global warming after being shown incontrovertible proof that it didn’t happen (at least in the last fifteen years) should serve as proof that science fetishists have about as much respect for science as they allege Christians to have.  Talk about projection.

The Need for Moral Elitists

There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America that could make headway against its problems if the people who are trying to do the right things get the reinforcement they need—not in the form of government assistance, but in validation of the values and standards they continue to uphold. The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending "nonjudgmentalism." Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.  [Hat tip: Ulysses.  Note also slumlord’s excellent comment.]

Nonjudgmentalism is the cancer that will kill society.  The inability or unwillingness of the morally superior to speak out against bad values and morals will prove to be its eventual undoing.  Please note that the morally superior are those who practice the good habits and morals that lead to long-term stability and well-being (in both a moral and physical sense); they are not those who pose as supreme ethicists (but are, in fact, hypocrites* of the first order).

The need for moral elitists, then, is fairly obvious.  While luck does play some role in success in life, the more relevant variable is being prepared to take advantage of luck.  This usually requires self-discipline, education, knowledge, self-control, drive, hard work, and consistency.  As such, these behaviors need to be lauded as keys to success.  The false “aw-shucks” modesty of claiming luck as the key to success doesn’t do anyone any good because a) it is generally false and b) it leaves the unsuccessful to resign themselves unnecessarily to fatalism. Or, as Doris Day once sang:  Que sera sera.”

Obviously, not all circumstances are within one’s control.  On the other end of the spectrum, it is also false to say that no circumstances are within one’s control.  The proper assertion, then, is that some circumstances are within one’s control while other circumstances are not, and the best way to take advantage of the things you can’t control is to first take advantage of the things you can control.

This, then, is where moral elitists are required:  we need people to say “here’s what I’ve done to be successful.”  The list for this is surprisingly short, and includes such difficulties as not getting pregnant outside of marriage, graduating from high school, and having some sort of regular job.  This list may not sound like much, but there are already too many people who have failed to follow it.  Moral elitists, then, most not only lead by example, but also by words.  Moral elitists have a duty to condemn bastardy, laziness, and ignorance.  And thus far, the current crop of moral elitists have failed to do so.

To reiterate Murray, the moral elite “must start preaching what it practices.”

* Bonus:  some who pose as moral elitist often defend gay rights, occasionally on the ground that gays should not be persecuted for their deviant lifestyle since they may be born that way.  The filthy hypocrites who defend homosexuality on the grounds that it might be genetically based will never defend homophobes on the grounds that homophobia might be genetically based.  (Thus, the argument that you shouldn’t condemn gays because they’re born that way can be rejoined with the claim that you were born a homophobe and shouldn’t have your behavior blamed on genetics.)

28 January 2012

An Interesting Question

Chuck asks if capitalism coopted feminism, and comes to this conclusion:

The free market existed in previous eras, yet the family unit remained intact.  Free-market capitalism is not a values-creating (metaphysical sense) endeavor.  It reacts to prevailing values – which feminism sought to shift.  Entrepreneurs will always be ready to explore new markets, and they either succeed or fail depending upon that value system.  What PA would have to show is that a capitalist system can subvert social bonds.  I maintain that only a larger entity i.e. the State has such power.

Really, the better question would be if the free market could adapt to feminism.  This is essentially like asking if the free market can handle surplus of Oreos (the cookie, not the racial epithet).

Markets are amoral abstractions, not living entities.  Markets exist solely to allocate resources in a non-coercive manner.  Whatever morals markets display are merely reflections of market participants.  Thus, blaming markets for moral shifts is like blaming money for greed.

Anyhow, the point in all this is that feminism cannot alter the basic functioning of markets unless it eliminates markets, which is generally impossible.  At best, one can only hope to introduce some coercive element to the market, but this hardly guarantees that resources are allocated to the specific desires of those introducing the coercive element.  As such, all feminism can do is alter the type and amount of things being traded in the market.

As history shows, feminism did alter the size and scope of the labor market, leading to reduced prices (a.k.a. wages) for labor.  There might also have been a change of increased demand for distinctly feminine products or a reduction in demand for distinctly masculine products, but there is no data to support this claim.  The more salient point is that the market still functions exactly as it always has, allocating scarce resources to where they are generally most demanded.

At this point, the human desire to trade scarce resources is so fundamental that it is highly unlikely that feminism—or any other movement, for that matter—could ever overcome.  At best, a given movement might be able to alter slightly in some way, but there is no way to eliminate man’s desire to trade.  The answer to Chuck’s question, then, is yes.  Capitalism did indeed coopt feminism.  And, in a way, this outcome was inevitable for there is no force stronger than the market.

Why Stupid People are More Prejudiced

Yahoo reports:

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

I’ve written elsewhere on the acquisition costs of knowledge, and how they relate to prejudice.  Another overlooked factor is the variance in the demand curves for knowledge.  It should be no surprise that people of varying intelligence have varying demand for knowledge, for one’s ability to usefully process information is undoubtedly going to influence how much information one can reasonably attain.  Stated another way, those with lower cognitive abilities are going to have a lower demand for knowledge because they cannot process it as quickly or effectively as the more cognitively gifted.  As such, it should make sense that less-intelligent people are more prejudiced because their demand for additional knowledge will necessarily be lower, which in turn means that it is “cheaper” for them to rely on their prejudices than to seek new data.

Neo-Con Hypocrisy

Suddenly, Jonah Goldberg is worried that the United States has become too enamored of militarism:
He said of the military: "At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach."
That is disgusting.
What Obama is saying, quite plainly, is that America would be better off if it wasn't America any longer. He's making the case not for American exceptionalism, but Spartan exceptionalism.
It's far worse than anything George W. Bush, the supposed warmonger, ever said. Bush, the alleged fascist, didn't want to militarize our free country; he tried to use our military to make militarized countries free.
Goldberg is trying to split hairs here.  It doesn’t matter what Bush’s rationale for increased militarization was. It doesn’t matter what Obama’s rationale for increased militarization is.  Why?  Simply put, intentions just do not matter.  Outcomes and processes are not affected by the intentions behind them.

Neo-Cons are very fond of pointing this out to liberals on matters like welfare:  reality doesn’t care what lawmakers wanted to be the case.  Yet, when it comes to increased militarization of the United States, suddenly intentions are relevant.

At any rate, the simple fact of the matter is that Bushitler and Obamao are both cut from the same cloth.  Both want(ed) to expand the size and scope of the military, both want(ed) to use the military to intervene in other countries.  If one is going to be consistent, there is no point in trying to rationalize support for Bush increasing martial power while condemning Obama for doing the same.  Their intentions may be different, but the consequences are the same.

The Reality of Central Banks

Make no mistake, the problem does not lie with The Fed per-se.  The Fed's "low interest rates" are there to permit the profligacy of the government, yet the longer it goes on and the more the government abuses this deadly embrace the further into the coffin corner The Fed and Congress go.  As the debt accumulation rises the maximum interest rate that can be absorbed goes down until finally you reach the boundary where even a slight increase in rates results in instantaneous bankruptcy.

Denninger is a smart man—well-versed in the law, particularly constitutional law, and has an immense knowledge of politics and economics.  And yet, here he is once again calling for enforcement of the laws governing The Fed even though history has shown repeatedly and conclusively that it is politically impossible to manage inflation through a central bank.  In theory, it is possible that a central bank will act prudently and responsibly, and not inflate the currency.  In reality, though, a central bank is nothing more than yet another mechanism by which the government can tax the people.

This is why the solution to inflation is ending the fed, or at least government-mandated fiat currencies, and to allow multiple competing currencies.  Relying on the government to properly manage a monopolistic money supply is an exercise in futility.  Though it would be theoretically better to do it this way, history has shown quite clearly that a competitive currency market is preferable to a government-controlled currency, and it is therefore better to accept the fluctuations of market-based currency system over the guaranteed degradation of a government monopoly.

Is Socialism an Ex Ante Rationalization?

A while back, I asked if libertarian political theory was an ex post rationalization used simply to justify the cause of freedom without actually explaining why it worked.  It seems reasonable to ask a similar question of socialism:  is socialist political theory* simply a rationalization for pursuing a certain course of action?

At first blush, the answer is no.  Socialist theory is pretty robust and generally accepted as sound.  For example, one tenet of socialism is the redistribution of wealth, wherein it is theorized that poverty can be eliminated by taking money from rich people and giving it to those classified as poor.  This proposition is so self-evidently true that it borders on being tautological.

Yet, every time the redistribution of wealth is put into practice, it generally tends to not eliminate poverty.  Of course, poverty can never be eliminated if it is defined in relative terms.  But, even when poverty is defined absolutely, there are still some who persist in living in poverty, and no government program is apparently able to change that fact.

Thus, it is to be concluded that socialism is nothing more than an ex ante rationalization.  How else to explain its unmitigated and predictable failure?  Incidentally, the reason why socialism continues to fail in practice is simply due to the fact that the theory is predicated on artificial class constructions, and can therefore never truly and properly account for individual motivation.  It should be note, though, that libertarian political theory accounts for individual motivation but is still incapable of explaining why humans do what they do.

At any rate, the easily observed fact of the matter is that socialist political theory has little grasp of reality, and continues to fail miserably.  It only use is in convincing people that there is a reason to try collectivism in spite of its miserable and repetitive failures.

* Please note that “socialist political theory” is a broad term that covers any political movement that generally tends toward increasing government power instead of limiting it.  This stands in contrast to libertarian political theory, which refers to any political movement that attempts to limit government power instead of increasing it.

27 January 2012

A Troubling Trend

I’ve been trying to put finger on why the recent emphasis on group work is so troubling:

Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.
But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.

Consider this as well:

‘You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well,’ said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the institute, who led the study.
He explained that when volunteers in a group were told how the others performed, it lowered their problem-solving abilities.

Basically, the modern education system, which certainly includes postsecondary institutions, is sowing the seeds of Idiocracy.  This is accomplished by encouraging—and in some cases demanding—group work, which has the effect of lowering intelligence.  This probably happens because humans are social creatures who will generally sacrifice being correct for group conformity.  But the effects of this trend are undeniable:  group thinking makes us less intelligent.  My own personal experience bears this out as well.

Group work, and group think, under the guise of productive collaboration is pernicious because it precludes people from introspection and reduces their willingness to take risks.  When you’re around other people, you want to fit in.  You focus on everyone else in your group—what they think, what they feel about you.  You worry about them, and how they’ll act and how you will respond.  And instead of examining yourself, instead of focusing on what you want, on what you should do, you focus on others.  And you don’t take risks, for fear of offending others.  And that’s why groups are so detrimental, for you never have a chance to focus on self-improvement.

This invites the suspicion that all this focus on group work is nothing more than an attempt at prepping the future generation for a leap into collectivism.  For starters, people will be used to it, both in theory and in practice.  But more than that, because people are trained to think in groups, few people will be independently-minded enough to reject collectivism and the inevitable problems that arise therefrom.

Of course, it’s possible that there is no secret conspiracy.  There is simply an intersection of well-intentioned idiots who are unable to foresee the detrimental consequences of this policy. Either way, though, we’re dead.

Missing the Point

Poisoning the well of political discourse may be one of the reasons why we see such unsatisfactory sets of candidates for political office in both parties, not only this year but in previous election years as well.
Many able and decent people are understandably reluctant to subject themselves and their families to a mud-slinging contest or to media "gotcha" questions. The creeping acceptance of such practices is hardly a justification, but is itself part of the degeneration of our times.
It’s pretty simple:  politics is Jersey Shore for the middle class.  It’s all a mudslinging mess, complete with petty drama, asinine interviews, contrived situations, and lots of attempt at moral posturing by greasy slimebags.  The Republican debates are like the Real Housewives of New York:  lots of hissy fits and name-calling coupled with hilarious self-seriousness.  There’s so much manufactured drama in politics that it’s hard to see any meaningful differences between it and so-called reality TV.

Politics, like reality TV, serves as a way for all of us to get off on how smart and moral we all are.  We’d never go through three wives like Newt Gingrich.  We’d never talk crazy like good ol’ Ron Paul (seriously, who cares about The Fed?).  We’d never be a weirdo homeschooling Catholic freak like Rick “Santorum” Santorum.  We’d never be a sniveling beta Mormon like Mitt Romney.  And all our policies would work perfectly from day one.  Aren’t we so great, being so much better than these unelectable clowns?

And that’s the whole point of politics:  to give us public figures to mock and look down upon.  We enjoy the schadenfreude of tearing down others who purport to be our superior, and politics is the easiest way to go about this.  It’s certainly not about finding a capable, intelligent leader that we can respect.

People are Idiots

Ironically, I’m not even referring to the retarded guy in this story:

Kyle Dowie, 43, was fired from his job at an Iowa supermarket over cashing 20 cents of bottle deposits that were left behind by customers. After a complaint was filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on behalf of Dowie alleged discrimination based on his disability, he is weighing an offer to return to his job.
Dowie, who is mentally disabled, worked for 25 years at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Urbandale, seven miles west of Des Moines. On Nov. 2, after recycling $3.75 worth of bottles from home through the store's recycling machine, his mother said he tried to redeem 20 cents worth of credit slips dated in September that may have been left by customers.

Three things stand out.  First, what sort of employer doesn’t expect a veritable typhoon of fecal matter for firing a retarded guy for maybe stealing twenty cents worth of credit slips?  Seriously, even if the government is not involved, the press still is, as well as the internet, so the moment the “mentally challenged” guy decides to tell his story is the moment that Hy-Vee is completely and totally screwed.

Second, how in the world does Hy-Vee consider the attempt to redeem four-month-old coupons theft?  They are most likely abandoned property, which means that whoever takes possession of them becomes the new rightful owner.  This, incidentally, is a well-established component of common law, so you would have to have an incredibly stupid lawyer tell you that it’s a good idea to fire someone who probably has a decent legal right to redeeming the credit slips.

Third, twenty cents of credit slips?!  Seriously?!  And it’s not even provably theft (at least in light of the known information). It would be one thing if he were smuggling change from the till.  But it’s completely different when he’s basically picking up something someone left behind.  And if the person who lost the credit slips wanted them back, wouldn’t he or she ask for them at some point sooner than 4+ months after they went missing?  And if they mean so much, just reissue the slips to the rightful owners and dock the retarded guy’s pay twenty cents.  Problem solved.

Now, there’s undoubtedly more to the story than the press is reporting—the fourth estate isn’t omniscient, after all.  But given how stupidly the management at Hy-Vee has behaved, you really have to question if the press identified the retarded person correctly.

26 January 2012

Jail for Scientists?

Another article from the most recent PopSci laments that scientists in Italy are being held criminally liable for predicting that earthquakes would not happen in L’Aquila.  When earthquakes did occur shortly after the predictions were made, many people ended up losing their lives because they were not adequately prepared for an earthquake.  The scientists were charged with manslaughter.

For some reason, this has science fetishists’ panties in a knot.  I’m not sure why, because all science fetishists’ ever say is that Science is the most reliable thing in the world; it can be trusted completely and implicitly, and nothing bad will ever come of trusting science.  If this is the case, then science should have been able to predict the earthquake.  Its failure to live up to its promises is nothing more than obvious and intentional negligence, and should be treated as such.  Alternatively, it could be that the science did know an earthquake was coming but decided to lie about it.

Anyhow, the point is this:  If science is so trustworthy, then it should be held liable for its prognostications.  And if one argues that it shouldn’t be held liable for its pronouncements and predictions then one should also concede that it is not particularly reliable.

The Religion of Environmentalism

I finally got around the reading February’s Popular Science, and I’m now pretty glad I cancelled my subscription last month (making this the last month I get PopSci).  In February’s edition, there’s an article by Seth Fletcher titled “Did Global Warming Destroy My Hometown?

I did not read the whole thing, as I wanted to ensure that lunch stayed down in my stomach where it belonged, and also because my patience for reading this sort of navel-gazing drivel is minimal, to say the least.  But I did read the last several paragraphs, since that is where the meat of the story is concentrated.  To be honest, the story reminds more of the Bible than anything else.

More specifically, this story reminds me of Job.  Job, after facing much suffering, decides to call on God, whom he has not seen, and question why bad things happened to him. Seth Fletcher’s article feels the same:  just a poor guy going through a rough time, questioning an abstract entity about why bad things happened to him.   To state it another way, Seth Fletcher is like Job in that both are religious men questioning their deities.

It’s scary how much environmentalism resembles religion.  Its adherents feel compelled to evangelize, do penance, adhere to rigid arbitrary rules, and place their faith in an unseen abstract entity.  Really, environmentalism doesn’t just resemble religion; it is one.  It even has its own Job.

Greg Mankiw: Ignoramus or Liar?

How else to explain this nonsense:

The anti-SOPA crowd argues that this is a matter of basic liberty.  But it's not.  In a free society, you don't have the freedom to steal your neighbor's property.  And that should include intellectual property.  Moreover, it is the function of the state to enforce those rights.  We don't leave it up to civil litigation to protect property rights (although that is part of the solution).  We give the state substantial powers to stop theft.  Just as owners of tangible personal property have good cause to call for a police force and a system of criminal courts, owners of intellectual property have good cause to ask the state to stop those who would infringe on their rights.

It’s like he doesn’t understand the difference between copying and theft.  If I have a book and someone copies it, they do not deprive me of the book (except for the time spent copying it). If they steal the book, I never see it again.  If I write a song and someone decides to copy it, they do not deprive me of my ability to play it.  On the other hand, if I have an apple and someone takes it, then they deprive me of what belongs to me.  As Thomas Jefferson once said, “He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me.

Also note that the supreme law of the land (the constitution, for MIT economics professors too stupid to familiarize themselves of the law under which they live) never refers to intellectual property in terms of theft.  In fact, they refer to it primarily in terms of special monopoly privilege.  Incidentally, this is why the constitution prescribes “exclusive Right” for authors and inventors for “limited times.”  The founders never believed thoughts were real property, which is why they allowed these rights to expire.

Thus, Mankiw’s assertion, which is nothing more than pious posturing, is verifiably false.  SOPA is not a matter of preventing theft or protecting property rights.  It is, like all other forms of intellectual property law, just another form of government-enforced monopoly.  And like all other monopolies before it, it is just another way to reduce freedom.

Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

Education majors are woefully lacking in academic skills. Here are some sample test questions for you to answer. Question 1: Which of the following is equal to a quarter-million? a) 40,000, b) 250,000, c) 2,500,000, d) 1/4,000,000 or e) 4/1,000,000. Question 2: Martin Luther King Jr. (insert the correct choice) for the poor of all races. a) spoke out passionately, b) spoke out passionate, c) did spoke out passionately, d) has spoke out passionately or e) had spoken out passionate. Question 3: What would you do if your student sprained an ankle? a) Put a Band-Aid on it, b) Ice it or c) Rinse it with water.
Guess whether these questions were on a sixth-grade, ninth-grade or 12th-grade test. I bet the average reader would guess that it's a sixth-grade test. Wrong. How about ninth-grade? Wrong again. You say, "OK, Williams, so they're 12th-grade test questions!" Still wrong. According to a Heartland Institute-published School Reform News (September 2001) article titled "Who Tells Teachers They Can Teach?", those test questions came from prospective teacher tests. The first two questions are samples from the Praxis I test for teachers, and the third is from the 1999 teacher certification test in Illinois. According to the Chicago Sun-Times (9/6/01), 5,243 Illinois teachers failed their teacher certification tests. The Chicago Sun-Times also reported, "One teacher failed 24 of 25 teacher tests – including 11 of 12 Basic Skills tests and all 12 tests on teaching learning-disabled children." Yet that teacher was assigned to teach learning-disabled children in Chicago. Departments of education have solved the problem of teacher test failure. According to a New York Post story (11/14/11) titled "City teacher tests turn into E-ZPass," more than 99 percent of teachers pass.

Now, I’ve noted before that aptitude tests are both subjective and highly limited however.  In spite of this, they are often useful, particularly when attempting to measure working knowledge.  Teachers should have plenty of working knowledge about basic education subjects, particularly the one they’re attempting to teach.  If they don’t, then they should not be considered as qualified for the job to which they are applying.

By this metric, a good number of teachers are not qualified to teach any subject, let alone the one they are alleged to specialize in.  Also, if you’re considering homeschooling your children, note that it is likely that you will be better qualified and able to teach your children than a good number of professional teachers.  In many ways, it’s hard to imagine you could do worse, especially since you have more latitude with discipline.

The Root of the Problem

Here’s why behavioral economics is slow to take off:

More and more, I am thinking about this area in terms of the normative vision of the world it presupposes. Most amazingly, behavioral economists tend to accept the normative stance of neoclassical or standard economics (that is, the axioms of rationality). They “simply” do not believe that people behave in accordance with these axioms. Thus they find decisionmaking failure (akin to market failure). All sorts of state interventions may be warranted to correct for the suboptimalities that defective or biased decisions imply.

Ultimately, the fundamental problem with the underlying model upon which behavioral economics is that it assumes that value is objective.  Why should anyone value long-term planning, good health, intellectual development, etc.?  Sure, many people think this things are good, and the goodness of these things is generally supposed to be self-evident, but not all people will find these thing to be valuable.

As such, behavioral economics will be stunted until the leaders of the field realize that value is subjective and that most people don’t know why they make a good portion of their decisions.  The theoretical human in their models bears no resemblance to real life human beings, and therefore their model will be unreliable as long as it continues to further this misconception.

Not Gonna Happen

So resumes are now going the way of the dinosaur, leading to this natural question:
Picking employees that will fit in with a company is critical as government mandates and employment laws have made firing someone expensive and difficult. Also, it’s not cheap to hire people. Weber writes,
the costs of hiring a new employee, which now averages $3,479, according to human-resources consulting firm Bersin & Associates. Big companies, many of which cut their human-resources staffs during the recession, now spend about 7% of their external recruitment budgets on applicant-tracking systems, the firm says.
Even at small companies only 19% of hiring managers review all the resumes and 47% say they review but a few.

Of course one key piece of information included on a résumé is college degree. As firms use technology to screen applicants and select employees, how long will it be before having a degree doesn’t really matter?
As long it’s illegal to discriminate on grounds of race or directly measured aptitude, college degrees will always be necessary.  Thanks to the EEOC, it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, so employers—who are presumed racist until proven otherwise—need a plausible defense for not hiring a minority.  And this is where credentials come in.

Credentials provide the perfect cover for passing up on an unqualified minority because it provides objective evidence regarding one’s qualifications.  If an employer makes having a college degree (and a certain major/GPA) one of the many qualifications for a given job, he can screen out applicants more easily without having to worry as much about being called racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or whatever).

25 January 2012

Obligatory SOTU Post

I don’t feel like ranting, so I’m going to analyze selected excerpts:

In a speech that is likely to set the theme of his 2012 re-election bid, Obama said "the basic American promise" that hard work can allow one to own a home and support a family are at risk if the government doesn't do more to balance the scale between the nation's rich and poor.

Yeah, because it’s not an asinine monetary policy and massive government intervention in the economy that makes it so difficult to afford a home and support a family.  Yep, it’s definitely the rich people that make it hard for the poor to make a living.

"The state of our union is getting stronger, and we've come too far to turn back now," Obama insisted. "As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place."

Let me guess:  you’re going to end the federal reserve system, eliminate unconstitutional agencies, discontinue unconstitutional expenditures, deregulate the economy, and lower taxes?  No?  The it sounds like you are going to return the very same policies that brought on the economic crisis in the first place.

The president argued that he's laying out a "blueprint for an economy that's built to last" based on four main themes: American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers and "a renewal of American values."

You’re just now laying a blueprint out?  I thought that’s what you were doing in your campaign back in 2008.  I was hoping you’d have implemented it by now instead of just starting to get around to designing it.

Among other things, Obama called for a rollback for tax breaks for American companies that outsource jobs overseas and proposed new tax cuts for manufacturers that build their products stateside--a proposal that generated muted applause among Republican lawmakers in the House chamber. He also announced the creation of a "trade enforcement unit" that would investigate unfair trade practices in counties including China--an issue that has been a big issue on the 2012 campaign trail.
"Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you--America will always win," Obama declared.
Tackling an issue that will be big in the general election, Obama called on Republicans to pass immigration reform, including the DREAM Act. "If election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country," Obama said. "Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."

This is simply schizophrenic.  You can’t logically condemn free trade without also condemning free labor.  Leveling the playing field for domestic producers is welcome, but it feels like too little, too late.

Obama also called for aid to boost the nation's struggling housing market--proposing new tax incentives to help homeowners save $3,000 a year on their mortgages. He also announced the creation of a federal task force to monitor banks, mortgage lenders and credit card companies for fraud.

We’ve already tried a housing bubble and it didn’t work out so well.  So what makes you think that this time will be different?

"Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same," Obama said. "It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody."

Where was this in 2009?

On education, he called on states to pass laws to mandate that all minors stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. He also called on Congress to enact measures to ensure student aid--but he also warned higher education institutions to crack down on skyrocketing education costs.

Because this will make children with below-average intelligence have above-average intelligence.  Also, we need a bigger college bubble.

"We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it," Obama insisted. "When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference."

Or you could, you know, cut spending.

  "Who benefited from that fiasco?" Obama asked. "I've talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.  But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad--and it seems to get worse every year."

And, if you’re campaign donations are any indication, you are squarely in Wall Street’s pocket.

This speech basically serves as a textbook example of how politics works in America—lots of pretty but highly misleading platitudes intended to obscure reality while making citizens feel good.  If any American citizen wants to know why the country is screwed, he or she need look no further than this speech;  there are lots of promises and ideals that have absolutely no basis in reality.  If you want something you simply cannot have, you’re bound to be disappointed.  And, looking at this speech, there’s going to a lot of disappointed people in the future.

Another Reason to Homeschool

Privacy experts say the problem is that states collect far more information than parents expect, and it can be shared with more than just a student’s teacher or principal. “When you have a system that’s secret [from parents] and you can put whatever you want into it, you can have things going in that’ll be very damaging,” says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “When you put something into digital form, you can’t control where that’ll end up.”
According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student’s social security numbers, family financial information, and student pregnancy data. Nearly half of states track students’ mental health issues, illnesses, and jail sentences. Without access to their child’s data, parents have no way of knowing what teachers and others are learning about them.

Ignoring the Orwellian nature of the government, this is still pretty troubling.  That’s a lot of data right there, all for the taking.  And, given the nature of the data, it seems highly likely that a hacker could use it to steal a lot of identities.  Don’t worry, though; the government has a solution:

The federal government is taking steps to make the data more secure, however. In December, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was revised to give parents more control over their children’s records. According to a parent information sheet released by the government, the revisions give parents “certain rights with regard to their children’s education records, such as the right to inspect and review [their] child’s education records.” But it also allows student information to be shared without parental consent.

Of course, it’s easier to secure data when you don’t collect it in the first place.

The Technology Gap

A while back I theorized that government intervention in the market causes labor disruptions in that it pulls demand for technology forward in order to reduce the costs of unskilled labor.  It turns out that I may be on to something:

Parlier earns about $13 an hour. She’d like to become one of the better-paid workers in the plant, but, in today’s factories, that requires an enormous leap in skills. It feels cruel, Davidson writes, to mention all the things Parlier would have to learn to move up. She doesn’t know the computer language that runs the machines. “She doesn’t know trigonometry or calculus, and she’s never studied the properties of cutting tools or metals. She doesn’t know how to maintain a tolerance of 0.25 microns, or what tolerance means in this context, or what a micron is.”
A good attitude and hustle have taken Parlier as far as they can. It’s hard, given her situation, to acquire the skills she needs to realize the American dream.

But skills aren’t always necessary.  A dumbed-down UI can serve as a substitute for knowledge, particularly if a firm can hire a technician to know the technical aspects of the technology in use so other workers don’t have to.  In fact, the trend of technology has generally been to serve as a substitute for knowledge and ability.  Why learn Trig if you can run a fairly simple program on a computer?

Anyhow, this story is evidence of my claim of a technology gap.  If labor were allowed to compete freely in a deregulated economy, technological growth would be slower and technological innovations implemented less frequently.  This in turn ensures that labor is not stagnant or regressive, and also gives less intelligent laborers a chance to remain on the market longer as technology remains relatively expensive. In order to make technology more appealing, then, technological innovators will find it useful to dumb down the UI to make the device more readily accessible by lower-intelligence labor.

The point in all this, then, is that the government has basically set policies in place that pulls demand for technology forward, leaving less-intelligent laborers in the lurch.  And since less-intelligent laborers tend to also be poor, it can be said that the government hates poor people.

24 January 2012

Atheist Blindness

Robin Hanson observes:

Alas science fiction authors are reluctant to blame over-regulators as their anti-tech villain. Religion makes a safer target – most sf readers like regulation, but few are religious. Also, we tend to overestimate the importance of doctrine and dogma, relative to habits of behavior. Most religious dogma is silly and doesn’t meet our usual intellectual standards. But it also doesn’t much influence behavior. In fact, religious folks tend to have exemplary behavior overall. They work hard, are married and healthy, avoid crime, deal fair, help associates, etc. While it may seem plausible that people with crazy beliefs would do crazy harmful things, the opposite seems to apply in this case.

Despite the fact that religion is more conducive to science than the state, atheists still persist in demonizing Christians as anti-science.  They do this solely because they would rather cling to their faith in the state than face the reality that Christianity has done much good for science while the state often opposes it or subverts it (think of the FDA, e.g.).

Weak Signals Cost More

Heartiste takes a break from explaining women to explain the college bubble:
In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., in the first and most famous of the disparate impact theory cases, that the use of broad-based aptitude tests in hiring practices was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Around 1978, college tuition costs began to skyrocket, and haven’t let up since.
Foseti says that Charles Murray says that colleges are primarily used for their sorting function, not their signaling function.  Therefore, it should be reasonable to see college prices increase since, by the elimination of aptitude tests, there are now fewer ways of sorting people by their cognitive abilities (Econ 101 refresher:  stagnant or increasing demand coupled with lower supply leads to higher prices).

Distinguishing between sorting and signaling in this context is simply silly since both theories have the same practical outcomes.  But more than that, signaling theory already accounts for the elimination aptitude tests.

According to signaling theory, aptitude tests are direct signals.*  Direct signals, in general, are pretty cheap because they are high-risk, insofar as you cannot ever really deny their meaning.  Indirect signals, on the other hand, tend to be high cost because they are low-risk, insofar as these signals generally include a healthy dose of plausible deniability.  Banning aptitude tests, and therefore direct signals, pushes people to enter a market filled with more indirect signals.

Recall that indirect signals are expensive to begin with.  College is generally more expensive than an aptitude test, in terms of time, money, etc.  If demand for an already expensive product increases, it stands to reason that the price of the product will go even higher.  As such, signaling theory is in perfect concert with both sorting theory and reality, and there does not seem to be any need to differentiate between signaling theory and sorting theory.

Also, in closing, note that the recent ban on unpaid internships will help fuel the college bubble because another cheaper signaling market is closed down.  Instead of working for free for a couple of years to prove one’s aptitude, one will now have to go to college to get ahead.

* In signaling theory, there is a continuum of signal directness.  A girl getting naked right in front of you, for example, is directly signaling that she is attracted to you.  A girl nervously playing with her hair when you’re talking to her is indirectly signaling that she’s attracted to you.

A Third Option

In many ways the monetary policy issue is even more important, simply because we are running out of rope on our national debt-addiction rappelling adventure and the floor is still 100' down.  That's a serious problem -- and "gold standards" do not (in fact cannot!) fix it.  The only fix that works is to demand and enforce a zero-CPI standard with honest statistics, along with an end to federal government borrowing -- period.  "Hard money" .vs. "Fiat money" is immaterial; if you permit fraud in the monetary and credit system, as we have, the rest simply does not matter and yet if you put a cork in the frauds and lock up the scammers then you quickly come to the conclusion that allowing a handful of producers of some metal, the majority of which are foreign entities, is the last group you want running your monetary policy!
The Paulites get this wrong and so does Ron Paul himself despite the historical fact that the United States had massive inflationary bubbles and detonations of them during the time it was on the Gold Standard.  1873 anyone (as just one example.)
The real problem in 1873 as with all other similar blowups was the issuance of bogus debt instruments unbacked by anything.  In the case of 1873 concentration was in railroads and related construction all financed by long-duration bonds (and therefore subject to high degrees of price risk due to their duration) but which were entirely-speculative and in fact for which there was no actual demand in the economy for the services (transportation to be provided by said railroads) at a level sufficient to meet the intended expense.  It didn't help that we were playing games with our exports (and Europe with its imports) much as China and the US are today, effectively hiding the bubble's impact for a period of time and allowing it to inflate to ridiculous size.  When the over-leveraged positions became exposed the game collapsed and the Long Depression followed. [Emphasis original.]

Denninger correctly notes that a gold standard, in and of itself, is not enough to prevent a bubble of any sort.  He also correctly notes that enforcing a zero-CPI standard would fix the current currency mess.  However, what he seems to neglect in his analysis is that the real problem is not with the proposed solutions, but the fact that the government has to enact and enforce them.

This then begs the obvious question:  given the government’s obvious failures to prevent bubbles by keeping money honest, regardless of the money is metal or digital, why then even bother to put the government in charge of the money supply?  They can’t manage it properly when gold is money, and they certainly can’t manage it properly when paper is used as money.  Why then trust them with it?

The better solution is to simply allow currencies to freely compete with each other, which will have a strong tendency to ensure that currencies remain sound, strong, and free from inflation.  By the way, there is one presidential candidate who has proposed legislation that would do exactly this.  We all know who he is.

Whence Social Corruption in a Democracy?

Assuming that Lord Acton’s axiom regarding power and corruption is correct, I think it’s safe to say that the ultimate cause of social corruption in the United States is the individual.

Whenever the state exists, it is axiomatic that someone must hold the power of the state.  In a democracy, it is the people that hold the power.  Therefore, if corruption occurs, it occurs first among the people.  Of course, this does generally turn into a self-reinforcing feedback loop, wherein societal corruption fuels government corruption, which in turn fuels societal corruptions, and so on, ad infinitum.

This begs another question:  if power corrupts, how do you undo corruption?  In a democracy, corruption is a bottoms-up process that generally concentrates power in the hands of few.  Now, is the correction of corruption likewise a bottoms-up process, or should it be a top-down process since that is where the power (and thus corruption) is concentrated?

Inspiration:  Alpha, Victor.

Mitt is Toast

Romney blasted Gingrich as an erratic politician who has switched positions [Editor: like supporting universal health care when a governor then condemning it when running for president?] "almost like a pinball machine," in a toughening of his rhetoric to try to halt his chief rival's surprising momentum. 
Seeking to regain his footing after losing Saturday's South Carolina primary badly to Gingrich, Romney challenged the former speaker of the House of Representatives to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he made from Freddie Mac and detail the work he performed for the troubled mortgage giant.
It looked to be a tit-for-tat "disclosure" demand on Romney's part after Gingrich effectively attacked him last week for not releasing his tax returns. Romney, who is worth some $270 million, will disclose two years of returns on Tuesday. [Emphasis added.]

Since, as I noted at Chuck’s blog, politics is nothing more than the seduction of a nation, it stands to reason that voters will gravitate to highest status male.  Right now, the highest-status male is Newt Gingrich, and this is evidenced by how Romney plays right into his frame.  Newt demanded Mitt’s tax returns, which Mitt complied with, and now Mitt strikes back in an identical matter.  If Mitt were actually high-status, he would have dismissed Newt’s charges instead of complying with them or upped the ante.  Instead, Mitt complied with Newt’s frame, and his response was basically repeating Newt’s charge back to him.  Thus, he now appears to be Newt’s inferior in two ways: he complied with Newt’s request, and ended up stealing Newt’s idea instead of coming up with something original.

As such, voters will now be strongly inclined to favor Newt over Mitt, even there are no practical differences between their policies on the matters that are most important.  Though most conservatives/Republicans will try to rationalize their decision to support Newt over Mitt in political terms, the main reason why conservatives/Republicans support Newt is because he is higher status than Romney.

Nature, Nurture, And Godliness

I saw two very similar posts today in my Google Reader feed, and I figured that they were a sign that I needed to finish a post I started writing seven weeks ago. The first post is from Chuck:

The crux for my rejection of God – or at least the narrative crafted around the existence of God and his plan – has always been that if God gifted man with the ability to reason, which breeds the tendency to be skeptical, then casting skeptics into Hell for not believing is a bit sadistic.  I can only know Earthly values, and if I know not to pledge allegiance to Earthly sadists then I must maintain consistency in that principle.

The second is from Scott Adams:

There's a hypothesis that the ability to believe in God has a genetic basis. That hypothesis is far from proven, but the smart money says there is some truth to it because most mental capacities have a genetic component. There's probably even a genetic basis for why my favorite color is green.

Both Chuck and Scott Adams address man’s religious tendencies from a genetic tendency.  Chuck obviously has a negative perspective (certain genetic attributes move you away from a belief in God) and Adams takes a positive perspective (certain genetic attributes move you towards a belief in God), but both make the point that one’s beliefs have a basis in genetics.  Assuming this is true, the question must be asked:  why is there a behavioral component to religion if religiosity is primarily a matter of genetics?

Of course, it should be noted that it is hard to sort nature from nurture.  Are religious people that way by nature or nurture?  An absence of childhood church attendance, for example, indicates a lack of environmental emphasis on church attendance, which then begets an absence of adult attendance.  However, parents that don’t take their children to church are basically demonstrating nonattendance as well.  Absence of church attendance, then, can be seen as both symptom and cause, and thus serves as a self-reinforcing feedback loop.  Therefore, if a parent has a genetic predisposition to avoid attending church, this will have genetic ramifications for his children, and will be reinforced in the children’s environment.

At any rate, the greater point is that genetic predispositions towards certain behaviors (in this case, religiosity and its manifestations) will not only have obvious genetic ramifications, but environmental indicators as well. 

And so, one can make the argument that genetics not only pass on through breeding, but through environmental controls as well (since humans have some control over their environment).  But if genetic predisposition are more dominant in their manifestations (i.e. genetic tendencies are more likely to influence environmental factors than environmental factors are to influence genetic tendencies), the obvious conclusion is that, for all intents and purposes, the actual behavioral components of religion need not be followed because one’s religiosity is already genetically predetermined.  This begs an obvious question:  Why, then, would God command parents to train children to act religiously?

God clearly states that he desires Godly offspring, which means that he expects parents to act in such a way that their children are religious.  One way to attain this goal is to have someone who is genetically predisposed to being religious marry and copulate with someone who is also genetically predisposed to being religious, thus increasing the chance that one’s offspring are genetically predisposed to being religious.

Therefore, the behavioral components of religion can be viewed as a way of genetic signaling.  One need not necessarily do them because they are inherently religious (or moral) but because they signal that one is religious (or moral).  If one is genetically predisposed to Godliness, this would be shown by obedience to essentially meaningless, arbitrary rules.  Thus, it is not that the rules are significant, but that the compliance to the rules that is significant.  Therefore, those who are compliant to generally arbitrary rules are demonstrating their genetic predispositions for the purpose of finding a similar mate.

[As a point of clarification, the arguments and assertions in this post should not be viewed as advocacy or evidence of personal beliefs.  This is simply an intellectual exercise and nothing more.  The reality of the role of nature and nurture as it relates to Godliness is likely more complex than humans can imagine.  Also note that several terms and words are used interchangeably with other terms and words (e.g. “religious” is used interchangeably with “moral”).]

22 January 2012

Obligatory South Carolina Primary Post

Newt won with 40% of the vote, which should kill Romney’s heat for the time being. Romney’s expensive political machine could only buy him a second-place finish with 28% of the vote. Santorum’s star faded to third, with 17% of the vote, and Ron Paul placed fourth with 13% of the vote, which was about as expected (although this result was considerably better than 2008’s 3.6%).

The race is still muddled, obviously. Santorum’s not looking good right now, and since he couldn’t get any heat from Iowa until it was too late, his campaign is probably dead. Romney’s invincibility is now a thing of the past, and I don’t think he’ll recover very well from it. I don’t care about Newt, and don’t think he’ll make a good candidate or president. I’m not sure what to make of Ron Paul’s situation

Are You Kidding Me?

So Chuck Norris has endorsed a presidential candidate.  Here are his criteria:
In the past few editions of my weekly column, I detailed 10 questions to find our next president, in no particular order of importance. I proposed that the name of the candidate that fills the majority of the answers deserves readers' votes.
          1) Who is most committed to follow and lead by the U.S. Constitution?
          2) Who has the greatest ability to rally, unify and mobilize citizens across political and societal spectrums?
          3) Who has the best working comprehension of America?
          4) Who has the best ability to influence a volatile world away from the brink of destruction?
          5) Who has clear and present moral fortitude?
          6) Who has the best chance of beating President Obama, in and outside of debates?
          7) Who has the best abilities to lead Washington politics and politicians?
          8) Who has the best plan and leadership ability to restore America's economy?
          9) Who is the most fiscally prudent?
          10) Who has demonstrated the highest regard for human life?

And the candidate Chuck Norris has endorsed is (drumroll please):
My wife, Gena, and I sincerely believe that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the answer to most of those questions and deserves our endorsement and votes
Are you kidding me?!  Ron Paul has amply demonstrated, time and again that he not only understand the constitution, but he is willing to submit to it.  And how does anyone think that Gingrich is better than Paul at attracting and mobilizing citizens across a variety of spectrums?  And how does Norris come to the conclusion that the man who claimed that the founding fathers would oppose the cultivation of marijuana has the best working knowledge of America even though Ron Paul has generally done a better and more consistent job of citing and explain the founding fathers, and consistently displays an impressive working knowledge of American history?

And Gingrich’s imperialistic war-hawk stance is more likely to influence a volatile world away from the brink of destruction than Paul’s non-interventionism (aka the Monroe doctrine)?  Come on!

And anyone who’s watched the debates knows that Ron Paul can hold his own.  Gingrich may be slightly better at debating, but he’s not polling close enough to Obama to even stand a chance at beating him (FWIW, Ron Paul is).

And if Gingrich’s record is any indication, he is definitely incapable of leading Washington politics and politicians.  Anyone remember how the contract with America turned out?

As for a plan to restore America’s economy, how does $1 trillion in budget cuts grab you?  Guess who proposed that?  (Hint: not Newt Gingrich.)  And since we’re on the subject of fiscal prudence, guess who’s career has not shown a tendency to milk the taxpayers for money?  (Hint:  it’s the guy who voted against hurricane relief measures even though it would directly benefit his congressional district, not the guy who made over $1 million from Freddie Mac.)

Who has more regard for human life?  Probably the doctor who helped deliver thousands of babies and signed the Planned Parenthood funding ban.  His name is Ron Paul.  And if Chuck Norris actually believed in his principles, that’s who he would endorse.

21 January 2012

IP Versus Antitrust

As this video clearly and cleverly explains, SOPA/PIPA is not about better defining IP laws or even about censorship.  Ultimately, SOPA/PIPA is about reducing and/or eliminating the “creative” industries’ competition.  Basically, the proposed legislation is intended to give corporations monopoly power (keep in mind that this is entirely constitutional).  This does, however, bring up an interesting conundrum:  does this legislation not violate antitrust laws?

The answer, rather obviously, is yes.  Fortunately, the question over what gets precedence in this conflict of law has already been answered by the constitution:  IP monopoly trumps antitrust.  However, now seems a good a time as ever to ask a simple question:  If competition is necessary to consumer protection (hence antitrust laws, presumably), why does this thinking not extend to IP?

Science is not Story Time

But such mundane explanations of gross disparities are seldom emotionally satisfying -- least of all to those on the short end of these disparities. With the rise over time of an indigenous intelligentsia in Eastern Europe and the growing influence of mass politics, more emotionally satisfying explanations emerged, such as oppression, exploitation and the like.

One indication that you’re dealing with a religion and not actual science is the presence of a narrative.  Are you being presented with facts and data couple with rigorous analysis?  Or are you being told a story, complete with heroes and villains?

Incidentally, this highlights one reason I completely distrust the proponents of anthropogenic global warming.  What they write reads more like a religious text than an academic paper.  Of course, this applies to a whole host of subjects beyond global warming, although I maintain that global warming is currently the most egregious in this regard.

Anyhow, the point in all this is to simply point out that history and science are generally mundane, and anyone who presents them as otherwise is either lying or has an agenda.

It’s Hamster Time!

Regarding the previous post, here’s a student’s response to the University of California’s tuition proposal:

"I'm against it," said Jessica Greenstreet, a politics and theater major at UC Santa Cruz who was not at the meeting. "Public education is a public good, and should be paid for by the public, through taxes."

I see.  And are you going to donate all of your future income to “the public” as well?  Or would you prefer for the benefits of your publicly-funded education to be enjoyed privately by you?

Oh, and here’s the money shot:

In fact, Greenstreet's tuition is paid for through the GI Bill because her father was a Marine.

At Least They’re Upfront About It

The students' proposal fits right in. Instead of paying tuition - currently at $12,192, not including mandatory fees, room, board or books - the "UC Student Investment Proposal" would require that students commit to paying 5 percent of their annual income for 20 years after graduating.
Students who pay $2,500 a year - 5 percent of $50,000 - for 20 years, would end up paying $50,000 for their education, slightly more than the $48,768 they would pay over four years if UC tuition were frozen at its current level.
On the other hand, students earning $100,000 would pay $5,000 a year, or $100,000 for their education over two decades.

This is basically no different than the student loan scam, except in that it may possibly be cheaper for students.  It functions the same way as student loans—you basically have to work for someone else for an extended period of time, making you essentially an indentured servant.  This will thus be the its downfall:  it’s too direct about enslavement.

Santorum and the Constitution

So we were founded as a country that had God-given rights that the government had to respect. And with those rights come responsibilities, right? God did not just give us rights. He gave us a moral code by which to exercise them.

God did give us a moral code by which to exercise our rights, which is why Jesus once said “go into all the world and use the government to force people to obey your interpretation of the bible.”  Or something like that.

Sarcasm aside, Santorum’s mistake is thinking that it is the government that should enforce a moral code at all. In fact, this is the general flaw in most conservatives’ thinking regarding the government’s role in social morality.

Now, there should certainly be laws against murder, theft, rape, and assault (and here I use these as broad categories, for the purpose of illustration).  However, these things shouldn’t be against the law because they are immoral.  Rather, these things should be against the law because they violate property rights, including the most fundamental property right: self-ownership.

The distinction between morality and property rights as a basis of law is crucial.*  If one accepts Judeo-Christian morality as the basis of the legal code, one is morally obliged to keep the entirety of it (and by “the entirety of it” I mean “the Bible”).  A failure to do this is a tacit admission that the Judeo-Christian moral code is not actually a moral code, for moral codes apply either in their entirety or not at all.  Consider:  if one can pick and choose which tenets of a given moral code one is obliged to obey, then one is really saying by his behavior that he is obeying his own predetermined moral code, plus whatever aspects of any other moral code happens to be in line with his own personal moral code.  In this case, it is clear that a failure to keep the entirety of a given moral is basically a repudiation of that moral code.  QED.

Since it is now obvious that one must keep the entire moral code if one is going to keep any of it, the obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that those who argue that morality should be foundation of the law are obliged to pick a standard of morality and apply it wholesale.  Since Santorum is presumably referring to the Bible as a standard for morality, Santorum is obliged to make the entire Bible the basis of law.

In this case, his opposition to welfare would be entirely unfounded (cf. James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-36).  Obviously, Santorum, like all conservatives, recognizes that the Bible (or, more broadly, Judeo-Christian ethics) should not be the basis of law in the United States.  But that doesn’t stop them from selectively referring to Christian morals when determining government policy.  This, of course, is hypocritical.

Santorum, and the religious conservatives who support him, need to figure out a coherent basis for the role of law in the United States.  Is it going to be morality?  If so, what form of morality?  Or is it going to be property rights, as traditionally understood?  Or is there going to be some other framework for law?

It is obvious, at this point, that religious/social conservatives have no governing principles regarding the role of law, which is why their policies tend to be both hypocritical and schizophrenic.  In fact, the only governing principle of any given conservative is their personal preference.  They don’t oppose homosexuality because it is merely immoral; they oppose it because they personally dislike it.  They don’t oppose drug use simply because they believe it to be immoral; they oppose it because they personally dislike it.  In fact, personal dislike is the basis of virtually all religious/social conservative opposition.  That it may happen to correspond with some aspect of a random moral code is simply a happy coincidence.

* One could argue that making property rights the basis of law is itself a moral judgment, and therefore the law is nothing more than an indirect moral code.  This assertion ignores other reasons for using property rights as the basis for law, such as pragmatic concerns and tradition.