Friday, July 29, 2016

False Liberal Accusations

Nuanced thinking, as usual, by David Friedman:

Center left writers and media routinely accuse candidates on the right of being ignorant, stupid, racist, and/or crazy. Most of the time it isn't true.
Donald Trump is, in my view, less qualified to be president than any major party candidate in my lifetime. But after being told more or less the same thing about every candidate seen as right of center for the last fifty years, why should voters, especially voters right of center, believe it?
Bush is stupid. Trump is racist. Ted Cruz is crazy. I've heard it all. Bush probably had above average IQ. I can't find a single genuinely racist thing Trump has said (when interpreted the way he means it). And almost everyone has a crazy philosophy because crazy philosophies don't cost anything.

I think I'm more frustrated with this kind of behavior from the left because they bare the name "intellectuals". They're not intellectuals. Their beliefs are juvenile, and for all their talk about empathy they sure do an awful job intellectually empathizing with their opponents. For all their talk about tolerance, they sure are intolerant of the things they disagree with. If I had to give the label "hypocrites" to one of the two political sides, maybe the left deserves it.

Star Trek Thinking versus Feeling

The Star Trek series always had a running theme of what it means to be human. Data an android, or Spock a Vulcan, struggled to understand humanness.

I think I know their mistake. They always connected humanness with feeling, in one way or another. With Data, two different ideas for the same word, "feeling" got conflated. There is feeling emotion, and there is sense experience feeling. Those are two completely different things.

To digress, to be human is not to feel. Animals feel. Feeling is not unique to humanity. What is unique to humanity is actually what Spock and Data did so well; think.

The use of reasons is unique to humans. Animals don't do it, though perception and instinct can sometimes mimic logical behaviors. Computers don't do it. They don't attach meanings to things and use those meanings to come to beliefs. They stream the input/ output algorithms we tell it to, which can mimic logical behavior. But they do not actually think.

The false dichotomy between feeling and thinking intrudes on the philosophy of the Star Trek brand. We don't have a choice between thinking and feeling. What we think effects how we feel. And how we feel effects how we think. So there is a genuine tension between which of these two things ought to be pulling the wagon (thinking). But to give one supremacy doesn't mean to somehow discard the other.

That would be clear if we spend more time thinking about it rather than being tied up in Star Trek's emotional drama.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Four Reasons Financial Intermediaries Fail

Very good. I wish people I knew in the real world would talk about the financial system with the understanding this video provides.

I often watch these videos from MRUniversity while investigating it for a libertarian slant. I don't typically find one, but I can imagine someone confusing economist's pro-marketism with market fundamentalism. Some think that if a video teaches the value of markets, as economics generally does, then that must be some kind of right wing ideology. The end result is nobody is allowed to talk about the value of markets alone mixing it with something about market failure.

I do this too. I don't feel like I can just give the economics for why,

"Minimum wage probably has disemployment effects."

I have to say,

"Minimum wage probably has disemployment effects. BUT that doesn't mean minimum wage is bad. It might still be good, you can still believe in minimum wage. It just means there's a tradeoff.

In normal discussion I could leave all that unsaid. Of course showing that there's a cost to something doesn't necessarily make that thing bad or undesirable. But I have to hedge against the market fundamentalist interpretation.

I wonder if Tyler and Alex do the same.

"When someone bigger than you says something, you don't Contradict them"

A child opened the blinds. Her grandfather told her that it was still dark, and to open them more to let more sun in. The 4-year-old said that she thought it was already pretty light in here. Her father interrupted, "when someone bigger than you says something, you don't contradict them."

I was very bothered by that. When someone bigger than you is wrong, of course you contradict them!

It brings up the idea of authority, and where it comes from. The father taught his daughter that authority comes from bigness. But men are bigger than women, does that give men authority over women? Does Arnold Schwarzenegger have authority over the president, Jesus, and Gandhi because he's bigger than them?

We shouldn't take the father so literally. More likely he meant, "someone older than you". But does authority come from age? Should I tell my wife, "don't contradict me, I'm older than you?"

But maybe older means at least a generation older. We can test that. Must a young adult not contradict an older man? An old man says Jewish people are the scourge of the earth, should we not contradict him?

Maybe he means we shouldn't contradict those further up the family tree. Authority comes from familial generation. Well then I feel sorry for those born with wrong parents. Many spend their time trying to argue others out of the traditions of their parents, and these same people have kids and then say authority comes from parenthood.

But maybe authority comes from familiar generation only in regard to children. A child must not contradict an older generation relative, but once the child is old enough contradiction is fine. Again, what makes the older generation relative right, or his opinion so supreme that they ought not be contradicted? Many parents teach their children wrong things, and we wish this child would contradict the parent. Suppose the parent tells the child that a Pikachu is a ground type pokemon, is it improper for the child to say, "no, Pikachu is an electric type"?

So why is the child allowed to say that? Because authority in fact, comes from insight. The child has insight about Pokemon, just as his father may have insight about the workings of a car. What insight the grandparent has over the child about whether it was light enough in the room to be called a lit room, I don't know. That's why I remain bothered by it.

Reason, of course, rules individual insight. When someone with insight says something that doesn't make sense, you don't believe it. But sometimes we don't have information or sufficient exposure to a topic to find the correct answer. So we ask those with information and exposure to the relevant topic for their insight, and thus we give them authority. If you want to know about firemen, you ask a fireman. The only insight a parent has by being a parent is insight into having sex.

Parenthood and age ought to be connected with insight, but it isn't always. Some people have spent their lives without gaining insight, often because they themselves were pressured not to contradict their un-insightful parents. Many false beliefs are rooted in superstition that, generation after generation, they were taught not to contradict.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Was the Ford Pinto a Market Failure?

Here's wikipedia on the Ford Pinto, the car that inspired the book Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nadar. Since then it has become a popular example of why a lack of how an unregulated market leads to horrible consequences.

The recall was included in Time magazine's 2009 top ten product recalls, Popular Mechanics magazine's 2010 five most notorious recalls of all time, and NBC News' 2013 twelve famous recalls.[124][125][126] Time said "The Ford Pinto was a famously bad automobile, but worse still might be Ford's handling of the safety concerns."[125] According to the Los Angeles Times in 2010, the award "signaled to the auto industry that it would be harshly sanctioned for ignoring known defects."[107]

Schwartz studied the fatality rates of the Pinto and several other small cars of the time period. He noted that fires, and rear-end fires in particular, are very small portion of overall auto fatalities. At the time only 1% of automobile crashes would result in fire and only 4% of fatal accidents involved fire, and only 15% of fatal fire crashes are the result of rear-end collisions.[6] When considering the overall safety of the Pinto Schwartz notes that subcompact cars as a class have generally higher fatality risk. Pintos represented 1.9% of all cars on the road in the 1975-76 period. During that time the car represented 1.9% of all “fatal accidents accompanied by some fire.” Implying the car was average for all cars and slightly above average for its class.[127] When all types of fatalities are considered the Pinto was approximately even with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun 510. It was significantly better than the Datsun 1200/210, Toyota Corolla and VW Beetle.[6] The safety record of the car in terms of fire was average or slightly below average for compacts and all cars respectively. This was considered respectable for a subcompact car. Only when considering the narrow subset of rear-impact, fire fatalities is the car somewhat worse than the average for subcompact cars. While acknowledging this is an important legal point, Schwartz rejects the portrayal of the car as a firetrap.[128]

No car is perfectly safe and it seems the Ford Pinto was not even especially unsafe. Normal economic analysis of risk says that safety is a spectrum, and informed consumers will pay more for extra safety, giving producers plenty of incentive to not kill their consumers.

The Ford Pinto isn't an example of how the normal economic analysis of safety doesn't work. It looks more like an example of people looking for any story that confirms their theory without researching it properly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I like ideas more than events

People are always trying to talk to me about the events, either from their lives or events that they heard about. That has never been interesting to me. Sure I have that kind of conversation, I have to for work. But it's not something that I really care to do.

Here's the kind of conversation I have to have at work:

"Hey how's your weekend?"
"Well we got to try the new pool on Saturday, the water was just right"
"Well yeah, with the weather we've been having... I haven't been swimming yet this summer, just too busy I guess"
"Working a lot?"
"Sure am, it's not so bad, the espresso keeps me going"
"Cheers to that"

Who wants to have that conversation? It's horrible. I can manage it for my job, but it's not how I like to spend my free time.

So what kind of conversations do I like? Conversations about ideas. But so few people are interested in ideas. It leaves me an introvert.

Events can be interesting in the context of ideas. There was a school shooting? I'm not so interested in that it happened or in bonding over the moral condemnation of the situation.

I'm very interested in why public shootings happens more often than it used to, even though the homicide rate as a whole has been decreasing. I'm interested in the psychology someone goes through before they kill a bunch of people. I'm very interested in public policy as it pertains to school shootings. But that a school shooting happened it just uninteresting to me. People die every day, get over it.

It's the same deal with people's personal lives. You had fun at the pool, that's nice. Now lets talk about global warming as it pertains to how many fun days at the pool you'll be getting. Lets talk about environmental impacts of fun days at the pool. Lets talk about why pools are expensive to build and upkeep, but lower home values.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bush worse than Trump?

A new blog I'm reading reminds us that our memory should be longer than 7 years.
Last night and today are the days to talk about how Donald Trump is the scariest politician in American history. Trump is monstrous, but unlikely to be elected. And, more, he’s not even worse than our previous president, George W. Bush. How have you all forgotten this stuff already?
I'm generally skeptical of the leftist take on how bad George Bush was. Their attitudes seem hysterical, which prompts my skepticism of their ability to assess reality.

But after reading the post, which was essentially a big list of George Bush's mistakes, I've moved closer to their side. It's not like I agree with everything on the list. For example I'm not so sure Bush's lack of response to Hurricane Katrina was real, or wasn't appropriate if it was.

But here's my pop quiz for liberals:

  1. On the list of Bush's failures, how many of them were of the federal government doing something, and how many were government's lack of doing something?
  2. If most were of the federal government doing something, how has this changed your view of how useful government action is?

My view is that no matter how badly government performs in real life, liberals never undergo an adjustment in their priors over how useful government action is. Bush was awful primarily because of the things he did with federal powers, but this never shakes the faith liberals have in government power. The federal government can kill 10s of thousands of innocent people, but if a private company releases a product that kills 10, liberals have a fit.