Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rebuttals to the many things Trump says about Foreigners

A friend posted a pro-trump speech as a response to me on Facebook. I wanted to address why I don't like trump, specifically why I find his anti-foreigner rhetoric so unappealing (since that's the only policy stance I ever see him take).

I ended up deleting my response because no good was going to come of it.

I'll post it here, because I worked so hard to summarize why Trump's anti-foreigner attitude is nonsense.
Terrorism in the first world is a trivial threat when you actually measure the costs in terms of loss of human lives, human suffering, and money lost. The wrong way to measure it is by how bad you feel when we think about it. Effort to deflect terrorism should be in proportion to the actual costs of terrorism.

What keeps terrorism in check is self-preservation. We live on a gigantic rock covered in people. Anyone can get onto the rock and kills lots of people if they wanted to. There is nothing the government can do to prevent that. It doesn't happen very often because they almost always end up dying afterward. Self-preservation can be undermined with ideology, but it takes a lot, especially when the rubber meets the road.

Immigrants don't need to produce more than average to benefit the economy. They only have to produce more than they consume. When they have access to machines in the U.S. they almost always do.

Immigrants are not all, mostly, and probably not even more likely to be criminals. The last one might be true, but there's enough data that says otherwise to believe that it's false.

There is no trade war with China. That's not how trade works. If they were sending us a bunch of cheap stuff and we weren't sending them anything back it would be good for us, not them. Economies are about outputs not work. Work and jobs aren't the kinds of things that we just run out of.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How both sides can think they are losing

Arnold Kling:

The left presumes that government can solve problems. We have problems. Therefore, we must be losing!

The right presumes that the government causes problems. We have problems. Therefore, we must be losing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Best and Worst of Gary Johnson

I've been listening to a few Gary Johnson videos (the libertarian candidate for president), and here is my conclusion:

The best thing Gary says is that we should replace the income tax with a consumption tax. I think that is a very high impact policy and my confidence in it's merits are very high.

The worst thing Gary says is that hyperinflation is coming, probably soon, and so you'd better start filling your bomb shelters with pinto beans. Okay, he doesn't say all that, but his hyperinflation scare tactics are way off the mark economically, and my confidence that he's dead wrong about it is very high.

Monday, March 21, 2016

C.S. Lewis on the Prayer and Work

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, read Work and Prayer by him.

The problem with prayer:
I don’t think it at all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory) advice of us humans as to how to run the world. If He is all-wise, as you say He is, doesn’t He know already what is best? And if He is all-good, won’t He do it whether we pray or not?Why bother giving advice to God?
 The reductio:
But if this argument is sound, surely it is an argument not only against praying, but against doing anything whatever? ... Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t, they’ll remain dirty (as Lady MacBeth found) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything?
 Of course, this reduction doesn't lead to absurdity. It could instead lead to the conclusion that there isn't a God in the first place.

Or it could be that...
God has not chosen to write the whole history with His own hand.
God doesn't have to do everything in order to exist. It could be for Good purposes by letting us do things. Isn't the knowledge of God deepened by allowing us to act?

But I think Lewis makes a wrong turn when he says,
Pascal says that God “instituted prayer in order to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.” It would perhaps be truer to say that He invented both prayer and physical action for that purpose.
 This is a version of free will I don't hold. It denies universal causality, makes us into Gods, and denies God's absolute sovereignty. Alternatively, we could say that God writes all of history both directly "in the beginning..." and indirectly through human action and prayer.

My respect for C.S. Lewis as a thinker grew after reading his essay. But I still consider much of his philosophy an elegantly phrased mess.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thank You God - Tim Minchin

I was reminded of this video after having a conversation with an atheist at work. He was critical of Christians for their relentless faith without evidence, and because they see miracles where there are only statistics. I try not to let on what religious label describes me when I'm at work, but what he was saying was correct in my book, so I was happy to find common ground there.

I think there was a time when I might have been more defensive by that kind of discussion, or about the kind of video above. I may have felt compelled to rationalize for why the atheists criticism is wrong, or to explain why the atheist's criticism doesn't apply to me. Of course as a theist, I don't think that the criticism applies to me, but I don't feel the urge to bring that up. I think that's because it would be a subject change that only makes sense if I'm trying to protect my theist flag rather than evaluate propositions. We're talking about the evangelical strand of fideists who mistake statistics for miracles. What I believe about God has nothing to do with that.

There was another interaction at work with someone different. I joked about how entertaining it was listening to two of our workers who always argue about whether homosexuality is wrong. He felt the need to tell me which side he fell on and why. But I wasn't talking about who was right. My tone was light, but his was serious, which made for an abrupt transition conversationally. That makes sense if he was protecting his flag, it doesn't make sense if he were trying to have a conversation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What if Everybody Thought that way...

When I point out that I don't vote, I'm often told, "What if everybody thought that way?" Presumably, the answer is that elections wouldn't work. democracy would fail, and we'd end up with a president that nobody likes.

The good news is that our choices aren't between everybody thinking that way and nobody thinking that way. What if only some people thought that way?

Consider, what if everybody got in an elevator at the same time? We'd all be crushed! So what does a reasonable person do? They look in the elevator to make sure that everyone else isn't there. If they are, they don't get in. Now what if everyone looked into the elevator to make sure everyone else isn't there? Well, the first people would see the empty elevator and get in. This would continue until the elevator is full, and then the next person wouldn't get in.

Kind of like looking in the elevator, what if people made a reasonable prediction about how many other people are going to vote in the election? 150 million? Nah, I won't vote this time. 10? Sure I'll vote. If everyone does this the number of voters radically decreases without hitting zero. It decreases to the point where the next vote has an unreasonable chance of effecting outcomes, but the last vote had a reasonable chance of effecting outcomes. If people did that, like I do, we'd spare ourselves from wasting a lot of time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Inner Ring

I sometimes regard C.S. Lewis' non-fiction as elegantly false; a dangerous combination. But one of the best and true things he has ever put out is The Inner Ring.

The inner ring is the social circle to which people conform to the center. People are groupish. Their instincts tell them to do things that knead them deeper into groups. They often do this with multiple groups at the same time. Lewis warns that we do things to become part of the inner ring which we wouldn't do otherwise, sometimes immoral things. And it's not like we do it deliberately, Our perception of right and wrong becomes skewed by ingroup/outgroup biases.

What counts as an inner ring? According to Psychologists' Minimal Group Paradigm, pretty much everything. The minimal conditions required for discrimination to occur between groups is in fact, very minimal. Anything can trigger ingroup discrimination, even the most trivial distinctions, like whether you over or under estimated the number of dots on a page. The distinction merely needs to be an object of our attention in order to trigger team based thinking.

So finish the sentence, "I am..." An evangelical? Working class? A liberal? A parent? There's your inner ring. There's your tribe. Now you will do things to protect your tribe from outsiders and prove to your tribe that you really are one of them. We... whatever it is... stick together, even when we're wrong.

"There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called “You and Tony and me.” When it is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself “we.” When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself “all the sensible people at this place.” From outside, if you have dispaired of getting into it, you call it “That gang” or “they” or “So-and-so and his set” or “The Caucus” or “The Inner Ring.” If you are a candidate for admission you probably don’t call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The best predictor of Trump support is...

The best predictor of support for Donald Trump is...

Drum roll...

authoritarianism! (according to an article on Vox)

Which is defined by a cluster of tendencies...
"Individuals with a disposition to authoritarianism demonstrate a fear of "the other" as well as a readiness to follow and obey strong leaders. They tend to see the world in black-and-white terms. They are by definition attitudinally inflexible and rigid."
First of all, aren't you just asking for your liberal readership to get the wrong idea with the phrase, "black and white?"

Secondly, authority and ingroup (loyalty) values, which Vox just calls authoritarianism, are big predictors of conservatism. It ain't got nothing to do with trump.

What about the other moral foundation connected to conservatism? Purity. I can't help but think of Trump calling people he doesn't like, "disgusting".

The article also states,
"These results should be a big red flag to those who argue Trump’s support is capped. It is not."
Only to the same extent that conservatism isn't capped, which of course it is. Yes, people become more authoritarian as they feel threatened, but that doesn't mean each subsequent scare doesn't get diminishing returns. It's not like more and more threats just keeps working forever. Fear may have already done pretty much everything it can do.

The article fights fire with fire, that is, fear with fear. Be afraid, Donald Trumps has unlimited potential. He hasn't even reached his final form!