Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tale of Diversityland and Unitopia

You're Jack Bauer and you just obtained control over nuclear missile after it has already launched. It's too late to navigate it into a large body of water, so you have to hit one of two regions; Diversityland or Unitopia. You call Cloe and ask her in your gruff macho Jack Bauer voice, "Cloe, tell me about these two countries!"

"Well Diversityland has a population of one million. It's borders contain the last of an endangered race. Unitopia has a population of one million-and-one. Besides that I can't find any notable differences."

Okay Jack, which country are you going to hit with the nuclear missile? Diversityland or Unitopia?

It seems to me that if you hit Unitopia you believe in discrimination if it brings about diversity. Some people are more important because they were born that way.

If you hit Diversityland, you don't believe in discrimination. A person is a person is a person. It's who they choose to be that matters.

Hitting Unitopia is preference based discrimination.

It also seems like hitting Unitopia is the mark of a politically progressive minded person. A lot of non-progressive liberals might be more likely to hit Diversityland.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Libertarian Debate 2016

Read about the economics of market failure and then watch the libertarian debates. It's disappointing how sure they are that the market solves everything. I clicked on a random minute and heard them talk about eminent domain and global warming, two areas where there is clear market failure.

The next-level libertarian response is accepting market failure, but pointing out that there is no reason to believe government can solve it. And I'm on board with that. But listening to libertarians bypass public goods and negative externalities is disheartening.

Forcing People to Move Forwards is Moving Backwards

1. More Pro-Slavery than I Remember

Jon Stewart has said
When I say there should be a draft, I also think it should be noncompulsory military. There should be a draft where every young person has to do one year of something — military, public works — something so that we all feel invested in the same game, because that’s the part that we’ve lost.
I'm fond of The Skeptical Libertarian's response,
"Jon Stewart, more pro-slavery than I remember."
Apparently for Jon Stewart it isn't slavery if they can choose between at least two things. If we give people a choice; go to war or pick up garbage on the curb, it sounds to me like just forcing people to pick up garbage on the curb.

How about this? Pick cotton or go to jail? Yeah, that's non compulsory too because you have at least two choices.

2. Forcing people doesn't Change their Minds

What Jon Stewart thinks we're missing is the effect of, not the cause of, the attitude he wants back. The heart of civic servitude that I think he really wants doesn't come from forcing people to be invested in the same game, being invested in the same game comes from a heart of civic servitude.  What is great about the past he imagines is exactly this; you didn't have to force those people to invest in the same game. 

It's easy to imagine forcing people without that heart to pick up garbage on the side of the road inciting antagonization not persuasion. People don't like being forced to do what they don't want to do, and they often commit more strongly to their priors when they are.

When a kid says they hate broccoli and they're forced to try it, I never hear them say, "you know what? I change my mind!"

When I have to manage people, I have to persuade them. When I force them, they get into a threat state and double down in commitment to their priors.

3. Really so bad?

How realistic are Jon Stewart's views of the past anyway? I've learned not to trust my impressions. My impressions say that things are way more violent than they were 10 or 50 years ago, but Steven Pinker's book thoroughly and completely refutes that idea with a tremendous amount of data. Likewise, I wonder about data on the volunteer rate in America. I can find data showing a short term dip since 2002, but I don't think what Jon Stewart wants back a national attitude we had back in the Bush years.

So how about it? Place your bets. Did the volunteering rate go up or down since 1950?

4. Civil Bites (I don't know, it just popped into my head)

This reminds me of what may be one of the unstated costs of civil rights legislation. You can force an employer not to discriminate against minorities, but the problem with preference based employment discrimination isn't that minorities don't get jobs. If we are not discriminators ourselves and because we're concerned with outcomes of discrimination then we should be indifferent to whether the distribution of involuntary unemployment is 0% minority or 100%, So long as the total involuntary unemployment rate is the same, what's the difference?

The difference is in why they are unemployed. It is not because of outcomes, it is because of our disgust with what's going on in the employer's heart. Enter Civil Rights legislation. What does it do? It changes the outcomes of discrimination but doesn't deal with why it happened in the first place. And like I said, unprejudiced people should not care about the outcomes of discrimination so long as someone got the job. Discrimination is a sin to virtue ethics, not consequentialism.

What I'm saying puts civil rights legislation in even worse light as it relates to this post. It not only doesn't solve the problem, it antagonizes the discriminators. It might make you feel good to punish people by making them hire against their prejudices, but it doesn't purify the world of their intention, and it probably poisons it by irritating their attitude towards civil rights all the more. Civil Rights is a force being brought down on them, not a flowering idea they want their identities associated with.

5. A Few Caveats

Okay, yes preference based discrimination actually does have consequentialist based costs. If the best person suited to the job isn't hired for arbitrary reasons, there is a real cost to economic productivity. This is just not why people hate discrimination and find it so grotesque. And if it were, then we would have to scale down the severity with which discrimination is treated by a lot.

Another caveat is that some people actually do see diversity as a positive good. They would want to discriminate in order to bring diversity, as opposed to people who discriminate to bring uniformity or people who just don't discriminate based on arbitrary criteria. One quick way of dealing with those progressives who want to discriminate to bring about diversity is to bring up how arbitrary their form of diversity is. People are arbitrarily different in a million different ways, and these people have latched onto a couple ones and declared that these are the moral criterion for discrimination. They care about race or gender, but what about number of freckles, height, or whether you have an innie or outie belly button?

Aren't enough innies working in the office? We embrace diversity here! Lets bypass the selection process and hire some innies!

Young Environemenatlist

If only those bad people stopped cutting down trees, the animals would stop dying, because nature would take care of them.

Like Bambi.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hillary's Venn Diagram

I am very much enjoying the Venn diagram from the person I most want to be president (out of all realistic contenders).

83% of gun owners aren't American? Um, okay.

To be more serious, I think the image is wrong but the stats might be realistic. Of course, 90% Americans don't know anything about anything about gun legislation or its effects, so I don't really take it so seriously.

If we did what 90% of Americans want we would have probably cut off trade to half the world and be a much poorer country for it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trump's Ambiguous Racism

1. Language Inclusive of Nutjobs

I was talking with someone about how Trump phrases things to include the right wing nutjobs. For example, when someone asks whether he's a birther, Trump will say that he doesn't know, which leaves the option that Obama isn't a citizen. In contrast John Mccain cut the right wing nutjobs out by saying that Obama was a family man who he respects, but just has different views from him.

One can see why Trump would want to phrase things in a way to include the right wing nutjobs, these nutjobs are often voters. But one can also see how cutting the connection to those people would attract votes as well. I'd like to believe that there aren't enough of these kinds of right wingers for Trump to care for their support. But maybe there are. On the flip side, I'd like to believe that there aren't enough leftists (and independents) who are so ingrained in their anti-right ideology that they wouldn't change their mind about Trump even if he did phrase things in a narrower way. If leftist will think he's racist anyway, then Trump might as well get the racist vote.

2. Liberals Mocking the Wrong Trump

It gives me little hope when leftists interpret quotes like this as a racial slur:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
Read more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/550112/donald-trump-quotes.html#xJhfS6frS3wk3PM5.99
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
I'm sorry, that's not racist. It's a factual claim open to analysis. And honestly, since social science has proven that poverty is correlated to things like drug use, rape, and other crime, it's not a bad inference that poor immigrants would have the same connections. Unfortunately for trump, hard data on immigrant crime doesn't turn out that way.

Trump doesn't say that he believes this because of anything racist. Any reasonable person should interpret a statement like that as based on Trump's impression of who tends to cross the boarder, which is the same impression that a lot of people are getting. Whether Trump's impressions comes from his talking to border guards or watching the tv series Cops is an open question, but either way that's not racism.

I think that if a conservative says something that could possibly be explained by racism, liberals automatically interpret it as racism, even if there are more reasonable explanations out there. Racism is one reason why Trump might say some of the things he says, but it isn't the only one and it certainly isn't the best one. If liberals treated each other that way, there would be almost as much talk about liberal racism as conservative racism.

You can also read Trump's keeping Muslims out of the country as racism. Or you can read it as a catastrophic overreaction though admittedly a valid partial solution. Not allowing Muslim immigrants will reduce slightly the already abysmal chance of a terrorist attack, but the means are horrible and the effect is slight. This is a more complicated explanation than, "that's racist", but it's a much better one.

I'm tempted to skip the part about liberals treating Islam like it's a race and whether or not that's racism. Google "Trump Racism", and you'll get a ton of leftist examples of Trump talking about Muslims. If the right made such an error, leftists would scoff with superiority and accuse them of being the real racists. Again, for leftists if racism can explain conservative behavior, then it must be racism regardless of more reasonable explanations.

3. Haidt Explains it all and conclusion

I can't help but think of Jonathan Haidt's research that shows liberals can't empathize as well with conservatives compared to the other way around. A part of me is skeptical, but sometimes I see how liberals read conservatives and think, "what world are you living in?"

Really I wish Trump would directly and definitively cut the cord to the fringe fraction of right wing nutjobs even if it cost him some votes. I think he's more likely to do that in the general election than in the primaries because those people matter less because they're diluted by a larger population of voters.

And it always bares repeating, although to a large extent this post is in defense of Trump, I am not a Trump voter or anything remotely close to it.

Why America can't be Denmark

Why America can't be Denmark. It took me a couple reads, but it's an intriguing idea:
But Davis argues the opposite (and was helped by the data that go this way). His argument is that large hierarchical structures have to engage in some evening out of salaries (internal redistribution) in order to keep cooperation, needed for the success of the enterprise, going. On the contrary, if the big bureaucratic machines get divested, and jobs hitherto performed within company get outsourced to different contractors, there is nothing to keep the new small, lean and mean company from extracting all the surplus from each and every contractor the way that Amazon is credited (or “credited”) of doing it. So take a General Motors and break it into thousands of independent companies producing components, then outsource cleaning, marketing, food catering and legal services, offshore accounting and customer relations, and you end up with today’s enterprise structure. Those who have remained at the core can pay themselves huge salaries since they do not depend on the goodwill and cooperation of the outsourcing companies. If the accountants in Chicago feel they are paid too little, GM will gladly hire accountants in Calcutta.
The core idea in the essay is too valuable to be titled something so distant in relation. The comparison to Denmark is really an afterthought to the really important stuff.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Criticism of World Peace or of Government?

If we had world peace, who would build the roads?

One should be in favor of anarchy or a critic of world peace. I see no third way. Government has to use violence to exist. Taxation may not be theft, but violence is how it makes sure tax money keeps coming in. There's nothing peaceful about that.

If you flipped a switch and got world peace right now, there would be virtually no revenue for which to build roads, and there would be no mechanism for enforcing minimum wage. It's not like world peace changes people such that they voluntarily contribute money for social projects.

Rights based libertarians have adopted a deontological view of liberty. To take away someone's liberty is wrong. We should all have all the liberty and never have it taken away. Not all sin is the taking away of liberty (libertinism), but any taking away of liberty is sin (libertarianism).

I wonder if libertarians grasped for the wrong moral principle, and if liberty doesn't resonate with non-libertarians as well as the ideal of peace. If someone asks why you're a libertarian, and you say liberty, they might well roll their eyes. But if someone asks why you're a libertarian and you say, it's the only way we can have peace, they may respect that a little more.

Thinking of Jonathan Haidt's moral foundations, Care is a moral foundation that resonates across the political spectrum, while liberty was so prevalent that Haidt only added it as an afterthought. So if libertarians connected up their ideology with the care foundation through peace, which logically it is connected up with, it may be rhetorically more persuasive.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Greg Mankiw's Campaign Myths

This article by Greg Mankiw is a million percent true.

American manufacturing has disappeared.

Bad trade deals are what ails the economy.

The economy is rigged.

The rich don’t pay much in taxes.

Tax cuts will unleash stupendous growth.

The next president can quickly fix all of our problems.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

So really, was Hoover an Interventionist or not?

I was watching some online education videos about history. They were covering the Great Depression and kept referencing Hoover's lack of interventionist policies. The story, for historians, is that Hoover did nothing in response to the Great Depression. And from what I've gathered, this is the standard view for historians.

This is not what libertarian leaning economists think of Hoover. Their story is that Hoover was FDR light. And Hoovers interventionist policies were very much in line with the forthcoming New Deal.

I usually approach these things with a strong presumption that the experts are right. And in this case the relevant experts very much seem to be historians. What Hoover did is a historical question. Whether it worked is an economics question.

And then I research the reasons historians think this and I come up nil. On the other hand the liber-economists offer lots of reasons, including a sharp rise in federal expenditure, and some pieces of very interventionist legislation that no economists will defend like the Davis-Bacon actNorris-LaGuardia Act, and the Smoot Hawley Tariff.

The liber-economists will also site Hoover's autobiography where he talks about there being two modes of thought, one laissez faire (let it be), and the other interventionist. He says that he chose the interventionist policy. Of course, this could be just Hoover revising his own history well after the fact when interventionism was much more popular.

But then when I break from the libertarian filter and try to read Hoover for myself, I very quickly come by sections of speeches from before the Great Depression like this,
Nor do I wish to be misinterpreted as believing that the United States is a free-for-all and devil-take-the-hindmost. The very essence of equality of opportunity and of American individualism is that there shall be no domination by any group or [monopoly] in this republic.... It is no system of laissez faire
 Sorry Hoover, but people are going to interpret you that way even though you explicitly state that you do not wish to be interpreted that way.

So the authority of the topic goes to historians, but every reason I can come up with contradicts them.

Maybe I'm misreading what historians think. It could be that some historians are just teaching an older version of history that newer historians have since revised. So the split isn't so much between economists and historians, but older history and modern history.

Maybe what historians mean when they say Hoover was a non-interventionist guy was that he was not interventionist in a particular way. He did a lot to fix the great depression, but very little to cushion the blow of the great depression with relief programs. Or they believe that Hoover tried to fix the great depression with indirect means, through businesses, rather than doing it directly with government make-work programs. Overall, yes Hoover wanted the government to do a lot, but maybe not in the forms of relief or direct job creation.

Could be, or it could be that historians just like the Hoover was a free marketer story because they're predominantly liberals. That ideology works with pro-market policies pre-FDR correlating with things getting really bad. The ideology could still work with Hoover being an interventionist, but it's less convenient because the president having everything to do with national outcomes fallacy is so intuitive.

It might sound like I favor the last explanation, simply because I'm not a liberal, but I do not. It really could be that I'm missing something else.

Wrong about Trump's Chances

Here is an article covering a whole bunch of people who were wrong about Trump's chances.

More articles like these ought to be written so that others will pause before making such bold pronouncements.

In real life these people make their cheap predictions, the predictions don't come true, and the world doesn't care because they've moved onto the next thing.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump's Moderate Views

This is from a pro-Trump friend on Facebook. I find it interesting at least.

In contrast to the title of the video, Trump hasn't had the same stance on taxes over the last 20 years. Or at least if he does he doesn't talk about it. So read an interview from 1999 where he advocates a massive one time tax on the wealthy. Has he really changed his stance? Who knows? He only talks about foreign policy. Probably because we've only seen him trying to win the Republican nomination. In the general election, he will almost definitely start emphasizing stances that mesh better with the median voter.

That's what people don't get. Republicans and Democrats are not trying to win the general election until after they've won their respective party's nominations. The general election and the primaries are two completely different competitions, and it takes very different tactics and emphasis' to win each.

For a list of other policy stances that put Trump in contrast with his party, see SlateStar's post. Quote:
He supports Planned Parenthood, doesn’t want to cut entitlement programs, condemns Dubya and the Iraq war, supports affirmative action, supports medical marijuana, etc. If somebody were to tell you last year that a man with those policy positions would not only be leading the Republican primary, but leading even among the most conservative voters, you’d think they were crazy.
The blue tribe would hate to hear this, but there's no reason why Trump couldn't win the Democratic election without changing anything of substance. He would just have to use different tribal signals and emphasize different policies. In fact, he already has. He used to be a Democrat.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Love and Nice Guys

Love and Nice Guys
Recall a woman whom you find really unattractive. Now try to make yourself attracted to her by sheer force of will. Come on, I’ll wait. 
Attractiveness is a function of two things: how you look, and how a woman perceives the way you look. The second one is out of your reach. The first one isn’t. You can’t change some aspects of your appearance, but advice on how to improve your fashion, posture and grooming is screaming at you from every billboard and ad. You’ll get it from women too, if you ask them. If you don’t want to confirm to whatever standard of appearance is preferred by the women you’re after you need to realize that your trading off attractiveness for your own personal comfort. No one can force you to dress or groom a certain way, but it has costs and benefits.
 That first paragraph gets to me in a good way. Who are you to be annoyed at what other people find attractive? Did they have a choice? You can extend the argument further. Maybe some people find young children attractive, that isn't a choice either.
All toasters of a certain brand are the same, so toasters have manuals. People aren’t toasters...
Guys who have dated a lot usually realize how different every woman is and are careful about generalizing. Guys who have dated one or two partners may not be aware of just how idiosyncratic every relationship is, but at least they have a useful point of reference. Guys who haven’t been in serious relationships, and this includes everyone in high school, can fall into the trap of thinking that there should be a tactic that applies to all women.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bernie Sanders as George Costanza in Seinfeld

The video is cute, but if liberals transition from wealth inequality to Denmark and Sweden one more time... Denmark has the #1 most unequal distribution of wealth. Sweden's is higher than almost all developed countries. You don't know what you're measuring. Settle the down and be inquisitive before whipping yourself up into moral outrage.

All? Trump believes that all Mexicans are criminals? Don't interpret your opponents from liberal land. Interpret them from how they obviously mean to be understood. When I say Americans are getting fatter, it doesn't mean all Americans are getting fatter, it doesn't even mean most Americans are getting fatter, and I shouldn't have to hedge my speech against somebody interpreting me that way. Donald Trump does have to hedge against such interpretations, and has stated explicitly that he does not mean every single immigrant, not because it isn't clear what he means, but because liberals interpret him from so far in the outgroup that they might as well be on other planets.

My money is on Hillary, and she's a far superior choice to either of the other two candidates. So why aren't I happy about it?