American Feudalism

It's well exemplified in the phenomenon of regulatory capture, where the dominant companies in some industry write the very regulations that govern them. They do so in such a way as to diminish the threat from new competitors and thus maintain above-market profits... for a while. (In the long tun, they grow complacent and lose to more dynamic industries.)

In this understanding, a congressman is a feudal lord who maintains his fiefs, and the companies who finance his (reelection) campaigns are his vassals receiving government privileges in return.

Socialism As Slavery, 2

Somewhat less obviously, and complementary to the socialist state's crushing all intermediate institutions in society, absorbing each individual, and demanding whole-hearted selfless devotion, there is a contrary effect of people retreating into, in Marx's phrase, "idiocy of rural life." Some scholars think that this is actually a mistranslation of Marx, and he meant rather the "isolation of rural life." The word "idiotes means 'a private person, withdrawn from public (communal) concerns, apolitical in the original sense of isolation from the larger community.'" This will serve us perfectly.

Socialism does not merely impoverish the people, creating economic chaos; it does not merely subject the individual to unlimited tyranny; it also capably destroys society understood as communion upon the rock of long-term harmony of interests and thus the ties of civic friendship. Socialism makes citizens enemies of each other in the economic realm and because of that indifferent to each other and apathetic to the common good in the political realm. Under socialism, I know that my very existence and attempts to provide for my own well-being hurt the interests of my fellow men. In a free society I can give myself over to work with full self-giving, knowing that my actions abide by utilitarianism. This realization is exceedingly encouraging, such that many people find in their work the meaning of life. This has a further effect. A person's success in private life sometimes overflows into his drive to help his community or nation as a whole. People decide to seek a reform of law or political office in order to improve the social order.

Under socialism, people are slothful and grasping. They know the system they live in is monstrous and inhuman. They know their honest work makes no sense and can even be a drain on society. There is no charity that propels a man into public service; at the most, one seeks political power for personal gain. Moreover, people suspect rather strongly that the system cannot be reformed, only abolished. There is no point in advocating an improvement. Finally, the government outlaws the study of numerous disciplines altogether, especially economics and philosophy. One cannot get a PhD in econ.

As a result, one no longer feels himself a useful and valued part of a vast great society that is, in part because of his own efforts, getting better every day. Instead, nothing works. People retreat into the isolation or "idiocy" of their immediate families and mild entertainments. The "community" of communism falls apart. The slave-socialism tends to degenerate further into autarky and complete breakdown of society.

Phenomenology, 2

To summarize, there are in particular ideas

1. that are true and correctly assented to;
2. that are false and mistakenly assented to;
3. that are doubted and are being researched;
4. whose truth value is not known and that are fancifully entertained;
5. that are true yet thought false;
6. that are false and known to be such.

Hume, arrange these in the order of increasing "force and vivacity."

Phenomenology of Belief and Doubt

The more I read Hume, the more shallow and careless he appears to me.

Thus, "an idea assented to feels different from a fictitious idea, that the fancy alone presents to us: And this different feeling I endeavor to explain by calling it" drum roll... "a superior force, or vivacity, or solidity, or firmness, or steadiness." (AToHN, 1.3.7)

But surely, "greater" force, etc. that allegedly distinguishes a true idea from a false one, or an idea believed from one doubted, is a difference in degree; whereas truth is distinct from falsity, and assent from doubt in kind. How long shall the Humean submarginal changes in degree accumulate before they become a marginal change in kind? Hume does not tell us. If idea A is slightly more forceful or vivid to me than another idea B, am I permitted or required to conclude that A is true, and B is false? Implausible.

It seems to me rather that (1) people very often believe in fictions with remarkable fanaticism, such that the false ideas are extremely forceful and vivid in their minds; and (2) doubt is marked by a feeling of uneasiness, agitation, and discomfort from the professed ignorance that drives one to search for truth. Upon discovering an apparent truth or upon finalizing a decision, there is a feeling of peace and pleasure and accomplishment: now I know; now I am ready to execute the plan of action that has just crystallized.

Moreover, an idea that is assented to, i.e., understood to be true, is similar to a figment of the imagination in that the falsity of the latter is similarly assented to. Why should propositions known to be false or phantasms known not to correspond without a doubt be any less vivid, etc., given that of neither doubt is entertained?

Is Hume saying perhaps that ideas assented to are more important (for action, say) than mere fancies, and so by some instinct, more effort is put into their presentation to the intellect? By virtue of this, the former are felt more forcefully. Hmm... this is hardly self-evident. I'm going out on a limb here; this is reading into Hume far more than he deserves.

Force and vivacity seem to play little role in the phenomenology of these things.

The Post Office

Now that almost all bills are paid online, and private letters are emailed, the biggest by far customers of the government's Post Office are junk mailers.

Almost every day I get useless spam in my mailbox.

Disgusting. Abolish the federal government!

Socialism As Slavery: 2 Songs

Consider the following Soviet "folk" song:

Дан приказ: ему -- на запад,
Ей -- в другую сторону.
Уходили комсомольцы
На гражданскую войну.

An order was given: to him, to go west;
To her, in the opposite direction.
The communist youths were leaving
For the civil war.

The song makes clear that the guy and the girl were lovers, maybe even married, family. Yet both were given an "order" to forsake each other. How can that be? Who in any reasonable society has the right to command such obedience?

Well, under socialism, the only employer is the state, and our couple were bureaucrats working for it. The state controls the employees' every move, including their personal lives. There is no option to quit and seek wages elsewhere. To quit is to starve to death, because no production or commerce are permitted outside the state's venues. As a result, like a slave-master who sells the husband to one buyer, and the wife to another, it is entirely normal for the socialist state to break up families, such as by conscripting both the husband and wife, and sending them to fight wars on different fronts.

Here's another one, Катюша (diminutive "Katherine"):

Ох ты, песня, песенка девичья,
Ты лети за ясным солнцем вслед.
И бойцу на дальнем пограничье
От Катюши передай привет.

Пусть он вспомнит девушку простую,
Пусть услышит, как она поет,
Пусть он землю бережет родную,
А любовь Катюша сбережет.

Go on, o this song,
Fly behind the sun;
And say hello from Katyusha
To the soldier guarding the faraway border.

Let him remember the simple girl;
Let him hear her sing;
Let him safeguard the dear homeland;
And Katyusha will safeguard the love.

So, here we have a soldier, all alone, faithfully doing his "duty" in the cold and darkness far away from home. Will he come back home? Nobody knows. His duty may be to guard the border his whole life. Will the lovers ever reunite? Unlikely; he and Katyusha can just as well grow old and die without ever seeing each other. That's not the point, anyway; the point is to apprehend the sacrifices necessary to build socialism. You cannot complain if the socialist central planner assigns you a job (for the welfare of the "people" and greater good) of hard labor in the Arctic; or of guarding night and day an irrelevant piece of land for 25 years, until your health and spirit are irreparably ruined. Your own life and personal projects and commitments pale in comparison before your devotion to the state and to the grand cause of communism. You are expected to sacrifice everything for their sake.

It is arguable that there is little difference between socialism and the system barely removed from savage autarky: a slave society.

A Libertarian Reform

To add to Murray Rothbard's proposal that the government, such as the Department of Labor, shall be forbidden to collect statistical data, as this assists them in pretending to centrally plan the economy (in so doing making a mess of things), I suggest the bureaucrats shall similarly be prevented from using computers of any kind in their "work."

The Heavens

If my big picture is right, and there are 7 heavens, then the first 2 are purgatory.

(The first, lowest, purgatory is for people who committed violent crimes; the second, less harsh, is for those who merely engaged in fraudulent deceptions.

There are demons on both levels.)

Memory & Imagination, 3

There may be another way of interpreting Hume on this matter.

According to him, every simple idea arises from a sense impression. So, even if I replace in my mind's eye the tan color of the salad bowl with blue, the idea of the blue color was ultimately sensed some time in the past and is now merely being remembered.

Hume then may be saying that the bowl being recalled truly produces the most forceful and vivid image in the mind; while the more the imagination rearranges the simple parts (color, shape, smell, etc.) in novel ways, the less clear the resulting complex idea becomes in comparison with the idea of the original thing. How interesting.

Thus, the force and vivacity of the idea of a new mousetrap still to be built in the mind of its inventor are bound to be weaker than the force and vivacity of the same idea in mind of a consumer who bought the mousetrap after it's been produced, carefully inspected and tested it, and, having put it away, is indulging in recalling its form.

This may or may not be plausible; I am not sure.

Memory & Imagination, 2

Also, surely, we can conceive of a man with weak memory yet vivid imagination, who tends to forget less important things but is a great storyteller.

Moreover, and speaking of stories, a tale of real adventure and derring-do retold orally a hundred times can easily become more embellished and more exciting every time it's recounted, such that the now partly fictional story will become far more forceful and vivid than the actual series of events, however well-remembered.

Both of which cast doubt on Hume's understanding.

Hume on Memory and Imagination

Hume here does not really seem to know what he is talking about. His view is that the difference between "memory" and "imagination" lies in the "superior force and vivacity" of the former. (AToHN, 1.3.5)

But surely, memory is merely a source of phantasms entertained by the imagination. The difference must be sought rather between abstract objects perfectly recalled and those fancifully created in the mind's eye.

Once this is grasped, we can see that the difference between the two is in the level of detail of the phantasm being entertained. Assuming perfect memory, I may close my eyes and imagine a bowl of salad that looks exactly like the actual bowl in front of me. Since the modes of existence (real vs. ideal) of the two differ, there is no identity between the ideal and the real but a weaker relation of correspondence. (The image of the bowl is true.)

Now let me make one slight difference to the picture I am holding in my mind, viz., change the color of the bowl from tan to blue. Surely, there is little loss in the "force and vivacity" of the phantasm which for all that instantly changes from being of the "memory" to of the "imagination." This disproves Hume's theory. In addition, the two objects are equally detailed. Since they have different properties, they are not identical to each other.

Now let our imagination run wild and picture in the mind a "fat man in the doorway." W.V. Quine asks, his words dripping with contempt:

Take, for instance, the possible fat man in the doorway; and, again, the possible bald man in the doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men? How do we decide?

How many possible men are there in the doorway? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones? How many of them are alike? Or would their being alike make them one? Are no two possible things alike? Is this the same as saying that it is impossible for two things to be alike?

Or, finally, is the concept of identity simply inapplicable to unactualized possibles? But what sense can be found in talking of entities which cannot meaningfully be said to be identical with themselves and distinct from one another? ("On What There Is")

Well, yes, the concept of quantitative or self-same identity is inapplicable to phantasms, because they hang in no time or place but in the mind's eye; nor do they persist in being but upon the seer's will. Further, we might be able to call two phantasms that look or sound or whatever the same qualitatively identical, but only if they were fully defined. Thus, all we know about the fat man in the doorway in the imagination is that it's a man, fat, and has a doorway around him. Whether he is in addition bald is not specified. As a result, neither kind of identity applies to the Quine's two men. They are neither the same nor different; yet surely, imagining things can make "sense" for a variety of purposes, such as graphic design or writing fiction or inventing a new machine or in a hundred other ways.

And now we can see that the main difference between phantasms that are recalled and those that are imagined is precisely the extent of their definition and description. Perfectly recalled things are full-featured qualitatively; imagined things rarely are. For example, in now imagining a non-existent "possible" entrée, I may be so focusing on its shape and color that I forget to "see" the surface it would need to rest on or the fork in it or the smell of its contents or most other things that might have been part of the experience, if it were real and could then be at least in principle faithfully recalled.

Hume on Causation

It is Hume's opinion that the principle "whatever begins to exist must have a cause of existence" is not obvious and maybe even false.

He considers and rejects the following argument in favor of the principle:

All the points of time and place, say some philosophers, in which we can suppose any object to begin to exist, are in themselves equal; and unless there be some cause, which is peculiar to one time and one place, and which by that means determines and fixes the existence, it must remain in eternal suspense; and the object can never begin to be, for want of something to fix its beginning.

Hume replies:

But I ask; Is there any more difficulty in supposing the time and place to be fixed without a cause, than to suppose the existence to be determined in that manner? The first question that occurs on this subject is always, whether the object shall exist or not? The next, when and where it shall begin to exist? If the removal of a cause be intuitively absurd in the one case, it must be so in the other: And if that absurdity be not clear without proof in one case, it will equally require one in the other. (A Treatise on Human Nature, 1.3.3, 4)

It's not just the time and place that must be determined but also the essence of the object that will begin to exist. We may call the event random, but at some point, even a second before it occurs, there must be determination. The roulette will stop spinning and reveal definite values. Then we should be able to predict that, for example, a chair precisely described will pop into existence tomorrow at 11 am and right in front of me.

Hume argues that we can imagine this to occur without any cause. The question, however, is what or who do we consult to make even this limited prediction? What do we inspect and study in order to find all this information out? Now while it is tempting to answer that it's precisely the cause of the chair, let's slow down a bit.

Suppose it's written in some database cleverly etched onto helium atoms to which we have managed to gain access that the chair will appear thusly. Why believe this information? Probably because similar entries have yielded correct predictions. Now we have 2 events appearing close to each other: a new row is added to a certain table in the database and then the thing specified, at the prescribed time and place (in that row's fields), appears out of nowhere. The connection between the database and real-world events cannot be doubted. There is no coincidence; the former anticipates and predicts the latter. This is now a law of nature, discoverable by experiment and reason. Now if the database itself is not the cause of the events recorded in it, some definite X must connect the two. Some X must one way or another force the universe to obey the instructions written in the table. X must read each entry in the table and act accordingly.

This X is what all men call the cause(s) of the chair in front of me at 11 am.

So then, yes, everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Can You Hide from the State in a Crowd?

Can you avoid being ruined by the state by blending in, staying anonymous, as one of numerous innocent people just minding their own business? Why would the state pick you to harm? And if you are in trouble, can't following the law save you from destruction?

This video suggests not always.

The movie Schindler's List got it right:

We were on the roof on Monday, young Lisiek and I and we saw the Herr Kommandant come out of the house on the patio right there below us and he drew his gun and shot a woman who was passing by. Just a woman with a bundle, just shot her through the throat. She was just a woman on her way somewhere, she was no faster or slower or fatter or thinner than anyone else and I couldn't guess what had she done. The more you see of the Herr Kommandant the more you see there are no set rules you can live by, you cannot say to yourself, "If I follow these rules, I will be safe."

America is so polarized now that these cops probably think they are holy paladins cleansing the world from the utterly depraved blacks. They are at war with society, and they shoot to kill at pleasure and suffering no adverse consequences.

The Origin of the Hijab

I have wondered whether the hijab was the result of a conspiracy of ugly old women and homosexuals to hide the female beauty with which they found it hard to compete.

(Source: My uncle.)

Whether Motion Is Continuous?

That space is continuous can be seen from the following argument. In math, the cardinality of real segment [0, 1] is infinite, equal to the cardinality of the power set of the set of natural numbers, and of the set [0, 0.5], as well as [0, 0.25], [0, 0.125], and so on.

A true material unity (the state of being 1) is indivisible. For we would not call a band of 20 men a unity, because it would be easy to divide it into smaller parts. But no real segment [p, q], where 0 ≤ p < q ≤ 1, could be a unity, being still further divisible. As a result, the alleged unity is (exactly) a zero, a single number [p, p]. Surely, though, 1 ≠ 0. In actual life describable by natural sciences, no finite segment could be formed by concatenation of even an infinite number of zero-size points.

Hence, it must be possible to divide space indefinitely without arriving to mathematical points.

Zeno's paradox shows that motion cannot be continuous. Let object X try to move from point A to point B. Let our coordinate system be such that A is counted as 0 and B, as 1.

As a result, in order to go from 0 to 1, X would need first to go from 0 to 0.5 and before that to 0.25 and so on, which, regardless of how much we subdivided the segment, would still remain infinite in size. And it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite.

An alternative way is to say that |[0, 1]| = |[0.5, 1]| = |[0.75, 1]| = ..., such that no matter where X found itself, it still would have an infinitude of points to overtake which would be impossible for it to do.

The mathematics of infinities is then an abstraction which physics must shun.

It is clear that motion is in no wise continuous but discreet; moreover, we can conceive of motion as follows: X announces its intention to move the minimal distance D away from A, such as perhaps Planck length; it waits at A for the decision in its "will" to resolve itself in "action" for, say, Planck time; finally, it instantly moves D units to the next point in space.

We Need an 8th Sacrament

Called "Wrath of God" to invoke against Hillary and her ilk.

Maybe someone already did.

Mises on Causality

Mises insists that the human mind has a logical structure. Experience is not written upon a blank slate; it is interpreted by the mind. That which receives experience has its own properties. The properties Mises calls "categories." "The categories are a priori; they are the mental equipment of the individual that enables him to think and -- we may add -- to act."

Mises defines causality in the Humean fashion as regularity in the succession of events. Without causality there is no action, because there could then be no attunement of means to ends. All experience would be a record of past events with no import for predicting the future. Since acting is what makes men essentially human, no one could be unaware of the connection between cause and effect. In this sense causality is a priori. It makes action and even thought possible: indeed, thinking itself is regular, obeying the laws of logic.

That is Mises' solution to the Humean riddle of induction. The riddle is as follows: we believe that if A was followed by B a sufficient number of times in past, then it will do so in the future, as well, by induction. But that induction itself is a valid technique of inference is justified by the fact that it has worked in the past. So, we are reasoning in a circle.

Mises says that we do not learn of causality and regularity by experience but enjoy a priori knowledge of them as categories of our minds. Just as when a child is developing, the brain expects to find in the body functioning arms and legs, so the human mind expects to find regularity in the world. This is a safe assumption to make for the mind, for if regularities are not forthcoming or are not detected, the person will swiftly die.

Innate Ideas

An innate idea is an idea that the mind can entertain that has not ultimately been woken up by sensation, that does not have its ultimate source in sensation.

Let's say I am imagining a fire-breathing dragon. This is a composite abstract object, a phantasm. But it consists of a union of things I have previously seen "out there": lizards, fire, mouths, big items, maiden-kidnapping thugs, things that an honorable knight would fight. I put them together in the imagination, but all the components of the dragon I have more-or-less sensed before. So, this does not work as an example of an innate idea.

A better example might be an invention. Even if the parts -- the material causes -- of a better mousetrap have been encountered before, the form of the mousetrap has not. A person is inspired with a new design as if from inside the mind itself.

But here are 3 ideas that I think qualify to be called innate most appropriately.

1. Infinities of different size. You don't walk down the street and see an infinity. Everything countable in this life seems finite. That we are able to conceive of and manipulate infinite sets seems like an innate power. Moreover, the fact that some infinities are greater than others, like the continuum is greater than the set of all natural numbers, is profoundly non-trivial and startling and unrelated to any empirical data.

2. The economic theorem presented in the previous post. Although our ideas of humans, products, money are empirical, the reasoning seems to be purely a priori.

3. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic: "every integer greater than 1 either is prime itself or is the product of prime numbers, and this product is unique, up to the order of the factors." This also seems to have nothing to do with the material world.

Even a disembodied soul would be able to contemplate these ideas without any need for sense organs, body, or the outside world.

An Economic Theorem

The most efficient thing to do with an item you've produced is to sell it to the highest bidder.

Proof. Suppose my company has manufactured a certain item X.

Person A values it at no more than $8,000; B, at $6,000; and C, at $4,000. The reasonable thing to do would seem to be to sell X to A for, say, $7K. A will enjoy $1K of "consumer surplus," while I will enjoy the highest revenue or profit.

But let me out of some misguided altruism price X "affordably" at $3K. The immediately seen inefficiency is that it introduces competition between A, B, and C for X, such that only one of them can obtain it. The buyers are in each other's way, disrupting the social harmony. It makes the first recipient of X depend on luck. So, let C be lucky, spot me first, and buy X at $3K. C can now enjoy X's services and his $1K surplus.

But there is a better option available to C. This is to resell X. The best course of action for C is to resell it precisely to A for $7K. This way, C will enjoy $4K pure arbitrage profit rather than the mere $1K consumer surplus.

As we can see, X will end up in A's hands one way or another, regardless of whether I price it "self-interestedly" or "altruistically." But in the latter case, I for reasons unknown and unconceived have to share my revenues with C. This is inefficient for at least 2 reasons.

First, it's 1 transaction vs. 2, and in the actual world, we may be able to economize on transaction costs.

Second and more important, receiving $7K as opposed to $3K encourages me to stay in business and keep producing X. C is an idle and purposeless middleman-speculator, a leech, as it were. He does not deserve my charity and ought to be cut from the equation. QED.

Power

St. Thomas asks whether happiness consists in power and answers more or less that it would be futile to become godlike in power unless one became godlike in goodness also.

But the government is not a creator of good; at best, it is only a destroyer of evil, rightly understood. Hence there is wisdom in the quip that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.

Under such omnipotent rule, every man, even one highly positioned in the social order, is at the mercy of the dictator's whims. As Etienne de La Boetie writes, "these wretches have no wealth, no kin, nor wife nor children, not even life itself that they can call their own."