Why the Scandinavians Are “Happy”

They are happy not because their desires have been satisfied, but because their desires have been extinguished by their egalitarian governments that have destroyed opportunities for these people to seek their happiness and improve their well-being.

They are happy as a stone is also content, without wills of their own.

In other words, theirs is the happiness of slaves.

Progress Report

I'm on Chapter 40 of what will be the 3rd edition of Summa Against the Keynesians, revising and improving a lot of good stuff.

I think a book of, as I now realize, such amazing ambition as this one needed a few more years to germinate in my mind.

Re: Dawkins

Science drops nuclear bombs on your city; religion makes you into a decent person and saves your soul.

Calling All Diabolical Elites Who Rule in Darkness

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know that if you loosen your interventionist controls over the economy, then in a short enough long run, you, too, will benefit from the economy's forces of creative destruction unleashed.

For example, Mises argues:

In the countries that have not yet entirely abandoned the capitalistic system the common man enjoys today a standard of living for which the princes and nabobs of ages gone by would have envied him.

Compared with the standard of living of your own children 40 years from now under laissez-faire, you are precisely those very princes and nabobs. Let our people go, and you will not believe how much your own family's standard of living will increase soon enough as compared with perpetuating our semi-feudal status quo.

Concludes Mises:

The peace-loving humanitarian approaches the mighty potentate and addresses him thus: "Do not make war, even though you have the prospect of furthering your own welfare by a victory. Be noble and magnanimous and renounce the tempting victory even if it means a sacrifice for you and the loss of an advantage." The liberal thinks otherwise. He is convinced that victorious war is an evil even for the victor, that peace is always better than war. He demands no sacrifice from the stronger, but only that he should come to realize where his true interests lie and should learn to understand that peace is for him, the stronger, just as advantageous as it is for the weaker.

Come on, you evil friends. Our interests are in harmony! Let's build capitalism together:

What makes the existence and the evolution of society possible is precisely the fact that peaceful cooperation under the social division of labor in the long run best serves the selfish concerns of all individuals. The eminence of the market society is that its whole functioning and operation is the consummation of this principle.

The State and the Soldier

Remember Rothbard wrote that it's not the state that protects the citizens; it's the citizens who enlist as soldiers who protect the ruling elite:

Especially has the State been successful in recent centuries in instilling fear of other State rulers.

Since the land area of the globe has been parceled out among particular States, one of the basic doctrines of the State was to identify itself with the territory it governed. Since most men tend to love their homeland, the identification of that land and its people with the State was a means of making natural patriotism work to the State's advantage.

If "Ruritania" was being attacked by "Walldavia," the first task of the State and its intellectuals was to convince the people of Ruritania that the attack was really upon them and not simply upon the ruling caste. In this way, a war between rulers was converted into a war between peoples, with each people coming to the defense of its rulers in the erroneous belief that the rulers were defending them.

This device of "nationalism" has only been successful, in Western civilization, in recent centuries; it was not too long ago that the mass of subjects regarded wars as irrelevant battles between various sets of nobles.

Let me suggest that the government is laughing its ass off watching soldiers willingly and eagerly sacrifice their lives just to protect Obama, his chief lieutenants, and his connected crony capitalists.

The Caligula in Me

Sometimes I wish the federal government had one head, so I might cut it off at a single stroke.

Truth vs. Beauty

I could have sworn I made a note of it already, but truth conforms us to the reality that beauty transcends.

Truth is to beauty as science is to art. And art is technique and technology by another name.

Science shows us the natural world (which may incidentally be God's art), while technology improves upon it.

Hence, beauty is first among equals.

Re: Airbnb Listings Mostly Illegal, New York State Contends

We live under a socialist regime in the US. The institution of private property is gone.

Why? It is clear that the authorities are willing to tolerate people's discretion in making use of their property only insofar as they use it in the ways the bureaucrats approve.

The moment someone comes up with a novel way to do business, they are accused of making "unsavory efforts to avoid regulation and taxes," and people clamor for bans and restrictions.

The government and only the government decides whether any change in the established routine will be allowed. The law is arbitrary and the lawgivers, unbound by any principles.

The government is for all intents and purposes omnipotent. No aspect of private life or business is outside its purview. No natural right is safe from government interference, and no economic law has enough weight not to be defied at the government's will.

Woe unto you, if you are unlucky enough to attract the attention of the "regulators" and taxers.

Paradise vs. Heaven

Paradise and heaven are different manifestations of the same blessed life.

The difference is that in paradise one has a body, while in heaven he exists as pure love.

Paradise is the perfection of active life: beauty of the body, gracefulness of motion, effortless power over nature, guilt-free physical pleasures.

Heaven is the perfection of speculative life: one contemplates the mysteries of God.

As I pointed out before, this trade-off is fully under control of a saint. As a result, he can switch between the two happy places at will.

Stranger, 3: From Faith

There is yet another issue. Suppose God values people who are well-specialized as producers and consumers.

So, let's say you spend your life thinking about economics. You've become master at it.

Then you die and go to heaven.

Guess what, there is no stock market there, and all your economic knowledge is worthless.

Perhaps you think economics is deductive a priori, and you've honed your intellect to deal with economic logic of this sort. This means that you are much less prepared to deal with the problems of physics which is inductive a posteriori, making you less interesting to God for that very reason.

Here is another piece of the puzzle: though accounts of near-death experiences are incredible and awe-inspiring, all of them are "near" death, not "after" death, and in none of them is the real everlasting life of the blessed actually described.

No NDE details "a typical day in the life of a saint."

We must, I think, fall back to the position that heaven is a Christian mystery. I don't understand heaven, but that's no reason to lack faith in the "resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."

Stranger, 2: From Reason

It's probably the price both of our specialization within the division of labor and of our unique consumer preferences.

It stands to reason that in creating heaven, God foresaw, took into account, and was directed by this universal feature of human existence and human diversity.

I wonder if in heaven, everything in me except some understanding of economic theory will be cut off; my mind will be joined to a heavenly computer which will be off and asleep except maybe for a couple hours every billion years, when a curious angel in a fit of abject boredom decides to engage my opinion about some rarefied economic problem.

Whatever Does Not Kill Us, Makes Us Stranger?

So, essentially, proposes Noah Millman.

The dead approach the Garden, housed in the body of their life, their deeds made flesh, and face the angel and the sword.

And with a burning stroke, he cuts out the blemishes of their transgressions, and leaves their flesh gaping. For we are told, that none with a blemish may approach the Lord..., and none with a blemish may be offered...

But their flesh gapes, for there is no Experience in the Garden, no way for souls to heal the gashes made by holy flame.

And this, perhaps, is what the four saw there: the maimed and crippled souls stumbling in Paradise.

The tongues that gossiped, the lips that spoke falsely, the eyes that coveted -- cut out.

The hands that struck in anger, the fingers that stole, the legs that ran to do evil -- lopped off.

And the poor souls who huddled in the dark, who buried themselves in their caves, so fearful of evil that they hesitated to do good; pale souls who pass almost unnoticed through the byways of the Garden, they live in the poor houses that their deeds built while they lived.

One in four? There is not one in a thousand who would not die, go mad, or lose his faith, gazing on the cauterized stumps of the saved.

Millman apparently became an atheist since writing this passage which at the time he considered a "parable of repentance," and now, only a "horror story."

But it raises a curious question about not so much our sins and vices but even our virtues.

C.S. Lewis argued:

Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions.

Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it -- made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

The body, as it ages, becomes disgusting, but where is the guarantee that our souls become beautiful during the same process?

In reality, in battling ourselves, and the flesh, the world, and the devil, as it were, do we not become irreparably weird, freaks? Of what use to God are these twisted pathetic excuses for rational animals? Is heaven a menagerie of curious oddities, fantastic aberrations? If the key is so misshapen, the lock must be an ugly place, indeed.

Does God Love Ebola?

Yes, but in itself, only God the Father. The Son loves Ebola only instrumentally, and the Holy Spirit, not at all.

The Legislature Shall Make No Law…

... restricting, nor shall any judge abridge, the freedom of association of any individual or private organization.

That's one state or federal Constitutional amendment we could use.

Re: Secession Is Not a Principle of Liberty

Says Daniel McCarthy of The American Conservative.

The magazine actually seems remarkable. I'm in awe that there still exist "conservatives" who are not genocidal maniacs. Hat tip to Anthony Gregory who linked to this article, praising it and its author, a "living, thinking paleocon." Normally, conservatives are not living (they are fossils) nor thinking (in fact, they would like to freeze society so that no one can think anything, especially anything new). But McCarthy is an exception that tests the rule.

On to the article's claims. Let B secede from A. McCarthy is right that in practice, secession is a democratic not a libertarian movement. The minority who vote against secession are harmed. But overall, "general happiness" increases, because at least the majority get their way. The people in A have no business with how B decides and should be neutral as to the results. In the end, on the whole, society is better off.

McCarthy goes on that "The abstract claim that every minority within the newly formed states should then be allowed to secede doesn't translate into anyone's policy: instead, formerly united states that are now distinct security competitors tend to consider the residual minorities who belong to the other bloc to be internal security threats." It is probably true that secession is rarely recursive, leading to further secessions. But perhaps it should. McCarthy himself distinguishes between the "real world" and the political principle of secession. Perhaps if the great majority of people embraced secession as a convenient path toward "free-market anarchism," then free-market anarchism would be swiftly established. That they do not speaks only of their failure to be libertarians, not of any inherent defect in the serviceableness of secessionism as a means to liberty.

It may well be true that the secessionists want to separate for a bad reason. In the case of Scotland, I've read some opinions that the Scots wanted a more thorough socialism than the GB had. Nevertheless, it hardly follows that the Scottish people needed to be saved from themselves.

Another libertarian point McCarthy evaluates is that "suppressing secession may require coercion"; he is unimpressed by it, because "What gives the people in seceding territory X the right to shoot at people from integrated territory X+Y?" Well, the territory of X is owned by the private property owners living on X. It is true that the same territory is lorded over by the government of X + Y. But many libertarians would consider such dominion to be illegitimate. If the people of X want to separate from X + Y, then they are simply affirming their justly acquired property titles. If the government of X + Y overrules the Xies and invades their properties, then it is rather obviously coercing them.

It may be true that the Xies want to form their own state, but that is a second and separate action from the first and original secession. Firth, there is formal separation. Second, the property owners of X form a new government. That the second action is from the libertarian point of view highly unwise does not make the first action illegitimate.

Mises championed a pragmatic reason for allowing secessions, viz., to prevent civil wars and revolutions. If everyone is committed at least to the procedure of a secession, then "ballots," i.e., a peaceful process of voting, can replace bullets.

But there is a reason to think that McCarthy is wrong in a more fundamental sense. He considers the argument that "smaller states tend to be freer and more prosperous," disposing of it for reason that small states tend to free ride on the security provided by large states.

McCarthy misses the point. It's not that smaller states tend to be freer and more prosperous in and of themselves. It's that a secession creates at least one more state, thereby increasing the political competition between different polities. To see how such competition is conducive to liberty, compare your local vs. your federal tax rate.

David Friedman understood well the civilizing effects of the ability to emigrate: "Consider our world as it would be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero. Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language. One day, the president of France announces that because of troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents."

It's the ability to "vote with your feet" that makes such a potent incentive to local governments to behave themselves. Again, compare the costs of moving from one town to another neighboring one to the costs of moving from one large country to another.

So, secession as a principle, when taken seriously and used consistently, might dissolve the 100 or so large states covering the world into 10,000 independent localities. It is not their size alone that helps to ensure that these mini-states are freer and more prosperous but also their sheer number. Size matters, too, though: a city is easily destroyed by bad economic policy, unlike a huge nation that can flout economic laws with much greater impunity. A few bad decisions by the city council, and a formerly thriving community becomes a ghost town, yet another incentive to the townsfolk to keep on the straight and narrow.

Secession is a principle of liberty, insofar as it is capable, at least in theory, of decentralizing the world into a vast number and kinds of political systems, all the way down to town / county and perhaps even lower than those (such as a gated community). The increased competition between those for citizens and businesses will turn the arrogant and corrupting "My country, love it or leave it" into the far more appropriate "Please love my country, I hope you'll stay."

Kalam, 2

William Lane Craig has build a huge case for the existence of God based on it. The argument is:

(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

Craig needs to shore up the minor. He thinks it can be proven by reason alone. His main argument is that you cannot traverse an actual infinite. If the universe had no beginning, than an infinite number of days or seconds must have elapsed in order to arrive at the present moment. And this is impossible. Hence the universe had a beginning.

Unfortunately for Craig, the situation is not as if there was a moment in time at which the universe began which is infinitely far away from the present moment. If there was such a moment, then indeed it would take an actually infinite number of days to get from it to the present moment. But there was no such moment! According to the objector, the universe never began to exist; hence there is no moment at which it did begin to exist which just happens to lie at an infinite distance from today in terms of time. St. Thomas counters in a coup de grace in (ST, I, 46, 2, reply 6) that "Passage is always understood as being from term to term. Whatever bygone day we choose, from it to the present day there is a finite number of days which can be passed through."

In this way there is no actual infinite but only a potential infinite, such that no matter how deeply we regress into the past, the distance between that point and now is finite. But that is not sufficient for kalam which is supposed to be natural and not revealed theology.

Look, the point is simple. I ask Craig, in order to accumulate the actual infinite, from what are we counting forward? I submit he can't answer this quesion, and therefore, no actual infinite can be built. He can't say "from -∞," because that symbol can indeed mean "actual infinity," which begs the question. I mean, -∞ is not a date.

The only way out for Craig in light of this argument is to assert that infinite past is unintelligible. But this escape was destroyed in the previous post.

In short, if atheists see the sort of arguments Craig and Copan use to prove God's existence, they'll laugh at them and be perfectly justified in so doing.

Paul Copan on Kalam

I saw Paul write something on Facebook about my alleged failure to grasp the kalam argument for the existence of God in my essay on reductionism, ethics, and theism, but I can't find it anymore. IIRC, he accused me of imagining that the infinitude of time stretching back is "qualitative not quantitative infinity."

I assure him that I did not make a mistake so outrageous. Here is the argument, slightly expanded.

Whatever a "moment in time" is -- and I'm not sure I know what it is exactly -- it is definitely not a real object, like an atom, a chair, or a human being. I admit that an infinite multitude of real objects cannot exist. Consider now numbers or possible worlds. They are not real but ideal, as in, existing in the mind, and there are surely an infinity of them. Again, I disclaim any knowledge of whether a "moment" is real, ideal, or anything in between. Unless Paul is better informed, the conclusion that an infinite succession of past seconds or moments or whatever cannot exist cannot be reached so easily.

But there is a reason to think that it can exist. For, according to Catholic theology at least, God is eternal. Now I don't know if Paul believes that or, if he does, exactly how he understands it. So, let's go with the time-honored definition of eternity as "simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life." What does that mean?

Experience teaches that our lives are fragmented into four parts: the past, the present, the future, and timelessness, such as enjoyed by abstracta like "2 + 2 = 4." Our past is gone, our future is not yet, timelessness is accessed only when we do math or philosophy (with propositions apparently outlasting our own lives), and our present is fleeting and evanescent.

Far be it from God to suffer from so many imperfections. But He neither abolishes time nor keeps it unchanged but rather transcends and perfects it. For God those 4 time periods are folded up, unified as if in a package and present themselves as single eternal Moment of boiling divine life. It cannot be doubted that such a life is superior in intensity, poignancy, and happiness it can generate to our human experience.

In addition, it is another aspect of God's simplicity, His not being composed of real parts that are prior to God and interact according to natural laws that define God. The union of the "tenses" is "seamless" and cannot be analyzed or dissected like a frog.

God's eternity subsumes merely everlasting existence, including time stretching back into the past infinitely. So then if eternity as I have described it is how God lives, then surely, everlasting time is possible, too. God could be "co-eternal" or "co-everlasting" with the universe.

That He actually is not we know not from reason (and don't give me these mutually contradictory fantasies from physicists) but from faith.

I Want to Try Palcohol

Palcohol is "a powdered version of alcohol that can be added to water or another liquid to make a mixed drink."

Don't you dare ban it, you bastards.

Monarchy ≠ Tyranny

Aristotle considered democracy to be a corruption of "commonwealth" which is presumably a society imbued with brotherly feelings and eschewing parasitism and exploitation of minorities by majorities as a way of governing. (1241b30) Otherwise, without goodwill, democracy is, indeed, two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.

He also lists tyranny as a corruption of royal rule, and oligarchy as corruption of aristocratic rule.

We can now arrange the systems in the following pattern: the legislature should represent the entire commonwealth; the executive branch is royal; and judges, though they may be private professionals, i.e., not on the payroll of the government, rule as an aristocracy.

In Defense of Monarchy

This provocative title assumes (1) the separation of powers, (2) that the executive king is only third among equals, and (3) local government, so that we're dealing with the king of a city.

Hoppe supplies the first part of the argument, to quote from my book,

Hoppe (2002) has identified the transition from monarchy to democracy as a step towards decivilization (i.e., a process of regressing into savagery), in particular, because

  1. the monarch owns and is interested in preserving both the capital value of his “property” and its current income stream, while a democratic ruler owns only the latter and therefore, has an incentive to devalue long-term prosperity;

  2. (2) the various positions of enforcers are in a democracy open to all, resulting in a competition of who can devalue that long-term prosperity more.

But there is a second part which he seems to have missed, and that is in order to succeed at staying rich and increasing his wealth, the king must exercise personal control over every aspect of the executive branch.

If the government becomes "big," and the bureaucracy grows like cancer, the king will lose this control. The bureaucrats will become unaccountable to him. This will prevent the king from effective oversight and from conducting calculations of profits and capital gains.

The king then represents the final barrier protecting laissez-faire. The limitations of a single human being, the Hayekian "knowledge problem" ensure that the king would not want to turn into a despot socialist central planner or even an arch-interventionist, even if both the legislature and judges foolishly ordered him to do that.

The more power the abstract executive branch is given, the less powerful the concrete king becomes, until he loses all control over his "business," the city, to Byzantine bureaucratic politics. This presents a potent incentive to the king to keep the government small.