Sunday, February 23, 2014


Breakfast: broccoli, cheese, pepper, maybe salsa, oatmeal and chia seeds, with a bit of chocolate,  hard boiled egg and bacon. Coffee
Lunch: broccoli, cheese, pepper, maybe salsa, peanut butter, carrots, egg, maybe bacon, fiber bar, raisins
Dinner: broccoli, cheese, pepper, maybe salsa, baked chicken, yogurt, and raisins
Avocado or olives, onion fried baked dried or raw! Nuts

Friday, February 21, 2014

Questions about resource based econ

  • How do you bootstrap RBE? How do you move in the right direction, starting from where we are?
  • What is the smallest scale where RBE seems plausible? 
  • How does RBE handle innovation? Will that also be automated, or does sustainability imply stasis?
  • To what degree does RBE attempt to build on the ideas of market socialism, and respond to criticisms of that approach?
  • Do the RBE believers really understand coercion and exploitation? You may be able to convince me that it is possible to get rid of one while ignoring the other (or maybe not). But using one to get rid of the other? Really?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Strong universality in UPB

The concept of universality that Stef uses in UPB is very strong. Any rule that applies to someone must apply to all moral agents at all times and all places. How did he derive this concept, and who should we categorize as moral agents?
Ordinarily universality might mean "applies to all members of a category." So non-UPB morality can create all sorts of subcategories of moral agents and construct arguments based on the characteristics of those categories. These moral propositions flunk the UPB tests. Why does Stef reject them? He does not really explain this in the book, but we can squeeze out the meaning.
Because Stef uses a performative contradiction as the basic move for deriving UPB, debate and the norms of debate stand at the center of UPB. Stef claims that those who engage in debate cannot deny the premises and norms on which debate relies. (Here debate is interpreted broadly, so that no one could present a disproof of UPB without engaging in debate.) 
What do we know about the participants in a debate and their arguments? We know that they participate willingly, otherwise it is not debate but interrogation or something like that. They must have some common language, an ability and willingness to debate, and broad agreement on what it means to debate fairly and honestly. Without these presuppositions, debate fails as a means for seeking truth. Of course, debaters may fail to follow the rules in a particular case, either from error or from a desire to deceive, but they must put up a show of playing fair, or no one will bother to engage them.
Can we limit the time or place where a debate may occur or may have occurred? No. As long as willing participants are seeking truth, debate may proceed, between anyone, any time, any place. For that reason, the norms of debate should be similarly eternal, independent of location, and indifferent to the identity or category of participants. The only limitation that makes sense is their willingness and ability to debate.
If you have made a claim in a debate, and then go do something else, does your claim expire? Do you stop believing it and asserting it? For the most part, no, if you honestly assert something at one time and place, you could have asserted it just as honestly elsewhere, later, or earlier. If you come to doubt your claim, you can make assertions about the new evidence that raised your doubts. Hence, only a complete nihilist, who believes absolutely nothing and makes no truth claims could ever deny the norms of argument. And if he did deny them, then he would no longer be a complete nihilist. Even making an argument that X is false requires that one accept the norms of debate.
What about persons who are not yet, or no longer, or temporarily unable to debate? Appoint a guardian.
What about animals? Guardian or owner?
What about rocks? Owner.
What about persons who are able to debate, but unwilling to embrace moral agency? Treat them like animals, or infants, or sages? Perhaps not sages.
Someone must take responsibility.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Logic, Politics, and Innovation

This article, Logic and Liberty, takes for granted that we should adopt the goal of getting more people to join our end of the political tug-o-war, rather than to disrupt the market for goods and services now provided by government.
One of the paradoxes of politics: as everyone must consume the same good, there is no way for innovators or early adopters directly to choose something new. All (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and late adopters) must engage in a tug-o-war to determine which one size shall fit all. Because persons' individual choices do not determine the actual outcome, persons will not learn from the sort of feedback present in a market (See Caplan "Myth of the Rational Voter"). Because persons' political choices do determine other factors in their lives, such as their acceptance by their peer group (See Haidt "The Righteous Mind", also Darrel Becker's "bridge of empathy" ), they will tend to base their decisions on those factors and tend to disregard the actual consequences of their favored policy.
If Haidt and Becker are right, we must have an empathic connection with someone before we have more than a tiny chance of getting her to change her mind. And who do we empathize with most easily? Those who agree with us, especially when it comes to politics.
It's not a matter of logic. A logical argument always depends on its assumptions and its correctness. If you hand me a proof that everything I know is absurd, I am not forced to believe that, I am forced to choose among: everything I know is absurd and this argument and its assumptions are correct, some of the assumptions of the argument pull a fast one, or there is a mistake somewhere. Given our collective experience with sophistry, no one can be criticized for declining to waste the time necessary to debunk inconvenient arguments, there are just too many of them and their errors and tricks can be quite subtle. At best, we might insist that someone should consider slightly increasing his estimation of the probability that the argument might be correct and that therefore he needs to re-examine his entire worldview.
That points out another difficulty caused by the one-size-fits-all nature of politics, it discourages taking ideas for a test drive. We tend to neglect the one approach ("show me") that can actually settle a question.
Given the dominant political paradigm, I don't know what to recommend. Education and argument face severe limits, but any alternative solution seems to require some degree of political participation, paradoxically. Maybe seasteading is our only hope. Or the free state project?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Crowdsourcing the Panopticon

In "The Most Dangerous Superstition," by Larken Rose, the author claims that "[t]he distinguishing feature of 'government' is that it is thought to have the moral right to give and enforce commands. [...] What distinguishes a street gang from 'government' is how they are perceived by the people they control." That communicates the basic insight of the book. Rose denies the existence of authority, defined as this moral right to command, and a corresponding obligation of ordinary persons to obey. 

Government is not the ultimate problem, the problem is how we fool ourselves: "the primary danger posed by the myth of 'authority' is to be found [...] in the minds of those *being controlled*." "[T]he underlying problem is never the particular people in power. The underlying problem resides in the minds of the people being oppressed." "If the people continue to adhere to the myth of 'authority,' after any upheaval of a particular regime they will simply create a new set of masters to replace the old set." This myth resists efforts to debunk it: "Even the most heinous examples of man's inhumanity to man, committed in the name of 'authority,' rarely persuade anyone to question the idea of 'authority' per se. Instead, it leads them only to oppose a *particular* set of tyrants." 

The author wants to expose the psychological process that people use to rationalize the status quo and avoid dealing with the truth underneath the myth. "[O]nly a small percentage of the coercion of 'government' is implemented by the enforcers of 'authority'; most of it is implemented by its *victims*." Victims "lack the *mental* ability to resist" tyranny. We live in a crowdsourced panopticon, a prison where the inmates are the guards. "Large scale oppression [...] depends a lot more on mind control than it does on body control. Those who crave dominion gain much more power by convincing their victims that it is *wrong* to disobey their commands than by convincing their victims that it is merely *dangerous* (but moral) to disobey." Unfortunately, the book does not reveal any deep psychological principle that can help us avoid such error. Rose cites psychological research such as the Milgram experiment, but gives no hint how to overcome the tendencies he discusses. (Michael Huemer's book "The Problem of Authority" deals with similar topics as Rose's book, but takes a less strident tone, as is appropriate for an academic philosopher.)

He attacks the idea of the "consent of the governed": "If there is mutual consent, it is not 'government'; if there is governing, there is no consent. [...] Whoever has the right to make the rules for a particular place is, by definition, the owner of that place." This "logically implies that everything in the 'country' is the property of the politicians." "If the organization called 'government' stopped using any threats or violence, except to defend against aggressors, it would cease to be 'government'." What if governments took the consent of the governed seriously, allowing them some reasonable way to opt out?

Rose emphasizes the distinction between morality and obedience: "Morality and obedience are often direct opposites." That is, in some cases one must disobey authorities in order to act morally.

Rose denies the possibility of a gradual transition from tyranny to freedom: "If 'authority' outranks conscience, then the common folk are all the property of the ruling class, in which case freedom cannot and should not exist. If, on the other hand, conscience outranks 'authority,' then each person owns himself, and each must always follow his own judgement of right and wrong, no matter what any self-proclaimed 'authority' or 'law' may command. There cannot be a gradual shift between the two, nor can there be a compromise." From the standpoint of a particular person this is true, but society is composed of many persons, not all of whom will experience their epiphany at the same time. And even if we did, we would then face a Hayekian challenge of creating new voluntary institutions to replace the old coercive ones. Some people need more than a book full of interesting ideas before they will be willing to gamble on something new.  They need to see examples of people actually cooperating and succeeding without coercion. Supersaturated solution crystallizes, or seed sprouts and blooms?

Rose disregards politics: "Voting is an act of aggression" because elections "are about arguing over how everyone should be *forced* to behave" and what they must support financially. "There is a mind-bogglingly huge disconnect between what the average person views as 'civilized behavior' on an individual basis, and what he views as legitimate and civilized when it comes to the actions of 'authority'" and they "demand that 'government' do things they would never dream of doing on their own." "[I]f the goal is individual freedom, 'political action' is not only worthless, it is hugely counterproductive, because the main thing it accomplishes is to legitimize the ruling class's power." Anyone who plays the game of politics will "aggravate the problem by inadvertently legitimizing the system of domination and subjugation which wears the label of 'government'." 

But if voting can strengthen statism, shouldn't there be some opposite activity that weakens it? Let's call it Countervoting. What would it look like? It would reinforce a person's conscience, while weakening her desire to obey authority mindlessly. It would provide a way to hack the panopticon. Rose did not mention that idea in the book, Countervoting is my concept, but perhaps he would say reading his book is a form of Countervoting. But I want something just like voting, a ritual that naturally tends to move your mind toward autonomy, in spite of whatever thoughts you may consciously think while participating, just as I can think "government stinks" while casting my ballot.

Rose's prescription to cure society's illness is vague and negative: 
"The ultimate solution is negative and passive: Stop advocating aggression against your neighbors. Stop engaging in rituals that condone the initiation of violence and reinforce the notion that some people have the right to rule. Stop thinking and speaking and acting in ways that reinforce the myth that normal people should be, and must be, beholden to some master, and should obey such a master rather than follow their own consciences." "[W]hen even a significant minority of people outgrow the superstition, and change their behavior accordingly, the world will drastically change." Freedom seekers can "achieve it without the need for any election or revolution." 

What sort of behavior change does he mean? He gives us vague hints: "If people truly understood [...] they would simply stop surrendering their property to the political parasites."  But the "idea of disobeying 'authority' [...] is more disturbing to them than the idea of being a slave." Rose seems to recommend non-compliance and disobedience. He has demonstrated this himself, and spent time in prison for failure to pay income tax. This strategy may appeal to a brave few, but has little to offer early adopters. What if we could find some positive, active, reasonably safe activity to build people's confidence?

Noncompliance can come only after enlightenment. We must create a new paradigm while removing the old one. How do we build an alternative paradigm in people's minds? The language and behavior of the dominant paradigm work to reinforce it. How can we resist this indoctrination? Perhaps Rose thinks everyone should read his book and swear off obedience. But many will not read this book, and for reasons he discusses in the book, those that read the book who are not already convinced are not very likely to change their minds. (Jonathan Haidt's book, "The Righteous Mind," gives some theories about why this is true, where it comes from, and what Rose might want to try to do about it.)

We need more than disobedience, and less. We already have plenty of disobedience, in the form of black market participation, drug use and sales, illegal gambling, prostitution, and other victimless crimes. What we need is a way to get all those "criminals" to understand Rose's idea, to abandon the dangerous superstition of the title. But they won't read his book, they have political biases, and they are unlikely to act on an untested idea. We need a way for them to participate directly, to create temporary autonomous zones, to protect each other from violence, and then turn the TAZs into permanent autonomous zones. We need to sell them safety and freedom, show them examples of people living peaceful, cooperative lives without coercion. We need to crowdsource the free zone. Rose's book gives us little help with that, it is all theory, no practice.

Authority has already lost, according to Rose, because it is an illusion. "If the alleged 'authority' upon which the entire concept of 'government' relies is merely an illusion [...], then saying that society cannot exist without 'government' is exactly as reasonable as saying that Christmas cannot occur without Santa Claus. Society *already* exists without 'government', and has from the beginning." This sounds absurd, so what does he mean? He means that we have lied to ourselves about how society works, what society is. He means that the organization we call government is actually something else, a polite Mafia with good public relations. He means that when enough of us are willing to give it a try, we may find that cooperation beats coercion.