- On Debate
Karl Smith, writing on Modeled Behavior, in response to Ron Rosenbaum falls into a rational argument between theism and atheism. And demonstrating that both he and Rosenbaum err. Even the early theologians did not make this mistake. Religious debate is allegorical, not scientific. Only fundamentalists argue for the sicentific basis of gods and religion. And fundmentalism is a political reaction to the rise of science in politics. However, neither side of this populist debate (and it is a populist debate, not an intellectual one) has much to offer.
Ron Rosenbaum launches a long and varied attack on the New Atheism. His complaints are many and his tone heavy, but I don’t think I do him much injustice by saying his central claim is this:
Atheists have no evidence—and certainly no proof!—that science will ever solve the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Just because other difficult-seeming problems have been solved does not mean all difficult problems will always be solved. And so atheists really exist on the same superstitious plane as Thomas Aquinas, who tried to prove by logic the possibility of creation “ex nihilo” (from nothing). . .
In fact, I challenge any atheist, New or old, to send me their answer to the question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” I can’t wait for the evasions to pour forth. Or even the evidence that this question ever could be answered by science and logic.
If Rosenbaum means that he wishes us to explain the “universe” then we should talk about the properties of high density energy and the creation of bubble universes. Or, we can tell a story about 11-dimensional membranes which may have collided and produced everything that we could ever see.
However, I think the Rosenbaum wants more than that. I think he doesn’t want to stop at our universe but wants to ask – from the outside of everything in the moment before the first event – why did it become so?
Actually, that’s a false premise he’d be arguing if he did. The question he’s really asking is “what are the implications for my anthropomorphic anthropocentric view of the universe. In other words, how can I make this universe about the creature man rather than a universe in which man is not central, and in fact, may be an improbable accident? That’s the question he’s asking and the problem he’s seeking, becaus that is the comfort that religion brings to man: anthropocentrism. But that anthropocentrism also adds value to political discourse. Because ANY ANSWER includes a proscription for human behavior. I think we forget too often that the purpose of religion is to provide an inexpensive means of proscribing behavior for humans who must coexist in large numbers. Externalizing requirements as scriptural is simply an inexpensive means of lawmaking.
However, there simply is no sense to be made of these propositions. Equally, there is no sense to be made of the question “why is there something” that is unless Rosenbaum is using different definitions of “why” and “something.”
This just misses the point. It confuses truth with utility, and in politics these things have no relevance.
Now, if I don’t believe that science, reason or logic can answer “why something as opposed to nothing.” Then what do I mean when I say that I am an atheist? I mean that I believe all answerable questions can be answered with science, reason and logic. Said slightly more formally, there exists no question which can be meaningfully answered that cannot be answered by science, reason and logic.
Lets return to Rosenbaum’s query to see how that works. He asks “why is there something” The theist might answer that God created the something. But, then the theist must be referring to a limited set of something. Indeed, typically we imagine the theist as referring to the physical universe, space, time, etc.
Well, you’re making an argument against his STATED reasoning instead of his UNDERLYING reasoning. And, as Pareto, Weber, Michels, and Sorrel will remind you, this is YOUR error, not theirs.
Now, does my belief in science, reason and logic constitute a faith? No.
Perhaps. But your use of logic for the purpose of political debate is pretty ameturish.
First, I have evidence for the belief. Predictions based on science, reason and logic tend to come true.
Oh no. You don’t realize what youve stepped into here. In fact, you’re making the EXACT mistake that your opponent is. You have incomplete knowledge and the process you follow may yield consistent results, even if you do not fully understand the process. The process of religion and belief in god produces consistent results, even if that process is irrational. In fact, in the history of science, those predictions that exist int he physical world have largelly been false, and tehrefore they are scientific but wrong. The problem with the sphere of human action is that we know less about it than we do the physical world, simply becuase itis more COMPLEX than the physical world, because humans can LEARN.
Indeed, I am not currently aware of a case where they have failed to come true and no subsequent reasoned explanation was found. So the trio of science, reason and logic carry with them an incredible track record.
Phlogiston theory? Aristotle’s motion? The human genome project’s assumption of a manufactured man rather than a grown one? The limits of Aristotelian, Newtonian and Einsteinian physics?
However, this track record could plausibly come to a halt. A pillar of fire could appear before me and declare that he is the lord. He could then go on to predict the violation of the laws of physics and subsequently show them to be false.
Or we could find that the mythical structure is a very useful pedagogical contrivance and that the unarticulated content of these myths contains devices for assisting people with cooperating in agrarian society and in a division of labor and knowledge, where the limits of their perceptions and knowledge in a complex society exceed their tribal biological capacities.
This is actually what’s expressed by the content of most of the christian mythos and dogma.
Now, conversely, there is a great deal of incredibly destructive content in the monotheistic religions. One could successfully argue that they institutionalize ignorance. The appear to institutionalize poverty. But they appear to spread like a virus along with the underclasses. But they do serve their purpose, which is to override tribal sympathies and sentiments, and essentially create a new tribal identity, while preserving of class systems. Some are simply far worse than others (Islam). Some are useful despite their ridiculousness (Judaism).
He could show me that despite all of my reasoning to the contrary that 2 + 2 = 5, that the logic I depend on explains nothing and that my confusion of this moment tells me nothing about my confusion in the next. Every prediction I make would have results no better than chance but every prediction the pillar makes would come true.
Any number of fairly great minds have pondered this problem at length, and you’re really not even scratching the surface at the level of an undergraduate. I’m not trying to be antagonizing, I’m just stating the obvious. There are volumes on this subject.
“Gods exist like numbers exist”.
They exist because people act like they exist. People use them in the same way: to calculate. To reason. To estimate. To judge. We lack the knowledge, the experience, the perception, the time and computational ability to exist as a polity in a market, in a division of labor, without them. The question is the form of their existence. Do they have the properties that people attribute to them? No, but neither did shakespeare or Socrates, Washington or Alexander. Edison or Michelangelo. Marx or Machiavelli. And the existence of these concepts as memories, as memes, and as complex symbols have extraordinary long term impact on individuals, groups, cultures, and civilizations.
Science is, and always has been, a ‘faith’. Scientific knowledge is the most perishable that we have. Entire bodies of knowledge have expired with one innovation. It’s pretty certain that thousands more will do so. Certainly, we are fairly sure, that we are missing something very important at the subatomic level. Certainly we are very sure that we are missing something very important in the human experience: hume’s problem of induction. Certainly there is something wrong with out entire concept of mathematics. Certainly our belief that the genome project would deliver to us vast knowledge, but in the end, only confirmed our ignorance.
Science is a formal process for discovering patterns and replicating them. It is a process. That is all. What we know from science is that which is falsifiable – the negatives, not what’s ‘probable’ – the positives. Science is largely eliminative. But scientific knowledge is constantly open to further revision, greater explanatory power, and the elucidation of error. It is constantly being disproven. Contrary to our religious wisdom, science is egregiously more perishable. In economics in particular, vast swaths of our knowledge is patently false. THe entire DSEM model appears to be false.
One should separate fully articulated reasoning from the results produced by it. Our politicians rely upon what they believe is scientific thought, and it is articulated as a rational process, even if with competing means and ends. But they have made a terrible mess of the world economy because they believed Nobel laureates – some of whom are being disproven at this very moment, for reasons that most of history’s philosophers would have stated were obvious, as violation of the calculus of measurement. By contrast the church built a vast bureaucracy that governed europe for nearly two millennia and did exceedingly well at it, despite the fact that it’s dogma was absurd, and methods of argument laughable by almost any measure.
Plenty of religious doctrine is simply well-though human behavior codified as the word of god. Sure the reasoning behind it is ridiculous. But it works. Wisdom is generalization. It is rules to apply when facing the unknown. But largely, wisdom is our protection against ignorance and hubris. Warning against Hubris in all it’s forms is the primary teaching of the body of greek mythos. THe fact that it’s conveyed by the allegory of the gods is simply a pedagogical device.
Secular humanism is as much a religion as is any other silly set of beliefs. Humans aren’t that plastic. The greek myths are just as important a set of lessons as are fairy tales, and the two sets of knowledge may be more useful than all the knowledge that science bequeaths to us.
The most important question is this:
The only reason for this debate, is for the purpose of coercing someone to do with himself or his property what you wish, against his desires, without compensating him with something for which he would willingly part with it.
In other words, these are political arguments. As political arguments, like all law, they are practical, not truthful. THey are for the purpose of persuasion. And the only reason for political persuasion is to redirect resources and energies from where they are, to wehre you want them to be.
And as such, political, pseudo-scientific, religious and moral arguments are nothing but feints and parries in a fencing match. And you, the spectator, are simply distracted by the hand-waving prestige of the magicians on the sidelines.
Numbers exist. Gods exist. Science exists. They exist in the same form. As ideas. And the only reason to debate them is to lie, cheat and steal. Because otherwise we would simply engage in mutually beneficial trade.
Then another person enters the conversation:
Curt. Lots of words and hefty references, none of which support your thesis, which I take to be:
“But belief in the scientific method, particularly in the social sciences, is entirely erroneous.”
Science is empirical, faith isn’t. The scientific method is an attempt to understand the real world based on the measurable properties of the real world. The only faith involved is that the careful use of the senses and invented measuring devices is capable of giving real information about real things. If that is wrong, they we all might as well believe in unicorns.
The concept of “social science” is less valid than “natural science” because a collection of people is more different, and in a greater variety of ways than a collection of oxygen molecules or green beans. Hence, the use of probability becomes problematical. Let’s not even go there.
Faith involves belief in the unprovable. Science is a search for what can be proven.
You might not know this, but before Adam Smith wrote THE WEALTH OF NATIONS he wrote THE THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS. Which, like the writings of Keynes, is totally irrelevant to the discussion.
You made my point. Thank you. Empiricism is a ‘faith’. So is Positivism. A positivist or empiricist puts his faith in the process that he uses. A theist puts his faith in the process that he uses. We know that much knowledge provided by these processes is false. But we know that we obtain utility from using these processes, despite their imperfections.
Religious ‘Faith’ is a political and social concept, and social content is NOT probabilistic. It CANNOT be. We can debate wether in retrospect we can measure correlation of historical data. But human behavior is only correlative and historical. It is not probabilistic and predictive. The fact that legions of positivists fall into the trap of treating empiricism as a truth rather than a method, is no different from the error that theists fall into when they think faith is a truth rather than a method. Knowledge is not finite. It is not static. Knowledge is embodied in our methods, not in what is static and certain.
And, contrary to your accusation, all of my references support my position. Almost everything here is just Popper revisited. And popper along with Kuhn is the author of the philosophy of science, as well as much of the theory of knowledge. Popper argues for an open universe. He argues (along with Godel) that we have made a mistake in the calculus of measurement. Nassim Taleb make the same argument and warns of the fallacy of prediction in financial markets. Hume argues that we cannot know what we do not know and correctly posits that this is the fundamental problem that humans must solve. Kant tries to solve the problem and fails miserably, although artfully by trying to create a closed (chrsitian apologist) system. Weber refers to content of religious concepts. Pareto describes the limits of human knowledge and the human reliance upon sentiments when faced with insufficient information by which to make decisions. Hayek warns us about the limits of knowledge, and that we should not debase traditional knowledge. Michels warns us that bureaucracies must possess limited knowledge and therefore become self serving. Mises makes the same proposition in ‘Bureaucracy’.
Conversely, the line of probabilists from Walras to Keynes to Samuelson all argue for probabilism, but all their models are demonstrably false in practice. They are false in practice for this reason: the categorical representation of any measurable object of utility is necessarily erroneous because the UTILITY of any object is plastic or polymorphic. Unlike the physical world. And therefore it is the DIFFERENCE between possibilities that is the real, and therefore, hidden cost of all human behavior. (All costs are opportunity costs.) Therefore we only record and quantify history but not our hypotheses, because the hypothesis is unimaginably complicated and purely mental in construct without external representation and therefore not readily open to categorization and quantitative representation. Likewise, (via Mandelbrot) people and markets react to learning curves and forgetting curves. The greater and more frequent the stimulation the more attention it gets, and the less the less it gets. This is the only logic present in the stock market: frequency of stimuli and the plasticity of the objects traded in reaction to that stimuli. There is a vast body of knowledge that is critical of the philosophy of secular humanists (which is the religion you’re a member of).
The point is, that you are confusing TWO DOMAINS OF KNOWLEDGE that are critically analyzed by different METHODOLOGIES and committing an ERROR in doing so. The gains from science are in the PHYSICAL non-heuristic fields of DISCOVERY of an existing and CLOSED system. The gains in the political sphere are horrendously more complicated than that of the physical world and far less open to our method of scientific testing as we currently understand it. And our current understanding is limited by the somewhat linear and non-causal, categorically implastic mathematics that we make use of in our analysis, exposition, and prediction.
So in making your argument with me, and with Rosenbaum, you are applying an irrelevant standard to the concept of god. ( And it’s an impossible problem to define these things rationally. Social Good is one of my favorites. So is the french “liberty fraternity equality”. They are meaningless terms. They express sentiments, not reason. If “social good” exists, then god exists. Good luck defining either one of them. And without defining them you cannot argue a position. )
So, you’re making an ERROR, the nature of which you do not understand. Science is a method. What you do not see is that religion is a method. It is an argumentative and philosophical method for the resolving differences between ‘shoulds’ and achieving cooperation of large numbers of people in a vast division of labor, and among vastly different people of different ages. And achieving that vast labor where rational pedagogy (reason and science education) did not exist, or where it is insufficient (where we are too ignorant), or where the people are too limited in ability, or konwledge, or time, to make use of rational means. Or where, because of the pragmatic nautre of politics, reason, which is an elitist tool, is not available to the majority of the polity engaged in decision making, especially in a democratic society. Reason is a poor political tool. People need narratives. And we have not YET produced sufficient narratives under empiricism to replace mythic content. And the narratives that we have produced (which are those of secular humanism) are patently FALSE.
Secular humanism posits:
1) People are equal. (They are unequal) : IQ Deniers.
2) Everyone can be of the same social and economic class (they cannot) : Class Deniers
3) Race is immaterial. (Races are material because people act as if they are material, and they act that way because status in-group and extra group is achieved at different costs) : Race Deniers.
4) Infinite Plasticity of Humans (Natural Law is correct in that people have permanent tendencies) : Anthropo-implasticity Deniers
5) Limits to Political Consensus On Means Of Achieving Goals : Democratic Limit Deniers
6) Limits to empiricism and Probabilism In Human Behaviors : “Positivists”, or Limits Of Empiricism Deniers.
These are all failures of the religion of secular humanism, that is the result of empiricism.
The great thinkers alive today would state (because they do) that they are not trying to solve a problem of objective truth but of practical utility, while understanding that scientific thought is very limited in scope. The fact that you do not take this same position of skepticism, and that moreover you ignore the record of the history of what utility that civilizations have gained from the absurd technology of monotheism, means that you are indeed a member of the positivist ‘faith’.
The monotheistic religions are ridiculous as stated. But they are terribly successful algorithms. Much of science in human history has been well articulated, but entirely false.
That said, I’m not supporting monotheistic religion but I do understand the problem of pedagogy:
1) children must learn symbolic social judgements by habit and narrative before they have the capacity to understand rational judgements.
2) people are vastly unequal in their ability to make rational judgements. In fact, it is an expertise and a product of life long mastery.
3) reason has been demonstrably ineffective compared to law and religion and credit, in creating social order. Largely because it is so susceptible to error and fraud.
Reason is insufficient and the narrative method and allegorical content are a superior means of providing actionable content to human beings of different abilities, different ages and different experiences. We live in a vast division of knowledge and labor, with multiple social classes, multiple mythologies, and multiple forms of social cooperation encoded in different categories of property rights, freedoms and constraints.
Science is the process by which we slowly chip away at discovering fundamental objective causality. But as it stands, it is insufficient for the composition of a social order. And it has been demonstrably harmful to apply such standards to the social order in the vain assumption that our traditions err.
“Politics is a process of utility not truth. And the only purpose of debate is to obtain another’s property for one’s desires rather than theirs. By inventing politics we traded violence for fraud. ”
Shouldn’t this be: property is theft, war is struggle over it, politics negotiation on it, and trade exchange of it? In war, might makes right, politics lowers the cost through the fraud of property, which trade can then exchange. Even the prehistory is reversed. Politics can reduce war, and trade can reduce politics, but larger populations, densities, and interactions increase politics and politics increase war.
@Lord. First, thanks. Second, your summary is both astute and accurate.
Although, the form you’re using (which is the civic republican set of assumptions, and assumes equality) employs a neutral point of view, and the form I’m using (which is is machiavellian politico-scientific which assumes inequality) is intentionally constructed to demonstrate the error of applying the criteria of either religion, science, or philosophy, to the field of politics — when the first three presume a search for objective truth, and the latter is the domain intentional rhetorical fraud for the purpose of obscuring the contests over property and masking the facility with which the bureaucracy exploits it’s position for self gain behind the necessity of implied moral contrivance, and political expediency. In other words, I’m assaulting the assumptions upon which republican government are based.
So I was chastising the authors for silliness by stating that the only reason for debate is to mask their attempt at taking each other’s property.
But back to forms: The civic republican model is based jupon the assumption that public debate and voting will produce optimum use of resources among people with similar interests. However, this model originated with small populations, with a minority of the productive social class of participants, with hard money, and where these politicians possessed similar economic incentives, and where the agrarian model, and sail-based shipping guaranteed long time frames for decisions, and accounting periodicity, and where production consisted of fairly simple products converted from a resource to a consumable. All of wich allow for fairly simply accounting processes, and limit the bureaucracy to what can be borrowed from external entities, and therefore what non-bureaucrats are willing to subsidize.
Today, instead, we live in an industrialized world of multi-part products composed from across the world, with complex human capital requirements, and vast differences in price structures, and where the rate of movement of economic forces is incomprehensible to an individual. (And where it is precisely that incomprehensibility that makes socialism impossible – socialism being management of production, but which is now commonly applied to redistribution.) Further, we live in a world where the government is both a domestic and international empire that abuses multiple groups under the auspices of shared benefit, while bankrupting the civilization on scale unimaginable by the Athenians. Where politicians do not read, and cannot even understand much of the law that they pass. And where, having removed the gold standard, and allowed the pooling of financial information both through taxation on the way in and lending on the way out, we launder all ability of individuals to comprehend the instructions we give each other through the pricing system, both temporal, and inter-temporal. And by this laundering, and loss of the boundary held in place by hard money, have removed the only means by which external wisdom can limit the ignorant politicians, and the corrupt and ideological bureaucracy.
So, In practice, debate is fraught with fraud. There is nothing dishonest about violence. ie: we have traded violence and the use of the parliamentary system to protect us from undue violence by the king and unite us in that pursuit, for fraud, and the use of parliamentary drapery to subject us to extortion and class warfare.
So, in practice, yes, you are both succinct, and correct. But you’re not providing the reason why – and as such, are positing a memorable solution but one easily dismissed. The reason you’re missing out on is an epistemic one: That the government is large enough, over too divergent a set of interests, and our pricing, accounting, tax and law systems inadequate to provide politicians with the information necessary to make decisions about the matters with which we charge them, and possessing levers that are too imprecise to achieve their desired ends. In this environment of inadequate information, bureaucrats have no choice but to rely upon metaphysical and cognitive biases when making decisions. And because law makers feel the need to make laws, they do so, and poorly. And because laws do not perish with the fools that write them, the are calcifying the body of law, and as a byproduct losing the faith of the populace not only in them, but in rule of law itself.
Politicians are not evil. they are merely human. And they are unable to synthesize sufficient information about our state of affairs to make rational judgements because our information systems are insufficiently complex enough to allow them to do so. Consequently, rhetorical debate is easily fraudulent under this system because there are no external checks and balances via credit and hard money, vie minority vote, vie accounting, on the politicians or on the bureaucracy. And in this arena a fraud, debates about religion, science, and the like are ridiculous. They are ridiculous first, because they are insufficient means of solving the problem, and second because the only reason you would need to rely upon them is because you lack rational, scientific, quantitative information, OR are not regulated externally by limits to credit, and as such, one must resort to Morality, Beliefs, Preferences, instead of resorting to facts as established by monetary information and access to credit.
Personally, I would much rather than we stop debating the virtues of science or religion, because both are falsehoods, and instead discuss implementing schemes by which we improve our accounting, tax, credit, baking, and forecasting abiltites so that our politicians cannot hide from information, or make obviously erroneoius statements about fianances.
And if christians want to do some moral good, stay off the biblical quotes and get onto the real issue: economic calculaitno is now impossible for our governemnt, and teh tools we thought we had, in the Dynamic Stochastic Equilibrium Model and the ambitions of full employement under Keynesianism are profounding erroneous, ans simply a schme by which we have dstroyed western civilizatoin and force our politicians to resort to chicanery, fraud, ideology, ignorance, and pettiness.
The bible, and all scriptural religion are allegorical wisdom.They are not science. Even Science itself is inapplicable to the social sciences. And as such neither religion or science is sufficient to replace ‘quantitative information’ given to us by the system of prices and credit. Because the only truth we know of, is the truth men tell by their actions with their money.
Peter Gordon notes in passing that the pre-columbians had wheeled toys, despite leaving no record of using the wheel for carts. He directs us to evidence, where the authors posit the reasons for not having adopted wheels.
They give a number of reasons with the seventh being the closest:
With a abundant human workforce throughout Ancient America, and without large beasts of burden, wheeled vehicles would have been redundant and unnecessary. In practical terms, it is easier to carry goods, than to pull the good and the wagon, if the terrain is not well suited to wheeled vehicles.
Actually, the wheel, the chariot, the horse, wheat, and bronze were the set of tools that made the wheel possible in eurasia. They are the symbols of the spread of western civilization. And none are valuable without the rest. (Yes, even bronze.)
If you don’t have a horse, or at least a bull, a cart is a waste of energy. Carts are heavy. They are far too heavy for humans to benefit from hauling. Simple math. It’s not that carts were unnecessary. It’s that they were a bad idea. Especially in jungles and hills instead of plains and on roads.
Anthropologists should study a little economics.
AdAge and The Decline In Car Driving Among The Young
The advertising industry’s most important publication, Ad Age, recently posted an article entitled “Is Digital Revolution Driving Decline in U.S. Car Culture?” wherein the author describes the decline in driving among the young, and the readership leaves comment after comment positing reasons for the change, most of which belie political sentiments.
This kind of economic commentary can be found daily on any economics blog. And it’s fascinating to see the difference between the interpretations of different subcultures of the same data. Economists make fewer errors in their reasoning. Reporters try to create sensationalism and readership by appealing to the common errors that people tend to make, most importantly the error of confirmation bias : seeking what you agree with and ignoring what you don’t.
Humans demonstrate a cognitive bias wherein they overestimate their own ‘normalcy’, or how likely people are to think like them. This is particularly true of people in the agency business for a variety of reasons – and thinking otherwise might not necessarily be beneficial to one’s career in the agency business. This business is a ‘magnet’ for group-thinkers, because the profession requires that you think about ‘groups’ for a living.
THE REALITIES OF CITIES
Most people in history were confined to 20 mile arduous around their home. Cities are, and always have been, notoriously dirty and noisy, often crime ridden, and push people into small spaces from which they desire ‘vacations’. (The Un-Heavenly City by Banfield.) In a recent conversation I had with a Chinese intellectual I was surprised at how little he understood the ‘toxicity’ of human beings living in density. It’s hard on them. (Selection in urban environments comes from disease resistance. – Plagues and Peoples by McNeil) People like density because it decreases opportunity costs – everything is close-by and because it’s dense, businesses and services are better capitalized and better funded because they have a higher opportunity of being funded – as long as they don’t require much space, or as long as what they sell is expensive enough to pay the cost of that density. But because of the expense of that proximity, raising children is for the poor who have no other choice but to live in kennels where the cost per human is low, and the wealthy who can afford to make the choice, not the middle class, who must live elsewhere. Therefore, Cars and Suburbia Are Synonymous. Because costs of a the quality of residences decrease with distance from urban centers, allowing more space at lower cost. Most urban downtown cores are surrounded by slums. Paris, Vienna, NY, Chicago and most impressively LA. Most dense urban areas outside of the west are almost entirely slums. London seems to have done a better job of controlling it’s development than most other cities.
The reason for this is simply a tragedy of the commons that occurs when people move into very high density. It’s fixable with serious political effort, but there is a high cost of projecting that effort.
WHY PEOPLE DRIVE CARS
People drive cars because
1) Increasing opportunities for experience (we all this ‘the sense of freedom’)
2) Increased opportunities for mating outside of one’s group (this is obvious)
3) Permitting distance between home and job once jobs industrialized
4) Permitting the easy transpiration of ‘stuff’ to one’s residence
5) Ease of childrearing, especially once women enter the work force.
6) Increasing Leisure Time not spent traveling.
7) Status – because status will always be with us, because it determines access to mates, jobs, opportunities, knowledge and experiences, and because people are imitative and need a way of knowing what to imitate in order to get attention, opportunities, and mates.
CHANGES IN DRIVING BEHAVIOR
The actual reasons for the shift In Driving:
1) Cheap credit inflated residential prices, mortgages and rents. Wages were stickier, so young people whose primary social function is mate-seeking chose urban locations in exchange for car ownership and geographic freedom. This phenomenon will change once they find mates and seek suburban life for their children, as well as increase their household incomes by marring. So in other words, preferences will not change, just demographic distributions. (Just like political preferences.)
2) Unemployment over the past two years has decreased the tolerance for high fixed costs and younger people are abandoning or delaying the luxury of driving. They are just delaying it, and will reverse it when possible.
3) It’s a lot less ‘boring’ to stay at home when you have so many forms of entertainment available.
4) People live in increasing density, so that the need to travel in order to ‘sample’ enough people to identify friends and potential mates is lower, and to some degree is simply easier on the web.
5) Increased Populations Of Immigrant Urban Poor and their children who are most likely to consume public services, and least likely to have risk capital available for automobiles.
These aren’t in any order, but I’ll leave it to the reader to determine the impact of adding 30M people over a 20 year period.
Public transportation has a statistically insignificant to statistically minor impact on commuting everywhere except New York City. In fact, NYC is so dominant, that it skews the entire country. If you remove NYC from the analysis then the dominance of car culture is obvious. By contrast, many rail systems (Portland Oregon for example) are catastrophic losses, and suffer from insufficient ridership to cover the costs. In europe people do not own homes, they rent and save. National cultures are also more homogenous. People are gregarious in homogenous societies and isolationist in heterogeneous societies. Contrary to what is commonly believed. Diversity decreases willingness for public investment. Everywhere.
in general, if a people can afford the independence of a car, in any culture, they adopt it. That is what the statistics illustrate, and there is no evidence that that preference will change unless the cost of urban homes decreases per square foot and the cost of personal transpiration increases dramatically.
Why? Because at any point, either TIME or MONEY is more important. At the point where time is more scarce than money, a car becomes your preferred method of transport. At the point where you have a family and must transport them, and STUFF a car becomes your preferred method of transport. No matter what your income bracket.
People do not change their lifestyle, political or class biases, except that they become more conservative as they age. There is no shift going on that is not purely economic and demographic in origins.
Agencies who are supposed to promote goods and services can only create loyalty inducing narratives for people if they understand why people make decisions. And bringing your biases to the table only makes it increasingly difficult to create messages and campaigns that resonate with consumers – because consumers increasingly resonate with the truth.
Good advertising is the truth spoken succinctly and creatively.
Claude Fischer is a sociologist at UC Berkeley who published a piece entitled “Angry Old White Men” in which he categorizes the Tea Party movement as a rural movement of old white men.
Mark Thoma, a left-leaning economist picked up the article and posted it on his blog The Economist’s View, where he adds: “Rural America senses that he represents a major shift in the political landscape, one that will no longer put the white male farmer at the center of the American political landscape.” As if its a rural cause rather than a white cause.
To which others add:
“What we’ve got here is a real warning sign that something in our society just isn’t working. It’s not just hand-wringing liberals and right-wing Christians anymore; when your educated upper-middle classes start lashing out, you know the regime’s days are numbered.”
“The hate directed at “white men” by so many members of leftist establishment(s) borders on blood lust. At their deep core is a burning anger that they focus on the “white man” taking delight in belittling, marginalizing, and taunting that demographic. Perhaps the “delicious irony” is that many of these folks proudly flaunt their fake “tolerance” and calls for “peace” while obviously unable to control their desire to stoke division and strife.”
“Did these [old white guys, especially affluent, Protestant ones] give ground or was it an enlightened choice? … My guess is the shift had more to do with U.S. government based public education, by mostly female primary school teachers, which gave children a sense of respect for all. It still took many generations.
The last of which is actually the structural answer: our schools teach democratic secular humanism in an effort to replace our traditions and cultures with a state religion. We do not have a separation of church and state. We have a state religion and we send most of our children to the theocracy for education.
White Protestants lost political power, status and their culture due to “enlightened choice”. There was no material reason why they HAD to lose power. They chose to be ‘Christian’, which was the sentiment needed to unify a fragmented europe. They could just as easily have chosen to keep slavery, to keep control of government, to forbid immigrants political power, to maintain the requirement of protestantism. In other words, they could have done what most civilizations have done. What most civilizations still do. In fact, the entire purpose of nationalism was to give racial groups their own sovereignty after centuries of tribal distribution across monarchic europe.
It Wasn’t Political Power, It Was Economic Power
Starting with the industrial revolution, the dominance of the HOUSEHOLD lost importance, and there for the dominance of the MALE waned. The decline has been not just among white men, but among men in particular. Women’s entry into the work place has not hurt high performing men, but since women have taken all the lower risk clerical functions in society, and seem to largely be better suited for it, this has moved men toward the edges – into the riskier professions.
They Gave Up Power Voluntarily
These voluntary abdicators of male political power were Christians. They tried the experiment. It was a heady debate. We have just wrapped class, race and cultural preference in a deep cloak of secular language instead of religious language. But the underlying sentiments and logic are essentially the same. We have a religion of democratic, secular humanism rather than paternal christianity. The difference is that the political myth of the ‘white man’s burden’ of anglo exceptionalism in order to morally justify the empire, has become the myth of democratic secular humanism in order to justify the empire.
The Experiment Failed
What has happened is that these previously tolerant people believe that the experiment failed. That their conservative sentiments (the belief that humans have immutable behaviors), have returned to precedence over their liberal sentiments (people can aspire to utopian behavior in the right environment) have changed. White Men in particular tolerated man-hating feminism because they felt it was somewhat justified, but that society would ‘settle back’ because people have ‘natural tendencies’. White Men felt that because of slavery and WW2, that they were wrong in their fantasy of exceptionalism – that they had betrayed their christian sentiments, and so they tolerated criticism in the hope that society would settle down. White men today no longer believe those egalitarian myths. WHen you destroy a mythos you don’t destroy just the ‘bad parts’. You destroy the entire system of myths. They no longer believe in their guilt. They now feel equally wronged.
Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan, describes how he and his fellow members of the levant thought that they had solved the problem of heterogeneity, and that they were more civilized than the rest of the world. But it was a myth. That small civilization is now dead and gone, and gone within his lifetime. People continue to murder each other in droves around the world. And while capitalism decreases costs and increases quality of life, and it because of the prosperity, decreases the incentive to devolve into violence, it is not a sufficient tool for altering the human perception of status, nor of the realities of cooperating in groups: tribes remain fixed in their cooperative networks even under capitalism. It’s just FRICTION that is less important because there is less scarcity of opportunity.
What Happens Next
The question becomes, a) whether white men will cease tolerating their denigration and become activists, – or b) whether they will do what men have in all other collapsed cultures, which is abandon the Fraternal Order, and become like byzantines, Mediterraneans, or africans, and simply pursue non-political localized self interest which will over time, simply erode the legitimacy of the state. There is another option c) which is violence. But that is always a minority position because it is so costly. And if history is a guide we will get all three of these factors.
Western Protestant Culture Is An Anomaly
The sentiments of white male culture are an anomaly. It is the product of the fraternal order of city-defending soldiers who treat the ‘market’ (which they don’t differentiate from ‘society’) as if they were shareholders. That sentiment is extremely rare. If that sentiment ceases, we will not get the civilization that utopians aspire to. We have a lot of historically similar situations. We might get something random. But history tells us what we will get will not likely be the ‘free society’ that we aspired to.
Urbanization Affects Social Institutions By Increasing Anonymity And Decreasing Economic Conformity
We are urbanizing, world wide. And we must. There are too many of us to return to farming. We no longer live where we are self sustaining yet produce excess in order to participate in the market for the purpose of getting money with which to buy what we cannot produce. Nearly all of us must participate in the market for our entire livelihood, trading our skills in manipulating someone else’s tools and materials for money so that we can buy ALL of our needs in the market. We live in a world of perceived risk, surrounded by plenty.
But urbanization under market-centricity poses difficult problems. The problem of ‘social order’ (conformity to law or convention) occurs when any civilization sufficiently urbanizes. The human social tools of ostracization (economic exclusion) and fraternalism (economic inclusion) do not operate in dense populations where anonymity is common and therefore social ostracization alone cannot block people from opportunities. There is no evidence that these social tools operate in the dense urban environment. There is no evidence that Law or Religion can cause them to operate either.
The Shift To A Racial Minority
This is the last generation where white men will feel guilty about their position. They feel disempowered. They are soon to be a minority. They dislike being ridiculed and having their status trampled upon, and are rapidly considering it RACISM against them. (Which they believe will give them the right in turn, to be racist.)
The question is what will they do. And if history is any indicator, most of them will do nothing but acquiesce. But like any racial group they will likely form a disenfranchised but radical minority who is activist. This is what is occurring today. If the minority gains traction it gains followers from those who perviously acquiesced – people follow a winning team. White men are also developing the sentiment of racial persecution, and with it, the egalitarian christian sentiments, and their historical guilt are waning.
When a people are oppressed they revert to self serving behavior and abandon behaivors of social sacrifice.
The Forgone Opportunity Economy
Society is not paid for by taxes. We pay for bureaucrats and soldiers with taxes. Society, or social order, is paid for by refraining from seizing opportunities. We create property by not stealing. We create comfort and safety with manners. We create prosperity and frictionless trade by non-corruption and ethical behavior. We prevent ourselves from externalizing high costs to others, and often to ourselves by moral behavior. We take on the burden of truth-telling. We define the granularity of property, the rules of the market. Each of us does ten thousand things a day to pay the tax for social order. And that tax system of opportunity costs is what we call ‘culture’. it is the highest cost of human capital a group can invest in.
Groups with different systems compete. They get angry with one another because they ‘sense’ theft or fraud, not of money, but of the sacrifices that they made for their group’s benefit. They get angry when their sacrifices (forgone opportunities) are wasted when another race or social class demeans them. In this way, human groups conduct forgone-opportunity-funded warfare, but they largely do it peacefully.
This is the racial and cultural economy. Money, Status, Forgone Opportunity, Access to Opportunity, and Access To Mates. Money is the least of them. Political power is simply the means by which to control the economy. Not just the money economy. But the status, opportunity and mating economy.
Institutions (self-perpetuating social habits) are the highest cost development for any civilization. The people in the civilization know the costs. They know the opportunities that they spent on building that cost. They know the taxes that they paid. THey know what property is theirs that they earned. And egalitarianism and charity are happily given as long as they are FRACTIONAL and do not allow one group to steal its institutional costs from another.
People are not having a simple emotional reaction. They see usurpation of political power as THEFT. They are ACTING like they see it as theft.
For everyone else who is not a white male, it becomes the question how a society can be managed, or how it will operate without those sentiments of fraternalism. We never get what we think we will. The French and Russian revolutions were horrific both in process and outcome. But most if not all civilizations simply decay once they urbanize, and their expansionist class of males surrenders to the sense of impotence, or the luxury of hedonism, by exporting the effort needed to maintain the social order to the bureaucracy.
The general assumption is that the democratic process will solve this problem of social integration and power distribution. But there is no evidence in history that such a thing occurs but rarely, and almost exclusively in England. Politics is a market, and people will circumvent the market when it no longer serves them.
No Longer A Nation But An Empire
The USA, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt and his ilk, is an empire in imitation the european model. Empires consist of factions. Factions are geographic (trade routes), racial (genetic), cultural (normative), and religious (legal). But an empire over whom half the population feels oppressed and stolen from is simply fragile.
We are no longer a country contentiously dealing with a problem of integration caused by our need for population to complete the westward expansion of the continent. Instead we are an empire over some number of smaller nations yearning to be free, and a disenfranchised geographic ex-majority that appears to be developing a new sentiment (acquiescence to failure), a political movement (tea party), and a radical movement (militias). At least, that is where this appears to be going, if history is any indicator.
And men who no longer see the existing order as beneficial to them may not work to overthrow it, but they will not work to maintain it. And that may be worse.
The Difference Between Methods
The difference between conservatives and progressives lies in the different assumptions we have of human nature. Progressives are utopians that believe we are free to build whatever world we choose to – they err on the side of people ‘doing good’ which is why progressivism is a movement of the industrial period. Conservatives err on the side of people ‘pursuing self interest’ which is why conservatism is an ancient sentiment, although conservatism as a political movement is a reaction to the english and french revolutions and the rise of socialism and communism. It is a contemporary reaction to progressivism. And like all conservative movements it is a reaction to the perception of theft of one’s assets by political means (even if those assets were unjustly acquired as in mercantilism or predatory banking or slavery).
Conservatives believe that human beings have innate sensibilities, biases and preferences that are immutable. And because they are immutable we should develop institutions that take these immutable differences into account. We should expect people to act with racial preferences because people almost always do act with racial preferences. They do so because intra-racial status is more beneficial for the majority than is extra-racial status. And status controls access to mates. Except at the extremes where status can be increased by breaking racial barriers, status determines access to mates, determines access to opportunities, access to networks, in general, access to a better life.
The Economics Of Race And The Impact On Politics
So the question is, what will happen in a world where we have a white minority whose traditions create the opportunity for democracy and rotation of the elites, and most people have racial preferences, where there is no method of organization urban conformity, but we have a political system that allows democratic rotation of elites? In general, at least in history, people tend to vote in what is called “Bonapartism” or a totalitarian who can forcibly resolve differences. Bonapartism is democratic totalitarianism.
Our systemic answer to urbanization was credit. Credit is more useful than laws because with record keeping it produces both positive and negative incentives. We are likely going to continue to build the credit society instead of the religious and legal societies. In fact, law is so technical it is largely immaterial, and most people are both isolated from it and ignorant of it. We actually operate by credit and exchange instead of legal or religious conformity. We live in the credit society.
But while credit solves the problem of anonymity and ostracization, it does not solve the problem of tribal and cultural sovereignty, which is a code-phrase for the system of status signals among people with racial and cultural similarities.
In a world of economic plenty and cheap debt and fiat money there is an inflationary impact upon status perceptions that like a tide floats all boats and reduces class and race friction.
But in a world of unemployment, which may be structural, permanent, and wherein opportunities are more scarce, and therefore racial status more advantageous, and in a society where there is a very large and disenfranchised minority that is government by an activist political system that they see as tyrannical and against their interest, it seems unlikely that people will support that government, that way of life, or even the assumption that the government and way of life are ‘goods’.
Race matters. Race matters because ENOUGH people act with racial preferences, and MORE of them act with racial preferences under economic duress, because acting within racial preferences is economically rewarding for the majority of its members.
It’s just simple economics.
In an essay that has attracted some interest from the blogging community, Kartik Athreya of the Richmond Fed, correctly states that there are political hacks misusing economic arguments. But she misses the point.
Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise
“In the wake of the recent financial crisis, bloggers seem unable to resist commentating routinely about economic events. It may always have been thus, but in recent times, the manifold dimensions of the financial crisis and associated recession have given fillip to something bigger than a cottage industry. Examples include Matt Yglesias, John Stossel, Robert Samuelson, and Robert Reich. In what follows I will argue that it is exceedingly unlikely that these authors have anything interesting to say about economic policy. This sounds mean-spirited, but it’s not meant to be, and I’ll explain why.”
“The question is: can they provide you, the reader, with an internally consistent analysis of a dynamic system subject to random shocks populated by thoughtful actors whose collective actions must be rendered feasible? For many questions, I and my colleagues can, and for those that the profession cannot, the blogging crowd probably can’t either.”
“…just below the surface of all the chatter that appears in blogs and op-ed pages, there is a vibrant, highly competitive, and transparent scientific enterprise hard at work. At this point, the public remains largely unaware of this work. In part, it is because few of the economists engaged in serious science spend any of their time connecting to the outer world (Greg Mankiw and Steve Williamson are two counterexamples that essentially prove the rule), leaving that to a group almost defined by its willingness to make exaggerated claims about economics and overrepresent its ability to determine clear answers.”
In a polity where we have traded traditional moral principles for the abstractions of economic theory as the means of resolving differences between the ambitions of our politicians, and where at the same time, economics is a nascent, and perhaps insufficient body of knowledge to adequately inform both our polity and its leaders, both sides of any debate are required to rely upon the accumulated erroneous judgements and confirmation biases inherent in their constituents. Bloggers then, like everyone else, are arguing against error with error. Against sentiment with sentiment. Against bias with bias. Against foolishness with foolishness.
Your analysis assumes that economists can be of much help in the public debate. When in fact, there is also a body of economic philosophy that states that the entire DSEM, as well as equilibrium itself, and the descriptive, probabilistic, non-causal mathematics employed in it, are insufficient methods for representing and forecasting economic interactions. In fact, the great progress of economists over the past fifty years has largely been to supply quantitative proof that confirms the traditional descriptions of the consistency of human error, bias and information asymmetry — a set of errors which only needed exposition because of the false pronouncements of the theorists who created the idealistic models suitable for simplistic mathematical modeling.
In other words, politics has little to do with economics. And all economic science seems to have accomplished, is to trade one set of traditional wisdoms for another set of speculations. And while you refer to economics as ‘scientific’, the political use of economic theory has been anything but scientific. And to a large degree, the immature nature of economic theory combined with the foolishness of political rhetoric, has created as much harm as good. In the comfort and support it gave to communism and socialism alone, the record of economic theory is the record of bloodshed, fraud, deception and heady murder.
So while I laud your ambitions, it seems, that you have fallen into the same error that you accuse of others: to pretend to possess knowledge that you do not.
The greater economists who do much of the great work, often refrain from the political discourse, largely because they possess sufficient wisdom to know that it is a pointless exercise. Economics as we know it is a process of describing the past. Politics is the process of inventing the future. The difference between description and invention is infinite.
with a flat tax, they can’t just pick on the winners anymore. In order to get more revenue, their best tactic would be to incentivize overall growth. Lower trade barriers. Lower the costs of doing business. Encourage real growth.
Exactly. Flat taxes are superior in a democratic government for two reasons 1) they must be kept small, and the lower half of society will make sure that they are kept small. 2) the government must foster growth in order to increase revenues.
Secondly, our rhetoric treats people as if they are in permanent classes, yet we tax income which is highly variable. If we are to tax anything progressively, it should not be income, but balance sheets.
Lastly, there is a point at which one’s possession of and use of capital is a distortion of the market (The Silver Debacle, or George Soros’s Abuses). This appears, at least in round numbers, to occur at its lowest, somewhere near 1000 times the median income, and accelerates from there. Above that position, people are no longer participating in the market. They are governing it. (This debate is a bit complicated for a comment on a blog post.)
So, if our taxes are to include those that are progressive, they should be against balance sheets, with the purpose of getting as many people into the capitalist class late in life as possible.
At least, unless you want private capitalist government rather than a market run by market participants for the benefit of market participants. Large capital concentrations in combination with individual knowledge cannot be applied to ‘the market’ as we understand it, and justify it in the classical liberal sense, as a ‘social good’.
People do not seek freedom. They seek the security that is provided by the prosperity of the creative class in a free society. But they do not seek freedom. They seek security.
And the classical liberal fantasy that rhetorical debate can convince a majority to favor freedom over security is simply a conservative utopian fantasy. It will never occur. Ever. Period.
Once an argument is understood — in that it possesses explanatory power, is non-contradictory, and solves a pertinent practical political problem — one can seek consensus. And as long as that consensus appeals to a majority, then a democratic polity can adopt the policies that support the argument.
However, the classical liberal ideal of freedom cannot be supported within a democracy, and no such rational arguments can prevail, for the sole reason that freedom is the desire of the minority – the creative class. And instead, safety is the objective of the majority. And the majority will always pursue safety rather than liberty.
If the freedom-desiring minority loses it’s willingness to use violence to preserve it’s freedom, it will possess neither freedom, nor prosperity. And the rest of the civilization will calcify upon being deprived of the mental fertility of its creative, and therefore, most productive classes.
This is the history of civilization. Fertility followed by calcification, followed by conquest and poverty.
The answer is not violence, nor is the answer argument. The answer is sufficient argument so that the creative classes will apply violence, for the purpose of obtaining and maintaining the political power needed to secure the minority liberty against the predatory majority’s exploitation of the creative class in order to obtain security.
We can be free, or we can be exploited, or we can be oppressed or we can be enslaved, or we can be murdered.
Choose your position on that spectrum. Because your actions in the use of violence will determine it.
Talk is cheap, and demonstrably ineffective.
THERE is a new question posed to our panel in the Economics by Invitation section:
Much of the recent increase in private-sector saving comes from businesses. What explains the rise in corporate thrift? How long will it last, and what policies might reduce it?
As an article in this week’s edition explains, the build-up of cash by the private sector can affect the recovery.
If cautious firms pile up more savings, the prospects for recovery are poor. Economies will be stuck in the current—and odd—configuration where corporate surpluses fund government deficits. If firms loosen their purse-strings to hire workers and to invest, that will allow governments to scale back their borrowing.
Economist Xavier Gabaix believes that the fear of another shock down the road is making firms cautious. Hal Varian thinks that firms are not investing because they see no signs of demand picking up anytime soon.
Firms are not investing because they don’t see much demand for their products now or in the near-term future. And, of course, we end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. One possible strategy would be to offer a temporary investment tax credit or accelerated depreciation allowance.
They are hoarding cash be cause of uncertainty. Regime uncertainty. Economic Uncertainty. Even cultural uncertainty. There are so many layers of uncertainty that businesses don’t even know how to advertise. What products to bring to market. What trends can or might emerge if they help them.
Big businesses are starting to spend BECAUSE they have cash. But recessions and job recovery are led by SMALL BUSINESS and small business cannot get credit. Credit for small business is speculative. It’s all speculative. And small business owners have nothing to borrow against. Nothing. Any hard asset is now questionable in value.
To move the economy, consumers have to show that they’re spending. Companies have to show that they’re taking risks (investing). Any reference to demand is an antiquated method of looking at an economy. There isnt’ a demand problem unless there isn’t an uncertainty problem. Right now there is an uncertainty problem, so there isn’t room for a demand problem.
To eliminate uncertainty, and to create jobs, we have to loan to small business despite their weak balance sheets. That’s the problem. In a nutshell. That’s the problem.
Some of us are trying to figure out how to fund small businesses. But politically,, it seems impossible.
Seattle, WA, United States
I am an independent theorist of Political Economy in the Conservative Libertarian tradition. And as a methodological Propertarian I attempt to complete the work of Rothbard and Hoppe by suggesting post-democratic political solutions for heterogeneous polities.
"De Philosophia Aristocratia"
Anglo Conservatism is the remnant of the European Aristocratic Manorial system and the Classical Liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment, combined with our ancient tribal instincts for group persistence and land-holding. It currently consists as a set of sentiments rather than as an articulated rational philosophy. And without that rational articulation, conservatives lack the ability to create and promote a plan that is a positive and rhetorically defensible alternative to the hazards of accidental bureaucracy and purposeful socialism.
This lack of an articulated philosophy leaves conservatives vulnerable in the public debate with Schumpeterian public intellectuals whose advantage in both volume of production, and simplicity of argument poses a nearly insurmountable challenge.
Libertarianism by contrast, is a rational philosophy of an articulate but permanent minority. It is based upon a solid, rational and critical methodology, even if it is flawed in its initial assumption: the principle of non-violence.
Unfortunately the Rothbardian Anarchist movement has appropriated the term "Libertarian", and left Classical Liberals and Conservatives alienated from the only system of thought with which they need to articulate their political sentiments in rational and empirical rather than moralistic and sentimental form.
By repairing the flaws in Libertarian philosophy we can use its methodology to provide a rhetorical solution for conservatives - a language which in turn may become an articulated philosophical body of argument and advocacy for the frustrated conservative majority.
Kinsella’s Criticism of Locke, and My Explanation of Locke’s Reasonable Mistake, and What To Do About It.
69 days ago
Liberty Isn't Inherent. It's unnatural. We create it with Organized Violence.
73 days ago
Propertarian Definition: REVOLUTION
73 days ago
Giving Rorty Another Try
73 days ago
An Skeleton Argument In Defense Of Rorty From Hoppe
73 days ago
A Propertarian Definition of Ruthless
73 days ago
The Self Deception Of The Enlightenment View Of Man
73 days ago
On Rent Seeking
73 days ago
- Kinsella’s Criticism of Locke, and My Explanation of Locke’s Reasonable Mistake, and What To Do About It.