Iron Man

November 30, 2007 § 1 Comment

Tony Stark, call your lawyers. I think someone is infringing on your patents:

(HT: Flos Carmeli)

There is Hope

November 30, 2007 § 3 Comments

I was planning to say something, but there is really too much to be able to make specific comments as yet. It is amazing how much he can say in such a short space.

On French Youth

November 27, 2007 § 10 Comments

The quotable Lawrence Auster, on the media’s conspicuous and universal avoidance of the accurate term “Islamic” to describe the rioters in France:

[E]ven if the French themselves no longer care, I am still very grateful to Charles Martel for turning back that youth invasion of France in 732. If they had won, they would have forced all the French to become teenagers.

Healthy Distinctions

November 21, 2007 § 3 Comments

I’ve done very little thinking about health care policy. I realize that it is important, but every time I’ve attempted to think about it I’ve just glazed over. It isn’t even that it is intrinsically uninteresting: as a key human concern in the modern world where technology, morality, life and death come together I am hard pressed to think of another subject that objectively ought to be more interesting.

But I haven’t thought about it much.

Nevertheless it is a subject of enough importance that you can’t help but encounter it periodically if you regularly read blogs with political and social content. And it seems to me that there are any number of quite distinct things which are entangled together in discussions about health care.

One thing to realize is that on average insurance is a lousy deal, on purpose, and that is a good thing. Much like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it is designed to be a lousy deal on average. That is pretty much its central point. The risks insurance cover are small in probability, but large in terms of financial (and other) consequences. So when we buy insurance we intentionally pay more than we are statistically likely to pay if we didn’t buy insurance; but we are protected against catastrophic loss. That is pretty much the whole point to it: when we buy insurance we are betting against the house and hoping to lose. And it is worth it.

Another thing to realize is that modern health “insurance” isn’t so much. That is, it isn’t mainly insurance. It is more like a collective bargaining organization for consumers which negotiates pricing with health care providers. The standard pricing at a hospital is in my experience many times – literally several hundreds of percent – higher than the negotiated rates paid by the “insurance” companies and HMO’s. That is pretty much the only reason my family is enrolled in a group plan. In general I could save a lot of money by just paying directly if I could get the same price the “insurance” company gets. When I buy health “insurance” what I am mostly doing is paying a subscription fee for a service which gets me lower prices than I could get on my own if I paid for each use as a one-off. That still leaves the traditional insurance role – protection against major losses – untouched, but it is the primary use I make of health insurance.

A third thing to realize is that health care for the poor, for those who cannot afford it for themselves, is an utterly distinct subject which has virtually nothing to do with insurance (where we pay more than the actuarial expectation of what we will cost on average for coverage of high-consequence low-likelihood events) or with health cooperatives (where we also pay above actual cost but we have the advantage of collective bargaining as consumers). When things have virtually nothing to do with each other it is usually best to keep them distinct; otherwise we are creating a recipe for obfuscation, gerrymandering, and all kinds of political, bureacratic, and financial dishonesty, confusion, and other shenanigans. That doesn’t mean I am against health plans for the poor. But it does mean that if we don’t keep them distinct from insurance and health care subscriptions which are in fact paid for by those who use them we are opening ourselves up to corruption.

Bibliophilia; Or, Your Tax Dollars At Work

November 20, 2007 § 13 Comments

The best things in life are free, and columnist Kevin Jones explains how public libraries are becoming the new taxpayer funded peep shows.

Money quote:

While acknowledging that library rules forbid overt sexual conduct from patrons, the administrator insisted sexual arousal does not violate regulations: “We offer lots of materials that patrons might use to arouse themselves; they range from romance novels to photographic works,” she writes. Even in context, this reads more like a recommendation than anything else.

It all makes sense if you think about it. We aren’t permitted to make moral judgements about the substance of things in the advanced liberal order, especially not when it comes to public services like libraries. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” So as far as the government in the advanced liberal order is concerned content is arbitrary, and public libraries have to cater to the needs of all content consumers equally. Anything else would be unfair, biasing one concept of “the mystery of human life” over another in the use of public funds, and we can’t have that.

If that means you have to watch where you step and send your teenage daughter to the library with a bodyguard, well, that’s just the price of progress.

A Cupp of Wisdom

November 16, 2007 § 4 Comments

To prevent us ostentatious philosophers from abandoning our own body, blood, and humanity, may I suggest that discussions pertaining to philosophy (law included) be engaged in with each participant enjoying a glass of wine, a mug of beer, or a shot of whiskey (I prefer Bushmills). It is to be hoped that good imbibing will remind us of our embodiment as our heads soar into the clouds, and that we are engaged in a discussion with people also enjoying the delights of life, who are each more important than the sum of all theories, systems, disciplines, and philosophical projects.

Jonah Goldberg and the Torture Taboo

November 16, 2007 § 26 Comments

The video is fairly lengthy but may be of interest.

In a nutshell, Goldberg may be coming around to a sane moral position. I don’t follow him enough to know if he believes in exceptionless moral norms or is at bottom a moral relativist; if the latter then “taboo” understood as a positive thing may be as close as his moral philosophy allows him to come to placing something morally off-limits. In any event there is movement in the right direction.

Faster, please.

Noble Lies and the Superman

November 15, 2007 § 27 Comments

With respect to the Zero Group Differences mythology discussed in a post by my colleague Maximos at What’s Wrong with the World, a commenter observes:

Essentially, a “noble lie” (Zero Group Differences) has been constructed to counter an ignoble one (ateleological reductionism), in order to prevent the horrific consequences that would follow from people accepting the latter on its own en masse.

The core of advanced liberal mythology involves a concept of the free and equal superman, emancipated from history and self-created through reason and will. Because this is an utterly inhuman anti-anthropology, though, it implicitly entails the existence of the untermensch, the less-than-human oppressor who through his actions or perhaps his mere existence (think of an unborn child) stands in the way of the full emergence of the free and equal new man. As an impediment to the emancipated equality of the superman, the untermensch is himself not a full member of the human race.

So my understanding of the strength of the “zero group differences” mythology in the face of what has always been massive evidence against is this: that implicitly everyone understands that it is the only thing standing between the advanced liberal superman and the nazi.

(Cross-posted in slightly edited form at What’s Wrong with the World)

I think this means "incomprehensible"

November 14, 2007 § 3 Comments

PC Tyranny: Sticking it to the Little Guy, Again

November 13, 2007 § 10 Comments

Your business is directly impacted by whether the bookkeeper you choose to hire is (for example) homosexual, Baptist, vegan, Korean, female, Catholic, or divorced. Employment law may require you to ignore many of these facts and many other true facts about prospective candidates; but nevertheless these attributes have a direct impact not only on the work environment generally, but directly on the profitability of your business.

Everybody knows this, but it is one of those uncomfortable facts that modern PC culture ruthlessly suppresses. If your photocopying business mainly employs avid hunters, and water cooler conversation is likely as not to be about the best way to dress a deer and what marinades work best when grilling venison steak, then chances are that hiring a vegan bookeeper is inter alia going to impact the business negatively versus hiring a meat eater. The work environment will not be as culturally cohesive; job satisfaction will suffer; the bottom line will be negatively impacted. To think otherwise is willful denial of the obvious.

What everyone may not know is that this suppression creates a significant competitive advantage for large businesses over small businesses. Most of the value in a small business is in the direct profits it produces for the business owners. Distinctive cultural factors – say whether the business is a group of Catholics, or a group of vegans with staples through their eyebrows and green hair, but in either case a group with shared values working toward common goals – drive productivity, and therefore profitability, all other things equal. But as businesses grow larger, a significant part of their value becomes tied up in the liquidity of the business: in how fungible it is, how easily interests in the business can be exchanged for other things. Anyone who manages a portfolio professionally should include liquidity discounts in the numbers used to manage that portfolio: the harder it is to sell an asset and exchange it for a different asset, the less valuable that original asset is.

So larger businesses have a vested interest in more uniform company cultures in general, and in being able to treat employees as fungible cogs in the machine, because a much greater part of their value is tied to liquidity. This is true despite the fact that uniform PC corporatist culture makes employees on an individual basis miserable and less productive as individuals: the fact that employees can be treated as meaningless abstract interchangeable units of productivity makes up for the fact that each dehumanized fungible productivity unit is, because dehumanized, less productive. The fungibility entailed by treating the things important to persons as persons as meaningless makes up for the loss of individual productivity in particular roles. The saleability of your productivity robots on the open market is just as important as their intrinsic productivity in the tasks you’ve assigned them if it is your intention all along to opportunistically trade them for some other fungible productivity machines.

(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong With the World)

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