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Ether Mind

2010 - Welcome to the Future!
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dead Babies

I can't stand people whining about healthcare for the poor and sick and young and helpless.

If there were a moral duty to save lives, then dollar-for-dollar we could save more lives by investing our billions in Africa. It costs $200,000 for a bone marrow transplant to save one American- say 40 years of life. For that much, you could save hundreds of Malaria victims who are currently dying in.. Kenya is it?

Clean water. Condoms. Whatever.

The fact is that for the most part, universal health care advocates don't care if there are children being tied to trees and raped to death in Darfur. They're just terrified of getting sick and dying. Or watching their children waste away and not being able to afford morphine. It's self-interest so intense that they don't mind robbing the small percent of the country that can afford to live forever.

Clean living and exercise are out of the question. Though honestly I don't think most people live egregiously unhealthily. Except for smoking. Occasional binge drinking and daily intake of grease and artificial sugar and preservatives is reasonable. But if you expect me to pay for a 50 year old man's liver transplant when he could pay cash, if he'd just saved decades of beer money...

When I get diabetes from all the ice cream and Dr. Pepper(TM), I still won't support the public option.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Negative Interest Rates

make perfect sense when the currency deflates.

Everyone who pays attention to our Virtual Economy(TM) already knew this. "Real" interest rates would still be positive though, which is why I've never thought about it before. Knew it could happen, just didn't think it made much sense.

It's like saying shortages can persist indefinitely.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Incentives Produce Results

As much as I would love nonviolent political action to succeed in reducing the size of government and increasing human liberty, I fully expect to watch the US spiral into authoritarian stagnation- if I live long enough. All of my grandparents are around 80 and still kicking, so that's a possibility.

Cutting taxes is occasionally possible. Cutting regulation for more than a few hours? I doubt it.

Cutting spending as a share of GDP, which is the most realistic measure of government size, is equally implausible. All the gallantly named TEA Parties and Campaigns for Liberty in the world won't change that by trying to pass bills or elect libertarians, unless

the structure of government is changed. The filibuster, for example, is not legislation, but it slows down the rate of lawmaking, moderates it, and possibly prolongs the life of the Empire.

The direct election of senators, on the other hand, changed the incentive of the senate from representing the interests of state level power (a federalist influence) to representing the interests of mobs of voters (an Imperial influence). And, since the elections are statewide rather than local, Senators are relatively more influenced by larger, more-organized special interest groups than are Representatives. Maybe. Representatives build bridges. Senators hand out industrial tax breaks. That's the idea, but you can probably tell I'm making the facts up as I go along.

Logically, then, the focus for libertarian groups should be changing the incentive structure applied to our public officials.

In a similar vein, overthrowing the public education system should be our #1 legislative priority. It doesn't necessarily ahve to be done via law. If anyone has a hundred billion dollars to spend, it can be done solely on private initiative. The danger is that any mass movement to homeschooling, private schools, virtual classrooms etc. would be met by new laws restricting those things "for the children." Ironically, "socialization" would be one of the main arguments against them. Socialization is one of the avowed goals of public education and no one has a problem with that. Back to the main story...

I'd say that repeal of the direct election of senators (17th amendment) is the single most important structural change we could make. Decentralization would follow logically. I'm not the only one to think of this; there are plenty of fringe groups out there that agree.

I just hate seeing all the wasted effort directed at unattainable policy goals.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Patriot Dies For His Country


The Stack Manifesto.

Ever read the UNA Bomber's manifesto? Quite intelligent and lucid, though I don't see how he makes the logical leap to mailbombing random scientists. I didn't read the last half because Teddy was some sort of eco-anarchist and I don't see how that could be achieved or sustained.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Too bad no one knows what a logarithmic curve is.


The curve is symmetrical. Conclusion? Changing presidents had no impact on the economy.

I met Ron Paul today.

He's kind of weird. Weirder than on youtube.

Ethics vs. Morality

I'm always working on this dichotomy, which is meaningless in most philosophical systems but very important in mine. I was told recently (see previous posts) that Christianity and naturalistic ethics cannot coexist peacefully.

The logical conclusion is that Christians will be persecuted or persecutors until the end of time. The pacifists would stay in the first category, which is preferable according to Seneca.

My opinion is

1) A peaceful society needs an agreed-upon standard of ethics.

2) Personal morality must be stricter than public ethics.

The reason for this second is that a looser morality means that you are being persecuted. Logically, then, public ethics should be as loose and inclusive as possible to avoid rebellion. Even if some Christian sect overthrows the Libertarian regime in the name of morality, and imposes their strict behavioral codes on the rest of the population, there will be unrest until the other factions are dead or converted.

Having a legal system where almost anything goes won't result in a perfect world, but it still allows the individual to conform to a stricter code and to proselytize that code. The greater the acceptance of a strict standard of behavior, the less necessary laws become.

Logically, then, Christians (or any other group that wants everyone to obey certain moral principles) should seek spiritual power by conversion, not temporal power by conquest. This is the old principle of ideological might; when a regime loses ideological power, it falls. Democracy is a way to ensure that the government always follows ideological power, thus reducing the chance of revolution.

A regime, whether democratic or not, gains ideological power by being more lenient and allowing all groups to enjoy the status quo. If we use the U.S. as an example, it worked fairly well in preventing the religious warfare that plagued Europe. Over time, the structure of goverment was an unstable system for whatever reason and has become encrusted with more and more laws. Generally, the relaxation of standards has increased support of the government and the tightening of standards has reduced support.

Example 1: Gay people enjoy getting married more than it irritates everyone else. Legalizing it reduces protests, stupid parades, and the tendency of the queer community to dress and act like freaks. It also recognizes homosexuality as ethically acceptable, which is bad according to many moralists.

The solution is not to ban gay marriage. That would just create unrest without diminishing the amount of sodomy that takes place. The solution is to strengthen the Church, guilt Gays into being celibate or marrying Lesbians, and then reduce the dysfunction of the next generation by providing appropriate gender role models. Alternatively, you can pretend homosexuals don't exist by cancelling your cable TV subscription.

Example 2: Everything else. Smokers are mad, people that hate seatbelts are mad, parents with unruly children are at risk of going to prison for hitting them. The level of discontent in this country is pretty high, and it would be higher if we weren't rich, fat and happy in the material realm.

Anyway, you may prefer a more regulated country, but no matter how authoritarian it is, you'll still be in trouble if it is stricter than your own personal morality. You'll inevitably break the law. Of course, being arrested is a result of making enemies or acting strangely in the presence of the police, not breaking the law, but habitual law-breaking will still put you at risk.

Pragmatic Ethical Systems

continued from previous post..

My foe believes that self-interest is either bad or not good, and thus any ethical system based on self interest is bad.

1) Self-interest is good from the solipsist-materialist perspective

2) Game theory is a mathematical aspect of the natural universe

3) Self-interest can be used as the basis of a pragmatic, naturalistic ethical system

Now, if you oppose self-interest on religious grounds, you will obviously not agree with the pragmatic, naturalistic ethical system.. call it Hobbes' Social Contract, though Von Mises would be more accurate a representative.

However, you can't deny that in the absence of a religion to contradict it, self-interest tells you how to behave in a community, which is the definition of an ethical system.

Since self-interest is relative, the same ethical system applies to everyone, but it has to be stated very precisely. Negative rights such as life, liberty and property could be the basis of such a system, but it would not be a statement that "Murder is wrong and should be punished." It would be the statement, "Anyone who commits murder should be killed to protect me. I'll carry out the execution and take the shoes off his corpse." Or "I should not murder because I'll be executed." Or "I should not kill anyone because it's a waste of time."

"I enjoy killing people, so I'll do it until I get caught." This is rational, to a certain point, though it would be more rational to seek psychiatric help, and rationality ~= good. But practically, the society that results from such reasoning is the same as one in which murder is intrinsically bad. At what point can we draw a line between calling something a sin and merely illegal?

I think it's a fallacy to deny naturalistic ethics because they don't contain good and evil in the same way as Christian morality.

Hume's Guillotine from a Theological Perspective

I've been debating someone on the validity of "natural rights"- that is, intrinsic, inalienable human rights derived from natural principles.

Although the other party hasn't really addressed my reasoning, he (or possibly she) does make a pretty good conservation-of-energy-style argument. This type of argument is one where you don't need to know the details of a perpetual motion machine to know it doesn't work.

Essentially, it's something called Hume's Guillotine: There is no valid way to go from a description of what is to what ought to be.

I disagree. If God created a good universe, which it seems he must have by definition, then what is and what ought to be are the same. The only exception is free will, which lets us depart from what ought to be... but the universe is good and we can therefore determine what is good by studying it. I suppose that not everyone believes in free will. Have fun with that.

If you don't believe in God, then your ethical system has to be based on natural principles anyway.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Economy is Suffering... Let it Die

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Applicant,

You recently completed an application for a store job with Best Buy Co., Inc. and that application has now expired. If you are in an interview process for a different position, please continue with that process.

We would like to thank you for your interest in working with us, and let you know that while we may not have a job for you right now, we do work with other great companies that we can introduce you to.

As great as Best Buy? Because my tech support days could be better applied at Kinko's? If I'm not qualified to work at Best Buy then I'm not qualified to work anywhere. Which I'm not.. the decline in oil prices means there are 5000 O&G engineers with years of XP looking for jobs right now.

Friday, February 05, 2010

This is what's wrong with our economy.


These poor musicians have nothing better to do.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for your interest in the Bulk Loader (23372). After careful review of your background, we have elected to pursue other candidates at this time whose qualifications more closely match our needs for this position.

Although we did not see an exact match with your background for this position, we encourage you to visit our website often to explore other opportunities, keep your internal resume up to date, and set up a "Search Agent" so that the system will notify you of future openings based on your criteria. In the meantime, thank you again for your interest - we wish you the best of luck with your search.


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I'm going to miss Western Civilisation



The battle began when over 100 Mahdi army fighters ambushed two unarmored vehicles transporting around 20 Argylls on the isolated Route Six highway near the southern city of Amarah. Ensconced in trenches along the road, the militiamen fired mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and machine gun rounds. The vehicles stopped and British troops returned fire. The Mahdi barrage caused enough damage to force the troops to exit the vehicles.The soldiers quickly established a defensive perimeter and radioed for reinforcements from the main British base at Amarah – Camp Abu Naji. Reinforcements from the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment assisted the Argyles in an offensive operation against the Mahdi militiamen. When ammunition ran low among the British troops, the decision was made to fix bayonets for a direct assault.

The British soldiers charged across 600 feet of open ground toward enemy trenches. They engaged in intense hand-to-hand fighting with the militiamen. Despite being outnumbered and lacking ammunition, the Argylls and Princess of Wales troops routed the enemy. The British troops killed about 20 militiamen in the bayonet charge and between 28 and 35 overall. Only three British soldiers were injured.This incident marked the first time in 22 years that the British Army used bayonets in action. The previous incident occurred during the Falklands War in 1982.