Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/01/2014 at 05:19 PM in Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Economics, Film, Georg Thomas, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The whole spying issue is a lot more complicated than many people seem to accept.
Yesterday, I participated in a debate featuring as the central speaker the new boss of the German Liberal Party (FDP - Freie Demokratische Partei), Christian Lindner. (European sense of liberal, as opposed to American sense of "liberal = social democratic).
Interestingly, it turns out that the German secret service is heavily dependent on the NSA to do its job - not least because German law makes it difficult or impossible for German information agencies to gather information thankfully available from the NSA.
Spying is one of these issues that are fundamentally problematic, and can never be resolved to the fullest satisfaction. Which is why it is important that we keep an eye on it, and argue - to the best of our abilities - from a position of competence and discernment, rather than emoting and jumping to conclusions that rational reflection and research within our means would prove inappropriate.
The main point I had to make vis-à-vis the results of the discussion: I am far more concerned about, indeed afraid of the arbitrary acts perpetrated by the European Commission against Germans (and other Europeans) than by the potential of arbitrary acts that may be committed by the NSA against my fellow citizens and myself.
That is not to trivialise the spying issue; however as long as an attack on and a perversion of freedom and democracy as large-scale and powerful as the European Union is not even identified as a threat to Europeans, I have a hard time accepting that people are getting their priorities right at all.
Secret services will always give rise to problems of civic adequateness, but they become epidemically dangerous only when people lose interest in the non-totalitarian quality of the political order in which they live.
Try telling someone from the US why we Germans have no problem sitting in a sauna full of naked people but get nervous when the Google camera-car rolls by and takes digital images of our houses. I gave it my best shot, but let's just say this: Our concept of the private sphere is not immediately clear to people abroad.
I've also learned that it is no easy task to clarify to Americans why Germans are more than happy to consign their children to state care when they are just one year old but would go through hell and high water to keep their personal information out of state hands. In most cases, Americans don't like the state nosing into their personal affairs. But, when it comes to internal and external security, they have resigned themselves to the necessity of government meddling.
For some reason, we Germans have taken the exact opposite approach: We delegate things to the state that we could take care of ourselves. But when it comes to issues we can't do alone, we don't trust the state to do them either.
Make sure to read the entire essay, whose author prominently figured in yesterday's debate.
Also pertinent, this interview with a former NSA director.
And here is what Richard Epstein thinks about the matter.
See also my post Snowden and Civil Courage, most notably the comments.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 03/25/2014 at 12:35 PM in American Culture, Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Quite in keeping with his community organising superior knowledge, the president offers advice on how people ought to conduct themselves instead of inflicting stupid problems on themselves.
Here's a rant of a reply from the quarters of the unwashed that I have redacted for the expletives:
The original quote from Rousseau - and more on its story:
Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: "Let them eat brioche."
Posted by Georg Thomas on 03/18/2014 at 01:31 PM in American Culture, Barack Obama, Constitution, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Health Care, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Taking the Constitution seriously is not a trivial exercise. Randy Barnett is one of the best sources for insight and orientation concerning fundamental issues of US law and the constitution.
Apart from the constitutionality of Obamacare, Randy Barnett covers a whole range of interesting issues in the below interview. Of particular note I find his contention toward the end of the video that the abolitionists were the precursors of modern libertarians.
See also The Classical Conception of Natural Law.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 03/02/2014 at 09:49 AM in American Culture, Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Constitution, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Health Care, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Germany’s much ballyhooed Energiewende (transition to renewable energy) was supposed to show the whole world how switching over to green energy sources could reduce CO2 emissions, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, provide cheap electricity to citizens, and heroically rescue the planet.
Ten years later, the very opposite has happened: Germany’s CO2 emissions have been increasing, electricity prices have skyrocketed, the green jobs bubble has popped, and tens of thousands of jobs have disappeared. Worse: tens of billions are being redistributed from the poor to the rich.
Other countries around the world have noticed and are thus having serious second thoughts about industrializing their landscapes with green energy systems like wind, solar and biogas. Germany has proven that green energy does not work well after all.
The methodological core of liberty-averse thinking is rationalism. The hallmark of rationalism is an exaggerated trust in the powers of reason to command and control human affairs.
Rationalism is probably the most popular intellectual attitude in the West - not surprisingly for it is thoroughly intuitive, and indeed useful and appropriate in many applications of everyday life and even in more arcane activities such as engineering or the natural sciences dealing with relatively simple types of order.
Rationalism is rooted in the tradition of anthropomorphic reasoning, which seeks to explain phenomena by analogising them to situations that man is used to and capable of handling successfully.
Instead of ascribing order to a transcendental creator, modern rationalism shifts responsibility for any kind of admissible order to the human mind.
There is an entire array of reasons enticing us to take this stance, which I will not go into here - but first and foremost, rationalism is a view point that is unacquainted with modern methods for comprehending orders of higher complexity. These methods could only be discovered when the evolutionary paradigm emerged, which opened the human mind to the possibility to self-creating order, i.e. the kind of orde that does not depend on personal authorship and synoptic mastery by a single intelligent originator.
The importance of cybernetic order is lost on most people, including, I'm afraid, most liberals.
Politics benefits hugely from our cerebral addiction for rationalistic linear causality. It's a great format to make things look intellectually clear cut, easy to comprehend and amenable to direct human control.
In fact, important strands of liberal thinking rely on rationalistic arguments, which Locke for instance takes over from Aquinas highly rationalistic thoughts on natural law. See Natural Ends and Prudential Judgement. The anarcho-capitalists wallow in the crudest rationalism, and the growing fringe of liberals (European sense) who have a hard time distinguishing themselves from anarchists tend to be of a rationalistic bend, unsurprisingly.
On the more mainstream front of rationalism, Keynesianism e.g. is a great relief for the popular mind (and, of course, politicians), because it divests the dismal science of uncomfortable, counter-intuitive features as epitomised in the invisible hand. The Keynesian mindset teaches us that the economy depends on only a few variables that can be handled by government and comprehended by any but the most obdurate minds.
Similarly, reducing the world climate to one factor - CO2 - is one of the great political feats that has been highly successful for a long time as it neatly panders to our rationalistic addiction.
Liberals make a big mistake in not arguing that theirs is the ecological world view. But even if they understood this all-important point, they are not likely to make much of a difference in a world with an insatiable demand for easy solutions geared to the control freak in us.
The folly of command and control is inextinguishable as it feeds on perhaps the most favourite among the patterns for which the human mind is on the lookout.
I have been arguing along these lines for years, and have never ever made a convert to my position. It is simply astounding how well insulated the rationalistic modern mind is against truly ecological thinking. So much for the age of ecological awareness.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/19/2014 at 12:59 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Education, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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If the greens or those with a green agenda (which most political parties have) were truly interested in ecological issues, they would jump on insights like the below one (explaining how global climate operates as a viable self-creating order) - insights that require a veritably ecological way of thinking, and hence the ability to appreciate that ecological orders cannot be comprehended by ordinary deductive reasoning.
Ecological causality is complex and cyclical - the comfortable idea that an effect is always preceded by a cause does not hold. Complicated, constantly emerging feedback loops create a type of orderly system very different from simple causal mechanisms.
This, however, is beyond the green mind.
Ironically most liberals (European sense of the word) don't get it either. Worst are the anarcho-capitalists, who are given to the most naive rationalism, trying to reduce freedom to first principles, instead of understanding her as an emergent order, an evolutionary product that waxes and wanes with no need of an axiomatic origin to please the vanity of rationalistic control freaks.
Modern green thinking is simplistic, mechanistic, relying on causal relations simple enough to make command-and-control solutions appear credible. Nature is a machine, with the greens at the operating desk. For nature to be in a healthy state, she must obey the schemes that the green planners deem right. The communist penchant for command and control has been transposed by the green movement from the (hoped for but unsustainable socialist) economy to what they call nature (which is suffering at their hands as she did under outright socialism). In both efforts they are bound to fail for the same reason: neither do the greens understand the ecological nature of an economy nor of nature. They just want to be right - so as to be powerful. Intricate stories - as told by the genuine ecologist - are of little help on the march toward power.
If we lived in a truly ecological age (which politically we don't), the below story would be all the rage - and soon people would begin to realise that a free society and a free economy are ecological environments deserving to be respected and protected by us.
Ironically, we seem instead to marshall increasing amounts of societal wealth to uphold and cover-up anti-ecological untruths.
The fact that this has occurred is obvious from the 'basic physics' of the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, which states outgoing radiation from the Earth increases to the fourth power of temperature. This serves as a very strong negative feedback and acts as an automatic thermostat regulating Earth's temperature, relegating 'tipping points' and the 'runaway greenhouse' theory to the dust bin.
This may sound to some like an abstract question of scientific research. It is not. There are many, including the President’s science czar, who would like to make fundamental changes in our way of life — even dictating how many children we can have — in order to combat the threat of “man-made global warming.”
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/13/2014 at 02:56 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Religion, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Matt Ridley has another excellent post, which I like especially for the facts it conveys. However I do disagree with him on two counts:
He writes that people are not "wrong to resent inequality in income or wealth".
Well, they are.
The other passage that I object to is the below one, in which he seems to present the common aversion toward inequality as an unalterable genetic feature:
... surely we always have and always will care more about relative than absolute differences. This is no surprise to evolutionary biologists. The reproductive rewards went not to the peacock with a good enough tail, but to the one with the best tail. A few thousand years ago, the bloke with one more cow than the other bloke got the girl, and it would have cut little ice to try to reassure the loser by pointing out that he had more cows than his grandfather, that they were better cows, or that he had more than enough cows to feed himself anyway. What mattered was that he had fewer cows.
I think he's wrong. The matter is amenable to cultural evolution, i.e. learning and unlearning. No less than slavery, matriarchy, or the habit not to let women acquire a driver's license. Unfortunately people are constantly made to learn that inequality is outrageous. Tell them a different story, and they will come to their senses.
However, the ritual of protesting inequality serves as a lever for the attainment of ulterior political motives. It is one of those problems that don't exist unless politicians create them. And in this manner they create demands of the many over the few which can be easily accommodated and translated into political success/survival (i.e. reelection and more resources for the state in its capacity as a the tool for politicians).
Like global warming and other surrogate problems that are made up to call for more political power and to attract money and other rents, people don't think much about inequality, let alone in an intellectually serious manner; instead they are being told about inequality's scandalous nature over and over and over again, until they have been disarmed intellectually to the point of being convenient parrots.
One of the subliminal functions of the rhetoric of inequality is to keep alive the most fundamental anti-capitalist myth, according to which inequality is a matter of injustice: the rich being rich because they exploit the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact of the matter is: it is impossible to give a principled account of the need for equality, nor does equality serve a desirable economic function.
The call for equality is just a rhetorical slight of hand used to re-baptise under a nice sounding name the good old-fashioned practices of expropriation, discrimination and self-enrichment by special rights. To achieve equality one needs to practice glaring inequality - in the name of those who happen to be stronger than their victims.
The demand for equality is the robbers' new excuse for their age-old business. Equality is the motto of the greedy.
Find Matt Ridley's article at the source.
See also my Inequality and Justice.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/12/2014 at 07:50 AM in Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Constitution, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Make sure to read more on complex adaptive systems at the source of the above image.
As for this little chap, I couldn't agree more:
The global warming hype is a prime example of how bad politics is necessarily anti-ecological, and so is politicised science.
Ecological systems are complex, their intricate manner of functioning does not lend itself to sensational story telling with mass impact. Hence, demagogic politics will almost certainly reduce genuinely ecological issues to simple, improperly mechanistic formulae. Our social democratic age - based on a denial of the ecological nature of modern human civilization - is of a distinctly unecological spirit.
Having discovered "the visible hand", i.e. self-generating order, the philosophy of freedom is asking us to treat human society as an ecological order. Inconveniently, however, orders of the self-generatig kind are counter-intuitive, hard to understand and hard to "sell". This is the root cause why liberty is generally rather unpopular, often laughed at or even despised. People like simple stories. People like to think about society, the economy, in fact, everything the way they think about most matters that concern them in their daily lives: that is, they expect simple causal relations easily mapped by ordinary deductive reasoning.
Thus, the greens - communists who've forgotten their origins - will tell the ordinary propaganda consumer that CO2 emissions, temperatures, and industrialisation have increased in tandem, insinuating a simple story line: capitalism creates catastrophic warming.
By contrast, consider some of the key facts that strip the thesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming of its credibility:
CO2 is following global temperatures, now and consistently since several hundred of thousand years.
96% of CO2 emissions are of non anthropogenic origin (volcanoes, animals, rotting vegetation, and especially oceans). Why should the tiny contingent of CO2 generated by humans be the culprit?
Most of the warming occurred well before industrial emissions began to skyrocket in the 1940s, after which temperatures, in fact, fell for 4 consecutive decades, starting to climb again only when global recession set in in the 1970s.
Most CO2 emissions are registered in areas without human populations or industrial activities - especially the oceans.
In the past, world climate has been much hotter with substantially more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. These much higher levels have elicited no catastrophic results - polar bears had a good time as well as the vikings who at the time had good grounds to call a certain land mass Greenland.
We still live in an ice age that has been in decline, i.e. warming, since the 1800s. The present warming trend is part of a perfectly normal climate cycle.
Only 1% of all species live in the Arctic zones - creatures thrive under warmer conditions.
Higher temperatures and more CO2 are beneficial to life on earth, not only to human life.
Science changed dramatically in the 1970s, when the reward structure in the profession began to revolve around the acquisition of massive amounts of taxpayer funding that was external to the normal budgets of the universities and federal laboratories. In climate science, this meant portraying the issue in dire terms, often in alliance with environmental advocacy organizations. Predictably, scientists (and their institutions) became addicted to the wealth, fame, and travel in the front of the airplane (quoting Garth Paltridge, one of the world’s most respected atmospheric scientists):
“A new and rewarding research lifestyle emerged which involved the giving of advice to all types and levels of government, the broadcasting of unchallengeable opinion to the general public, and easy justification for attendance at international conferences—this last in some luxury by normal scientific experience, and at a frequency previously unheard of.”
Every incentive reinforced this behavior, as the self-selected community of climate boffins now began to speak for both science and in the service of drastic regulatory policies.
The view from the White House:
Broadening the picture:
Pouring it down the rat hole:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/07/2014 at 01:09 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Film, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Laura Ebke, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Beforehand, a brief and rather entertaining introduction to the broader issue:
Climate scientist Dr. Murry Salby [not the gentleman in the above video], Professor and Climate Chair at Macquarie University, Australia explains in a recent, highly-recommended lecture presented at Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, Germany, why man-made CO2 is not the driver of atmospheric CO2 or climate change. Dr. Salby demonstrates:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/05/2014 at 03:28 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Education, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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You can't fool all the people all the time.
In "Intellectuals and Society" Thomas Sowell quotes T.S. Eliot:
Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
(p.184, Intellectuals and Society, 2011, Basic Books)
Sowell comments - rather charitably:
In many ways, on a whole range of issues, the revealed preference of intellectuals is to gain moral authority -- or, vicariously, political power -- or both, over the rest of society. The desires or interests of the ostensible beneficiaries of that authority or power -- whether the poor, minorities, or criminals in prison -- are seldom allowed to outweigh the more fundamental issue of gaining and maintaining the moral hegemony of the anointed.
Consult the first two of the below links to see if I am right in saying: Richard Epstein, the gentlemen, and the lady interviewed in the above video clip share essentially the same assessment of Obama:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 01/31/2014 at 04:03 PM in American Culture, Barack Obama, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
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