Friday, February 17, 2012

Stereotypes and Interpersonal Utility Comparisons: This is economics?

One of my criticisms of Paul Krugman is that he really has abandoned economics while claiming that he is analyzing things from an economic point of view, and he does it again in his latest NYT column. First, he engages in crude stereotypes (which is typical of the NYT writers in general), and second, he then uses what one learns on the first day in graduate microeconomics: one cannot legitimately use interpersonal utility comparisons.

A prominent economist told me once that he worked with Krugman at a previous employer before, he added, that Krugman "went insane," and at one time the man did real economic analysis. Unfortunately, once he found that he could make a lot more money being a political operative, Krugman abandoned the fundamentals of economics such as the Law of Scarcity and the Law of Opportunity Cost and decided to push the view that governments via the printing press can do magic things and create wealth from green paper.

In the recent column, he makes the observation that long ago appeared on Lew Rockwell's blog, that many of the "Red States" actually receive more government income transfers than do many of the "Blue States." (Anthony Gregory had this excellent piece in 2010.) Krugman writes:
Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend, that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn’t Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don’t eat Thai food and don’t rely on handouts?

The article made its case with maps showing the distribution of dependency, but you get the same story from a more formal comparison. Aaron Carroll of Indiana University tells us that in 2010, residents of the 10 states Gallup ranks as “most conservative” received 21.2 percent of their income in government transfers, while the number for the 10 most liberal states was only 17.1 percent.
Thus, this hardly is news for libertarians even if Krugman wants us to believe that he has made a new discovery. Unfortunately, in trying to explain it, he engages in the kind of stereotyping that he would condemn in other people.

(Having gone to high school with two prominent NYT people, I can tell you that if they are typical of what inhabits the Times building, these are people who operate on the most superficial of levels, depending upon templates for opinions all the while looking down on the Great Unwashed around them. Yes, that is a stereotype, but the NYT editorial page is full of such snobbishness.)

First, Krugman blames those evil Christians:
...there is Thomas Frank’s thesis in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”: working-class Americans are induced to vote against their own interests by the G.O.P.’s exploitation of social issues. And it’s true that, for example, Americans who regularly attend church are much more likely to vote Republican, at any given level of income, than those who don’t.
Of course, I had no idea that Democrats ever avoided "social issues" in their politics. Being that I am employed at a university where nearly all faculty members are liberal Democrats, I find it a bit ironic that people who are obsessed with all aspects of politicizing and codifying the Sexual Revolution would accuse others of having a fetish with "social issues."

Then it gets even more interesting:
Still, as Columbia University’s Andrew Gelman points out, the really striking red-blue voting divide is among the affluent: High-income residents of red states are overwhelmingly Republican; high-income residents of blue states only mildly more Republican than their poorer neighbors. Like Mr. Frank, Mr. Gelman invokes social issues, but in the opposite direction. Affluent voters in the Northeast tend to be social liberals who would benefit from tax cuts but are repelled by things like the G.O.P.’s war on contraception.
Krugman, you see, believes that income levels just happen and offers no insight at all as to the difference between the wealth of places like Texas and the blue-blood wealth of the Northeast. To him, income apparently is just income.

When I was doing research for a paper that I later had published in Public Choice, I studied different income and ethnic groups in all of the congressional districts in the USA. (I spent about eight hours a day for a month hand-loading data into a spreadsheet, which was time-consuming but ultimately enlightening about the voting patterns of people in these groups.)

I found that a lot of people in the wealthy suburbs of cities like Dallas and Houston voted Republican, while people in the wealthy suburbs of northeastern cities tended to support Democrats. However, it was not the income levels that were intriguing, but rather the fact that this was the classic confrontation of "old money" versus "new money." The northeastern wealth tends to consist of the "old money" of bygone eras, and the "trust fund" babies, while as wealthy as the business executives in Dallas, vote heavily Democratic.

Having gone to school with "trust fund" babies, I can see the difference quite clearly between the two groups. The "trust fund" liberals were much more likely to drink heavily and have an aversion to work altogether. They also tended to look down on people from the middle class, regarding them as suckers and idiots.

The "new money" wealthy in the southern states, however, tend to be people who had begun life either being poor or middle class and who earned their wealth through their jobs. They were more likely to go to church (and when they did, they were more likely to be Baptists than Episcopalians), and they were much more likely to have come out of a public school setting than were the "trust fund" blue bloods, who went to exclusive private schools.

The other high-income people likely to vote Democratic are secular Jews, and many of them have been dominant in industries like the mass media or on Wall Street. They are likely to be strong supporters of abortion rights and gay rights, and it is understandable why they would find a home with the Democrats.

"Old money" Democrats also are the ones who are more likely to fill the ranks of environmentalists and other groups that wish to use the state to remake society in their own image. As William Tucker once wrote, these are people who have a wonderful vision for others, but don't plan to be part of the Brave New World they are creating for those people they consider to be their inferiors.

Interestingly, a lot of entrepreneurs on the West Coast are more liberal in their social values, and are likely to support Democrats. Google is a prime example, as the vast majority of its political contributions go to Democrats. From what I can see, they support Democrats not so much because they believe in the Welfare State, but rather because they tend to be much more comfortable with the Sexual Revolution than most conservative Republicans.

As for interpersonal utility comparisons, Krugman gives us this gem:
Modern Republicans are very, very conservative; you might even (if you were Mitt Romney) say, severely conservative. Political scientists who use Congressional votes to measure such things find that the current G.O.P. majority is the most conservative since 1879, which is as far back as their estimates go.
How anyone can compare political attitudes today with those of more than a century ago, or to say that people are more "conservative" than they were in 1879 just makes no sense at all. People in 1879 would not have put up with the police state that exists today and certainly would not support how governments today confiscate much greater percentages of wealth than they did back then.

For example, New Yorkers for years resisted having police issued firearms because they feared police would act like an "occupying army," yet today we see conservatives tending to support the police state. (For that matter, Krugman also supports police state measures in his unwavering support of the TSA and other entities, along with his belief that governments should be free to know everything about our personal finances.)

As I see things, it is impossible to compare voters today with voters of yesterday, as today's "conservatives" would support governmental actions that even hardline statists of 1879 would have rejected. Krugman is comparing apples and oranges at best and giving political babble at worst.

Now to agree on something with Krugman. He writes:
The message I take from all this is that pundits who describe America as a fundamentally conservative country are wrong. Yes, voters sent some severe conservatives to Washington. But those voters would be both shocked and angry if such politicians actually imposed their small-government agenda.
That is correct as far as it goes, but Krugman also forgets that Ron Paul, who is the only candidate with a true "small-government agenda," also is most feared by the Republican hierarchy. Contra Krugman, most Republicans hardly fit into a "small-government agenda" category.

53 comments:

morse79 said...

This is really the worst of Prof. Anderson, and more evidence of the blatant use of straw men that myself, JG, LK, and Zachriel have pointed out.

First, the interesting claim that because Krugman is using stereotypes so you can use them too? How does that work? Makes perfect sense...

Second, why start a discussion of the op-ed with a whole rant about how "Krugman has gone insane?" What does that have to do with the content?

Third - about that content, did you actually read it? Where does Krugman engage in stereotyping red-state voters? He is actually citing the research of three prominent intellectuals. How is that stereotyping?

Fourth - You are blatantly stereotyping and racist in this post. I particularly liked this gem,

"Having gone to school with "trust fund" babies, I can see the difference quite clearly between the two groups. The "trust fund" liberals were much more likely to drink heavily and have an aversion to work altogether. They also tended to look down on people from the middle class, regarding them as suckers and idiots."

Now that IS STEREOTYPING and is merely anecdotal evidence to help you correlate wealth with voting behavior. I mean really, this passes as analysis? Trust fund kids drink more? Disgusting.

There is also this,

"The other high-income people likely to vote Democratic are secular Jews, and many of them have been dominant in industries like the mass media or on Wall Street."

That is insulting to me as a Jew and is just not true. Heard of Ted Turner? Rupert Murdoch? Disgusting.

Fifth - what about the third citation Krugman noted and his actual conclusion regarding the conservatism of the United States? Again, it was not stereotyping but an argument backed by actual research that a large portion of red-state voters do not even realize how they use government.

Sixth - I liked this claim too,

"People in 1879 would not have put up with the police state that exists today."

Besides the fact that we actually have methods to compare political attitudes across generations (you have not addressed that but merely assumed it is impossible), it is strange that you are talking about a United States emerging from the ruins of the civil war and the imposition of the first national income tax! So northern states invading southern states is less of a "police" state?

Seventh - you claim that

"Krugman also supports police state measures in his unwavering support of the TSA."

WHERE ON EARTH DID YOU FIND THAT?!

This post is just so terrible it reveals all of the deficiencies of Prof. Anderson - his underlying racism, radical views of the state, revisionism of US history, and analytic shallowness.

William L. Anderson said...

Since you have called me a racist, I will be deleting anything you post. Sorry, but you crossed the line.

By the way, I adopted two black and one Hispanic child. Are you saying that I hate my children? Also, I will end the anonymous posting.

Krugman a couple years ago decried any criticism of the TSA. He claimed that it was self-evident that the government needed to have the TSA in order to keep us "safe."

William L. Anderson said...

From now on, I will be moderating comments. I don't mind disagreements, but the Morse79 attacks are over the line.

William L. Anderson said...

Morse just put in another comment in which he called me a racist and anti-Semite. I have deleted it.

Anonymous said...

But Krugman hasn't made an interpersonal utility comparison, he's simply made an extremely questionable intertemporal comparison of political attitudes.

jsgoodfella said...

LOL, Krugman clearly supports the TSA in this post:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/terrorism-priorities/

I am glad Anderson will start moderating comments.

Major_Freedom said...

morse79:

"This is really the worst of Prof. Anderson, and more evidence of the blatant use of straw men that myself, JG, LK, and Zachriel have pointed out."

You, JG, LK, and Zachriel have not pointed out any straw men. You're all just circle jerking to each other like fanboys and repeating the same tired story.

"First, the interesting claim that because Krugman is using stereotypes so you can use them too? How does that work? Makes perfect sense..."

Anderson wasn't making stereotypes, he was pointing out a statistical fact. Saying things like "Violent criminals are committed more often by blacks than by whites and asians in the US" is not a stereotype, it is a statistical claim. It is not inferring from race.

"Second, why start a discussion of the op-ed with a whole rant about how "Krugman has gone insane?"

It wasn't a rant, it was relaying something something a prominent economist told him once.

"What does that have to do with the content?"

Krugman's content is explained in part by Krugman's psychology.

"Third - about that content, did you actually read it?"

No, of course he didn't, he just quoted it and responded to it.

"Where does Krugman engage in stereotyping red-state voters?"

Anderson quoted it. Thai food and not relying on handouts is stereotyping.

Major_Freedom said...

morse79:


"He is actually citing the research of three prominent intellectuals. How is that stereotyping?"

He didn't just cite that research.

"Fourth - You are blatantly stereotyping and racist in this post. I particularly liked this gem,"

"Having gone to school with "trust fund" babies, I can see the difference quite clearly between the two groups. The "trust fund" liberals were much more likely to drink heavily and have an aversion to work altogether. They also tended to look down on people from the middle class, regarding them as suckers and idiots."

How is that racist? How is that stereotyping? Again Anderson was only making a statistical observation.

"Now that IS STEREOTYPING and is merely anecdotal evidence to help you correlate wealth with voting behavior."

How is that stereotyping?

"I mean really, this passes as analysis? Trust fund kids drink more? Disgusting."

LOL, what is this soapbox nonsense?

How is making that observation "disgusting"?

"There is also this,"

Wait, where was the racism you accused Anderson of being?

"The other high-income people likely to vote Democratic are secular Jews, and many of them have been dominant in industries like the mass media or on Wall Street."

"That is insulting to me as a Jew and is just not true."

That's racist. You are clearly implying that your thoughts on feeling offended has something to do with your race.

You're insulted "as a Jew" means that Jews feel insulted in a way that other races do not. That is racist.

What is racist about pointing out the claim that secular Jews are statistically more likely to vote Democratic, and that they are statistically dominant in the mass media and Wall Street?

Major_Freedom said...

morse79:


"Heard of Ted Turner? Rupert Murdoch?"

Did Anderson say 100%? No. Single examples do not disprove "statistically more likely." They are in fact necessary to the argument.

"Disgusting."

LOL, oh yeah, you're sooooo offended. Please. You're just trying to elevate your being offended to the status of legitimate argumentation. You're fake and you're ignorant.

"Fifth - what about the third citation Krugman noted and his actual conclusion regarding the conservatism of the United States? Again, it was not stereotyping but an argument backed by actual research that a large portion of red-state voters do not even realize how they use government."

What about the stereotyping you're ignoring?

"Sixth - I liked this claim too,"

"People in 1879 would not have put up with the police state that exists today."

"Besides the fact that we actually have methods to compare political attitudes across generations (you have not addressed that but merely assumed it is impossible), it is strange that you are talking about a United States emerging from the ruins of the civil war and the imposition of the first national income tax!"

Anderson said police state, not income tax.

"So northern states invading southern states is less of a "police" state?"

Did he argue that?

"Seventh - you claim that"

"Krugman also supports police state measures in his unwavering support of the TSA."

"WHERE ON EARTH DID YOU FIND THAT?!"

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/terrorism-priorities/

"This post is just so terrible it reveals all of the deficiencies of Prof. Anderson - his underlying racism, radical views of the state, revisionism of US history, and analytic shallowness."

Your response was terrible. You haven't shown how it is racist.

Of course Anderson has "radical views" of the state. So do you. You are radical from a libertarians perspective. You have the radical notion that initiating violence is moral.

Major_Freedom said...

From now on, I will be moderating comments. I don't mind disagreements, but the Morse79 attacks are over the line.

I knew it would come to this. Statists like morse79 can only ever come to terms with others by increasing the extent of their aggressiveness. Their arguments don't work, so they continue to increase the level of antagonism until they stop arguing, and begin personally attacking.

William L. Anderson said...

Thanks for finding that link on Krugman and the TSA. Notice that he equates government control with security as if one equals the other.

Bala said...

"But Krugman hasn't made an interpersonal utility comparison, he's simply made an extremely questionable intertemporal comparison of political attitudes."

False. It can be purely intertemporal ONLY IF the same individuals are being discussed. If the individuals are different, it IS interpersonal comparison.

Tel said...

I've been unable find anywhere that Krugman actually comes out in support of the TSA. I did find one place that he stands in opposition of the "Patriot Act" but only when George W Bush was president, seems to have gone all silent about the renewal of the "Patriot Act" under Obama.

I read MF's "terrorism-priorities" link but to me that does not represent strong support for the TSA. It's more of a Krugman knee-jerk support for public sector unionism and he happens to see a bit of political mileage in clanking a few "terrorism" chains. Substitute some random different government department he would also be pushing for unions.

At any rate, Krugman has been careful not to say anything against the TSA. Presumably Krugman knows the right time and place to keep his mouth shut, demonstrating he ain't as silly as his articles would have you believe.

If you take a look at this one, he mildly defends the TSA over a blunder...

http://www.pkarchive.org/economy/ThisWeek122709.html

Then again, using Zachriel's standards, if you don't start an armed insurrection against a particular policy, that's equivalent to "consent". By this (somewhat offbeat) standard, Krugman has absolutely consented to the TSA, and the Patriot Act.

"Notice that he equates government control with security as if one equals the other."

Yeah well Krugman wouldn't exactly stand alone on that score. I doubt he really believes it, but he knows he can stir his audience easily enough. I must say though, the comments on Krugman's articles do show flashes of insight much more often than the articles do, certainly that's true on the "terrorism-priorities" article.

Tel said...

With regards to the stereotyping, it's fair to say that ALL economics (particularly macroeconomics) involves some level of stereotyping. After all, no one has successfully summarized a human being onto a sheet of paper. By necessity you are working with some idealized approximation of a human being.

What makes the difference between a crude and shallow stereotype and a genuine insight into human nature is very much a matter of opinion. Just look at the facts and make your own judgement, there's nothing better to do.

Let me point out that political researchers do this sort of breakdown all the time... and they keep getting hired so someone out there think that it works to win elections.

macroman said...

I assume moderation will mean that 60% of what Bala writes, which is mere abuse, will be deleted. Good idea.

macroman said...

Can someone bother to defend the idea that the TSA is the police state, or is that meant to be self-evident. Rather an emotional comparison isn't it?

William L. Anderson said...

If macroman wishes to support the TSA, that is his privilege. As for the TSA being part of a police state, with the agency invading bus stations and with its Operation VIPR, I would say that we are seeing police state tactics.

Furthermore, as federal agents, you have to obey them completely, since the maximum penalty for "interfering with the duties of a federal officer" is 20 years in prison. The feds themselves get to interpret what "interfering" and "duties" mean.

With the proliferation of no-knock raids and beatings of innocent citizens by the police, I would say that we now are in a police state. If a police officer can arrest you for nothing -- and that is the case now, especially with the expansion of federal criminal law -- then I would say that is a police state.

Macroman, like a lot of leftists, now supports this stuff. I remember hearing the noise from the left about Bush, but now that the Democrats control the federal police apparatus, it is just fine.

So much for caring about "civil liberties."

Bala said...

"I assume moderation will mean that 60% of what Bala writes, which is mere abuse, will be deleted. Good idea."

Good to see that you are scared of what I write. Care to refute the arguments? I guess not for all you can ever come up with, like your lord and master before you, are strawmen and anti-concepts.

Anonymous said...

What is the libertarian alternative to the TSA?

Eric said...

On the issue of whether Prof. Anderson is being racist. There were two passages Morse79 took issue with:

1. Having gone to school with "trust fund" babies, I can see the difference quite clearly between the two groups. The "trust fund" liberals were much more likely to drink heavily and have an aversion to work altogether. They also tended to look down on people from the middle class, regarding them as suckers and idiots.

This is is Profesor Anderson making a broad generalization about a group of people based on a personal anecdote and supported by a vague statistic, which I would argue is an example of stereotyping. However, the group in question is a class rather than a race, so its not racist comment.

This would be similar to me saying something like "Research has shown most libertarians are single white males. I've talked to some libertarians, and I've found they tend to be very sheltered and lack empathy, so I can see why they have trouble maintaining relationships." This is very similar to Professor Anderson's post, I've stated a vague statistic that supports my point, then used a personal anecdote to slant interpretation of the statistic in the direction of the stereotype I want to support.

2. The other high-income people likely to vote Democratic are secular Jews, and many of them have been dominant in industries like the mass media or on Wall Street. They are likely to be strong supporters of abortion rights and gay rights, and it is understandable why they would find a home with the Democrats.

After thinking this one over, I don't think this is racist. It is true that Jews are disproportionately represented in the entertainment and banking industry, and that they tend to be socially progressive. The reason this set off Morse's radar is because many conservative commentators who mention the disproportionate representation of Jews in entertainment and banking do so as part of a more general diatribe against Jews, and a wish that they were not a part of these industries, or in the country at all. However, you can't really say Professor Anderson is expressing that sentiment based on what he wrote here.

Anonymous said...

"False. It can be purely intertemporal ONLY IF the same individuals are being discussed. If the individuals are different, it IS interpersonal comparison."

But that still doesn't make it an interpersonal utility comparison. There is no measure of utility, no way of quantifying it cardinally, which is why any interpersonal or intertemporal comparison of utility is impossible. But this kind of argument does not apply to philosophies and political beliefs, which are subject to explicit definition and detailed expatiation and can be objectively compared and contrasted.

I think one of the real problems with political discussion was pointed out by Mises as follows:

The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is “left” and what is “right”? Why should Hitler be “right” and Stalin, his temporary friend, be “left”?* Who is “reactionary” and who is “pro­gressive”? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. “Ortho­doxy” is not an evil if the doctrine on which the “orthodox” stand is sound. Who is anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is “nationalist,” those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its indepen­dence?

What would have happened to Western civilization if its peoples had always shown such liking for the “new”? Suppose they had wel­comed as “the wave of the future” Attila and his Huns, the creed of Mohammed, or the Tartars? They, too, were totalitarian and had mili­tary successes to their credit which made the weak hesitate and ready to capitulate. What mankind needs today is liberation from the rule of nonsensical slogans and a return to sound reasoning.

William L. Anderson said...

Someone who was unemployed sent me a great email, and I wrote a reply. However, I accidentally hit the trash button instead of send and then it disappeared when I went to the trash inbox.

So, whoever wrote, my apologies!

William L. Anderson said...

Why is the TSA necessary at all? The 9/11 attacks were not caused by malfeasance of the security agents at the airport, since box cutters were legal to take on planes.

Instead, we empowered the very agencies that failed to comprehend the attacks, even when the evidence was right in front of them. So now we get porno scanners and sexual assaults and claim they are necessary to keep the public safe. Right.

macroman said...

It seems particularly apt to continue the quote from Karl Popper on the obsession with Aristotelian definitions (finding the "essence" of a word)

"and that the degree to which the various sciences have been able to make any progress depended on the degree to which they have been able to get rid of this essentialist method. (This is why so much of our 'social science' still belongs to the Middle Ages.)"

It almost sounds like Popper had been reading this page.

macroman said...

Anderson, If the TSA agents are not answerable to the courts I will agree that that is a step in the wrong direction, a step towards the "police state". But is that the case? I don't know.

What I find odd is the exaggeration that is rife here - everything that deviates from what von Mises wanted (i.e. everything in the real world) is the "police state", everyone who thinks there should be any government at all is a "Statist" (whatever that is, I assume this term is meant to be insulting) who is in favor of armed robbery, and rape, and is blood thirsty. Sledge hammers and nuts come to mind, black and white thinking comes to mind.

macroman said...

Anderson: Why is the TSA necessary at all? The 9/11 attacks were not caused by malfeasance of the security agents at the airport, since box cutters were legal to take on planes.

I don't get it. It looks like you are saying the problem is not the security agents, but the law "box cutters were not illegal".

How does this make the TSA unnecessary? Are you saying a law against box-cutters by itself would be enough? My guess is that whether or not box cutters were illegal now, if there were no security checks now, then a repeat of 9/11 would be rather easy and happen fairly soon.

I have suddenly thought what you might mean. Is it possible you think if private citizens were allowed to take guns onto planes (would the guns have to fit in the overhead lockers?) then hijackings would never happen?

Or perhaps you mean every airline should have its own security checks? You argument I quoted says nothing about that.

ekeyra said...

"What is the libertarian alternative to the TSA?"

Are you serious?

And am I the only one who wants to see the morse outtakes prof anderson moderated? I think it would be worth it for the lulz. The man traveled to latvia to adopt a child and he called him racist, how dumb can he be?

macroman said...

Anderson, I find it a little bit offensive that as soon as I ask you to state your arguments against the TSA (I want to hear them, to see if I agree with them or not) that you jump to conclusions about everything I think and support "like all leftists".

For the record I don't think the TSA is above criticism. You claimed Krugman thinks that without offering any evidence. You expressed thanks that someone found where Krugman had said something about the TSA, which suggests you had no evidence of your own. And this belated evidence did not show Krugman saying the TSA was above criticism.

Bala said...

strawman,

Here's why I think Popper was way off base.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/definitions.html

In simple terms, Popper makes no sense and is just a tool in the longer process of the disintegration of knowledge. Popper's method eventually makes knowledge impossible for man. Thanks for showing me why I was right to reject Popper at a very early stage. His approach to "definitions" is very illuminating.

macroman said...

When probably the most influential Philosopher of the 20th century says something that challenges you, something that sounds like it can’t be right, the proper course is to wonder how could he say that, what does he mean, have I understood him? This is not an argument from authority; it is a suggestion that his fame means only that you will probably not be wasting your time if you read and understand him before rejecting his arguments.

I was once a Rand fan-boy (and had bored myself rigid reading her stuff on epistemology and definitions, out of a misguided sense of duty). So when I saw Popper challenging what every wanna be philosopher says i.e. “we must define out terms rigourlessly” I was puzzled. But I then actually read what Popper had to say.

Unlike Rand, Popper he didn’t make just make pronouncements; he argued and showed why the common view is wrong and impractical and is not what is in fact done in the physical science (which definitely does not get bogged down in interminable quibbles about definitions).

You would think that Ayn Rand fans might want to read works with the following titles (the first six from Google scholar) just to see what a 20th century philosopher had to say about topics that interested Rand and Mises.

1 The logic of scientific discovery
2 Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge
3 Objective knowledge
4 The Poverty of Historicism
5 The self and its brain
6 Realism and the Aim of Science

(And Popper happens to hail from Vienna at the same time as Hayek, similar intellectual background, and Hayek brought him to London after the war).

Be warned, though, Popper challenges not just common ideas of epistemology. Under the influence of Hayek I thought Popper’s essay “Piecemeal social engineering” must be wrong. I have changed my mind about that.

Bala said...

strawman,

Believe me when I say this, but I just stared reading the first of the readings you suggested - "The logic of scientific discovery" - went through just the Index and the first 2-3 pages and I am already splitting my sides laughing. You mean the guy wrote nearly 500 pages without first defining what knowledge is? Amazing that you fell for this. I'll still read it all just the know it.

In any case, what's knowledge?

Major_Freedom said...

macroman:

Anyone who thinks Popper's epistemology is correct, ought to consider and answer Hoppe's criticisms.

macroman said...

Anderson concerning your arguments about the TSA:
“As for the TSA being part of a police state, with the agency invading bus stations and with its Operation VIPR, I would say that we are seeing police state tactics.”
Perhaps the TSA is over-reacting, but they and you and I can imagine the uproar from the public if a bus or a big-rig truck were to be involved in a terrorist attack. I do think the DEA is probably a silly idea, and if they are getting involved in operation VIPR I agree the situation requires close watching.

“Furthermore, as federal agents, you have to obey them completely, since the maximum penalty for "interfering with the duties of a federal officer" is 20 years in prison. The feds themselves get to interpret what "interfering" and "duties" mean.”
If you can show me that no Court or board of review has any say in what constitutes “interfering with the duties of a TSA officer”, I will concede the TSA is very like “the police state”. Courts determine sentences, and the usual thing is that the maximum sentence is applied in extreme cases, where perhaps even you would agree the citizen has gone too far.

“With the proliferation of no-knock raids and beatings of innocent citizens by the police, I would say that we now are in a police state. If a police officer can arrest you for nothing -- and that is the case now, especially with the expansion of federal criminal law -- then I would say that is a police state.”
Here you seem to have switched from the TSA to ordinary police officers or possibly the FBI. Can you give an example of a new federal law allowing one to be arrested for nothing? Can you provide any evidence that the police officer or FBI officer is not subject to review, by such things as bureaus of internal affairs, and to external review by Courts?

“Macroman, like a lot of leftists, now supports this stuff.”
Depends what you mean by “this stuff”. I do not support your extreme cases, i.e. I do not support police beatings of innocent citizens but until I see some evidence I think you may have imagined or exaggerated many of these extreme cases.

macroman said...

Anderson, have you asked your airline if they will allow you to travel without going through the "police state" security checking procedure? There may be nothing specific in the ticket contract but there is usually a requirement to check in a certain time before departure, that time being based on the time required to go thru the TSA procedures. I haven't heard of any demand by Airlines that they take over the security procedures for themselves.

I can imagine that over time, everyone will become complacent about security on airlines and start demanding less checking, until the next catastrophe happens. Come to think of it, sounds very much like the Minsky or perhaps animals spirits theory of boom and bust (see Glass-Steagall Act, partial repeal, Gramm-Leach Bliley Act).

William L. Anderson said...

I find it interesting to see that those on the left now support things like the TSA and its police-state tactics. Four years ago I attended a conference on civil liberties with a number of prominent Democrats being the speakers.

Today, almost all of those voices (with the exception of Glenn Greenwald, who also takes on the TSA) are silent now that Obama has control of the administrative mechanism.

As for terrorist attacks, let us not forget that every one of the so-called plots since 9-11 has been concocted by the FBI, including the "underwear bomber" who was escorted onto the plane in clearly was another "false flag" incident. One of the passengers on the flight started a blog and I have his statement to the court:

http://haskellfamily.blogspot.com/2012/02/victim-impact-statement.html

When elderly women are forced to strip and show colostomy bags and when agents refuse to show any respect at all to handicapped flyers, and when the TSA maintains a secret "no fly" list which is riddled with errors, but also is used as a political weapon, then, yes, I would say that the TSA is part of a police state.

This is a country in which nearly every jurisdiction has a SWAT team with military equipment, where no-knock raids for the tiniest of things (not paying student loans) are common. Furthermore, police are free to kill innocents (while people on the right and left find ways to justify the killings) and engage in all sorts of lawbreaking.

Yes, this is a police state. However, it is impossible to get many on the left to complain because their man is in the White House. But, then, generations before us, the left justified Stalin's murders by claiming that "to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs." And so it goes.

William L. Anderson said...

Notice what macroman is saying: If I criticize the TSA for police state tactics, then I actually am against ALL airline security. That is not a logical construction, but that is what he is saying.

Frederic Bastiat in 1849 said that socialists were like that. If one criticized the government's role in education or other activities, then the socialists claimed that one was against education and roads, etc.

Macroman is claiming that ONLY government can provide ANY security at all (which essentially is what Krugman also claimed in his blog post). As I said before, 9-11 was not a failure of airline security; it was a failure of government agencies to put together what was right in front of them. Yet, after a MASSIVE government failure, the government claimed that the problem was that its agents DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH POWER.

So, there it is. We have a poster who apparently agrees with that assessment and believes that if we give the State enough power, then some day we will be safe. Of course, who will protect us from the State?

Well, according to the Krugmans of the world, as long as Democrats are in charge, we don't have to worry because they put people into power who "believe in government" and act only in the interests of the "public welfare."

Anonymous said...

Does anybody actually believe you can stop a maniac, or group of maniacs, from wreaking mayhem? Security is a myth, undoubtedly one of the most convenient myths wielded by those with power, but a myth nonetheless. The TSA is nothing but security theater for the weak minded, an inconvenience for those with a modicum of sense, and an outrage for anybody retaining even the slightest shred of dignity. The best possible outcome from the TSA is that the maniacs will take their manias elsewhere, which doesn't do a thing to statistically reduce anybody's chances of getting caught up in any resultant mayhem.

There's a notable dearth of lone nuts and conspiring maniacs (other than those in charge), but if they ever get their acts together, the security fetish can only lead to a totalitarian nightmare for the masses, which is ultimately the point of all this hysteria to begin with.

ekeyra said...

Macro,

" Can you provide any evidence that the police officer or FBI officer is not subject to review, by such things as bureaus of internal affairs, and to external review by Courts?"

You do know prof anderson writes an entirely separate blog about the misconduct at every level of our "justice" system?

Id read that one more often but it usually just makes me sad and angry.

William L. Anderson said...

Being subject to review, macroman, means nothing. After the Tonya Craft trial two years ago, I spoke to a member of the Georgia State Bar committee that disciplines attorneys, and she told me that the prosecutors were just "doing their jobs."

Now, "doing their jobs" included suborning perjury, hiding evidence, manufacturing a false document, having secret meetings with the judge, and disrupting the trial by their "animal house" antics. According to that official, this was fine with her.

So, yes, these people are subject to review, but in most cases, the reviewers do nothing. TSA agents are subject to review, but even after their worst conduct, nothing ever happens except that John Pistole declares that they did "exactly as they were trained to do."

macroman said...

Anderson, I wish you would supply some evidence of your hearsay allegations. "someone told me prosecutors did x, y or z". And please, if if ask you how you would provide security on planes that does NOT mean I think the TSA is the only way to do so. Can you not understand a question is actually seeking your opinion? Can you understand Churchill's line "Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others". I am not claiming that no government agent ever did anything wrong or never broke the law.

I don't think we should throw out any review process because we have an example of where it didn't work. I would say, improve the process, and maybe you would too. But then "review" does not "mean nothing".

macroman said...

Anderson, I see on re-reading your post on Tonya Craft and "review means nothing" that you didn't present any evidence, not even hearsay evidence, that prosecutors suborned perjury. You merely asserted it.

However, you did give some evidence that those who investigated the matter disagree with your assertions; you quoted a review panel lawyer saying the prosecutors were doing their jobs. In other words, this is hearsay evidence that the prosecutors were not suborning perjury, unless you can show me the rules of the relevant bar association where it says suborning perjury is part of the lawyer's job.

So, as it stands, I have to believe the review panel or you. I have a slight bias towards believing an academic staff member of a university, but I also have a slight bias towards believing those closest to the action, like review panels. So who knows?

macroman said...

I can see I do have to list some of the reasons why armed robbery is worse than taxation. Remember please, I am not here defending any specific taxation. I am merely showing how the comparison of taxation with armed robbery is a very dodgy emotional appeal, not an appeal to reason.
Here are some differences. With armed robbery or burglary, even if your resistance is minimal,
1. you may be killed
2. you may be beaten or subject to cruel and unusual punishment
3. what is taken from you may have no relation to what you can afford to pay
4. the armed robber is not required to follow due process, or treat you with respect, or explain his actions to you
5. You have no power of appeal over the armed robbers decisions
6. you have no avenue of appeal about the manner in which the armed robber treated you
7. you cannot arrange to meet the robbers demands in an orderly timely way that minimizes the loss to you
8. you have no way of voting the armed robber out of from his position of control over you
9. The robber gives you nothing in return. The robber does not give you a police force and a court system by which you can seek justice and compensation from the robber.
10. The robber does not use the money taken from you to give you roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewerage, weather service, army, air force and navy and coast guard, lighthouses, beach protection, national parks, diplomatic relations with foreign countries making it easier for you to travel, and other things.

I know you say you don't want these things from the government and would rather not pay for all "government" services privately, but that is not the point. The point is these things the government gives you are worth something even if they are not the best use of your money. The armed robber gives you nothing and so is worse than taxation.

I repeat I am not here arguing that you should stop calling for the abolition of taxes. I am saying that you guys should ditch that appeal to emotion over reason. Forget rape, robbery, truncheons, jack boots, bloodthirstiness and so on when referring to taxation.

William L. Anderson said...

Tell you what, Macroman, read my posts on the Craft trial in April and May 2010. Read the transcripts of the interviews I posted that summer with the children.

If you wish to stand up for scum like Chris Arnt, Len Gregor, Buzz Franklin, and Tim Deal, be my guest. That you would defend these people speaks more to your character than mine.

Furthermore, I suspect that during the Duke case, you supported Nifong and Crystal Mangum, along with Newsweek and the NY Times. From the beginning, I pointed out the lies Nifong was telling and during the case I was contacted by writers from the NYT who hated what their paper was doing.

But, believe the scum if you so choose.

macroman said...

Anderson, what I said was I haven't seen your evidence and the matter was evenly balanced in my mind at the moment, since your post is all I know about it. And I said you may be right (I have seen bad legal outcomes usually due to incompetence or laziness rather than evil intent).

Let's grant that you are absolutely right. I also said that a few cases of malfunctions does not mean review panels have no value, which was the whole point. I support evolutionary change - trying to improve things.

macroman said...

MF and Popper. I think you will find that I said from the outset that Popper's views have been criticised. My point was that Popper made a remarkably accurate characterisation of what happens when people argue from Aristotelian, essentialist, definitions; Popper almost exactly described Bala's verbiage and scholasticism. Maybe Popper derived this observation wrongly and it was just a lucky guess, or maybe there was a least a grain of truth in what he wrote.

ekeyra said...

Macro

"The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave."

- Lysander Spooner

Individual sovereignty FTW

macroman said...

I think this polite, non-threatening "due process" highway man is a figment of Spooner's imagination.

Major_Freedom said...

macroman:

I think you will find that I said from the outset that Popper's views have been criticised.

I was talking about reading them.

My point was that Popper made a remarkably accurate characterisation of what happens when people argue from Aristotelian, essentialist, definitions;

I think you mean Plato.

Popper almost exactly described Bala's verbiage and scholasticism.

Which verbiage and scholasticism?

Maybe Popper derived this observation wrongly and it was just a lucky guess, or maybe there was a least a grain of truth in what he wrote.

If you're not sure, how can you be sure that Popper shows Bala to be wrong?

Major_Freedom said...

macroman:

"I think this polite, non-threatening "due process" highway man is a figment of Spooner's imagination."

Spooner didn't say he was non-threatening.

mick said...

macroman completely missed the point of the Spooner quote.

macroman said...

MF: Spooner didn't say he [the highwayman] was non-threatening.

You are right, my bad, Spooner just ignores completely the probable behaviour of the robber during the robbery. He did mention that the robber gives nothing back, unlike the government, and cleverly/speciously finds a way to suggest that this makes the robber better than the government. However, I stand by my original post.

macroman said...

verbiage and scholasticism.

Which verbiage and scholasticism?


How about all the times a question is evaded by saying define 'x', define 'y'.

Major_Freedom said...

macroman:

You are right, my bad, Spooner just ignores completely the probable behaviour of the robber during the robbery.

Probable? Is that probability of violence higher or lower than what the state would do if I refused to pay taxes and peacefully resisted their demands?

He did mention that the robber gives nothing back, unlike the government, and cleverly/speciously finds a way to suggest that this makes the robber better than the government.

He didn't say it makes the highway robber "better". He said it makes him more honest.

Can I ask you something? Did you even READ what you're criticizing?

Or do you have it all figured out because Spooner was an anarchist?

However, I stand by my original post.

So you're an ideologue in the pejorative sense then. You keep believing the same thing despite contradictory evidence.

How about all the times a question is evaded by saying define 'x', define 'y'.

LOL, those aren't evasions, they are invitations. Define the words you use, because statists like you almost always engage in Orwellian doublespeak, butchering the English language as a means to spread your inherently immoral propaganda.

I never have to ask Bala to define his words, because I know exactly what he means by them, because he doesn't engage in Orwellian doublespeak.