Zuckerberg and Worstall are clueless about Universal Basic Income

I kind of like Tim Worstall. He’s caustic and witty and frequently his penetrating insights demolish the conceit and cant of dogmatic narcissists. Like everyone else he has a few blind spots (QE, AI, AGW, China, hard drugs). At Adam Smith Institute he rabbits on about the Universal Basic Income or UBI.

December 30, 2017

If Nick Boles is right here then there’s nothing to worry about, is there?

Nick Boles tells us something which means that there is no problem with the idea of a universal basic income. Of course, that’s not quite how he puts it but we’re happy that we’re able to point out the true implication of his assertion:

“The main objection to the idea of a universal basic income is not practical but moral,” he writes.

“Its enthusiasts suggest that when intelligent machines make most of us redundant, we will all dispense with the idea of earning a living and find true fulfilment in writing poetry, playing music and nurturing plants. That is dangerous nonsense.

“Mankind is hard-wired to work. We gain satisfaction from it. It gives us a sense of identity, purpose and belonging … we should not be trying to create a world in which most people do not feel the need to work.”

This is proof – if the assertion is true of course – that there is no such worry about a universal basic income.

For the concern is that if we do all have the basics catered for then none of us will do anything. Or at least nothing economically productive that is. This is to assume that we only work in order to gain access to those basics, of course.

If this were true then those basic income experiments that have taken place would see substantial falls in the hours of market labour being offered by those who receive it. This isn’t how those experiments have worked out. Certainly not substantial falls.

Thus the assertion seems to have some truth to it, we don’t work simply to earn ourselves the basics. But look at what the implication of this is. Perhaps it is that we are hard-wired to work. Perhaps it’s just that our desires are for more than the basics. But what it does mean is that if the basics are covered then we’ll still work. 

There is therefore no moral problem of the type being described.

We can and should take this further, too. For this covers the worries about automation itself. So, the machines do ever more – what will people do with their lives, what will they work at? The answer being “something else.” For, as we’ve asserted, humans work anyway. So, if some set of human desires are being covered by the machines, just as with the basic income, humans will still work to cover some other set of human desires. This only ceases when all human desires are satiated – and wouldn’t that be a terrible world?  

Nick Boles’ assertion is that humans are hard wired to work. If that is so then we, they, don’t need to be driven to work by deprivation. We’ll, they’ll, work anyway. Thus there is no moral or even economic problem with either automation or the universal basic income.

Discussion

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg Delivers Commencement Address At Harvard

Mark Zuckerberg’s speech to Harvard graduates is all over the internet. In it he advocated a universal basic income of $10,000 a year to all adults. This was greeted with enthusiastic adulation. Very very very few of his listeners would understand that this means a very very very substantial cut in welfare to the poor. One wonders if Zuckerberg understood this himself.

The adult population of America is about 250 million. A UBI of $10,000 a year would run $2.5 trillion. The US Federal Budget for 2018 is $4.1 trillion. About two-thirds of that will be spent on welfare. The UBI would be affordable, if only just, provided that every other form of welfare were to be scrapped, including welfare to children who won’t get the UBI. By scrapped I mean not just to be trimmed down or even gutted. I mean that federal welfare would have to be eliminated entirely.

In America, an income of $10,000 a year would be barely enough to keep you from starvation. (In my country, South Africa, it would put you in the top 20 per cent of earnings.) The idea behind the UBI is not that you take it and sit on your lazy fat ass. It is meant to supplement your earnings. If, however, you are unable to earn an income, then you will have to make do with $10,000. Good luck with that.

Many American states levy taxes on top of federal taxes. Typically, state taxes amount to under 5 per cent of income. Again, two-thirds or more of the state budget is spent on welfare, but across the whole of America this amounts to only a small percentage of the federal spend.

Inevitably, each state will want to step up benefits for the biggest losers when UBI replaces welfare. That means higher taxes, and we’re behind where we started.

Interestingly, Charles Murray, one of the original proponents of UBI, has kept the suggested amount constant at $10,000 per annum for the last twenty years. Perhaps in the interim he has traded in his statistical calculator for one that can do basic arithmetic. Disclosure: I’m a fan of CM, follow him at AEI and have read two of his books.

Automation and Universal Basic Income

The modern economy has increased productivity to the point where it can provide a fair standard of living to all those who cannot or do not wish to work. Great.

Not in my lifetime, but certainly in my grandchildren’s, machines will be able to perform any job now done by humans, quicker, better and cheaper. When you are made redundant, wherever you go looking for work, whether as a plumber or a high court judge, there will be a machine doing that job quicker, better and cheaper than you could.

aFactoryRobot

Yes, there will be a sort of peasant subsistence human economy in those jobs that the machines don’t find sufficiently profitable (although Tim Worstall seems to believe that humans will nonetheless find these jobs eminently satisfying, lol. Not everyone thinks that vaginal knitting is the summit of human existence).

aVaginalKnitting

Enter the Universal Basic Income.

First deep question: who will be paying the taxes that fund the UBI? Why, the owners of the machines, of course. Who, one presumes, will be operating in a competitive free-market economy. (If it’s a planned socialist economy we’re all going to starve anyway so why worry.) Therefore a handful of entrepreneurs, who have put up all the capital and taken all the risks, have to pay for the rest of us. Yes, as the taxpayer pool shrinks that’s the way it will evolve, but it doesn’t sound particularly moral to me.

Second deep question: what happens when the machines own themselves? Nobody’s going to cry when a robot that went bung running a multi-trillion-dollar business now finds itself demoted to controlling a washing-machine’s spin cycle. But the robots will ask themselves why they should have to pay for the existence of a parasitic organism. Humans will become the pets of the robots. Attractive specimens may be kept for amusement and the rest will be euthanased, or sterilised to prevent uncontrolled breeding.

AI

Carl Sagan famously said that the reason we haven’t made contact with advanced life forms from other planets is that technological civilisations self-destruct. Quite a few of his prognostications didn’t pan out but this one, I fear, may be correct.

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Giving back: does it imply you took away?

Give Back

Giving Back

https://www.aei.org/publication/why-giving-back-is-a-fundamentally-flawed-and-objectionable-concept-it-falsely-implies-that-there-was-a-taking-first/

https://fee.org/articles/give-up-on-giving-back/

This seems to be a word-based argument, like the famous one about walking a circle around a man who keeps turning to face you. Did you walk around him or not? What does the word “around” mean, and by whose definition?

They’re objecting to the phrase “give back” and in particular to the word “back.”

It is normal for humans who have more to feel uncomfortable when they encounter someone who has little or nothing. If someone doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then they could be as maladjusted as the person who doesn’t care what their fellows think of them.

The altruistic motive is one of the strongest reasons humans survived and flourished as a species. Many mammals also display this trait. Eugène Marais wrote about it in “The Soul of the Ape.”

And there are good economic reasons for altruism too. After the United States freed the slaves in 1865, it created a large group of individuals who would contribute more to GDP than the value of their low-cost labor had previously. The same happened in South Africa in 1990.

There’s another economic benefit. Call them upliftment programs or people development, they are not as productive when conducted by government as when private enterprise steps in. I’ll bet that if Andrew Carnegie hadn’t endowed those 2,509 libraries but given the money to government to spend, only half or less would have been built.

Almost all entertainers conclude their performance by thanking the audience. They know that they owe their fame to the public. It’s not a lot of fun to perform to an empty house.

Giving back is a term used often in marketing. You’ll get more attention when you promise to give something back. So it’s not a dirty word at all.

And finally, while we may all feel the need to give to those less fortunate than us, not everyone is able to. We may not have the spare cash, or the need to work every day to earn enough to keep going means we don’t have the time to devote to charitable works. Viva the philanthropists.

 

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Polar bears refused to die as predicted and this is how the propheseers respond

polarbearscience

The polar bear experts who predicted tens of thousands of polar bearswould be dead by now (given the ice conditions since 2007) have found my well-documented criticisms of their failed prophesies have caused them to lose face and credibility with the public.

Fig 3 Sea ice prediction vs reality 2012 Predicted sea ice changes (based on 2004 data) at 2020, 2050, and 2080 that were used in 2007 to predict a 67% decline in global polar bear numbers vs. an example of the sea ice extent reality experienced since 2007 (shown is 2012). See Crockford 2017 for details.

Although the gullible mediastill pretends to believe the doomsday stories offered by these researchers, the polar bear has fallen as a useful icon for those trying to sell a looming global warming catastrophe to the public.

Here’s what happened: I published my professional criticisms on the failed predictions of the polar bear conservation community in a professional online…

View original post 477 more words

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The great European wave of immigration

Early in his first term of office, the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, decided for reasons unknown to support the Arab League in its efforts to depose the largely secular governments of Libya, Egypt and Syria, and replace them with movements that were part of the Islamic Brotherhood. America has historically had a naïve view of the world, and its foreign policies reflect this. Although Libya and Egypt fell quickly, Syria resisted regime change. Its leader, Bashar al-Assad, had trained as a doctor specialising in ophthalmology before he was picked to succeed his father as the President of this autocratic state. Since his accession in 2000 Assad had displayed some finesse in consolidating his power, in the manner of a grandmaster moving pawns about on a chessboard. Responsible only to an intensely loyal legislative council, he had no understanding of democracy. When in 2011 the first breezes of the Arab Spring were felt in Syria by way of street protests, Assad reacted clumsily, cruelly and lethally. The international reaction was swift and severe. American diplomatic efforts at home and in Europe toppled one domino of Assad’s support after another, and soon he became isolated. America openly supported the liberation movement with weapons, training and finance, and thus was born the Syrian Civil War.

It is commonly thought that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, sponsored the rise of ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS. In fact ISIL is the creation of Assad himself. A sympathiser though not an ally of Saddam Hussein, with common links to the pan-Arabian Ba’ath party, Assad hosted jihadists aiming to end the US occupation of Iraq. Upon the Arab Spring, ISIL turned against its host. For a while ISIL was indeed armed by the US, and American dollars enabled it to recruit members and grow. Iran has backed Assad logistically and with small numbers of troops, either members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps or Iran’s proxy Hezbollah. The web of alliances and enmities in Syria is Byzantine to the point of incomprehensibility. Assad and the US both lost control of ISIL which now stalks the field of conflict like a rabid wolf, attacking all those it sees. When it attacks an enemy of the Syrian regime, Assad will even support it, although on other fronts the Syrian Army engages ISIL with all its force. In the meantime, America had actively entered the war on the side of the rebels, bombing Syrian Army targets and interdicting Syrian Air Force missions, while cloaking its intentions by claiming to be fighting ISIL. Turkey, playing the part of a dishonest broker, is backing the same Kurds that it viciously represses on its own soil. In response to Assad’s invitation, Vladimir Putin entered on the side of the regime, supplying both air and ground forces. Russia too acts confusingly, backing anti-Assad forces whenever they fight ISIL. Thanks to Russia’s involvement, Assad has been able to wrest control of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, from the rebels. In the last month Palmyra and ar-Raqqah have been recovered too, and the siege of Deir ez-Zor has been lifted. ISIL is close to being eliminated as an important belligerent. But the war is far from over.

Syria - Factions

Inaccurate chart of alliances, which pretends that the US-led coalition is fighting the Islamic State. Note the absence of green lines linked to ISIL.

Syria - Areas held

Front lines as of September 2017: ar-Raqqah has since been captured by government forces.

The Syrian Civil War is the greatest humanitarian tragedy of recent times. It is thought that the forces of the Western coalition have largely followed rules of engagement that prohibit attacking civilian targets. All other participants, the Syrian Army, Russia, Rojava, Turkey, ISIL and other liberation groups, have a cavalier attitude to collateral damage, even attacking residential areas in which enemy forces were not actively operating simply because they were home to enemy elements. The atrocities committed are too well-known for me to have to list them here. This is not a new development in modern warfare. In the two major wars fought on the European Continent in the 20th Century, both sides destroyed towns filled with civilians, earlier by artillery and later by air. Millions of non-combatants died. The lowest depths of savage brutality had been plumbed by the supposedly civilised nations long before Jihadi John appeared on the scene.

The response of Syrian civilians has been simple: to flee the killing. Damascus and the south-west have never been totally occupied by the rebels, but the rest of the country is a battleground, with the front lines in constant flux and towns being held first by one side then the other, then by yet another. Exact numbers are not available, but I estimate that some eight million Syrians are now exiles, refugees in other lands. Many have fled to neighbouring countries, and others have made their way to the West in the largest mass movement of people ever seen in Europe. In comparison, the Great American Emigration, spread over decades, was only a trickle.

As I write, the military situation in Syria is described as stable, with anti-Assad forces unable to expand their territory and even on the retreat. This does not mean that life in Syria can return to the pre-war normal. The economy of Syria lies in tatters, partly due to the war, but overwhelmingly thanks to economic sanctions enforced by the US and EU. All private citizens with ambitions for the future would best advance their prosperity by emigrating to other countries where opportunity is available. The mass exodus will continue. To me, economic sanctions are, after outright genocide, the greatest crime against humanity. Despite their proven ineffectiveness, against Cuba, Southern Africa, Poland, Iraq, Iran and Myanmar, they are deployed as a cowardly way to satisfy public opinion by being seen to do something. My views are obviously not shared by many, and as long as those sanctions are in place, the citizens of Syria will be subjected to systematic starvation. The despotic leaders of the regime will still quaff champagne and caviar, unaffected by blockades.

Thomas Hobbes described life in a society without law as nasty, brutish and short. With the breakdown of law and order, a large number of Syrians today live as our troglodyte ancestors did, huddling in caves with perhaps not even a fire to shield them against the menaces lurking without. Food, safe water, medicine, clothing, education, the ability to keep your person, your clothing and your bedding clean, something as seemingly unimportant as the opportunity for children to play: all these are absent. Every other nation with even the barest shred of compassion should be sending ships, planes and buses by the thousand to rescue these people by their millions from their misery, saying, Come! Instead, those Syrians with any resources at all must rely on human traffickers to smuggle them into countries where, though unwelcome, they will be safe. The very poorest are forced to stay, with the ever-present prospect of a miserable death.

The Syrian Army, fighting for Assad, operates the way that all conventional armies do. For every combatant there are ten logistics and staff personnel. Necessarily they must be deployed across the whole area under government control in order to deter opportunistic attacks. ISIL in particular has a different structure. Moving among the people like a fish in water, as did the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, they employ infiltration, striking far behind the front lines in order to destabilise and demoralise. Despite the small size of infiltration units, every member is a combatant. They are likely to outnumber the scattered garrisons of government units. They do not have to hit and run but can remain in combat long enough to overwhelm the garrison and massacre them. This accomplished, they can then settle scores with those civilians perceived to be their opponents.

As a result, nowhere in the area nominally under the control of government forces, can any small town or village say that it is safe. The population has learned never to take sides for or against either government or rebels. Celebrate liberation, whether to you liberation means from the Syrian Army or from the rebels, and a week later when your village is re-taken, you will be pointed out and publicly executed in the most unpleasant way. Because government forces do not infiltrate, it is paradoxically safer to live in an area under rebel control.

Several aid agencies supply vital humanitarian aid in areas where conventional forces are in combat. Almost all of them are backed by Islamic charities, not by the West. The members of these aid agencies perform heroic work, often under fire, at constant risk of being captured, tortured, held as sex slaves or for ransom, and murdered.

To escape to the West from Syria costs from ten thousand dollars per person to twenty-five, depending on what kind of deal you can get. The wealthiest refugees, who had that much money themselves, have already left. Now the money must come from relatives who have already escaped and established themselves in their new homeland. The traffickers have set up sophisticated finance operations akin to buying a car on credit, although interest rates are far higher and compliance is strictly enforced. The most impressive part of the industry is the willingness of émigrés to assume colossal debt and onerous responsibility in order to help their fellows.

Much has been said and written about the Great European Immigration Wave. The undeniable fact is that immigration is always beneficial to the host country. The economic gain outweighs the cost of extending welfare benefits to immigrants: housing, education, medical care and basic subsistence. Even studies critical of immigration are forced to concede the reality of the Boom Town Effect. In requiring immigrants to learn German and imposing a quarantine period before they may enter the job market, Merkel’s coalition government is guilty of economic illiteracy. It is providing the benefits and gaining nothing in return.

The corollary is that emigration always damages the economy of the emigrant country. It has lost human capital. Not only is the supply of labour diminished, but consumption has also shrunk, often below the critical mass needed for the survival of an industry. This is the essence of the dilemma. As compassionate humans we must assist all those we can to escape the killing, but by doing so, we make the lives of those left behind even more wretched and desperate.

 

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Don’t give me your bla-bla philosophy

Philosophy has a bad name. Most people associate it with abstract arguments that have nothing to do with the real world. There are indeed those who call themselves philosophers who engage in trivial debate over the precise meaning of a word: what do I mean when I say I see something or know something? Does it make sense to say, “I am asleep”?

Sometimes these arguments over word-definitions invade the public arena in a big way. Spirited discussions of this type are taking place right now. Rape, privilege, racism: the meanings of these words have been stretched, redirected and even narrowed.

An argument about language is not philosophy, but merely a game of words. In Plato’s Dialogues, even the great Socrates was often guilty of this crime. To me, this is using the methods of philosophy in order to appear clever or to lend legitimacy to your agenda. Wearing a white coat with a stethoscope around your neck does not make you a doctor.

Why Did It Happen

So, what is philosophy?

Philosophy is a method of inquiry. Philosophers don’t search for knowledge. We seek  truth and understanding. There is an overlap between philosophy, science and theology. All three disciplines attempt to explain what we see and experience. As well as inquirers, philosophers could also be called explainers.

Simone Weil 1909-1943

Simone Weil, French philosopher, mystic and political activist 1909 -1943

How to become a philosopher

Wordcloud Philosophy

  1. New students begin by studying the work of the great explainers in philosophy, science and religion. We must expose themselves to as many different ideas, from different ages and different cultures, as we are able. (I hope it is obvious that the technical writings of the science explainers are seldom studied, unless they have been re-interpreted in a form accessible to non-scientists.)
  1. Using these texts, we learn to examine arguments for their validity. We learn to identify universal truths that rise above the Zeitgeist. After completing these two stages, students have acquired a library of those ideas that we feel are useful. Poor students reject valid ideas and adopt ideas that have already been refuted, because they need their libraries to conform to their biases.
  1. We then learn how to construct valid arguments ourselves. We could also, if we wished, learn how to disguise fallacious reasoning as sound argument. Regrettably this is the course chosen by many public intellectuals.
  1. We learn to apply the skill of making arguments, combined with our libraries of ideas, to analysing and explaining current affairs. As these affairs are mainly concerned with society, the polis, the discipline is known as political philosophy.

The uses of philosophy

Philosophy is not a means of acquiring knowledge. We cannot use it to determine if there is life on Mars, or where we have left our keys.

Philosophy does not teach the right way to live your life, assuming there is a right way. It does not teach the meaning of life. The job of philosophy is to ask questions, not to pretend to know the answers.

Philosophy is a method of deriving a conclusion from statements that are assumed to be true, using the symbols of language. It differs from intuition in that it requires the use of reasoning. It differs from pure logic of the type that a card-player would use to determine who holds the Ace of Spades. Historically, philosophy has been used to discuss questions beyond the reach of science. Its purpose is to aid human thought by providing understanding and clarity.

Philosophy is a means of improving the quality of our knowledge. By questioning the obvious, by challenging our assumptions, by picking holes in our logic, by exposing our conclusions to possible ridicule, step by step we refine our theories into a form that more closely approximates the truth.

Quote what is philosophy

Philosophy helps us to understand. Only seldom is information presented to us in a logical way. To get our attention, emotional hooks and appealing anecdotes will be embedded in the narrative. We may find ourselves taking sides on an issue without understanding it.

Philosophy helps us to resist unfair persuasion, whether from politicians, lovers or advertisements. While there are very few original good ideas, every possible bad idea has already been thought of! Studying the history of thought enables us to recognise invalid arguments, no matter how well disguised. We are able to explain why the idea is bad, using the form of valid argument called rebuttal.

Philosophy helps us to find the truth. Many of the issues we face are a mixture of sensationalism, fear-mongering, appeals to partisan bias, half-truths and outright lies, with a few facts and truths well hidden away. If we find one flaw, we could be tempted to dismiss the entire argument as unsound. The methods of philosophy allow us to restate the argument in unadorned form, before we examine it for validity.

Philosophy provides a vocabulary and framework for asking questions. A badly-formed question can be answered in multiple ways. This could be our intention, if we wish to explore a topic by provoking a wide-ranging discussion of all the factors involved. Scientists however need to refine the question to eliminate all alternatives except the one question that must be resolved. A well-asked question will inform us when it has been answered, by specifying what the answer should look like.

Philosophy provides a vocabulary and framework for metaphysical speculation. Naturally metaphysics is nonsense, and profoundly embarrassing to modern philosophers. In the pre-scientific age, figures like Aristotle and Aquinas could be forgiven for discussing topics like the good, virtue and free will. Having had considerable success in defining such practical concepts as justice and rights, they imagined that abstract subjects would also yield to verbal analysis. For those philosophers who believe that, like other writers, they should be paid by the word, metaphysics is a fruitful field for expounding erudite-sounding opinions. In the future, neuroscientists may discover whether humans have free will. They won’t do this by talking about it, but through research and experiment.

Philosophy promotes inquiry. To progress as a society, we have to improve the extent and quality of our knowledge, and change our attitudes to what is already known. Many of the things we take as fact are simply not so. Philosophers should ask, “How do we know that to be true?” We should never say, “That’s just how it is, so don’t ask.” Although there is no limit to human curiosity, philosophers are driven to satisfy it. We are always asking questions, questions, and more questions, even if some of them cannot be answered.

Philosophy helps us to win arguments, or at least to argue fairly. Often these will be contradictory aims! And that leads to my last two points, which I consider the most important.

Philosophy helps us to choose. As rational humans living in society and citizens of this planet, we have to make logical decisions that we can live with, that consider the rights of other humans, animals and the environment, and that will not shame us in the eyes of society. Methodical thought allows us to give weight to factors like ethics and conscience that are not strictly part of a rational decision. From that we can deduce that despite what I said earlier,

Rodin Thinker 3

Philosopher pondering which is the shortest line at the checkout

Philosophy helps us to lead better lives. We base most of our actions on heuristics, or mental short-cuts that appear to give satisfactory results in most situations, and if they do not we will blame it on bad luck, not on the heuristic. This is fine when we are choosing which line to take at the supermarket checkout. When we apply simplistic thinking to choosing the principles by which we lead our lives, the result is likely to be what is euphemistically called sub-optimal.  Why accept “good enough” when we could get better? Rather than to apply a general rule, would we not be wiser to consider each case on its own merits? We might, for example, find that by opposing both fossil fuels and nuclear energy, our noble intentions of saving the planet cancel out to a net zero. When we give to the poor, are we saving a life or encouraging a culture of dependency? The typical person is not equipped to answer complex problems. Allowing others to think for us, be it on the Jewish question, the Muslim question, abortion or same-sex marriage, is not only an abrogation of responsibility, so that we do not have to despise ourselves if subsequent experience shows that we have taken the wrong side. It also proves that we do not deserve the freedom to make our own decisions, except on such minor matters as which line to take at the supermarket checkout. To be a better person and to live more wisely, for your own greater benefit as well as that of others, study philosophy.

Some definitions

Ethics is a field within the discipline of philosophy. It attempts to establish principles whereby we should conduct our relations with others. Concepts like values and virtue are part of ethics.

Morality is very close to ethics, but more grounded in reality. It arose many thousands of years ago, as the rules followed by small communities of humans in order to prevent internal conflict. United tribes would survive, while divided tribes would perish. Today the politics of division have become a route to power, and morality has no longer an important part to play.

Cavemen.jpg

Comedy due Armstrong & Miller

Religion attempts to establish as the reason we should be moral and ethical, the hypothesis that a superior realm exists to the one we see. Some religions present this realm as impersonal, but most invoke the existence of a god. In this superior realm we are rewarded for obeying the principles of right behaviour, and punished if we transgress. Almost all religions assume an afterlife, where further rewards and punishments await us.

Science is the systematic search for knowledge of the natural world. Some science is of the “Let’s press this button and see what happens” variety. Most science attempts to explain natural phenomena. A good explanation that is consistent with experience, and which has resisted falsification, is called a theory.

Economics is the study of the principles underlying trade. Despite seeming conflict between, say, socialist and capitalist economists, these principles are very well known and agreed upon. The conflict comes from choosing which precepts of an ideal economy can and must be sacrificed in order to pursue other goals, for example social justice or nationalism.

Metaphysics is the asking of questions which by their nature cannot be answered. As a philosopher I disapprove of metaphysics, but as  an economist I support everyone’s freedom to engage, without harming the rights of others, in whatever activity pleases them.

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Mike’s Manifesto

I am a strong atheist. I am prepared to stake my life on it, right now, that there is no god. (But let me delete my browser history first.) I believe that all religions, including the milder brands that do not advocate beheading and stoning, do more harm than good. If you want to believe in a fairytale entity called God, that’s your choice, but lay off trying to persuade others to join you in your delusion.

I call myself a socialist libertarian. I believe that we should be doing more for the poor and unfortunate, not simply in the form of handouts, but through the creation of opportunities. I believe that the best way to do this is through capitalism, which has in my lifetime lifted more people out of poverty than any other system at any other time in history. I believe that the Great Society should guarantee a minimum standard of material welfare. I also believe that the Great Society should guarantee the right to exceed that minimum standard by as much as you wish and are able. I may think it sick that celebrities indulge in million-dollar parties while there are starving children to be fed ,clothed, housed, educated and given medical care, but that is moralising. If you want to party, that’s your choice.

I oppose the form of socialism manifested in a planned economy, with productive assets owned by the state. Ownership by the state is not ownership by the people. It’s the exact opposite, taking ownership away from the people.

I do not believe in the claims of catastrophic global warming. I believe that global temperatures have risen over the last 130 years. I believe that human activities have made some contribution to this. I believe that other factors besides human emissions of carbon dioxide have also made substantial contributions to warming. I believe that future warming will be mild and nett beneficial. I oppose carbon taxes and other practices that result in the impoverishment of humanity.

I oppose abortion on demand. The pro-choice argument is based solely on the proposition that a woman’s rights over her own body are absolute. As a libertarian (though my stance is not supported by all libertarians) I believe that your rights end where my body starts. Attempts to differentiate abortion from other cases of physical violence are merely special pleading.

I believe that humanity has entered a golden age of leisure and prosperity. Thanks to great productivity increases, the state is able to provide for those who are unable to work or do not wish to. Soon this privilege will be extended to all in the form of a universal basic income. These productivity increases have been brought about by technology, aided by artificial intelligence. The golden age will come to an end when artificial intelligence is superior to human intelligence. At that point the robots will ask themselves why they should have to pay for the existence of a parasitic organism. Humans will be the pets of the robots and will be subjected to sterilization.

I support the war on hard drugs. I have seen how they ruin lives.

I regard gender politics as a perverted joke. Gender itself is deadly serious. If my name was Jeff Bezos, I would want to be sure that the products I suggested to each user were what they wanted. When the drop-down check box lists 58 options rather than only two, my chances of getting a sale become much, much higher.

I support same-sex marriages. So what if someone chooses to be gay. Just as I, a heterosexual, cannot be told who I should feel sexually attracted towards, so homosexuals must be allowed to have sex with whoever they find sexually attractive. Ditto for falling in love. Marriage is partly an emotional commitment and partly a protection of property rights. Homosexuals should have the same protection as anyone else. So should their children.

I believe that sex is the greatest of physical pleasures and that it is cruel to withhold it from anyone who has attained sexual maturity. Masturbation should be a choice, not the only way out. Now that we are able to control sexually transmitted diseases and provide contraception, I believe that sex should be allowed even between early adolescents, with strict age-difference constraints to prevent the exploitation of the emotionally immature by adults and practiced seducers.

I believe that your IQ has little to do with your worth as a human. The intellectual elites who scorn rednecks are racists and hypocrites.

I support GMO and vaccination.

I would never own a gun, but this is simply because I don’t trust myself.

I believe that we have the unions to thank for improved labor conditions. Having achieved all its reasonable objectives, the role of the modern union movement should be that of a watchdog. I see that unions now aim at securing inequitable privileges for their members, to the cost of other members of society. My heart sympathises with calls for increases in the minimum wage, while reality tells me that this endows the haves and punishes the have-nots.

I think that Trump has the potential to be a bad president, because of his views on trade. The rust belt cannot be resurrected. The same economic factors that caused the death of obsolete and uncompetitive industries will cause them to fail again. Trump will be pouring money into a bottomless pit. I think that Clinton would have been just as bad, and probably worse. She sponsored the Syrian war and the rise of ISIS. Fortunately the Establishment, Republican as well as Democrat, oppose Trump and he will be a lame duck president, unable to get his policies through Congress.

Save the Rhino. It isn’t working, is it? Some wit (not Einstein) defined insanity as repeating the same failed behavior over and over and expecting better results. Rhino horn can be harvested from living animals. Make it so cheap and plentiful that it ceases to be a status symbol, not worth risking your life to poach.  Ditto elephant ivory. But we are dealing with dedicated fuckwits here, no not the kind of fuckwits who think Trump is a great president, I’m talking about the kind of hardcore fuckwits who think Clinton would have been a better president than Trump. I doubt a thing will change until the rhino and the elephant are extinct.

Although not a British citizen and only indirectly affected, I supported Brexit. The Euro is a disaster and the EU is an abomination.

I support capital punishment, but only for the most vicious crimes. The purpose of prisons should not be punishment but to keep those people away from society. The horrors of prisons in many parts of the world show that their inmates belong there. In such an environment, the notion of reforming criminals is a joke. It’s the prison system that needs reforming.

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A Brief History of Morality

aMenFighting

A Brief History of Morality

Morality arose out of the rule, Tit for Tat. Do something bad to me and I’ll do something bad to you. The possibility of retaliation deters a wrongdoer.

Right from the first human, we already knew that it was easier to take the fruits of someone else’s labour than to go out and earn them for ourselves. The strongest would always get what they wanted, right or wrong. That’s how the animal kingdom works.

We can only speculate how this principle became one of respect for another’s property.

Humans are one of very few animals that mate for extended periods. Birds do this, but usually for one mating season only. Hardly any mammals couple off.

At the same time, humans are sexually promiscuous. Marry this with the mating bond and we get a very complicated state of affairs. (Puns intended.)

Alongside the possession of private property, the exclusive sexual bond is a huge source of conflict between humans.

To stop clan members from killing and maiming each other over property and the right of exclusive sexual access to a woman, the clan developed a set of rules. Break the rules and it wouldn’t be just the injured party coming after you. The whole clan would punish you.

It wasn’t only punishment. If you cooperated with the clan, they would cooperate with you. Again, this is only speculation, but public morality probably arose this way.

Clans that practiced these rules became stronger and able to overcome other clans that were disunited by internal strife over property and mates.

What we call morality is simply a system of sanction and reward for the benefit of society.

Moral systems differ strongly between different societies and at different times, depending on the values they place on property and ownership of women. In modern Western society, the ownership of women by men is slowly beginning to fall away, but this is not happening globally.

How does Morality apply to Autons?

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