It was once thought appropriate to settle legal disputes by combat – the winner of a physical fight won the case. This accomplished two key functions of a legal system: it clearly settled cases, and in a way that seemed legitimate to most observers. The fact that who won was poorly correlated with the truth of their claims mattered less.
"Here Naam takes a position that many experts have taken, and he gives plausible supporting arguments. But he doesn’t consider the contrary arguments that I find on net to undermine this position."
In what domain do you find that people consider the contrary arguments fairly? Even in peer-reviewed journal articles, the opposing side is often given only lip service.
“[I]f rich countries should be blamed for hurting the rest of the world via past carbon emissions . . .,” etc. The point you make about this is a good one, but you might also mention that it is a very dubious practice to treat nations or other collective entities as moral agents. Doing so will be inconsistent with the firmly entrenched, and surelycorrect, practice of treating individual people as moral agents, for theprescriptions generated by these two different practices will conflict.
I review Clear and simple as the truth: Writing classical prose and explain "style" using construal-level theory in a new post at http://tinyurl.com/cdzotb4 .
(I cite Robin's posting in the last paragraph.)
When both don't have a good claim it's not fair to award one party the full price because he has a claim that is a tiny, tiny bit less worse and that's just assuming there actually is a difference between the two claims. Also there are plenty of disputes that are insolvable or can only be resolved by granting no one the victory. Just imagine a case where people are arguing over spending $1 billion of government money on education or health care, or a case where a judge has to decide whether full body scanners are necessary at airports or not, or a woman asking a judge which one of two suitors she should marry, or two siblings, one living in London, the other in Vancouver, both wanting custody over the orphan baby of their dead sister, etc... Of course if you allow judges to flip a coin (in which case you're wasting money because anyone can flip a coin) or give disputed property to charity or another third party then courts get a lot more room to solve disputes...
What warrants the assumption that a judge can't decide a dispute between parties where neither has a good claim? Ordinarily, a court must resolve any actual dispute that comes before it. If neither party has a good claim it must decide which has the better claim. If no rule allows it to decide, it must make up a rule to justify the decision. Every case must be decidable--at least in the English law system and the Continental.
I think it's also important to point out that trial by combat can solve cases that a judge or jury trial cannot, such as a dispute over a piece of land that neither party has a good claim to, of course you could have decided this with a coin flip as well, but sometimes both parties prefer to fight.
Depends on the culture, there were cultures where it would be considered dishonorable, or it wasn't even allowed to arrange (payment was always forbidden) a champion (except when one of the parties was female or disabled).
"Plausibly the disutility experienced by individuals during severe busts isn't balanced by the utility experienced during booms"
That's not just plausible, that's fact. If you have two economies that start out with the same GDP, one growing by 3% for 10 years, the other growing by 6% for 9 years and shrinking by 20% in the 10th year then the second economy will have a larger GDP after 10 years, but probably not after 11 years and at that time life in this country will be miserable compared to life in the other, more stable country. There are various causes for this: uncertainty reinforces GDP shrinkage, rapid growth and shrinkage tend not to be evenly distributed among the population and prices won't be reduced across the board after a shrinkage (the rent wouldn't go down by 20%), among various other factors.
Hanson's topic is how influence is mediated in choosing among "publicly plausible" alternatives. "Altruism" simply isn't a publicly plausible alternative. Sorry, it's called "reality."
Yet, I have a related gripe. When he discusses topics like immigration policy, Hanson doesn't hesitate to invoke altruistic arguments. He's neither idealist nor realist but rather subjectivist.
> First, if rich countries should be blamed for hurting the rest of the world via past carbon emissions, they should be credited with helping much more via their past innovations. On net the world owes them, not vice versa.
Good point. Note though that it's an accepted part of tort law that if party A harms party B then B has a claim against A, but if A (incidentally) *helps* B, then A has no claim against B. Even if A has helped and hurt B several times in the past, and B has on the net gained from A, B still can make claims against A for each incident of harm.
I think you have very reasonably argued in the past that this is a very inefficient policy, but you should highlight your non-standard position on this policy since it's crucial for your rebuttal to be effective.
OB post on the "classic style": http://www.overcomingbias.c...
I don't think the penniless peasant would actually fight the rich noble. Champions could be hired for such trials. See the Leeson paper.
"Second, it is bad economics to not buy the cheapest product that does what you need just because its price fluctuates."
it could well be good social, ethical or political policy. Plausibly the disutility experienced by individuals during severe busts isn't balanced by the utility experienced during booms, so that a society might be able to maximise its utility by settling for a steady state at a lower GDP than boom-and-bust economics.
"Third, it requires a coincidence of magnitudes for a big carbon tax and solar research subsidies to be a good selfish unilateral policy for the U.S., but not for smaller nations like China, India, and Brazil."
So you support the US pursuing its own selfish interests even if it screws up the environment? Do you also support China doing this? If you support the US doing it and not China, why? Does your personal portfolio have a lot of US stocks? Would your answer change if your portfolio was more diversified?
I don't really understand why people feel tribal identity with the nation they happen to be a citizen of and it seems problematic for world politics (as this argument from you illustrates). I'd like to see more people identify with the entire planet as their tribe.
Given such a competition, the policy positions that gain the most public support are those, among the popularly plausible positions, that can attract the best writers. This is policy trial by writing combat.
So, your book will put EMs on the map? (Perhaps it's not a "popularly plausible" position.)
Do those with middle-brow literary skills really have this clout? Will Naam's policies on carbon, for example, really win out, purely because of his writing skill?
For one thing (I'll forgo the obvious objections) truly influential writing has a characteristic style which you've written about:classic prose. Naam's blatant advocacy is completely nonclassical; his three reasons for belief is a mix between the "practical" and "plain" style.
This style is great for fan-club formation and signaling, but it isn't influential.
"It was once thought appropriate to settle legal disputes by combat – the winner of a physical fight won the case. This accomplished two key functions of a legal system: it clearly settled cases, and in a way that seemed legitimate to most observers. The fact that who won was poorly correlated with the truth of their claims mattered less."
When the dispute is between a penniless peasant and a rich noble then physical combat levels the playing field considerably versus a justice system with expensive lawyers, complicated and biased laws and corrupt/inept judges/juries. This still holds today: I'd rather face the CEO of some ruthless corporation sueing me in physical combat than getting stomped by his international all-star lawyer team in a court whose laws are written by people who had a lot more in common with that CEO than with me. As to the possibility of defeat, I know many people would prefer a swift (and in many cultures) honorable death over a lifetime of debt-slavery (for downloading a couple of songs) or life-imprisonment (for selling 100gr of weed).
In addition both parties had to agree to the duel. It's no coincidence that societies that had physical combat dispute settlement went on to create the first building blocks of democracy and notions of equality before the law as we know it today.