Indonesian police say a civil servant who posted “God does not exist” on Facebook faces a maximum penalty of five years behind bars for blasphemy. … He was attacked by a mob on his way to work. (more)
blah blah blah nvmdn.
"I notice that they almost all include the trope of religious folks trying hard to hold back progress, often via terrorism. Perhaps this was once fair, but it doesn’t seem remotely so today."
Wait, what? How would you explain the middle east today without reference to religious terrorism?
"Sorry son, you have no idea what you are talking about. Where do you think the Internet came from? Hint: it wasn’t a corporation, or a collection of them, that got together and decided to adopt open protocols and an open network."What does public research have to do with regulation? Does it matter who invented light bulb to our discussion of environmental regulation?
Secondly, inventing the protocol stack is one thing, but you needed years of efficient production to bring the cost, speed and quality of networking software and hardware available to everyone which was done mostly by private entities. They have Internet in North Korea too.
I believe there are public goods, depending on economist you get a different list of them. Just because government implements something doesn't mean it couldn't have been implemented by non-profit or profit organizations or people. There's always an opportunity cost for the resources used. We need better instruments, like prediction markets to see what public goods need to be provided by the government and what are best left for spontaneous invention. Although like with aesthetics, there're difficult quantification problems.
Yes we might need regulation to keep Internet open. I don't deny that but our current decision system just makes systematically wrong decisions. I heard Nicolas Sarkozy saying recently that Internet ought to be government by the state, an entity which is very jealous of power. I don't think those were very wise words.
"the efforts to control worms and other malware"War Against Worms? I'm waiting for the government to tell which firewall and antivirus software we have to run. Sure, there're coordination problems on global scale that might not be fixed organically but the tools of government to fix the security problems in Internet are rather limited.
I read your review of the said book and I wasn't convinced. I could go more into detail but I'll say this: voter rationality is studied by scientific field called public choice. The problems of voting are not tied to government. You could have same problems in private company or non-profit organization too if decisions were done by popular vote. You could socialize losses and profits from stock market and check back next year what kind of production structure you end up. Incentives matter.
Also I don't think economists can have the final say in every question but in my opinion a lot of these political questions are about efficiency: macroeconomics, labour market etc. Economists are experts about it just like climate scientists know the most about climate. Some political groups don't like their results, and that is understandable as it attacks their values or beliefs but fighting against the reality is not very useful.
To say that average Joe can have equal say about macroeconomics as highly experienced economist when he has nothing on the line strikes to me as a bit funny. Yes I think economists ought to have something on the line when it comes to deciding things as it would filter out lots of bias, but we still don't have to resort to DIY science.
I'd appreciate if you would stick to substance instead of leveling down to personal level. Staying civil makes the discourse much more comfortable. And by the way, I never said I'm libertarian. I believe efficiency is much more important in most cases but I do agree with libertarians in many cases because libertarian solutions tend to be efficient.
Mr. Diamond, the Enlightenment is a perfect example of Christianity transposed into rationalistic garb by former Christian atheists: the Light of the Enlightenment is human reason rather then God, but the claims made that human reason could perfect personal and social life far exceeded the irrationality of medieval millenarianism. Your rational Enlightenment produced Robespierre, Napoleon, and its Revolutions provided the models for both Hitler and Stalin. That's the fruit -- eat it if you care for the taste, but you won't convince me that the age was one of increased self-understanding. Now I grant you that the scientific revolution was enlightening, but it was not anti-Christian and was driven by Christians and Christian culture, e.g. Newton and Leibniz.
As to Europe today, it is incapable of even the basic rational act of self-preservation. Having learned from the Enlightenment that family, Christianity, tradition and nation are irrational, it has become a collection of self-indulgent individualists, barren of children and character in equal parts. At least, Europeans propogated themselves in the Middle Ages. Modern Europeans for all their atheism and secularism lack the reason to survive. Who would Darwin say is more rational?
There is a serious problem with this sort of argument against religion. The fraction of people who identify with the words "atheist" or "agnostic" are unrepresentative of non-religious people as a whole. Self-identified atheists are more intelligent, whereas there is a very large non religious population that doesn't use words like "atheist" or "agnostic" but doesn't subscribe to any religion or believe in deities, etc.
This guy crunched the numbers, and he found that self identified atheists are underrepresented in prison, but "no religion" people are over-represented.
"Alas science fiction authors are reluctant to blame over-regulators as their anti-tech villain."
Unless they're Heinlein.
Sorry son, you have no idea what you are talking about. Where do you think the Internet came from? Hint: it wasn't a corporation, or a collection of them, that got together and decided to adopt open protocols and an open network.
I don’t think Internet would such awesome place it is if it were regulated with heavy hand of government like almost everything else is.
The internet wouldn't exist without the government, and as it takes over more and more of everyday life it will end up being regulated by the government, for better (eg, efforts to enforce net neutrality, and the efforts to control worms and other malware) or worse (SOPA, which is a so-so example of rent-seeking, although the Research Works Act is just as bad and closer to the mark). That the Internet has remained open as long as it has is an aftereffect of its origins as a government project.
I dealt with Caplan's lousy book here, see also other entries at that site and at the link off my name. I've been arguing with libertarians on the net for 30 years, and it's always the same bullshit. Come up with something new, why don't you?
God exists because we have made him up. However Indonesian police are zealots for wanting to punish this person for a philosophical error.
"I hope you can see the biased way you are framing this — the downside is small, but the upside is huge. If that were so, then there would be no problem with having minimal regulation."Well this depends on your knowledge how people actually can solve coordination problems without explicit government regulation. I recommend reading some of David Friedman's books to get some opposite ideas to yours.
To give you an example. Internet is a great place of people solving coordination problems organically. I order stuff from foreign countries quite a bit, and I've never got shafted even though lawsuits would probably either be prohibitively expensive or just plain impossible. Amazon seller ratings, credit card companies etc. have all incentives to please many customers, and have developed regulation keep their customers happy. I've ordered stuff from countries who probably don't even have anything like Consumer Product Safety Commission.
I don't think Internet would such awesome place it is if it were regulated with heavy hand of government like almost everything else is.
"All regulations are put in place because of perceived potential harm (well, the good ones — there are certainly cases of corruption and rent-seeking)."First of all, this depends on the definition of rent-seeking. Secondly, this would be a decent conclusion if democracy was efficient. Evidence suggests it is not. First of all, voters are in no way responsible to the damage they can do, moral hazard on epic scale. In stock market, you'll get punished for bad picks. In voting, the losses are socialized.
In fact many people who like regulation, don't want to give an inch for the state to regulate the Internet. It is rather random what we choose to regulate and what not. Robin thinks we put a lot of excess regulation because of status reasons also work-hour regulation. I think that makes a lot of sense.
"But the ideology on display here seems to say that we should ignore the downside because of the spectacular upsides that have gripped our imagination. That is bad economics and bad policy, no matter who it emanates from."All regulation rises prices because the producers have to produce higher quality products. This makes lower quality products unavailable to those who want them. This is usually consumer surplus loss, and many find ways like ordering from abroad in Internet to get around such paternalism. It also has externalities that affect the whole economy.
I don't think it is mostly spectacular upsides like auto-autos. I think most small regulations adds up to a lot of deadweight loss over time. Like Einstein said, there's no force as powerful as compound interest. For example, read this article. I don't think the writer is libertarian, or even know anything about it, but it explains a lot of problems with the extreme risk aversion that grips many minds.
"But in fact, the possible downside from self-driving cars is significant"If so, then they'd pay higher insurance premiums.
Fundamentally I think the problem is that neither you or me are accountable for our beliefs. If I support deregulation that has devastating consequences, I don't pay the cost. If you support regulation that has devastating consequences you don't pay the cost. We need better institutions to aggregate information like futarchy. Honestly, I think the information how to solve these coordination problems exists at least on efficiency-basis but it is just not used because of biases and status games.
I don't have much respect for Ayn Rand. Fiction is bad description of reality. A lot of people and institutions are probably responsible for popularity of libertarianism but I'm only interested in logical arguments.
>As Europe has become more secular, does anyone think that it has become more rational? Have the great atheists “republics,” Russia or China, been models of rationality?
You ask the right questions, but your answers err. To the first, obviously so; Europe is a hell of a lot more rational today than it was in the Middle Ages. If you think the Enlightenment wasn't at all enlightening, you must acknowledge your view is at least odd.
To the second but with hyperbole omitted, yes again--to the real question of whether the downfall of religion was correlated with increased rationality in the society; but some historical sense is required. Put it this way: Lysenko was hardly a "rationalist"; but he was a hell of a lot more rational than Rasputin.
>most religions are harmless
"Harmless" to what? Certainly not harmless to the truth. To assess the human cost of systematic falsehood would require a greater grasp of history than I've seen anyone in this forum demonstrate.
Libertarian ideology (pro-deregulation etc.) gained popularity via Ayn Rand novels, who was actullay shitting everyone. Listen to this extract:
"To Whom It May Concern:
I gave my lawyer instructions to release this message after my death. A joke I concocted when I was a kid has gone way, way too far. The most important thing you should know is this: Nothing I have ever written was meant to be taken seriously. You really don't want to build some kind of philosophy around Atlas Shrugged, okay?"
"Back in the early 1940s I was living in Tenafly, New Jersey with a guy named Ronnie Hubbard. He was hiding out in his brother's basement so he could avoid the draft, and I was working at a rendering plant. Most nights we'd lie on this cot he'd found on a curb and drink, fuck like weasels, and smoke opium. I'll be honest: We smoked a shit-ton of opium."
"What's the worst prank you could possibly pull?" he wanted to know."
"The worst thing you could do would be to somehow take the most terrible people in the world, and make them even greater douches than they already are. Find a way to zero in on all of their ugliest faults and vices, and just... just amp them up beyond belief. That would be something."
"I'm going to convince actors they have super powers."
"Rich white college kids. I'm going to convince them... that they're just too nice."
"We laughed for twenty minutes. I was tearing up, and Ronnie was wheezing like he was going to stroke out. I didn't even know where I was going with this idea. But it felt just so fucking wrong. In a good way. In a great way."
"Of course we never thought we could do any of this. You figure even the most entitled, morally backward people kind of know they're being dicks. No one is going to believe that being selfish and irresponsible is actually a good thing. Right?"
"Next thing I know Ronnie's goaded me into writing this wooden, transparently stupid novel. And it sells, like, a bajillion copies. I kept waiting for someone to figure out it was all a joke. But the reporters kept asking serious, thoughtful questions, and the goddamn college kids kept joining those clubs."
I Was Shitting You People - A Message from Ayn Rand
It's striking to me how many science fiction writers are not atheists simpliciter, but former Christian atheists. They focus on religion because it is essential to their formation and character, whose strengths they embody ironically in their attacks. They attack so strongly because they are so influenced and feel the need to respond to a formation that they have abandoned.
Science fiction involves a transmogrification of many of the elements of former Christian beliefs -- technological advancement takings the place of eschatology and natural/alien catastrophes taking the place of the final things. Born-and-raised atheists contribute very little to the genre, but approach religion with a much less Oedipean sensibility and much more sympathy.
Christians believe that the knowledge of God is universal and nearly universally sublimated into various energetic forms of idolatry. In a world of unprofitable follies, Christians receive the super-scorn of self-deceiving atheists as a confirmation of a knowledge that atheists are very interested in hiding from themselves.
I certainly enjoy this blog's careful cataloguing of the difficulties of rational self-knowledge. Anyone who has read it and presumed that any man has a clear sense of what he does for foundationally groundable rational reasons is the fool. We may a little progress in one direction only to find that we have losts our way further in a dozen others.
As Europe has become more secular, does anyone think that it has become more rational? Have the great atheists "republics," Russia or China, been models of rationality?
Suppose nanotechnology were prohibited. In 20 years time, maybe it could be just plain infeasible and the damage done would be fairly small, but there’s also possibility that it might revolutionize something and would be highly useful.I hope you can see the biased way you are framing this -- the downside is small, but the upside is huge. If that were so, then there would be no problem with having minimal regulation.
But in fact, the possible downside from self-driving cars is significant, and that from possible downside from nanotech may be infinite.
All regulations are put in place because of perceived potential harm (well, the good ones -- there are certainly cases of corruption and rent-seeking). We don't always get it right, partly because risk is hard to estimate. But the ideology on display here seems to say that we should ignore the downside because of the spectacular upsides that have gripped our imagination. That is bad economics and bad policy, no matter who it emanates from.
I'm quite surprised you don't consider the Catholic position on condom use to be "strong oppos[ition]" to form of birth control