Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the absence of good...

...evil prevails. I address this to those of you who believe that abstaining from the burden of moral decision-making is commendable, that fence-sitting is practical, that apathy is permissible: the side of good needs all the help it can get. There's no such thing as too much support for a moral idea. When you withdraw your support, you are leaving the way clear for the truly evil people to attack that idea, and try to tear it down. You think that because you abstained, you'll be spared the consequences. But the evildoers are often against you, too—perhaps it's because you're a woman, perhaps it's because you're a Westerner, perhaps it's because you work hard to make money—and against the foundations of the very culture that permits you the choice of abstaining, the Enlightened West.

By withdrawing your voice from the debate of principles you turn your back on the traditions of liberty that this culture enshrines and you pave the way for the brutality and abhorrence of institutions like Islam, Liberalism and Communism. At risk of quoting that too-oft quoted poem, "First they came...", I invite you to consider the world you tacitly promote: one in which nobody will speak up for you, as you always refused to speak up for them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evil Corporations

A conversation with my father - a man whose sociopolitical views could hardly be more opposite to mine - highlighted very well a fundamental lack of reason so characteristic of those who say that corporations are evil.

Father: Cigarette companies just make their money off the backs of the helplessly addicted.
Me: Ha, ha! You're joking, right?
Father: Certainly not! Cigarettes are a chemical addiction.
Me: ...Yes, but you don't really think that cigarette manufacturers are motivated to produce on that basis.
Father: Smokers are completely addicted to cigarettes. It's that that keeps the money coming in for the cigarette manufacturers.
Me: Demand for cigarettes is cultural, though. It originates from a time before people knew that it was bad for you (and if I recall correctly, they thought it was actually beneficial).
Father: No. Smokers can't stop buying cigarettes, they're addictive.
Me: Yes, but they weren't addicted before they started smoking, were they?
Father: ...

I really never got an answer to that. Do people not think at all before saying things like this? It's the matter of seconds to realise that the demand for cigarettes can't possibly originate from the addiction (I won't get into the idiocy of implying that chemical addiction is somehow irreversible, or nearly irreversible, or even that it has any great power over people. Especially considering my father brags about how easy it was for him to give up smoking!), because the demand must exist before the addiction is created.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Law-Abiding Citizen

Quoting from a recent Samizdata post,

It is only people who behave suspiciously who should – and quite rightly deserve to – fear. That is the purpose of having ID cards!”
“Like my friends and acquaintances, I cannot understand how a law abiding citizen can object to the proposal or how they will limit or infringe my “civil liberties”.
- Unnamed members of the public quoted as endorsing the Home Office view
This reminds me of something Ayn Rand said, "The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." Once your identity is known and recorded, it isn't going to change. Something like how nothing that is put on the internet ever comes off again. The same can't be said for the law. The phrase, "law-abiding citizen" does not contain any information about what "law-abiding" means. Giving a government power to change the law is good; how else would we be able to update it in light of new knowledge? Giving them both power to change the law, and one's own biometric data, is scary.

Not to mention: people who behave suspiciously? Let's just read that again. People who behave suspiciously deserve to fear. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?! Not people who do wrong, but people who look wrong? Did the person who wrote that have any idea what they were saying? Did they think before they began speaking? In this person's dream society, looking suspicious - which could mean anything; people are fallible! - is going to earn one a knock on the door at two in the morning. That is the purpose of having ID cards? Digusting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The IT Crowd

A few days ago I overheard my father watching a TV comedy called "The IT Crowd". As far as I could gather, the main characters had just received some compensation money, and they were discussing how much they should give to a charitable cause that a third character had told them to donate to. The dialogue as I remember it went something like this:

A: How much do you think it's worth giving to ?
B: Well, under normal circumstances I'd say about a fiver, but considering that we've just come into all this money.... fifty quid?
A: ...Let's split the difference and call it a tenner, shall we?

I could say a lot of obvious things about how wicked this attitude is, about how they lack any standards for figuring out how much money IS appropriate to give, and about why it makes no sense for the amount of money that it's right to give to increase as they get richer. Instead, I'm just going to say one thing about it.

Look at how the show presumes that the Communist attitude is the right one. The joke is that character A is miserly. It just assumes that character B's attitude is the right, kind, nice one, and that the joke is on A for being unwilling to go along with A's Communism.

I don't think there's any big conspiracy here. It's just a bunch of light comedy writers making a joke (character A happened to be Irish, which made it quite funny). I'm not interested in spitting acid at the writers of The IT Crowd. I'm much more interested in the fact that this is an accepted belief right now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Higher Values

It is both dangerous and justificationist to aim for 'higher values' and seek to attain them. That way lies tyranny. One risks an imbalanced understanding of morality—those who do not also either seek or possess said higher values become evil, rather than no longer useful to you.

It is not moral to live one's life in incessant condemnation of evil. Disregard it, disrespect it and focus on improving yourself. One is not required to spit acid in order to demonstrate a thing as evil as it is, if that is what concerns you. "If a thing is truly good, it can be shown to be so" works in reverse. Bitterness and hatred are emotions, and they do not add anything to a good explanation of either the rationality of a good thing or the irrationality of an evil thing.

If one were to focus, not on attaining a given higher ideal, but on improving piecemeal and with no guide but reason, one would no longer be required to spend one's days in paroxyms of condemnation. One would no longer tend towards the tyranny of infallibilism. One's understanding and reason of an idea at a given moment in time—which is all we really have to guide us, anyway—may be used freely now to inform us of the most moral decisions to make.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cool Stellar Geometry

Look in the southwest skies in the coming days to see a spectacular conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon, which will form the vertices an isosceles triangle.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports that while not very rare, the phenomenon is breathtaking. The last time it was seen worldwide was last February, and the next time will be on May 11, 2011.

Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest planets visible from Earth. The best time to see them converging is right after sunset; they will appear equidistant from the new moon between November 30 and December 1. Until then, they will gradually move into alignment - and if the sky isn't clouded, the moon will suddenly appear on the horizon and rise at the perfect angle between them to create the triangle.

NASA official Dr. Tony Philips predicts the two planets will appear to be so close, you could hide them behind your thumb if you outstretched your arm. On December 1, you may also be able to see a phenomenon of "Earthshine," in which a ghostly image of the full moon appears inside the bright horns of the crescent. It is also known as "the da Vinci glow" because Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to explain it: Sunlight reflected by the Earth then reflects off the moon, Phillips said, casting a sheen of light across the dark lunar terrain.

I will be watching for this. And, if I can get my camera fixed, taking photographs.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Preconditions for Communism

The stupider, lazier, more apathetic, less creative, less responsible people are, the more desirable is Communism. If you put no work into improving, and you are left free and self-sufficient, you'll be bad at doing everything. Communism rewards this by calling you needy and giving you things. If you don't want to work to earn what you have, left free and self-sufficient you will have nothing. Again, you will be 'needy' and have things given to you. If you feel that the responsibility of protecting you ought not to fall to yourself but to another, left free and self-sufficient you will find yourself unprotected.

Communism is a system with a Gospel that must be put into place through violent revolution. Capitalism is a system that must evolve. Communism presumes an absolute truth in its creator's writings. Capitalism implicitly understands the value of improving piecemeal. Communism is a system of dictated sacrifice according to prescribed rules, whether imposed on one by an actual dictator or oneself. Capitalism is a system of constant criticism; of conjecture and refutation.

Inherent in the workings of Capitalism is the best epistemology known to man. Inherent in the workings of Communism is all the hallmarks of the organised religions it sought to repudiate and eradicate, and succeeded only in replacing: ritual, sacrifice, following of charismatic leaders, and adherence to gospel.

Fear Not The Scaremongering Media

There is no problem with the economy. There is no credit crisis, nothing is out of control.

A novel, if somewhat unorthodox, method of combating inflation has recently been implemented with initially spectacular results by the United States government. Through legislative manipulation of market forces, primarily in the mortgage and housing market, they have succeeded in creating a massive recession, with results as far afield as the UK. 'The Bank of England has said inflation could fall below its target of 2% next year - and might drop as low as 1%.' (BBC News)

We may now expect to see the base rate of interest to be lowered, thus increasing inflation again (so, presumably this will happen after the rate of inflation becomes negative), and lowering unemployment, avoiding a full-blown depression as a result of this daring policy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mindless Repetition

Every so often, one may see some quote that inspires one and draw considerable motivation from it. Examples might be,
"Make gradual progress and never stop"
"Don't let your emotions control you; they're not the boss of you".
One remembers them, and repeats them—and they quickly lose their meaning. One slips back into the irrationality that the quote initially solved.

Irrationalities are hard to eradicate. They're not much easier to alleviate. Be careful when you think you have solved an irrationality; you almost certainly haven't.

Quotes from

Saturday, November 22, 2008

France Fails It

Where 'it' is Capitalism.

'Speaking before the deal was reached, French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said he would "not allow the milk quotas to be scrapped without accompanying measures, precautions being taken".

"Some would like to lift all restrictions on milk production. We know perfectly well that if we produce a lot more, the prices drop, and everyone loses."'

What? Everyone loses? What about me, the consumer, the person who creates the demand for the milk in the first place, now paying less for my milk? Hell, I might even buy more. Milk is quite an elastic product.

It's an alarming sign of how the big economies on the continent are being run: an awful kind of Atlas Shrugged economics.

Source: BBC News