Objective vs. Subjective Truth and the Human Brain

When we speak of truth we rarely think of that truth in objective and subjective ways. We, as human beings, think of truth in a binary (True/False) way. The reality is that the world in which we live is not actually binary. As humans we think in terms that are expedient to our needs. You can visualize of this as a process of reducing things to the most convenient resolution. This allows us to make decisions quickly. Unfortunately, it also leads us to make erroneous decisions based on over simplified facts that might not be facts at all.

Let us take Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for an example. If you take a thumbnail picture of the Mona Lisa and show it to someone and say to them ‘what is that?’, and they reply ‘That’s the Mona Lisa.’, is that true? Objectively, the answer is no; subjectively both yes and no. Examined objectively, it is a picture perhaps representing a low resolution version of the Mona Lisa. But what if it is a low resolution representation of a fake? That image could, in fact, be said to be a variety of things. An indeterminate number of these might be true, depending on how you define true. This is a real problem when you wish to quantify and qualify that which is true. Truth is rarely binary. 

Discussing how things move or don’t

Any debate you may have, on any subject,first and foremost, is a debate based on terms. The terms used in any discussion are essential, because if your terms and how they are defined, do not match, you are discussing different things. As I sit here, writing this, I might say I’m sitting still. Is that true? As with many true things yes and no. We live in a relativistic universe. I might say I’m sitting still but that can very quickly devolve into a Monty Python’s Meaning of Life song.


Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.

Monty Python’s Meaning of Life song

Velocity is one of those things that is currently impossible to determine in anything other than a relativistic way. Even then it is only possible to determine velocity to the resolution of the tools you use to measure it. So next time you get pulled over and the cop asks you if you knew how fast you were going, you can truthfully give him an answer of no, because it is impossible. But I’m not sure it will help. 

Truth and the human brain

We don’t really know facts. We relate to them. You relate certain ideas to another idea, or concept, of ‘factuality’. Subjectively, we relate to facts because constants (those ideas we associate with being factual and unchanging(at least unchanging in the moment)) are comforting. Things that stay the same are comforting in an ever changing world. When I say that we don’t really know facts, we don’t really know things at all. I don’t mean that we should examine how we only know things because our senses tell us… blah, blah, blah. That’s been done to death.  I’m saying that all human concepts are relational. This is how minds and neural networks function. Everything we understand, we understand in relation to something else. We have concepts. Those concepts are things because anything that we can conceive of is a thing. 

Let us, for example, take the vortex. The vortex is a phenomenon that we can observe. One example is the vortex formed in your tub when you drain it. But does it exist? Is it a thing? You might say it isn’t an object, in the sense that it doesn’t meet the criteria we accept for what an object is. The matter making up the vortex is constantly replaced. But it exists and can be described. It’s probably valid to say that ‘a thing’ is anything that can be described. In a sense all things can be experienced in the mind. We tend to define things as real when we can experience them in the world outside our mind. Consider the vortex; formed by forces that shape matter in a particular way. It is a thing made of matter that is not there.

Truth and resolution

Lastly, consider the speed of light. Were I to say ‘The speed of light is one hundred and eighty six thousand miles per second.’ is that true? It’s not precisely accurate. But it is the accepted speed, as it is a close approximation. Things are generally true or false within a frame of reference. We could say that things are true or false subject to the criteria used to validate the answer. You could also say that things are true or false based on the intent of the individual conveying the information or what frame of reference is given. Were I to say ‘The speed of light is exactly one hundred and eighty six thousand miles per second.’is that true? No. The word “exactly” makes the sentence false even though the first iteration of that sentence would be accepted as true. 

Remember, when considering truth, fiction, lies, honesty, one must always consider the frame of reference. What specifications do you have for the truth? Are gods real? This is a truth that is greatly bound within the framework of what gods are. Are gods physical beings who’s whims affect the world? Could they be mental representations of the forces outside of our control representing the chaos of the universe? Are gods the things you pray to when nothing else you can do will effect the outcome? The reality of truth is that when you wish to define truth objectively you can only go so far. You can create a specification for truth and then test a statement to see if it meets that specification. To determine the truth otherwise one must change one’s frame of reference and test again.

Vision of the World: Things are not as you think they are

Flaws in our perception

In eastern culture, there is a very old parable of six blind men and an elephant. The modern version of the parable goes something like this:

  • The First man fell against his broad and sturdy side and said, “The Elephant is very like a wall!”
  • The Second, feeling of the tusk, said, “An Elephant is very like a spear!”
  • The Third took the trunk in his hands, “The Elephant is very like a snake!”
  • The Fourth felt the leg and said, “The Elephant is very like a tree!”
  • The Fifth touched the ear, “An Elephant Is very like a fan!”
  • The Sixth held the tail and exclaimed, “The Elephant is very like a rope!”

One might look at this and think ‘Well that’s pretty extreme.’. The scary thing is that it is not as far-fetched as you might think. When people find an answer it is often far easier to accept that answer than to question its validity.

The need to validate ones senses

Let us for the sake of illustration take the man feeling the tail. He feels the tail and can tell that the tail is long and narrow and frayed at the end. It leads upward and is flexible, thick and rough on the outside. Almost certainly, he has felt a rope before and knows what that feels like. He has compared what he now feels to that. Let us imagine that after this another person comes along. This person tells him that he is absolutely wrong; an elephant is nothing like a rope. 

Now we have a real problem. The man must choose to accept that he utterly failed to determine the nature of the elephant from his own personal experience. This would cause him to bring into question his competence to discern the nature of the world around him from the senses on which he relies. Now, this is a huge problem. People are very uncomfortable with the idea that they can be fooled into misunderstanding the nature of the world.

Limitations

Our senses are very limited. In addition, our perception of the world is also limited. Also, our perception of the limits of our perception and how it works is terribly flawed.

In general, people assume our senses just exist. That they inform us of the nature of the world as a natural consequence of having them. As it happens, that is not the case. Senses do not naturally make sense. From a biological perspective, it’s all just a stream of nerve impulses connected to a specific area of the brain.

Let’s say you were blind your entire life. You had your sight restored. You would then see, but not as you see now. Blobs of brightness and color would have no meaning. Until you touched a particular blob of color; until you understood that focusing your eyes told you how far things were; until you gasped the meaning of binocular vision, sight would have no real significance. This is how we form a model of the world we live in. We compare the input of one sense with another until our model of the world seems consistent. Most of this process occurs in infancy and is complete before we start to really experience the world cognitively. Then the process stops. This is the important part. it stops.

What’s it all for?

Your brain has one job. Keep you alive so that your genes have the maximum chance of reproducing. For this purpose your model of the world need only be as good as it needs to be. As a consequence, if there are other things your brain could be doing that would better your overall survival, it will do those things instead. ­Your brain is setup to maximize return on cognitive investment.

Thinking about the absurd

I am an absurdist

As a way of communicating my view of the world, I take things that others have rationalized into being normal and elevate them to their natural and absurd, extreme. People come to a sort of conclusion; if enough of their peers are doing or saying something, then that thing is acceptable and not absurd. It is only when one really observes human behavior from a non-biased viewpoint that the absurdity of what we do becomes obvious.

Some time ago I posted something. It was the below picture and the phrase “Tip your whores.”. Someone was offended.

Sex

A titty bar with the caption "Sex work is real work"


This is absurd on many levels. On the surface, this picture is absurd because of the content. We are conditioned to accept that a woman isn’t working, when she has a man’s face stuffed into her crotch . This is
recreational activity in the minds of most; hence not work.

Work, work, work

Next, when we think about “work”, we tend to think in terms of some sort of labor that must be completed; but really what constitutes real work? Is it
“real work” to be a professional athlete ? How is a job you earn money with not work? Does the definition of work flex with the legality of the work? For instance, is the manufacture of alcohol work? Did it stop being work after prohibition?

Marchers holding a banner that reads SEX WORKERS DEMAND: ACKNOWLEDGE SEX WORK AS WORK!

Thirdly, is the issue of how we tend to look at phrases such as “Sex work is real work” This phrase conjures images like this. Again, this image of women marching for civil rights is very much at odds with a picture of some girl with a man’s face in her crotch.

Politics, politics, politics,

Finally, there is the absurdity of the internal politics of sex working. While sex workers might present a united front to those outside the industry, internally the politics are very different. ‘At least I’m not a _______.’;
The entire sex industry is built on this principle. Those in the industry tend to define themselves on what they don’t do for work. For sex workers, their virtue comes, in general, from not engaging, directly, in penetration for money.

Why? What exactly is wrong with penetration and what is wrong with getting paid for it? I will venture a guess that we resent the idea of the most valuable thing in existence being sold. The right to sex is very closely tied to the right to reproduce. Reproduction is a sort of meritocracy with women as the judges of who gets to reproduce and on what merits. Who is likely to resent access to purchased sex? Virtually anyone who receives access to sex based on their merits. Also those who control access to sex and reproduction by rejecting those judged to be without significant merit.

If one talks to someone in the industry and asks them about how they feel about their job, In general, they will say anything to elevate themselves above prostitution. The prostitute is the janitor of the sex industry. Even prostitutes differentiate themselves from other prostitutes. They use phrases like “I get paid for my time and sex is sometimes a part of that.”. They don’t use phrases like “I get paid to put a man’s penis in my mouth and stroke it until he ejaculates.”.

Other absurd beliefs

Religion

This is a big one. How does this work? As far as I can tell religion mostly consists of people with absurd beliefs, telling other people with absurd beliefs, that their beliefs are absurd. What could be more absurd than that?

Religion is an excellent example of how if you have enough peers around you telling you that what you believe is true, you simply won’t question it. Take a Christian criticizing a Scientologist for believing in aliens. If you ask a Christian if they believe in extraterrestrials they will likely say ‘no’. But then if you ask them if God is from earth they will also say ‘no’. Still they will have a very difficult time dealing with the fact that they do in fact believe in an extraterrestrial super being. The clear reason for this that almost every person that you will meet believes at least something that is absurd while simultaneously believing that it is not okay to believe in the absurd. 

Finally

As large part of the human condition, we as people go about our lives in bubbles of belief. Inside these bubbles all things are rational and make sense. These bubbles form a sort Venn diagram where they intersect the beliefs of others.



Concepts Within our bubbles are not seen as absurd.  The areas of overlap are jointly not seen as absurd. It can be said that one of the things that bind people together are jointly held ideas or concepts that others, whose bubbles do not intersect theirs, would find absurd. 

The most absurd of all things is that people in general walk around seeing themselves as rational while viewing others as absurd. While those others do precisely the same for the same reason. The system of behavior that allows this to carry on throughout all of human history would border on the surreal were it not so very much part of our existence. Here people are, walking around in their bubbles of absurdity mocking others because they are absurd. One must be careful when one chooses to laugh at the whole arrangement lest one be judged inappropriate. Isn’t that absurd? 

Male Competence and Mansplaining

Male behavior is not purely, primarily or even significantly a social construct

Males and females process information in different ways.  Male mental processes tend to be centered around competence. Mansplaining is, in essence, an outgrowth of the male need to  communicate competence. As it happens this both a hierarchical and a survival trait. As a hierarchical trait, there is pressure to promote based on competence because having the most competent people in charge, from an evolutionary perspective, gave groups the highest chance to survive and thrive. One important evolutionary change, Homo sapiens have adapted to deal with multiple hierarchies.  This allows humans to accept multiple people as having complex hierarchical standings in multiple areas. Our ability to segregate and arrange hierarchies based on complex rules is orders of magnitude higher than any other creature.

The theory of sexual-biological equivalence or the notion that social constructs are the primary drivers of socio-sexual behavior doesn’t agree with the empirical data. The majority of data in both human and non-human studies indicates that drives to behavior are, to a great extent, driven by biology. Social constructs exist, not to create drives and behaviors, but rather because of them.

Mansplaining and social conflict

Conflicts arise in situations where persons of one gender apply behavior expectations of their own gender on to persons of the other gender. As it happens, the primary social driver for females in human society is to provide social cohesion. There is far less demand, from a biological perspective, to adhere to a competence hierarchy. There is a much greater tendency to view social interactions from a social acceptance point of view.

In many interactions, the male is attempting to ascertain where in the competence hierarchy both you and he reside. In the same conversation, a female is evaluating social cohesion levels and determining if the other party is providing good social reinforcement. One of the great misunderstandings is the assumption that the male wishes to dominate and is demeaning the competence of the other party in order to do so. This is generally not the case.

From an evolutionary perspective, male competence is biological imperative. In a hunter/gatherer society, male incompetence is deadly. Failure to hunt properly will lead to malnutrition and eventually death. The same is true for defense,  shelter, and community survival strategies. All of these are socio-biologically primarily male domains. Female-dominated activities, outside child rearing, tend to be much less survival critical. This being the case, instruction in female groups is taken at a leisurely pace. The interaction during these activities is a socially bonding one.

Finding your place

Intuitively other males understand this as a social cue to demonstrate their competence. Males, to a great extent, auto-subordinate and very quickly enter mentorship roles.  For males demonstrating competence results in a release of serotonin. Failure to demonstrate competence or demonstrating incompetence produces strong negative feelings and intense social pressure. These two mechanisms cause males to very quickly adapt to a place in the hierarchy. This structure has a lot of very positive value for men in it. This can be seen as a male being biologically rewarded for making sure that he has communicated information that will ensure the continued survival of the tribe; That you will not screw up and get everyone killed.

Mansplaining and human sexuality


Men who demonstrate competence are sexually attractive to females.  Empirical evidence has consistently demonstrated this.  They will favor competence over appearance when choosing a mate. From a biological perspective, this makes a good deal of sense. A healthy but incompetent mate would be less likely to ensure the survival of you and your offspring than a perhaps somewhat less healthy but more competent mate. From a male perspective it is the opposite; the physical health of the mother is of primary importance as she must survive childbirth and then raise those children. Males are encouraged to display male prowess by demonstrating competence to females.

So, you’ve been mansplained to

If a man is explaining in excited fashion how to operate your cell phone, don’t assume he is talking to you like you are stupid to demean you. He, likely, finds you attractive and wants to make sure you don’t get eaten by a bear.

What is truly scary about flat Earth belivers?

 Flat Earth people
Yeah, you can mock them and think they are dumb, but…

What is truly scary about flat Earth believers? The scary thing is that they are not crazy or even particularly abnormal.

There are those wheels, in your head, turning and telling you ‘This can’t be true’. But it is that very disbelief that creates the problem. Just about everyone has beliefs to which they are emotionally attached. Including your belief that you are fundamentally different from a flat-earther. It is the emotional attachment that creates bias. Things in your environment, in particular things to which you attach self-esteem, cause people to have attachments to ideas.

You might ask, ‘How can a person possibly associate a thing that so opens them up to ridicule with self-esteem?’. The answer is quite simple. People who feel they know the truth feel superior to those who do not. In fact, the more persecuted a person feels for knowing the truth that others do not and the more others are incapable of seeing the truth the more special they become. Every flat-earther believes they are smarter and wiser than you because only they have seen through the vast conspiracy to cover up the “truth”. You, on the other hand, are too stupid and gullible to have caught on.

But my beliefs are not like that

You are biased the moment you look at another person and feel you are superior to them because you know the truth and they do not. The truth that we see is filtered. Truth is filtered on many levels. The pipelines through which our information comes to us is generally biased. When people disseminate information they do so for gain. This is a basic principle of human action. All actions are purposeful. Even if one does not understand the purpose for their action they still have one.

When I speak of “gain” it’s important to understand what that means. In personal terms, one is driven by a desire to move toward greater comfort. Again, “comfort” in this context needs to be defined. Comfort is a psychological state. Virtually, no one feels everything is perfect all the time. In fact, this state would be highly unfavorable from an evolutionary viewpoint. Creatures that exist in a state of comfort for any prolonged period get eaten. Creatures that are constantly working to maximize their conditions for safety and security for themselves and those around them do better. This is reinforced at the lowest level of the brain by the biochemicals that make us feel good and/or bad. By that same notion, being trapped in a situation where we are unable to improve things will make us very unhappy.

This all being said, most of the information we receive comes to us filtered. It is filtered by the people who deliver it to us, who have many different motivations. Information is filtered by the consumers (you and me). People tend to disregard information that doesn’t fulfill a need. A weight of importance is given to any information consumed. You might, for instance, read “Okra is high in vitamin C” and disregard it because you don’t like okra. We take in so much information that filtering it is essential, so we can focus on what is important (to us).

Conclusion

Finally, nearly everyone you know has a set of beliefs and values in which they take comfort. The truth of those beliefs and values feels objective but is in reality subjective. Political beliefs are chief among these. If you grew up in rural Wyoming you would almost certainly be a Trump supporter and if you grew up in urban Massachusetts you would most likely be a Hilary supporter. There is very little reason to assume that there is any real biological difference between these two sets of people in general intelligence or anything else. However, the personal experiences and environments are significantly different. This causes each to come to radically different views. Each also concludes the other is too stupid to see the truth. Basically, both sides believe the other side to be like the flat-earthers; unable to see what they know to be the objective truth.

Mandatory Therapy

Existing Federal Law

Isn’t it strange that the FDA will not even allow medications that have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they are reasonably safe and effective? However, courts are allowed to order mandatory therapy. Therapy that often fails to show any credible, scientific, evidence for being safe and effective?

Fix this?

This should not be allowed. In no case should a defendant be forced to chose between their liberty and a treatment that is shown to be both safe and effective. Furthermore, anyone who is offered the option of therapy should be allowed to choose one that is the most ‘safe and effective’ as evaluated by the preponderance of the credible scientific evidence. Should more than one therapy show to be equally safe and effective the defendant should be given the option of the least objectionable one. In no case should a person be forced to continue a treatment shown not to be safe and effective unless it is evaluated to be the best option by a competent medical professional.

The workings of social prejudice

Let me tell all these people you are a bad person. That will make me a hero.

Recently on FaceBook I post a quip to a thread talking about how if someone posts “All men are trash” they may have their post removed and asked “Does the same apply if you state “all women are trash?” “.  To this, I replied “ALL Humans are trash” Almost immediately the user Sean O’Nym posted a reply saying “Obligatory reminder that Jay Hova is a blackface-wearing jackass.”

Background

This comment by Sean was in reference to a photo I posted on Facebook a number of years ago. The photo was of myself on a certain Halloween in the early 2000s. Prior to this particular Halloween, I had talked to my friend Buddha. Buddha is a large black man who used to run a coffee shop named Cafe Avinio. Buddha shared my perverse sense of humor. We agreed to each go as a person of the other’s ethnicity. This meant, of course, that I would go as a black man and he as a white man. The day came and I had spent a good while preparing. As it happened Buddha had tried to bleach his mustache and failed so he gave up on the idea and simply dressed in khakis, a Polo, and topsiders. The ironic thing is this “preppy” outfit was in fact pretty normal for him. In any case, I had purchased a set of clothes that would be atypical for a person of my ethnicity including plum colored Levis. I was already completely made-up and dressed when I found out Buddha would not be participating.

How this came about

It was a number of years later that I stumbled across a webcam photo of myself when I got home. After I posted the photo the metaphorical shit hit the fan. It’s important to understand the why of the situation. Others have described my actions as deliberately transgressive. Of course, this is true. However, my main goal was to provoke a response to demonstrate how our social order operates. There is a set of white people that seem to internalize guilt about social bigotry to the point that they feel they must act on this guilt to correct the wrongness of the world. In order to deal with these feelings, they compensate by correcting the behavior of their own perceived race over whom they feel they have jurisdiction. I have very often seen this happen. The problem with this is that the people doing it are fueled by emotional fervor. They do not act in a thoughtful way. Because of this, they will assume guilt and shame accordingly. The irony of this is that these same people will shame others for shaming.

I think you might have stepped in something

Years ago, my actions would have been called a practical joke; making a point or teaching a lesson. I will call it simply a prank. I created a situation and others reacted to it. To me, the funny part was how all of the people who reacted as though I was doing something wrong were universally white folks. White people are very uptight. In large part, I was demonstrating that these people, passing judgment, would all, without exception, do so never questioning if they might not have all the facts. In the case of the Facebook photo, each would look at the photo, assume they understood all they needed to in order to make a judgment and then proceed to shame me for my wrongdoing.

Before you shame someone else for being wrong, maybe you should not just assume you are right.

This demonstrates a fundamental principle of human behavior; when you know you are right, you never question if you might be wrong.

 

An Argument for Libertarianism

The problem of power

One of the great problems of the world is the power to do evil. This seems obvious. What may not be so obvious is that power is power. This means that the power to do evil is precisely equal to the power to do good and vice versa. Power is sometimes given. More correctly, it is purchased on a quid pro quo basis i.e. ‘if you grant me power, I will do ‘X’ for you’. ‘X’ can take all sorts of forms: raise your status, vanquish your enemies, create a political utopia, unite our people, etc. Sometimes power is seized, but never by one person alone. There are always those who feel they will benefit when another has power.

Almost universally, this works out for the benefit of some to the detriment of others. The results are also never as good as promised. People are always required to work harder to support the bureaucracy necessary to manage utopia. Of course, there always seems to be a need for just a little more effort to get this utopia just right and always just a few people whose dangerous ideas are in the way. If only we can get those people out of the way and get the right thinking people into positions where they can fix the problems then everything will be all right.

Harm

If we look at the worst people, who have done the most harm in the world, they have all been granted the power to make the things worse by people who have given them this power to make things better for themselves.  Sometimes this is democratic. When enough people want something, that they will unite to get it, they do. Sometimes, it is by revolution; an uprising by people who want something enough to kill for it and keep killing to hold onto it. Sometimes it is by conquest (see previous), the power to make war having been granted by those who feel they have something to gain.

Government, here to help

Rarely is ruin brought about by those minding their own business. When ruin comes about, it’s most often through the instruments of force or fraud. Often the perceived evils of business are, in fact, businesses with the ability to influence policymakers. These businesses make arguments for laws that seems at first glance seem a good idea. More importantly, these laws always benefit the business spending money to get them passed.

Very often, laws, that seem good, have unintended consequences. An example of this would be the minimum wage laws. These laws do exactly as they were initially designed to do. They segregate the workforce to exclude those with the necessary skills to enter at the minimum wage level. That is to say, if the minimum wage is $7 and you have the skills to do a $5 job then you are excluded from the workforce until someone is forced to hire you at a wage higher than your skillset. In all likelihood, you will be the first to be fired when a person whose skills match the job comes along. The real issue with this is that the law requires that you, by necessity, must eliminate all $5 jobs.

Force

When I use the word force people often misunderstand the meaning. Government is a body that creates and enforces laws. All laws are ultimately backed by force or they are merely suggestions. For instance, the federal government forces tobacco companies to place a warning on cigarettes. However, the warning is itself a suggestion not to smoke. However, the ban on smoking in public places is enforced against places who are compelled to comply.

Fraud

When talking about fraud it’s important to put it into perspective. There is a term “puffery” which is the exaggeration of claims not to be taken seriously. An example of this might be “Dr. Schols air cushioned insoles will make you feel like you are walking on clouds” No one expects you to think you will actually feel that way.

However, someone really is trying to make you think your lunch is free. You are supposed to believe that the services the government will provide you will be better than the services you could buy for yourself. When you insure a loan with default swaps that is insurance. If you are selling insurance without the money to ensure that a default can’t happen you are committing fraud. The fact that the regulators were allowing the selling these insurance schemes without the rules required by insurance schemes means they were complicit in the fraud.

Free

A free market is free from two things, force and fraud. A certain amount of regulation is necessary to set rules that everyone must abide by. However, government should not be in the business of creating artificial monopolies and using its power to force out competition. Free enterprise to some extent means free to fail. Programs to protect business do so to the detriment of competing businesses.

The monopolies the government breaks up are rarely anti-consumer. This is to say if you plan to drive all your competitors out of business out of business by producing a cheaper product then good for you. If on the other hand, you plan to use your position in the market to prevent competitors from entering the market then that’s bad and anti-competitive. If you promote a product as safe and it isn’t that’s fraud. However, if I want to smoke that is not the government’s business.

Jobs

Virtually none of the actions of government have made more jobs available to more people. You might think ‘hey wait but the government builds roads and bridges and other things, those employ people’. All that is true, but where did the money to employ those people come from? Taxes. It came right out of the economy. If you had had that money to spend you would have likely spent it on goods and services that benefited you. Other people would have been employed to provide those goods and services.  Perhaps those roads and bridges, etc. will allow for more commerce and hence pay for themselves in some fashion but most are not a net gain.

Grease is the word

In any case, no matter what government does, it does the most to satisfy the squeaky minority at the expense of the majority. An example of this is the building of equipment the armed forces do not need or want. The parts for said equipment are built in a great number of states. Each manufacturer of those parts contributes to the campaign of the politician who pushes for the equipment to be built. Thus the politician is purchasing the election at the expense of the taxpayer who must foot the bill for this equipment. This is sold to the local electorate as a jobs program. After all, they will need those jobs to pay for the other equipment build elsewhere that they must also pay for.

The second law of thermodynamics

Taxation can’t be used to produce a perpetual motion machine. You cannot take money from people and spend that money in a way that will make the lives of those people better than if they spend the money themselves. This is the false vision of the utopianist. The best you can do is provide a framework for people to be protected from force and fraud and ensure that systems of commerce are built and maintained. The money taken out of the economy in the form of taxes is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

All interest is self-interest

People act in their own self-interest. Always. Even when they seem not to. How can someone have another interest other than their own? Clearly, I would like you, the reader, to take an interest in what I am saying. If you do take an interest, that is your choice and it could be said that you had an interest in taking an interest in my point of view. If you try to help others you are acting out of your own interest to help other people. Perhaps you are doing this to feel better about yourself or to make others look at you in a better light or because you have determined that you wish to be the kind of person who does the ‘right thing’. Whatever you choose to do it’s your choice, and so you are acting in your own self-interest not out of altruism.

The dangers of altruism

Altruism is an illusion. The desire to be altruistic is a desire and as such must be a desire of self; a selfish desire to feel like a good, altruistic, person. One cannot become unselfish because one can never become an un-self. In no scenario can you become unselfish. For instance, if you decide to go to Africa and dig wells for people who need water and your mother calls and tells you that she is dying and needs you to care for her in her last days, what is the altruistic thing to do? Let your mother die without you or finish the well? What is most likely is that you will do what matters most to you. In fact, this is a certainty.

When we talk about altruism We should be clear on what it is. Urging someone to be altruistic is a way to get them to comply with your notion of right; a means of influencing the actions of others. In essence, it’s a way of applying social pressure to compel individuals to do things for others rather than themselves. When does this become a problem? It becomes a problem when fraud becomes involved. Let’s take the above scenario and assume that Johnny goes to Africa to do the ‘right thing’, contracts Ebola and dies. Oops. Now let’s just say that Dudley played down the risks of going to Africa and told Johnny he’d be “perfectly safe”. Now he’s dead. This is an extreme example but clearly illustrates the problem of puffery. No socialist state, brought about by revolution, is the workers paradise that it was advertised to be.

Anarchy and its drawbacks

Anarco-capitalists envision a world of absolute freedom. This, however, is not a natural state. It is the natural inclination of some to judge that others are incapable of running their own lives and will, therefore, chose to ‘help’ them by running their lives for them. How very selfless of them.

It is very difficult to exist with no government. The reason being, that someone always wants to do something that intrudes on another’s liberties. If I want to dam a river to run my plant that might be great for me, but what about others access to the water? What if I want to dump my waste products into the water or air etc.? Clearly there must be a means of governing this and allowing all people the reasonable enjoyment of their property and lives. A government should exist to protect the liberties of everyone. But also to be limited in scope beyond this function.

The benefits of individual initiative

With a few exceptions, the greatest boons to mankind have been created by those who acted in their own interest. In cases where a government created a boon to mankind, it is often private interests that then exploited those boons to the betterment of mankind. In order for these things to occur people need to be free to explore the possibilities of invention without impediments. The dotcom revolution sprang out of individual initiative and that initiative has changed our world. The companies that are creating self-driving cars and artificial intelligence are companies that started from just a couple of guys.

There is a great temptation to milk this prosperity and redistribute the wealth. The great problem with that is that the possibility of striking it rich is a tremendous incentive. For every Bill Gates or Jobs & Wozniak, there are hundreds or thousands that risked money and then lost. This is because there is no guarantee that any idea is worth anything. Many others simply made a moderate living with some idea that was good but not groundbreaking. It’s these people we need to encourage and not discourage. People are over-taxed, over-regulated and in general, disincentivized to keep trying.

Arguments against capitalism

When we look at the arguments against capitalism they are rarely against free market capitalism. The arguments, more often than not, are against cronyism. This is where a company or individual gives money to someone in power to have the laws adjusted to favor himself or his company. An example of this might be companies like Uber or Lyfte. These companies use technology to break the government assisted taxi monopolies. The taxi monopolies are a great example of government taking the free out of free enterprise. With taxies, government creates (at the behest of the taxi companies themselves) barriers to entry into the taxi market such as licenses and medallions. The cost of a medallion in New York can be hundreds of thousands of dollars but when ride-sharing services broke the monopoly people who bought into the monopoly started to go bankrupt.

When we look at a system like the taxi monopoly it is very clearly not a system designed to provide the consumer with the best product at the lowest cost but rather the opposite. It creates a system of a few who buy into it for protection from competition.  If you are an Uber or Lyfte driver the taxi lobby is trying to put you out of business or raise the cost of your business to make it easier for them to compete with you.

Government’s role in a free enterprise system

“The business of America is business”. This was said a few years before the Federal Reserve in tinkering with the money supply caused the great depression. Any system that allows for the tinkering with things as vital to the economy as the money supply is a bad idea. Believe it or not, the idea of inflation was thought to be a good one to promote the spending of money over the saving of money. This sort of government tinkering with the economy has proven to be ill-advised. Now we are stuck with it.

The role of government in a free enterprise system is to ensure that it remains free. That is to say that no enterprise should impose on others a cost or burden. This means that industries must not produce undue pollution into the air and water shared by others. This is one of the things overlooked by anarcho-capitalists. Government itself should not place a burden on those who wish to be free to enterprise. This includes artificially ‘leveling’ the playing field. Government has no obligation to protect business but has an obligation to protect the consumer. It is the concern of business to provide the best product or service at the best price. A business unable to do this should not receive special considerations to allow it to better compete.

OKCupid

OKstupid

If OKCupid was a party, you would walk up to a girl you thought was interesting, she would start talking to you…

  • say “just a second”, 
  • look at her phone, 
  • scowl, 
  • scroll, scroll, scroll,
  • put her phone away,
  • then walk off like you no longer existed.

What used to be a very cool free dating site

What is there to say about this?

I’ve had an account for a very long time. It used to be that you could get points for having people who knew you give you awards and let others know that you weren’t a fake account.

This is me.
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Stop relying on your feelings to tell you what’s right

Reason and Feelings

People rely on feelings to guide their actions. In the world in which man evolved, this was necessary for survival. In fact, before we evolved higher brain functions, feelings were all we had. Here’s the bad news, relying on your feelings will not, in general, make your life or anyone else’s life better. The only thing that will likely make things better is evidence-based reasoning.

In the book Against Empathy, Paul Bloom discusses how feelings lead us to incorrect conclusions. Very often, people will do things not to make things better. Rather, they do things to feel they are making things better. It is this feeling that people seek. If confronted with facts that show that they may have done no good and likely have caused harm, individuals will often go to great lengths to invalidate facts that run contrary to things they feel are true.

Humans act to obtain perceived value. Often, this value is increased comfort. However, quite frequently, the value is that they are giving up comfort to achieve a noble goal. It’s important to understand what I mean by increased comfort and value. Paul Bloom speaks about value in The Origins of Pleasure TED Talk.

Just because something is obvious does not make it true

Plato believed that anything could be puzzled out through pure reasoning. The problem with this notion is that it is based on the idea that you have a reliable premise and data to start with. As it happens this is often not the case.

Aristotle stated that the speed at which a thing would fall would be proportional to its mass. This assertion was not questioned until Galileo refuted it in the 1500s. We don’t know if he actually dropped two balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa we do, however, know he was right. The point being, it was so very obvious to everyone that what Aristotle said was true that no one bothered to even question it let alone test it. Unfortunately for Galileo, people really dislike having ideas they know are true, questioned. As a result, he was imprisoned.

Still, to this day, people continue to assert their deeply held beliefs are true. This despite thousands of years of evidence that often deeply held beliefs are not. People will cite the flimsiest of evidence and ignore more concrete evidence if contrary to their notions. The need for individuals to feel right creates a sort of cognitive dissonance with evidence to the contrary. Given the choice between two mutually exclusive notions, people will often choose the one that presents them with the most positive feelings rather than the one that makes the most rational sense.

Examine the evidence

People make all sorts of assertions without evidence. Policy and lawmaking are near the top. People make all sorts of assumptions about policies that are ineffective and often harmful. Most law and policy-making is based on feelings and very little is based on the scientific method. To be clear, the scientific method is performed using a series of steps:

  1. Form a hypothesis
    A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
  2. Form a theory
    a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
  3. Test your theory in order to determine its validity
    Tests are implemented, controlled groups are implemented, peer-reviewed, are the results published

This is where people really fall down. There is in fact very little incentive to do things in an effective way.


About the featured image:
Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell
Portrait, attributed to Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, of Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell, on which are scratched the words “E pur si muove” (not legible in this image).