Friday, December 06, 2013

That Celebrity Has No Duty to Be a Good Role Model for Your Child

I think it's funny whenever someone expresses anger at some celebrity for being a "poor role model for my children." A celebrity is under no obligation to be a good role model for anyone else's children. Insofar as a celebrity makes poor life choices, it is best to leave that celebrity free to face the harsh consequences of his own poor choices, and to let him be an example of how not to behave.

When someone says that Celebrity X "ought to be a better role model for my children," I want to say, "Why should that celebrity have to be a role model for your children at all? Here's an idea: You be the great role model for your children. I would be less worried by your child emulating that silly celebrity than by your implicit admission that your child finds that the celebrity is worthier of emulation than you are."

In This One Respect, Every Good Movie Is Good BECAUSE It Disprescts the Conservative Movement

Stuart K. Hayashi

You often hear people who are not on the political Left complain that the attitudes of most motion pictures, television programs, plays, novels, and other forms of narrative fiction tend to be heavily skewed toward the ideological Left.  The ideological Left considers entire categories of the population to be conservative and rightwing: (1) corporate executives, (2) imperialistic military men, and (3) strict, hard-nosed, intolerant, fire-and-brimstone Christian fundamentalists.  Therefore, such characters are always the villains.  Any time that a good guy somehow happens to be a corporate executive, military man, or an evangelical Christian, this good guy will always be depicted as a specimen who is atypical of his own category -- this character is usually more sensitive and nonjudgmental than is the "typical businessperson," "typical military leader," or "typical evangelical."  By contrast, environmentalists and hippies are thought of as being leftwing.  Therefore, they are almost always portrayed as good guys in movies.  (In the rare case where  an environmentalist or hippie is portrayed negatively, it is prefaced that he is a "rogue" member of this group who goes too far, and who is not representative of this group.)

For a long time, I have considered the leftwing bias in most narrative fiction to be nauseating. I still feel this way.  However, I believe there is one important respect where, for narrative fiction to succeed in pleasing its audience or reader,  narrative fiction must necessarily be anti-conservative.  More than that, for a narrative fiction to be emotionally satisfying, it has to go against one of the most important tenets preached by the conservative ideological movement.

Conservatism Being Defined as Standing Athwart Progress and Yelling "Stop!"
Many leftwing people call you a "conservative" if you oppose government takeovers of people's peaceful commercial transactions.  However, on account of such influences as Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk (that rhymes), there is another definition for ideological, civics-related conservatism.  The definition refers to believing that, in the West, any social custom that is currently valued as a longstanding tradition is necessarily good.  That tradition -- regardless of what it is -- is considered good by virtue of it having remained a tradition for so long.  Despite his having penned an essay titled "Why I Am Not a Conservative," Friedrich August von Hayek has indicated some special agreement with this conservative viewpoint.  In Hayek's theory, customs emerge through social evolution.  Some people try to start their new customs -- speciation -- and customs "compete" against each other.  A custom "wins" a competition if it becomes well-adopted and consistently practiced among the population.  That is the survival of the fittest as applied to social customs. The customs from our past that were the best for us Westerners, happened to survive and become what we today consider traditions.  Private commerce and private property, which became firmly established in the late nineteenth century, are deemed to be such time-tested traditions.   The same goes for celebrating Christmas. Thus, when people try to impose communism or socialism upon the West, communism and socialism make for unwelcome and radical innovations that disrespect our time-tested traditions.

Of course, there is an internal contradiction in Hayek's theory:  it ignores the fact that every traditional custom we value, including capitalism and Christmas, once started out as a wholly untraditional innovation.  There was a time in human history, for instance, when nobody celebrated Christmas.  Christmas had to start as an untraditional, radical innovation that challenged the time-tested traditions of paganism and widespread virgin sacrifice.  In the Middle Ages, the status quo of society was feudalism  and mercantilism-- feudalism and mercantilism were considered the time-tested traditions.  When increasingly laissez-faire liberal capitalist ideas emerged in the Renaissance and Enlightenment to challenge feudalism and mercantilism, capitalism was considered the unwelcome radical innovation disrespecting time-tested traditions.  Likewise, given that Hayek already conceded that human social customs emerge through social evolution, one can counter Hayek in saying that just as capitalism was the next evolutionary step above feudalism, socialism must be the next evolutionary step above capitalism (indeed, that was Karl Marx's argument in The Communist Manifesto).  The internal contradiction of Hayek's argument cannot be resolved unless Hayek believes that social evolution was good up until the late nineteenth century, when laissez-faire liberal capitalism had reached its peak.  At that point, Hayek presumably believes, society had gotten as perfect as it could be, and social evolution finally stopped.  Only if we believe that, can we believe that attempts for man to "evolve" from capitalism to socialism are unwelcome, whereas the past evolution from feudalism to capitalism was entirely welcome progression.

But anyhow, because of the influence of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk -- and, to some degree, even Hayek -- conservatism is ideologically linked not merely with individual Lockean rights and free commerce, but also with "valuing traditions on account of their being time-tested traditions."  The fetish over traditionalism means that conservativism is fixated on maintaining the status quo.  Conservatives do not care about judging the status quo as good or bad according to some external standard, such as how rational or humane the present customs are.  Whatever are the current customs, are assumed to be good.  The conservative movement's presumption about the inherent goodness of the status quo became evident when William F. Buckley defined the Western political conservative movement as being animated by the desire to "stand thwart history and yell, "Stop!'"

Leftists see Americans happily practice commerce and free enterprise, and therefore -- ignoring the fact that for most of man's two-million-year history, man was not consistently capitalist, with the modern conception of capitalism being a relatively recent innovation -- conclude that support for capitalism and free enterprise is stodgy conservative support for the status quo.  That leftists tend to associate militarists and evangelicals with social tradition is more understandable -- for most of history, prior to the Renaissance period, warriors and priests were uniformly the richest and most influential people in any society (warriors and shamans are even the most socially influential people in hunter-gatherer societies).

Now, what does this have to do with narrative fiction being inherently anti-conservative?  Insofar as narrative fiction can satisfy the audience or reader, quality narrative fiction necessarily opposes traditional social conservatism in this respect:  good fiction is about what happens when the status quo is shaken up.

From hereon, I am going to spoil the endings of famous stories.  ^_^

Every Good Fiction Narrative Denies Bill Buckley's Request
Motion-picture-screenwriter-turned-writing-coach Blake Snyder explains this well in his manual on effective narrative fiction writing, Save the Cat.  His point is that the audience is most emotionally satisfied when (1) the audience identifies with the protagonist and (2) the protagonist is wiser at the end of the story than he was at the beginning.  At least, he should be changed in some way.  This even applies in a story about a protagonist's downfall, in which, through unwise choices, the protagonist is more corrupt and less happy at the end than he was in the start.  For instance, Citizen Kane is about a man who becomes increasingly corrupt throughout the story.  he does not make a big change that saves his soul at the end.  However, when he says "Rosebud," indicating his lost innocence, that indicates that, in his final moment, Charles Foster Kane recognized, to some extent, how and where he went wrong.  Therefore, even when it comes to such "lost soul" protagonists, they are not only changed by the end, but also have some insight they did not possess in the beginning.  In the beginning, Charles Foster Kane is naive.  At the end, he's miserable and evil -- unredeemed -- but at least he has some self-realization in the very final moment.  In that respect, he's still wiser in the end.   The same can be said about Oedipus Rex -- at least he is less naive at the conclusion than he was at the start.   It is very rare that one sees a movie where the protagonist is exactly the same at the end as he was from the start.  In some ways, it appears that Charlize Theron's titular character in Young Adult has, by the final scene, learned very little from the experiences of the movie.  She came close to having a breakthrough, but then she blew it.  But I think that is exactly why many audiences judged the moving to be emotionally unsatisfying overall.

The idea is that the audience and readers identify with the protagonist.  The audience and readers are to experience the events of the story, vicariously, through what happens to the protagonist.  the lesson the protagonist learns is, by implication, the lesson for the audience and readers.  If the events contained no lesson for the protagonist to learn then, by implication, it follows that the events of the story contained no lesson for the audience or reader either.  Then the audience or reader will say, "What was the point?  There was none!"

Snyder points out that the protagonist normally makes his transition in three acts.  Act One shows the status quo for the protagonist.  That is, we are introduced to what life is normally like for the protagonist.  It can be pleasant or unpleasant; the point is that this is what is normal for the protagonist.  This rule applies even if the protagonist and everyone around him is an eccentric.  For instance, in Act One of The Nightmare Before Christmas, we are introduced to the monsters who inhabit the land of Halloween.  We are shown their rituals and customs. We are supposed to interpret Jack Skellington and the other monsters as weirdos.  However, for the purpose of the narrative, we are given access to what is routine for the monsters; they celebrate Halloween the same way every year.  It has become predictable, and Jack Skellington is bored with it.  What we see in Act One, is what is normal for Jack Skellington.

Act Two then introduces some radical innovation -- some change in the protagonist's circumstances -- that shakes up the status quo.  The radical innovation might be welcome or unwelcome, but it is always the opposite of the status quo.  If Act One revolves around the protagonist being miserable (such as in the case of Jack Skellington), then Act Two involves the protagonist having the opportunity to change what bothers him.  In the case of Nightmare Before Christmas, Act Two is about Jack Skellington abandoning the Halloween traditions and taking on a new enterprise: taking over Christmas.  By contrast, if the protagonist was happy with the status quo in Act One, then Act Two will cause distress for the protagonist.  An example would be in another Halloween-themed movie:  Halloween (how conveniently-titled!).  In Act One, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the other teenage girls in her social circle seem generally pleased with life.  Then in Act Two, Michael Myers begins his killing spree, ruining everything.

Act Three involves a sort of reconciliation -- or battle -- between the status quo of Act One and the radical life change of Act Two.  The story will end with one of two possible outcomes.  One possible outcome is that the protagonist comes to accept the radical life change that he experienced in Act Two.  An example of this would be in Despicable Me.  In Act One, Gru lives alone and occupies his time with his Lex Luthor-ish plans to commit crime.  In Act Two, the radical life change involves his adoption of three girls who often annoy him.  In Act Three, Gru must choose between his old life (being alone and committing crimes, as seen in Act One) or the radical life change (embracing his parental affection for the three girls, as was developed in Act Two).  In the case of this movie, Gru chooses the radical life change introduced in Act Two.  The other possible outcome is for the protagonist to fight off the radical life-changing circumstance and regain some semblance of what life was like in Act One.  In the case of Halloween,  Laurie Strode fights off Michael Myers (the radical life-changing circumstance introduced in Act Two), and the viewer is left with the assumption that she will try, as much as possible, to go on living safely as she did in Act One (although it seems she will have permanent trauma).

Another case of the second possible outcome is seen in Something Wicked This Way Comes.  In Act One, we are introduced to citizens of a small town.  They seem rather idyllic and conservative and don't have much complaints, although they nurse some secret insecurities.  The main character, played by Jason Robards, Jr., is insecure about his old age; he also feels insecure about how he already so old when his son was born.  He is old enough to be the grandfather of his son, and he worries that this makes it difficult for him to protect his son.  That is the status quo.  In Act Two, the seeming idyllic nature of the town is tested when the circus of Mr. Dark (played by Jonathan Pryce) comes onto the scene. He shakes up the status quo by addressing the insecurities of everyone in the town: he uses magic to cure everyone of their insecurities, but it always comes at a heavy price.  He seems to be an agent of the Devil.  In Act Three, Jason Robards Jr.'s love for his son motivates him to summon his courage and to defeat Mr. Dark's evil magic.  That is, the protagonist vanquishes the radical life-changing force that Act Two introduced.

At first, it may seem, in this case, that simply because the radical life-changing force of Act Two was defeated, it follows that the status quo from Act One has triumphed, and has now been restored.  But that is not the case.  The status quo from Act One re-emerges only in a superficial sense.  The town was peaceful in the beginning, and it goes back to being peaceful in the end.  However, the status quo in Jason Robards, Jr., himself has been permanently disrupted.  He is not the same as he was in the beginning.  In the beginning, he let himself be debilitated by his insecurities about being old and mortal and too weak to protect his son.  By the end, he has become a man determined to protect his son no matter what, he no longer dwells upon the old insecurities.

The same principle applies to Halloween.  Laurie Strode found peace in the beginning of the movie, and it is implied that she should find peace after the ordeal is over (well, at least after the ending of Halloween II).  However, Laurie Strode is still different at the end, at least in a subtle respect.  In Act One, she was naive about the sorts of dangers that life could thrust upon her.  By the close of Act Three, she is no longer so naive.

Therefore, even when, in the movie's conclusion, the radical life-changing influence of Act Two is outright evil and is outright vanquished, a change in the protagonist still happens.  Moreover, that change in the protagonist is something that the author wants his audience or readers to consider welcome.    The change in the protagonist is welcome even when the original impetus for that change, itself, was very evil and unwelcome.

For instance, the radical life-changing influence of Michael Myers attacking Laurie in Act Two, was evil and unwelcome, and it was ultimately vanquished.  However, in fighting off Michael Myers, Laurie has become wiser, and that change is welcome.  Likewise, in Something Wicked This Way Comes, the radical life-changing influence of Mr. Dark performing his magic in Act Two, was evil and unwelcome, and it was ultimately vanquished.  However, the battle against Mr. Dark motivated Jason Robards, Jr., to confront his own insecurities and fears.  He, too, has become wiser from the ordeal, and that change is welcome.  Therefore, even when the most radical- life-changing element of the story is fought off -- and the audience and reader are expected to approve of the radical life-changing influence being fought off -- it is inevitable that a much more important, deeper change occur within the protagonist himself.  That is, it is inevitable that (1) the status quo of the protagonist's psyche will forever be destroyed, and (2) the audience or reader is expected to consider this destruction of the inner-status-quo to be a good development.

That is, the protagonist has to change. If the protagonist does not change, then the story was a rip-off and the audience or reader will feel cheated.  To the extent that the author wants the story to be satisfying, the status quo that was within the protagonist's mind in Act One has to be destroyed.  And, in that regard, every satisfying form of narrative fiction is about change.  Every satisfying story is about change.  And, as a corollary, the status quo is to be challenged and discarded.  In that respect, every satisfying narrative is necessarily anti-conservative.

That is why, if you want to write a satisfying fiction story, you cannot do what William F. Buckley, Jr., does.  You cannot afford to stand athwart progress and yell, "Stop!"  For the protagonist to make no progress would mean that the protagonist remains completely unchanged from beginning to end.  If the author stands athwart the protagonist's progress, from the story's very beginning, and tells the progress, "Never begin!", then the story was pointless.  Insofar as the author wants the story to be good, the author has to be a rebellious, radical liberal innovator in this respect: The author must get out of the protagonist's way and let the progress occur within the protagonist's mind.

Because most fiction writers of our day have only seen what it is like to live in a commercial society, and are naive about what life is like in the absence of market economics, they misinterpret for-profit commerce, per se, as a corrupt status-quo.  Consider how Detective Comics rebooted the Superman comics in 1986.  The story was told from Lois Lane's point of view.  In Act One, we are introduced to Lois Lane and the status quo.  The status quo is that the world is ruled by profit-chasing businessmen, which is the same as saying that the world is corrupt.  It is no wonder that Lex Luthor is now a self-made billionaire corporate executive.  In Act Two, Superman arrives.  He is the radical life-changing force that shakes up the status quo in Act Two, challenging the businessmen who run the corrupt establishment (Lex Luthor) and showing Lois Lane that there is still is hope in this world. 

Even if a Satisfying Story Is Said to Have a "Conservative" Message, the Story Entertains You Because It Refrains from Conservatism in an Important Context
Now, it is possible to write a satisfying fiction story that can be considered "pro-conservatism" to left-wingers and right-wingers alike.  However, even when the protagonist is nominally and superficially "conservative," the story is only satisfying if a central character becomes wiser in the end.  And this transition to greater wisdom is, in an important context, inherently and decidedly non-conservative.

I will give an example of how even a movie that allegedly has a socially "conservative" message is anti-conservative in how it requires a central character to change.  I think of the late 1990s romantic comedy Blast from the Past.  The movie begins in 1962, when a mad scientist named Calvin Weber (Christopher Walken) and his pregnant wife (Sissy Spacek) mistakenly believe that the USA is being destroyed by nuclear missiles.  They trap themselves in Walken's underground fallout shelter, and no one can leave the fallout shelter until 25 years have elapsed.   They have their son, whom they name Adam.  They teach Adam many scientific facts and, more importantly, good, old-fashioned, early 1960s'style manners and conscientiousness.  He eventually grows up to be Brendan Fraser, and, once 1997 arrives, Adam can finally go up to the surface world.  Ah, but Act One has not yet ended.  At this point, we are introduced to the actual central character, a young L.A. woman named Eve Rustikoff (Alicia Silverstone).  Now we are introduced the central character's status quo:  by the 1990s, good manners have gone by the wayside.  Everyone is disrespectful of each other and are jaded.  And Eve is no exception.  Then she meets Adam, and Adam shakes up her world.  That is where Act Two takes place.

Eve is initially surprised and annoyed by how polite and respectful Adam is to her and everyone else; she considers that weird and foreign.  Of course, what is really going on is that Act One's status quo is one where everyone is disrespectful and libertine -- this sort of society is what social conservatives believe to be the natural result of social liberalism taken to its logical conclusion.  By contrast, Adam represents what are believed to be old-fashioned "conservative" values -- he is deeply religious and cares about being polite and respectful.  Note that, technically, he was home-schooled (his parents believed they were the last surviving humans anyway), and therefore this movie has a pro-homeschooling subtext; it is one of the few movies that portrays homeschooling in a positive, rather than derogatory, light.  Throughout Act Two, Eve gradually finds herself falling for Adam, and she becomes less cynical (that is, what conservatives think of as "less liberal").  In Act Three, Eve must choose whether she wants to be with Adam.  If she rejects him, and goes back to her old life, then she is essentially going with what is the status quo of the story:  left-wing libertine cynicism.  By contrast, if Eve chooses to be with Adam, she likewise chooses the old-fashioned (conservative?) early-1960s politeness and family values.

I can see why National Review praised Blast from the Past as a "movie with a conservative message."  That is ironic, as I do not think the movie's makers intended for political conservatives to like it.  I would not be surprised if everyone involved in the making of the movie was left-wing and hated political conservatives. I think that what was actually going on was that the film's writers did not think of Adam as a symbol for political or social conservatism, but simply saw him as being representative of old-fashioned, early-1960s family values and good manners.  After all, back in the early 1960s, supporters of the welfare state who voted for Democrats were also told to believe in all that stuff.

Now here is what I find interesting:  from the viewpoint of the movie's audience, it would seem that Adam is the conservative, and the cynical modern city around him (including Eve in the beginning) is liberal.  However, from the perspective of the story itself, the positions are reversed.  Remember:  as far as the story is concerned, whatever is the status quo, is the conservative position.  The cynical, impolite, irreligious libertines who occupy Los Angeles in this story are the status quo; they are the establishment and represent the consensus opinion. They are what the story considers the normal, default position.  Therefore, cynical libertine characters in this movie are the movie's conservatives.  By contrast, by consistently being religious and polite and respectful of others, Adam behaves as a complete weirdo -- he is out of step with everyone else, a "fish out of water."  He is the radical innovative element that shakes up the status quo in Act Two.  Therefore, as far as the story concerns him, Adam being religious and well-mannered makes him the radical, rebellious, innovative liberal.

The same principle applies to The Fountainhead.  Because the story opposes political-economic collectivism and the welfare state, people assume the story is a "conservative" one . But it is not.  We see what actually goes on when we consider that the story is told from the perspective of Dominique Francon.  Just as Lois Lane saw everyone else in Metropolis as too corrupt in the beginning of the 1986 Superman comics series, Dominique sees all of the people around her behaving as unthinking conformists.  She sees so much of it, that she believes there is no possible alternative to it.  That is the status quo of the story, and therefore all of the conformists of the story -- including the supporters of the welfare state, such as Mitchell Layton and Ellsworth Toohey -- are conservatives.  Then, in Act Two, Dominique meets and falls for Howard Roark, who challenges her preconceptions.  Just as Adam Weber was in Blast for the Past, Howard Roark comes across as this big weirdo who shakes up the status quo.  Howard Roark is a man who actually says what he means and means what he says, who walks his talk.  His integrity makes him abnormal.  In dealing with him, Dominique learns what else is possible to humankind.  In Act Three, Dominique must make a choice.  If she refuses to help Roark, then she will be going with the opinion she had in Act One -- her status-quo position -- which involves the pessimistic belief that good cannot win and therefore should not try to win.  By contrast, if Dominique helps out Roark, it means that she has changed.  It means she now concedes that integrity can indeed win and it is imperative to take action to preserve that integrity.

Therefore, even when a satisfying story's protagonist is called "conservative," the protagonist refrains from being conservative in this important respect:  far from accepting the status-quo position, the protagonist affects a change.  Contra Bill Buckley, the protagonist urges progress to March Ahead, not "stop!"

Sunday, December 01, 2013

To Appreciate Someone Else Is to Be Concerned With One's Self-Interest on a Very Deep, Emotional Level

Stuart K. Hayashi

You might say to me, "I bought your book because I anticipated that I would find it insightful and enjoyable. And my prediction was correct. That was money well-spent." That would warm my heart. I would find it very flattering. ^_^

Or you might say to me, "I consider you a lousy writer. Your philosophy is garbage. I predicted that your book would be terrible. I purchased the book and read it, and I was correct in my prediction. God-awful. The reason I bought your book was that I could tell you're hard-up for money, and I figured that buying your book would be more face-saving for you than giving you money outright. You're welcome." That would . . . not be so flattering. :-(

In either scenario, I would receive the same amount of money. But the first scenario is better than the second. In the first scenario, I feel so much more appreciated, exactly because I know that you gain something from me -- that you recognize that it is in your self-interest to associated with me; that you seek me out because you feel enriched by me.

In other words, I feel better when people associate with me for their own selfish reasons, rather than because they hate me and feel that associating with me is charity that they direct toward me.

When I say that that I like it when people seek me out for their own selfish reasons, I don't want to be misunderstood. It would not be good if someone disliked me, but needed my help for tutoring. Maybe that person asks me for tutoring, and I provide it. That person gets the help needed from me, and then resumes disrespecting me. That is seeking me out for ostensibly self-interested reasons (in a rather shortsighted, short-term fashion), but that is definitely not being appreciated. What that other person wanted from me, was something very impersonal; I was treated as an object.

When I say that I feel valued when other people consider it to be in their self-interest to be around me, I mean this: I feel appreciated when other people experience a very deep, personal, emotional gain from having my company or reading my works.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Many Criticisms of Illegal Aliens Are Also Applicable to Young Native-Born Americans; Want to Restrict Their Entry Into This World Too?

Stuart K. Hayashi

When the government says that a certain activity can only be legally allowed if it is licensed by the government, we know that that is intended to limit the number of people practicing that activity.  A work visa, student visa, or a family visa is a license that certifies that someone may legally enter the United States for some extended period of time.  However, immigration visas are a special sort of license:  there is a quota limiting the number of visas that may be issued to visitors from each country every year. 

The fact that you must be licensed to open a business, limits the number of businesses legally opened each year.  However, there is not, to my knowledge, a quota that specifies that no more than, say, 10,000 businesses may be opened this fiscal year in the USA.  By contrast, there is a fixed number of visas that may be issued to migrants from Mexico every year.  Therefore, licensing laws restrict legal immigration in ways that licensing on businesses does not.  It takes an average five years for a Mexican to receive a visa to reunite with family members in the United States.  Considering that, it's no wonder that so many people resort to sneaking into the USA. 

And this raises a lot of ire.  We hear the same criticisms of illegal aliens over and over again.  But what I find interesting about this is that many of these criticisms are also applicable to native-born Americans who are very young: those from Generation Y (such as myself) and those from the subsequent generation, Generation Z.   And at least one of the criticisms of illegal aliens also applies to elderly U.S. citizens, most of whom are native-born.  Let's go over them.

1.  "They speak in some sort of code I don't understand.  And they're culturally backward -- they don't appreciate the icons of Western culture, such as Last of the Mohicans, that I appreciate."  They are inassimilable.

Yes, many illegal aliens speak in some strange code that middle-aged native-born Americans don't understand.  But the same can be said of the younger generation of native-born Americans.  Every generation has its strange form of slang, and much of the younger generation's slang is intended to be a code not understood by the older people.  How often do you hear old people complain that young people speak their own strange language?

It is said that illegal aliens do not appreciate classic icons of traditional American culture.  Illegal aliens, for example, tend not to be familiar with Western artworks like Last of the Mohicans.  But the same can be said of young native-born Americans.

2. "They are politically backward and do not value the individual-rights philosophy of the Founding Fathers. Why, they tend to vote for Democrats!"
My first item was rather humorous; now we're getting more serious.  It is commonly claimed that Spanish-speaking illegal aliens do not value the individual-rights philosophy of the U.S. Founding Fathers.  Moreover, U.S. citizens who happen to be related to these illegal aliens, or at least feel sympathy toward them, tend to vote for Democrats that enlarge the welfare state.  To my horror, I have heard people say that this is a good reason to have the federal government exercise physical force to prevent Hispanics from migrating to the USA.

But this same criticism can be leveled against the youngest generation of native-born voters:  Generation Y.  Overwhelmingly, whom did Generation Y vote for in 2008 and 2012? Barack Obama.  Moreover, Generation Y, full of Democrats, is having lots of babies, probably who will grow in an environment that encourages them to also share in the Democratic Party's welfare-state ideology.  Do we want to pass laws to stop this as well?

More than a few times, I have heard supporters of open immigration make a modest proposal here: if you feel so strongly that there ought to be laws controlling the population's political ideology -- saying that whether or not someone should be allowed to be a U.S. resident, based on how he will vote -- then should we also have licenses on who may or may not have children?  Let's say that every birth must first be approved by the federal government. A license allowing a birth is called a Birth Visa.  For an expectant mother to be granted her Birth Visa, she must certify that once her child reaches voting age, that child will refrain from voting for Democrats and other politicians who support the welfare state.  The woman must promise that her child will vote for people other than Democrats and welfare-state proponents.  In making this promise, the woman must put up some collateral: the baby's life.  If, upon reaching 18, this person votes for Democrats, the promise has been broken, and the collateral -- the person's life -- must be collected by the State.   Moreover, since there is a specific number of visas that may be issued each year, let's also affix a specific number of birth visas that may be issued in the USA each year.

Does that sound barbaric?  Some people might point out that it's silly to expect that young people are just mindless zombies programmed by their parents -- that they have minds of their own and can be rationally persuaded to accept arguments against the welfare state.  But if that is true, then why is the same principle not recognized about undocumented immigrants -- that they, too, have minds of their own and are subject to rational persuasion?  That they can change their minds? 

Incidentally, although this "modest proposal" is satirical, I must sadly report to you that in Hawaii I have met a disturbed elderly woman who seriously thinks it is a good idea.  She hates people born in the ghetto, thinks they are not "properly assimilated into mainstream [she means 'white'] American culture," thinks they commit crimes [against white people] and receive welfare, and says it would be good if native-born American women in ghettos had to be licensed to have children.   This brings us to the next item.

3. "Hispanics form their own enclaves -- ghettos -- and commit violent crimes!"
See the above paragraph.  There are native-born Americans born into ghettos who are not Hispanic, and native-born Americans do commit crimes.  Do we want to follow that woman's suggestion and say that a native-born woman in the ghetto should have a license -- a birth visa -- to have a child?

4. "They are a tax burden."
I frequently hear the accusation that illegal aliens go on welfare and are a tax burden.  Let's consider a rather extreme case of this accusation. The Heritage Foundation levels the allegation that illegal immigrants cost the U.S. taxpayer $900 billion in taxes every year. 

Even if they are skeptical about the Heritage Foundation, many people do agree that Hispanic immigrants are a tax burden and that this justifies having a quota on the number of visas issued every year.

Well, do you know which group of people are a bigger tax burden?  U.S. citizens. Earlier I have talked about the younger generation; now I will discuss the elderly.  Among elderly U.S. citizens are immigrants who have been naturalized as U.S. citizens.  Most elderly U.S. citizens, however, are native-born.  Consider that Social Security for U.S. citizens annually costs U.S. taxpayers $700 billion, and that another $700 billion goes to pay for Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) annually.

In other words, U.S. citizens -- most of whom are native-born -- cost their fellow U.S. taxpayers over $1.4 trillion annually.  To wit, these U.S. citizens are more of a tax burden than are illegal aliens.

In fact, many illegal aliens are financially supporting Social Security recipients.  You must be a U.S. citizen to collect Social Security; this precludes most illegal aliens from collecting it.  Yet illegal aliens pay for Social Security because, when their employers make their payrolls, Social Security contributions are deducted from the illegal aliens' paychecks. 

Illegal aliens put more money into public coffers, overall, than they take out.  But, for argument's sake, let us imagine it is true that they are a net drain on the system.  The fact of the matter is that even if there were zero immigration, the welfare state would be unsustainable.  Welfare coffers, by their nature, motivate people to be on the receiving end rather than on the contributing end.  If there were no immigrants, native-born Americans would have children who consume services that tax money pays for.  Again, would this justify a system wherein women must be licensed to have children?  And even if having no children were a requirement of receiving welfare, welfare would still be unsustainable by virtue of how it motivates people to receive money from the coffers but not to contribute to them, eventually resulting in everyone wanting to collect money but no one putting more money in. 

Thus, it's not the case that the welfare state could operate indefinitely if only there were no immigration.  Welfare-state coffers would still be drained.  If immigrants hasten the draining of these public coffers, it only means that Americans must face the inevitable repercussions sooner rather than later.   Insofar as immigrants take money out of public coffers, the fact remains that they did not create this inherent weakness of the welfare state; it was already there.  To restrict immigration to preserve the welfare state's coffers does not prevent the eventual depletion of the coffers; it only postpones the inevitable reckoning. 

Moreover, consider other ways in which U.S. citizens impose tax burdens on each other.  Taxpayers finance government-controlled museums.  Taxpayers paid for the multi-billion-dollar bailout of big banks like Citigroup.  Taxpayers pay subsidies to major agribusinesses.  These institutions are all burdens on the taxpayer.  Such institutions require licenses to operate, but there is not a quota limiting the number of business licenses issued to such institutions each year.  Would it make sense to you if the government said, "Since cotton farms are a burden to the U.S taxpayer, we are placing a fixed cap on the number of new cotton farms that can open each year"?  Would that sound like a solution to you, or would it sound like an increase in draconianism that worsens the problem?  If so, then the "tax burden" argument cannot justify there being a fixed quantity of visas issued to Mexico annually.

5. Thomas Sowell's double standard on hiring Mexicans for low wages: good or bad depending on which side of the border the Mexican is on

There is an argument against open immigration that doubles as an argument against free international trade.  First we hear that if we allow open immigration, that is bad because big companies will choose to hire Mexicans within U.S. borders; they will hire the Mexicans for low wages and leave native-born Americans without work.  Secondly, we hear that if we allow free international trade, that is bad because big companies will choose to hire Mexicans still in Mexico; they will hire the Mexicans for low wages and leave native-born Americans without work.  Both accusations stress that big companies will choose to hire Mexicans for low wages and leave native-born Americans without work; the only difference between the two allegations is that in one, the Mexicans are still in Mexico whereas, in the other, the Mexicans are in the USA.

Thomas Sowell shows a double standard here.  He says that in the case of free international trade, there is nothing to fear when it comes to the idea that big companies will hire Mexicans in Mexico for low wages.  In his book Basic Economics (see page 218 here), Sowell correctly states,

As for jobs, before the free-trade agreement was passed, there were dire predictions of a "giant sucking sound" as jobs would be sucked out of the United States to Mexico and other countries with lower wage rates after the free-trade agreement went into effect.  In reality, the number of [native-born] American jobs increased after the agreement and the unemployment rate in the United States fell over the next seven years from more than seven percent down to four percent, the lowest level seen in decades.  . . . What happens when a given country, in isolation, becomes more prosperous?  It tends to buy more because it has more to buy with.  And what happens when it buys more?  There are more jobs created for workers producing the additional goods and services.

That argument is correct.  But, bizarrely, Sowell seems not to notice that it is applicable when native-born Americans reduce their own costs by hiring Mexicans for low wages.  He makes a frighteningly protectionist argument against allowing U.S. firms to hire Mexican immigrants for low wages:

How often have we heard that illegal immigrants "take jobs that Americans will not do"? What is missing in this argument is what is crucial in any economic argument: price.

Americans will not take many jobs at their current pay levels -- and those pay levels will not rise so long as poverty-stricken immigrants are willing to take those jobs.

If Mexican journalists were flooding into the United States and taking jobs as reporters and editors at half the pay being earned by American reporters and editors, maybe people in the media would understand why the argument about "taking jobs that Americans don't want" is such nonsense.

This is odd, because the same "cost savings" argument that Sowell used to defend the hiring of low-wage Mexicans in Mexico equally applies to the hiring of low-wage Mexicans in the USA.

First, let's observe how Sowell's own retort against hiring low-wage Mexicans in the USA can also be used against his defense of hiring low-wage Mexicans in Mexico. 

How often have we heard that, thanks to the free-agreements that Sowell supports, Mexicans in Mexico and Indians in India "take jobs from Americans"?  What is missing from Sowell's argument is what is crucial in any economic argument: price.

Americans will not take many jobs at their current price levels -- and those pay levels will not rise as long as poverty-stricken Mexicans in Mexico are willing to take those jobs.

If U.S. firms were outsourcing information-technology jobs to Mexico and India, and those Mexicans and Indians were earning half the pay that would be expected by American information-technology workers, maybe economists would understand why it's nonsense to let U.S. firms outsource information-technology jobs abroad.

The same defense that Sowell provides to hiring low-wage Mexicans in Mexico applies to hiring low-wage Mexicans in the USA. 

Sowell says this is the reason why it's OK if U.S. firms can hire Mexicans in Mexico for low wages, rather than giving those jobs to native-born Americans:  when those U.S. firms save money by hiring Mexicans in Mexico for low wages, they incur cost savings. It's not as if the U.S. firms will just sit on that money.  All money is spent in the long run:  either it is spent for immediate needs or it is saved for a future expenditure.  Those U.S. firms then use that cost savings to invest in new economic activities, or they spend it for immediate use.  Either form of expenditure produces demand for more goods and services.  The increase in demand for more goods and services sends a signal to would-be entrepreneurs that they will profit by supplying such goods and services.  These would-be entrepreneurs then hire native-born Americans.  True, when the USA and Mexico trade freely, this expands the market so that there is an increased supply of would-be employees.  But this is balanced out by a commensurate increase in demand for would-be employees.  That is why, everything else being equal, there is not an increase in unemployment.

Now observe how this argument applies to the labor market within U.S. borders.  When immigrants come to the USA and work for low wages, they increase the supply of available would-be employees.  However, these same immigrants must also consume goods and services.  Thus, the presence of these immigrants also increases consumer demand for goods and services.  And this increase in consumer demand signals to would-be entrepreneurs (native-born and immigrant alike) that they can profit by supplying such goods and services.  These would-be entrepreneurs then hire native-born Americans to assist them in that enterprise.

This is the reason why I say it's OK if U.S. firms can hire Mexicans in the USA for low wages, rather than giving those jobs to native-born Americans:  when those U.S. firms save money by hiring Mexicans in Mexico for low wages, they incur cost savings. It's not as if the U.S. firms will just sit on that money.  All money is spent in the long run:  either it is spent for immediate needs or it is saved for a future expenditure.  Those U.S. firms then use that cost savings to invest in new economic activities, or they spend it for immediate use.  Either form of expenditure produces demand for more goods and services.   The immigrant population earning the low wages also produce consumer demand for such goods and services. The increase in demand for more goods and services sends a signal to would-be entrepreneurs that they will profit by supplying such goods and services. These would-be entrepreneurs then hire native-born Americans.  True, when native-born Americans and illegal aliens trade freely, this expands the market so that there is an increased supply of would-be employees.  But this is balanced out by a commensurate increase in demand for would-be employees.  That is why, everything else being equal, there is not an increase in unemployment.


Therefore, the common accusations explicitly leveled against illegal aliens are also applicable to young native-born Americans in many cases (and, in at least one case, also applicable to elderly U.S. citizens).  This cartoon by Cox and Forkum has it right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Truth Didn't Wear Off; He Just Chose to Reject It

This article from a 2010 issue of The New Yorker, titled "The Truth Wears Off," deals with the genuine problem of academic scientists failing to report their own results accurately (I don't know how prevalent this problem is).  The article states,

Richard Palmer, a biologist at the University of Alberta, who has studied the problems surrounding fluctuating asymmetry, suspects that an equally significant issue is the selective reporting of results -- the data that scientists choose to document in the first place. Palmer’s most convincing evidence relies on a statistical tool known as a funnel graph. When a large number of studies have been done on a single subject, the data should follow a pattern: studies with a large sample size should all cluster around a common value -- the true result -- whereas those with a smaller sample size should exhibit a random scattering, since they’re subject to greater sampling error. This pattern gives the graph its name, since the distribution resembles a funnel.

The funnel graph visually captures the distortions of selective reporting . . .  As Palmer notes, this wide discrepancy suggests that scientists find ways to confirm their preferred hypothesis, disregarding what they don't want to see.

 Unfortunately, this article, which addresses the issues of honesty and accuracy, was written by . . .  Jonah Lehrer.  This is the same Jonah Lehrer who was later caught making up fake Bob Dylan quotations for what he marketed as a nonfiction book.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Must Children Be Pressured Into Finding Long-Term Happiness?, or Maria Montessori Had the Right Idea

Stuart K. Hayashi

I think that many people have the wrong idea of what it means to encourage children to achieve. Many people have the notion that man is a "fallen creature" -- fallen from grace -- and that this means every behavior we find desirable in others is somehow a negation of human nature, human nature somehow being inherently corrupt. Thus, laziness and self-indulgence are considered to be parts of human nature, whereas self-discipline and the showing of grit in the face of setbacks are somehow assumed to be the mind and the will overcoming human nature itself. Thus a number of people have the primitive notion that it's good for parents to pressure their children to achieve.

A few years ago, Professor Amy Chua of Yale caused a controversy when she wrote a book about Asian 'Tiger Moms' who put heavy pressure on their children to succeed in school. But a more recent book ('Gifted Hands') by black neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson shows that his mother was as much of a Tiger Mom as the Asians.

"Not only did Dr. Carson rise from the ghetto to become an internationally recognized neurosurgeon, his brother became an engineer — both of them children of a poverty-stricken mother with only three years of education. But Tiger Moms get results.
--Thomas Sowell

Long before Amy Chua came along, there already was a term for the "Tiger Mother" model she extolled. The original term for "Tiger Mother" was . . . "Stage Mother." If you want an example of what a Tiger Mother really looks like, consider how Gypsy Rose Lee's mother was portrayed in the movie Gypsy. That is our glorious Tiger Mom. Incidentally, Lisa VanDamme provides an excellent refutation of the "Tiger Mom" model over here.

The one who really had the right idea about encouraging children to achieve was Maria Montessori. Certainly children do need guidance and care -- it is important to protect children from physical danger, such as from touching hot stoves. But aside from that, it's important to let children discover what are their own interests and aptitudes, and to let them develop the peaceable skills that they want to develop -- to let them develop themselves as the autodidacts that human beings are naturally born to be. There is something far more important than my getting my children to accomplish what I want for them: it's that my children ultimately be free to accomplish what they want for themselves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Important American Warns Us They're Not Culturally Assimilating =0

Stuart K. Hayashi

Eeeeeeek! Those people come over to our country and don't assimilate! They just form their own ethnic enclaves in ghettos, where they don't bother to learn the language; their children still speak the mother country's language!  :-o

An important, patriotic American scientist, publisher, and statesman warns,

"...Few of their children in the country learn English... Advertisements intended to be general are now printed in Spanish and English; the signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only Spanish: They begin of late to make all their bonds and other legal writings in their own language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our courts, where the Hispanic business so increases that there is continual need of interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our legislators what the other half say; In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other countries, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in my opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious. . . . Yet I am not for refusing entirely to admit them into our country: all that seems to be necessary is, to distribute them more equally, mix them with the English-speakers, establish English-only schools..."

OK, this was actually written by Benjamin Franklin in his letter to Peter Collinson, May 9, 1753. He wasn't talking about Spanish-speakers but about Germans. Every time he said "German" or "Dutch," I replaced it with "Spanish" or "Hispanic." And when he said "our colonies," I replaced those two words with "our country." And I replaced "the English" with "English-speakers" or "English-only."

I'm not the first person to point out that Franklin's laments about German immigrants in his own time parallel the grievances we hear about immigrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries today. Jeff Jacoby has mentioned this.

So . . . aren't you worried about all those Germans coming into the USA and not assimilating?!!!!!  :-o

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

'Homo economicus': Economic Man or Straw Man?

Stuart K. Hayashi

Economic illiterates say that free-market economists have an unrealistic conception of human nature, which the economic illiterates dub Homo economicus (meaning Economic Man).  Homo economicus is said to have no empathy and to act only for his own gain, particularly in monetary terms. Homo economicus doesn't care about his family or about non-monetary gains, such as prestige, snob appeal, or a sense of familial warmth.

Here's the thing: Homo economics is a straw man. No free-market economist, not even a utilitarian like Jeremy Bentham, argues that humans only seek to maximize profit that can be measured in terms of monetary units. What economists call utility refers to ALL values humans seek -- love, affection, respect, a sense of safety, etc., and this includes values that are not measured in terms of monetary units.

Critics who accuse economists of fixating on such an unrealistic image of human nature as Homo economicus are actually the ones who fixate on an unrealistic image of economists.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hunches Versus Reason; or, Respectively, Gamblers Versus the House

Stuart K. Hayashi

I think it would be illogical to say, "In real life, you don't need to follow reason. If you go by hunches and following social convention, you will do just fine." To me, saying that is like expecting the house to lose against its gamblers.

Unless he or she is some sophisticated math whiz who counts cards, the gambler likely is not using some sophisticated system of reasoning in making the gambles. Rather, the gambler is going by hunches and gut feelings. Insofar as the gambler wins in a casino, the gambler does so by pure luck. Also note that sometimes social conformity is involved in gambling. If I see one person on a temporary winning streak at a blackjack table, it may motivate me and other casino patrons to try to copy his moves. In the end, that does not improve our odds of winning.

By contrast, the house does not rely solely on luck. The house uses tools and machines built by engineers. Even before having started business, the house had actuaries and other statistical experts calculate the average cost and average revenue the casino is to make for every game played on every slot machine, craps table, and blackjack deal. In other words, the house does not merely rely on luck. The house has both logical science and mathematical probability on its side.

That is why, when you pit gamblers against a competent house, the competent house will always win more money from the average gambler than the average gambler wins from the house.

Insofar as you would rather make out like the house than like the average gambler, it follows that using reason is to your advantage.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Envying My Sexiness ^_^

When people hassle me a lot, I remind myself that it's only because they're jealous of my beautiful nose hair.  ^_^

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Answers to Salon.Com's '11 Questions to See if Libertarians Are Hypocrites'

Stuart K. Hayashi

 Because Salon.Com despises free enterprise, it frequently launches missives against the advocates of free markets.  We see this in Salon.Com's "11 Questions to See if Libertarians Are Hypocrites," written by R. J. Eskow, which relies on the usual straw men.  Of course, Salon.Com's "questions" are not really questions; they are insinuations disguised as questions, such as going up to a stranger and saying, "Why do you rape children?"

Objectivist Chris McKenzie pointed out this essay to me, and he showed me his answers to the "11 question."

Chris has inspired me.  I have my own answers to the eleven insinuations-disguised-as-questions.

But first I should make a clarification about my own political philosophy.  I have my own "flavor" of "libertarianism," if you will, which is not the same sort of "libertarianism" espoused by Milton Friedman or Murray Rothbard or David D. Friedman or Friedrich August von Hayek or Robert Nozick or Ron Paul or Glenn Beck. 

I often see "talking heads" from the Cato Institute go onto Fox News programs and blather about how some government programs is bad primarily because it will reduce GDP and contribute to unemployment.  I do care about those econometric figures, but -- contrary to those Catoites -- they are not my main concern.  My main concern in politics is that I oppose the initiation of physical force.

Laws are ultimately enforced at gunpoint.  Suppose there was a law saying that you would merely be fined for having been caught smoking a joint.  That sounds like no big deal, right?  But what if the police caught you smoking a joint, and you didn't pay the fine?  You would be fined some more.  If you neglected to discharge any fines, then any government worth its salt would subpoena you to a court to explain yourself. What if you ignored the summons?  Insofar as the government is interested in enforcing its own laws, the government would send police to apprehend you.  If you run from them or fight back against them, they will have to apply physical violence to restrain you.  If you fight to the very end, you might have to be shot.  According to Amnesty International, even TASERs have killed people.  The more you resist compliance with the law, the more the government must escalate the physical severity of its punishment against you.  The final punishment for absolute disobedience is violent death.  Laws are all about threatening physical violence against people who disobey those laws.  (Leonard E. Read pointed this out as early as 1962.)

And I am fine with having laws against murdering people, hitting people, sexually assaulting people, harassing people, poisoning people, stealing from people, breaching contracts with them, defrauding them, and vandalizing their private property.  Those are all forms of violence against person and private property. Therefore laws against such actions are merely retaliatory force that stops the force that was initiated against the innocent parties. 

However, what about laws against smoking a joint in the privacy of your own home?  What about laws that forbid you from agreeing to work for someone for below the minimum wage?  Such laws are what initiate the threat of physical violence against peaceful parties.  I therefore oppose such laws.

My position is not in support of anarchy.  Rather, my position is in support of what is called the night watchman state.

I explain my position in further detail in a 10-minute YouTube video, which you can see here.

Without further ado, here are my answers to the "questions."

1) Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?
Yes, those are forms of spontaneous order.  But whether or not some social arrangement is spontaneous or orderly or both is not the issue.  When private parties get together to form the mafia, that, too, is an example of spontaneous order.  I do not support the existence of the mafia, as the mafia initiates violence against peaceful people. 

The same principle applies to social movements like Occupy Wall Street.  When Occupy Wall Street advocates the forcible redistribution of wealth, it advocates violence. 

The presumption that free-market advocates laud "spontaneous order" as their main priority, is a straw man.  There are peaceful social arrangements that arise through spontaneous order, and there are violent arrangements -- such as the mafia -- that also arise through spontaneous order.  I oppose the violent arrangements. 

When I marvel at the wonders of the spontaneous order of the marketplace, what fascinates me is not that order emerges from chaos -- that is inevitable and happens all throughout nature -- but that order emerges peaceably from the bottom-up; that the order need not be violently imposed from the top-down by a governmental authority claiming to know best.  What most impresses me about peaceful spontaneous order is not the spontaneous order but the peacefulness of it. 

2) Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?
Contrary to R. J. Eskow, there is no central authority that truly knows, at some noumenal level, what amount of reward is "just."  Do you want a central governmental authority deciding what is the "just reward" for every action and then dictating the "just reward" for any and every action?  If not, then it is best to leave peaceful individuals free to decide for themselves what they will or will not reward, what behavior they will or will not "positively reinforce."  Will I always agree with what other people choose to reward? Of course not.  Perhaps I despise some musician and resent how other people choose to reward his lousy music by paying lots of money for it.  That I live with this resentment, however, is far more tolerable than having a governmental authority -- with the threat of violence backing its decisions -- deciding what is or is not a "just reward" for others. 

Suppose you really like a musician I hate, and I consider it "injustice" when you reward that musician for his lousy music by paying for it.  If I successfully lobbied the government to put a limit on the amount of money you could shower upon that musician, would that be corrective justice?  No, it would not. There can be no justice where violence is threatened on peaceful people, no matter how questionable their judgment.  Therefore, there can be no justice when the government uses its force of law -- its violence -- to override the peaceable choices that individuals make for and amongst themselves. 

What R. J. Eksow would call the government using its authority to provide just rewards that the market would not provide, really amount to R. J. Eskow asking the government to impose R. J. Eskow's will on others by force.

3) Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?
Yes, and no free-market advocate objects to that.  To presume that free-market advocates sympathize solely with private employers, and recognize none of the reciprocal rights of freely-contracting employees, is another straw man.

4) Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?
No.  A free market needing governmental regulation is an oxymoron.  A free market is a market in which the initiation of physical force is either absent or punished.  By contrast, government regulation of market activity means that the government threatens violence against peaceful market participants in order to override what those market participants peacefully agreed to.  To say that a free market needs regulation is to say that a free market needs to destroy itself -- that a dynamic of peace needs initiatory violence introduced into it.

5) Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.
The issue is how much of a priority is placed on democratic voting.  In an absolute democracy like that of ancient Athens, people have the authority to vote on whether they may use violence against peaceful people.  Socrates used no violence when he spoke unpopular opinions.  Nonetheless, the absolute democracy of Athens voted on whether to execute Socrates based on his opinions. 

If the United States were an absolute democracy in the 1950s, then people would have had the power to place, on the ballot, an initiative on whether gay men should all be castrated.  Frankly, even if a majority was willing to vote down such a measure, the electorate should not have the authority to vote on that in the first place.

You may note that the word democracy does not appear in the U.S. Constitution.  (The U.S. Constitution is online right here. Go look for the word democracy in it.) In the Federalist Papers, James Madison -- the father of our U.S. Constitution -- explained that the USA was never intended to be an absolute democracy.  And we should be thankful for that.  Madison intended for the United States to be a constitutional (classically-liberal) republic.  In a constitutional liberal republic, citizens still have the authority to vote on certain measures, such as who can be elected to offices like "governor" and "sheriff."  However, a constitutional liberal republic recognizes that peaceful citizens have certain individual rights that are so important, that not even a majority should be allowed to vote them down.  For example, a constitutional liberal republic prioritizes freedom of speech above what the majority says. 

Suppose, for example, that some people were offended by Miley Cyrus's MTV Video Music Awards performance and wish to enact a law that hereafter bans her and Lady Gaga from stage performing ever again.  In absolute democracy, people would vote on that.  By contrast, a constitutional liberal republic says that the freedom of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga to perform peaceably is more important than what a majority says, and therefore citizens should not even have the opportunity to vote on whether government force should censor peaceful musicians.

You can read Madison's own words on this -- that freedom requires that the USA be a constitutional republic and not a democracy -- in the Federalist Papers No. 10, No. 14, and No. 55.

6) Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?
The government should protect people from violence -- that is what the night watchman state does.  I am not an anarchist; I recognize the need for a night watchman state to protect individuals and their private property. Absent of a night watchman state, there is no free market.

If, however, R. J. Eskow is referring to infrastructure normally provided by governments, such as roads and waterworks, the fact of the matter is that these services have historically been provided by private entrepreneurs and were subsequently taken over by government for political reasons.

For example, in the 1800s, private entrepreneurs were more competent at delivering the mail than was the U.S. Post Office.  It was even a private, for-profit entrepreneur who first invented the postage stamp. This was William Dockwra in the 1600s. His mail-delivery business ceased operation solely because the government agency in charge of mail delivery resented competition from him and thus outlawed his business. It was even private entrepreneurs who invented the modern fire department in the 1800s, and they would have been able to continue operations were they not thwarted by collectivist government regulations concerning personal liability.

 Remember that the government's authority is backed by force.  That the government holds the social authority to wield physical force is the sole factor that separates it from the private sector.  That is, any human endeavor -- including wealth creation -- that can be performed peaceably, can be performed in the absence of governmental direction.

7) Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?
This criticism does not apply to me, as I recognize the right to intellectual property.

It is true that many self-described libertarians fail to understand the legitimacy of intellectual property.  The truth is that intellectual property is at least as legitimate as private ownership over real estate, and for similar reasons.  I explain this in a Facebook Note (not accessible to the public) and in a book scheduled to be published next year.

I concede that Patrick of GameTime IP has pointed out the hypocrisy of Reason magazine's denigration of copyright holders who wish to protect their copyrights.  Reason magazine demonizes people who monetize their copyrighted material, yet Reason magazine has itself monetized its decidedly-copyrighted material.

To the extent that R. J. Eskow faults libertarians who fail to recognize intellectual property rights, he has a valid point.

8) Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?
It depends on what one means by "the marketplace."  A democratic vote is similar to a market in which a large number of people can act in unison to influence other people.  When lots of people purchase tickets to a science-fiction movie, it can signal to movie producers that science fiction is in high demand. This can motivate the movie producers to produce more science fiction movies.  Inasmuch as a large number of people working together to influence others is democratic, markets have some democratic attributes.

However, the main issue is not about large numbers of people cooperating on some common goal; the issue is whether such actions are peaceful or not.  Enemies of free enterprise usually attack free enterprise from an angle opposite of the one that R. J. Eskow attempts:  enemies of free enterprise say it was a "free market" when Europeans abducted Africans and sold the Africans on the market as slaves.  People who equivocate that enterprise with "capitalism" and the "free market" are attempting to apply such labels to any and every form of commercial activity.  They say that contract killing and the transatlantic slave trade are examples of "capitalism" and "the free market." 

But the main attribute of capitalism, free markets, and free enterprise is not commerce or trade but peace.  The introduction of violent coercion to any trade precludes that trade from being a free-market one.  If a man hires a contract killer to murder his wife, that is a commercial trade but it is not free enterprise -- it certainly deprives the wife of her freedom to enterprise.

Likewise, one can point out the similarities between democracy and markets when an Athenian democracy votes to murder Socrates based on his opinions.  But the presence of non-consensual violence precludes that democratic vote from being a free-market activity.

9) Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?
No, that's insipid.  The corporate legal status, by itself, does not pose a threat to anyone's liberty.  There are only two methods whereby a corporation can genuinely threaten freedom.

A--The corporation initiates force through illegal spoliation.  This might involve paying off thugs to threaten people physically or kill them. It also might involve the corporation trying to "cut corners" and reduce its internal costs by dumping toxic waste onto other people's property, poisoning those people.  Insofar as we have a genuine night watchman state, such initiations of force are illegal, and the corporate executives who implemented such spoliation are criminally prosecuted and held civilly liable.

B--The corporation initiates force by having the government do its bidding (that is, through legal spoliation).  An example of this would be of banks making irresponsible investments and then successfully lobbying Barack Obama to use tax money to bail out those banks.  This happens a lot in the First World, but it is against the principles of the night watchman state.   

Thus, what enables corporations to exploit people is not the philosophy of the night watchman state, but rather the very same apparatus of the regulatory-entitlement state that R. J. Eskow is arguing for.

10) Ayn Rand was an adamant opponent of good works, writing that “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.”  That raises another test for our libertarian: Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?
This is a complete straw man for multiple reasons.  First, it conflates Rand's views on personal relations with her politics.  In politics, Rand asks only that there be a night watchman state that bans the initiation of physical force.  Under her ideal government, it would still be legal for a fully-grown, able-bodied man to be a complete mooch and live off of his relatives, trying to make them feel guilty if they do not financially support him. Rand would strongly disapprove of that, but nothing under her government would forbid this social arrangement.   Insofar as relatives let themselves be harmed by giving in to the moocher's emotional blackmail, Rand would say that the only solution is to leave all of these people free to face the consequences of their own choices.  Rand's ideal government leaves you perfectly free to try to live for others, regardless of whether or not Rand approves of that decision.

Secondly, it is misleading to say that the good actions of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi were motivated solely by trying to live for others.  Much of their own rhetoric reflects their belief that, yes, they only fought for others.  But on another level, King and Gandhi believed they were fighting against injustice.  They valued justice and equality and personally wanted to live in a more equitable world.  By fighting for those values, they were still fighting for their own personal interests -- their own personal values.  It is therefore misleading to say that there is some official Objectivist position -- let alone some official libertarian position -- that makes some blanket denunciation of any and every aspect of the causes of King and Gandhi.

11) If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?
There are several answers to this.  First of all, a truly rational philosophy that extols freedom of thought and freedom of enterprise is relatively new.   The dominant ideology for most of human history -- for thousands of years -- has been the authoritarian outlook.  The authoritarian outlook has had a head start and has established itself among many people, becoming the default mode.  Given how entrenched the authoritarian outlook is -- how much it has been "grandfathered" into human culture -- it makes sense that it will take lots of time for the free-market individualist outlook to take hold for the long term.  That could take another thousand years.

Moreover, that the United States does not have the same level of censorship and though control as that of the Soviet Union or Cuba or Nazi Germany, does not imply that the USA has a purely free market in ideas.  Rather, it means that the USA has a market in ideas far freer than these other places.  That is not the same as having a perfectly free and unfettered marketplace of ideas.  Rather, even in the USA, the propagation of certain ideas over others receive taxpayer subsidies and are therefore given a boost over others.  This tax-subsidized encouragement of statist ideas would not exist in a purely free marketplace.

Before we address the market for social philosophies, let us consider the agriculture market.  In the former Soviet Union, Josef Stalin nationalized all of the farms; all farms were considered government-owned.  Then Stalin consolidated the farms and tried to manage them all centrally.  The result was starvation for all but the most well-connected government bureaucrats.

In the United States, it is not the case that all farms and agribusinesses are government-owned or fully controlled by government agencies.  What happened in the Soviet Union never fully took hold in the USA.  Therefore, when you look at the history of agriculture in the USA, it appears that the USA has always had a free market in agriculture . . . in comparison to the Soviet Union, that is. 

In the USA, farms and agribusinesses have always been privately owned, at least nominally.  The private owners do exercise relative autonomy in deciding what crops to plant, what animals to raise, and how their animals are bred.  A farm's owner is mostly free to decide for him- or herself whether or not to use genetically-modified organisms or synthetic fertilizers.  Some farmers forgo these tools and opt to be "organic." 

That farmers and agribusinesses in the modern USA exercise more choice than they would have had in the Soviet Union, though, is not the same as saying that the USA has an unfettered agricultural market.  Ever since the Hoover administration, the federal government has provided taxpayer subsidies to certain crops and to certain methods of propagation.  Generally, the most-favored crops have been wheat, cotton, tobacco, corn, and soy.  That the federal government spends tax money to favor certain crops and certain farming methods has distorted the market.  Certain crops and farming methods have gained more popularity and implementation in the modern U.S. agricultural market than they probably would have had under true laissez faire. 

The same principle applies to the marketplace of ideas.  The marketplace of ideas is much freer in the modern USA than it was in the Soviet Union or under the Third Reich.  There are competing ideas in the USA.  However, certain governmental measures give the propagation of some ideas an advantage over others.

Philosophic ideas are propagated in schools.  Local governments own most of the schools, and the subject matter of what is taught in civics class and history class is highly politicized.  You can see that in how people go to school board meetings and argue over what the schools should teach children about evolution, sexual ethics, anthropogenic climate change, Christopher Columbus, indigenous peoples, mandatory "volunteerism," and more.  The clique that gains the most political power in a region likewise gains control over what most children are taught about their society and about what political system is best. 

It would be rather silly if a clique of libertarians gained control of the government schools and had civics class teach that everything should be privatized and government schools should not exist.  That would be self-contradictory.  By contrast, it makes sense that, whatever their differences about evolution and jingoism and Columbus, the cliques that fight over the contents of school civics lessons agree that children should be inculcated with a belief in government as the solution to social problems.  Hence school children are bombarded with hagiographies about Franklin D. Roosevelt.  They are told (inaccurately) that the nineteenth century was at time of laissez faire, and that this ruined the country until the Progressive movement came along and used government power to correct all wrongdoing. 

As the USA still has a relative amount of freedom of thought, you are free to question what you are taught in school -- government school or otherwise.  If you doubt what your government school teacher says, you are free to go on the World Wide Web and look for a different viewpoint.  Still, the fact remains that as long as taxpayer subsidies finance any one institution over another, that institution's ideology will receive a boost that is not likewise received by its competitors. 

Certainly it is not the case that all government employees agree with the statist view or that all private enterprises believe in freedom.  Many private schools and other private businesses likewise propagate the statist view.  The privately-owned, for-profit Salon.Com is proof of that.  But as long as taxpayer subsidies go to any institution that has the power to tell children what is right or wrong in society, the taxpayer subsidies will provide an advantage to the viewpoint that government knows best (even if various lobbies disagree on the specifics of what government should do). 

Therefore, that statism continues to be the most popular political outlook, does not reflect any contradiction in free-market thought.  It simply means that we free-marketers face an uphill battle when it comes to educating people about the need for greater liberty. 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Inconspicuous! =D

Whenever I go out in public, I can feel all eyes focused on me, judging me for my strangeness.  The spotlight is on me.  The attention is too much.  @_@

Therefore, no matter the occasion, I should always go out wearing army camouflage fatigues.  The camouflage design will render me inconspicuous and unnoticed. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Favorite Godzilla Monsters Other Than Godzilla, Pt. 1 of ?: King Ghidorah

Stuart K. Hayashi

Justin Wisniewski once suggested to me that I create a Facebook Note where I list my favorite Godzilla movies.  At that moment, it occurred to me that that would be a difficult task, as I judge each movie by more than one standard.

For example, when its comes to judging craftsmanship and film-making skills, 1963's Godzilla Against Mothra is one of the better movies.  It has better acting than most other entries.  However, the only monsters in it are Godzilla, the adult Mothra, and Mothra's larvae.  Compared to the other monsters, Mothra is pretty boring, and I dislike the ending.   Also, I find the "evil businessman" theme heavy-handed (it's even heavier-handed in this movie than in other entries). Therefore Godzilla Against Mothra has very low re-watch value for me. I have it in my collection almost solely for the sake of having my collection near-complete.

By contrast, 1972's Godzilla Vs. Gigan is considered one of the weaker entries . . . even by diehard fans of the franchise.  And judging the movie by film-making and craftsmanship, the diehard fans' criticisms are not wrong.  The storytelling tropes in this film are derivative of previous entries.  Worse, the movie makes use of stock footage from previous Godzilla movies and tries to pass off this footage as if it were new.  However, this movie introduces Gigan, who is actually one of the most interesting of the Big G's foes.  Gigan, by himself, is enough to give the movie enormous re-watch value.

The highlights of the movies are the monsters, and a particularly well-designed monster can compensate for what would otherwise be storytelling weaknesses.  For such reasons, I think it makes more sense if I provide some profiles of my favorite monsters from the Godzilla series other than Godzilla.

Note that I am not listing the monsters in the order of how much I like them.  The first one I'm listing, though among my favorites, is not necessarily my single favorite.

I was planning on listing all of my favorite monsters in one post, but, with my comments, the post would be too long.  If I feel like it, I will continue this series.

 * King Ghidorah

King Ghidorah is a golden, two-tailed, three-headed dragon who shoots yellow lightning bolts (called "gravity beams") from each mouth.  His origin story changes according to which movie you are watching.  In his original incarnation, King Ghidorah was from outer space, traveling from planet to planet and destroying each civilization there.  In one of the movies, though -- featuring my least favorite incarnation of King Ghidorah, he is actually a supernatural spirit assigned to guard the Earth against Godzilla. *Shudder* (more about this lamentable artistic choice later.)  In almost every incarnation -- the exception being the aforementioned supernatural Ghidorah -- the monster towers over Godzilla, sometimes 50 percent taller. 

Above is King Ghidorah's first appearance in 1964.  Note that each head has a mane of hair, two long horns (one on each side, as you would expect of the devil), and a crescent-shaped horn on the forehead.

King Ghidorah's appearance changed a bit for the 1991 movie Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah.  The mane was eliminated in favor of more horns on side of each head; the crescent-shaped horn has also been eliminated from the foreheads.  King Ghidorah's roar has also been changed.  Originally, each head let loose an odd sound resembling the ringing of an electric alarm bell, emphasizing alien qualities. This movie in particular stresses Ghidorah's size advantage over Godzilla.

King Ghidorah '91 on the left, Godzilla on the right

Mecha-King Ghidorah
In most incarnations, King Ghidorah is a biped.  One version, though -- Keizer Ghidorah -- is a quadruped.  (There is also a quadruped named "Death Ghidorah," but I do not count him as a "real" Ghidorah, but as a separate monster.)

Even on four legs, Keizer Ghidorah is taller than Godzilla
Keizer Ghidorah's gravity beams overpower Godzilla's atomic ray

There is only one incarnation of King Ghidorah I find truly disappointing: the one from 2001's Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah:  Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (this title needs more syllables in it!).  I hear that lots of fans consider it one of the stronger entries in the series.  As for myself, I don't like the changes.  This is the one movie where all of the monsters are very explicitly described as supernatural entities.  As I have written before, it makes more sense to see the monsters as pagan deities than as animals.  Indeed, both Mothra and Megalon are worshiped respectively by civilizations that consider the monster to be their protector.  But I think the theme of having the monsters portrayed as pagan gods works better as subtext.  The explicit supernaturalism of GMK went too far.

In this particular movie, Godzilla is not merely a dinosaur mutated by atomic bomb tests.  Rather, he is the amalgamation of the victims of Japanese wartime atrocities, and is a sort of avenging spirit meant meant to remind Japan of its past warmongering and hubris. This is the one time where Godzilla, rather than a force of nature, is portrayed as a conscious villain or antagonist, although the movie's director, Shusuke Kaneko, sounds sympathetic to the idea that some supernatural force punish Japan for its sins.  (This is also the one time where Godzilla represents, not the wartime villainy of Americans, but actually the wartime villainy of the Japanese.)

Anyhow, in this version King Ghidorah is not a space alien or even a genetically-engineered being.  Rather, he is an ancient spirit assigned to protect Japan.  For the first time ever, from beginning to end he is the explicit good guy, fighting on the same side as Mothra.  Since this time Godzilla is the villain and King Ghidorah is the good guy, King Ghidorah is made out, for the first time, as the underdog.  Hence, he is shorter and weaker than Godzilla.

OK, first of all, King Ghidorah fighting to protect Japan, on his own free will, is just plain wrong.  Secondly, King Ghidorah being shorter and weaker than Godzilla is  . . . perverse.   King Ghidorah should never come across as wimpy, and yet he does so in this movie! :'-(

Above is the "guardian spirit" King Ghidorah grappling with Godzilla.  He isn't crouching or anything; he is just smaller than Godzilla.  I have some notes on how his heads are adorned.  In keeping with the 1991 version, the mane is still replaced by the additional horns where you would normally expect ears to be.  The crescent-shaped forehead horns from the 1960s version have been restored to this version, however.

In case I do not continue this series, here are some of my other favorites:

* Gigan
* Megalon
* Kiryu (Mecha-Godzilla III)
* SpaceGodzilla
* Biollante
* Battra (I find the larva version more impressive than the adult version)
* Titanosaurus
* Fire Rodan
* Destoroyah
* Ebirah
* Mechanikong
* Anguirus
* Gezora (technically, only met Godzilla in the video game)
* Dogora (technically, only met Godzilla in the video game)