Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Great Inclusion

Stuart K. Hayashi

You might have heard this paranoid rhetoric about how dark-skinned immigrants joining the white majority in residing in a country is somehow “replacing” the native-born white people. Yesterday when a retail employee told me — *gasp* — “Happy Holidays!”, it dawned on me that this has a subtler precedent in the moral panic Bill O’Reilly started fourteen years ago alleging that retail employees telling their customers “Happy Holidays” was part of a sinister effort to replace Christmas.

There was no replacement.

“Holidays” includes Christmas. By definition, Christmas cannot be replaced when it is included. The objection to “Happy Holidays” is not that it replaces Christmas, but that it includes holidays such as Chanukah and Kwanzaa alongside Christmas. This is just as the dark-skinned immigrants do not replace the white citizens, but are included alongside the white citizens. The word replacement is itself used as a replacement for the word that defines what is actually feared: inclusion.

There is no Great Replacement. There is, however, a Great Inclusion.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Creativity Theory of Economic Value

Stuart K. Hayashi

Note: This essay is something of a follow-up to two others from this blog: “How Intellectual Property Rights Address Economic ‘Scarcity’ ” and “Economic Value of Intellectual Property As a Direct Result of Supply and Demand, Not Labor Inputs: The Shorter Version.”

Market Economics Not a Result of Edenic Abundance Changing to “Scarcity,” But a Result of Transitioning From Poverty to Wealth Creation
“Scarcity” — meaning the fact that there are a finite number of units of a desired good available on the market at any given moment — does influence the free-market price for a good or service. If I really want X and the number of units is dwindling, I have to go through more effort to get it. That would increase the price. But while “scarcity” is important, it is not primary.

Saying “scarcity” is primary in economics gives a false impression. That impression is that the standard with which economics begins is the abundance of Eden, wherein there being an infinity of every desired item reduces each item’s price to zero. To add that economics is about reconciling this “scarcity” with our “unlimited wants” is to imply that we started with this Edenic cornucopia, only for us to have fallen into a degraded state where there are a finite and “scarce” number of goods, for which we must make payments to stingy vendors. On that interpretation, it is not surprising that so many university students are led to believe that vendors make everyone else poorer instead of richer.

For ancient people, some goods, such as fresh air, were a given that indeed could be damaged by more primitive forms of industrialization. (Contrary to much rhetoric from the early 1970s, the solution to such damage is not cutbacks on productivity, consumption, population size, or industrialization, but simply more advanced and efficient forms of industrialization.) But, for the most part, the economic default for ancient people was poverty.

The economic value of most natural resources is not obvious. Lithium is found in the wilderness, and ancient people didn’t find all of its value to be obvious. It took scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to discover that, per gram, lithium conducts comparatively large quantities of energy in ways most other metals cannot —in ways even copper cannot. Hence, we use lithium in smartphones. The default is poverty; economic value and wealth — which refer not to monetary units, but the goods and services for which the monetary units are exchanged — are, for the most part, created.

Economic Value Not Inherent in Natural Resources, But Placed Into Them By the Practical Application of the Creative Mind
John Locke at least partially understood this principle. If someone is to rise above mere subsistence, then the land, as it currently exists, is not adequate for living. A homesteader must plant crops and irrigate them. It takes creative effort to convert a patch of land into a habitat suitable for above-subsistence living. But, for this effort, Locke used the term labor, which successors such as David Ricardo and Karx Marx apparently took to mean that physical motions — manual labor only — was the prime mover for wealth creation. But it’s not just movement of the arms and legs that are involved.

Another bodily organ must be used — the cerebrum. Homesteaders have to use their mind to figure out which are the most strategic crop to plant, how best to manage the soil, and how to engineer irrigation channels. The part of the body most responsible for improvement of land and nature is not the arms but the mind. That is the entrepreneurial side of what the homesteader does — the inventive side. The term I use for it is “creativity.” That is the creativity that recognized that wireless telephones could be made smaller and more powerful if a previously overlooked metal called lithium was used in them. And, as John Locke and, to some degree, Adam Smith, conveyed at least implicitly, it is because of the homesteader having created new value in the plot of land that the homesteader should be recognized by law as rightfully owning and controlling it. Logically applying this principle further extends to specific original designs per se — designs for useful products and for artwork.

Two Sides of the Creative Entrepreneurial Process: The Business Executive More on Handling the Labor, The Inventor/Engineer More on Handling the Natural Resources
The consistent theme in economics is that while natural resources and manual labor are important in the creation of material value, they are nothing without Mind Power. When it comes to coordinating the efforts of the manual labor, the mind power comes from the party that is the managerial businessperson — what this essay shall henceforth identify as the “business executive” or just “executive.” Without the business executive providing proper instruction and oversight to them, the manual laborers will be unable to use their muscles to convert the natural resources into useful products. Capital — meaning the machinery and the allocation of resources to the machinery — is also important. But all capital itself is the result of the application of Mind Power in enabling manual laborers to convert natural resources. Capital itself is a product of that process.

When it comes to the use of manual labor to convert natural resources, the business executive’s role, again, falls more on managing the manual-labor side than the natural-resource side, in that the executive focuses more on the overseeing of the manual laborers. That consists of hiring competent ones and rewarding them accordingly, while firing unproductive ones. Engineers and inventors, too, provide instruction to manual laborers to convert natural resources into useful products, but the focus is more on the natural-resource side. Engineers and inventors start off with a knowledge of the scientific principles governing natural resources, and it is from this understanding of natural laws the engineers and inventors draw up their original designs for product features that are useful, practical, and cost-feasible. The inventor-engineer’s instructions to others come in the form of these designs — that is, the diagrammed designs found in patents.

Yes, the Business Executive Is Important and Must Be Wise: Yes, He Still Relies on the Provider of the Patented Invention
By now, you know very well that I think the important and creative role of the executive is underappreciated in our society. You have read my rebuttals to the frequent accusation — made most famously by Karl Marx, but which is far from exclusive to, and long preceding, him — that the executive is a parasite who contributes nothing and simply skims off the manual laborers and the natural environment, who do all the real work. Without the creative and rational decision-making of the business executive, nothing gets done. In this very essay I will add that, by that very same token, the executive is helpless without the inventor and engineer. That is where patents come in.

All products that exist today had to be invented. That even applies to crops. And, since the 1980s, even sexually-bred cultivars have been properly recognized as intellectual property; these are Plant Variety Protections issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every unit produced by a business comes from a design that was formulated by some engineer. And very few of the most beneficent features of a specific company’s product were designed in-house. The best design features of most companies’ products came from somewhere else.

In an economy without patents, there would be only two avenues in which an inventor can be remunerated for her having originated the useful design features:

  1. The inventor works for a specific firm. The firm pays the in-house inventor.
  2. The inventor is not an official employee of the firm, but the firm pays the inventor directly in the role of some independent contractor or consultant who tells the firm which design features to include in its products.

Again, the problem here is that most firms’ products’ design features were not originated in-house. And if there is no intellectual property protection, every firm can copy every desired design feature without compensating the originator.

Patentable Designs Are the Result of More Than Meditating, Sitting Cross-Legged, and Humming “Ohmmmmmmmm”
This greatly shortchanges the originator — the inventor of the beneficent design features — as design features that are both cost-effective for producer-firms and useful for customers don’t come out of the air. They are the result of an arduous process called Research-and-Development. The “intellectualism” of intellectual property doesn’t mean just sitting on a mountain meditating, sitting cross-legged, and saying “Ohhhhhhhm.” The intellectualism also means going out in the field, performing experiments and, through sensory experience, observing the results. This involves investment capital and natural resources that go into the equipment for conducting these experiments. The development of a new invention is, on the inventor’s part, a combination of both thought and assiduous action, just as it is with a homesteader improving a plot of land.

Now let’s say there’s a business executive who notices beneficent design features that some inventor produced for a product. The inventor doesn’t work for the executive’s firm; that inventor is not paid in-house. And the executive doesn’t have to contract out to the inventor to obtain the results of the inventor’s services. Even if the executive must defray some costs in the process of reverse-engineering the invention, the executive does not have to devote any of the expenditures that made possible the invention. And, without there being any patent protection, this executive can copy the inventor’s design without paying the inventor anything — which means that this executive appropriates the results of this inventor’s creative efforts while contributing nothing to reimbursing the inventor and the inventor’s investors the costs of the R-and-D that made the invention possible.

Without the inventor being reimbursed and remunerated for the R-and-D that produced the invention, we can’t expect many more great inventions in the future — where will the inventor get the resources needed to conduct the R-and-D for her next great invention when she can’t even cover the costs of her most recent invention?

Here, we should not fall prey to a common retort that, in the absence of patents, inventors will still be compensated by being directly employed in-house by firms, which, on account of being the market’s “first mover,” will still rake in a hefty profit before other firms spot the invention on the market and then produce their own knockoffs of that same design. We know that that will not happen. As a case in point, Chinese knockoffs of Yekutiel Sherman’s invention — a smartphone case with a built-in selfie stick — made it to the market before Sherman’s own units did. Firms that pilfer someone’s original design can pilfer the “first-mover advantage” as well.

Such a business executive who pirates inventors’ designs might be wise in many respects. He might be able to identify workers who slack off, and fire them. He might know how to make productive employees feel empowered, with just enough autonomy to keep them satisfied. He might know how to minimize overhead costs, having the best timing in replacing depreciated factory equipment. All of these decisions would be genuine intellectual achievements.

But to the extent that this executive is producing units of an inventor’s design without remunerating the inventor, this executive is freeloading off of the inventor. To the extent that the executive pirates the inventor’s design, that executive is being exploitative and a parasite — and in a manner far more detrimental than anything from Marx’s fevered dreams. And that is indeed the same, in principle, as it would be if you devoted years of creative effort in making a livable homestead, only to find me squatting on it against your consent and providing no remuneration to you.

The Value of a Unit of Product Being Not Only in Its Physicality, But in Its Design, Which Is What the Inventor Provided
Many separate parties, prior to the Wright brothers, tried to produce heavier-than-air flying machines. One such party was Samuel Pierpont Langley, a wealthy official from the Smithsonian Institution and a blood relative to the great financier J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr. But these other parties failed to produce an airplane that had all three of these traits: 1) it could be propelled into the air, 2) it would retain lift while in the air, and 3) it could be steered in the air. The Wright brothers were able to achieve all three criteria because of R-and-D efforts which they had made and which other competing parties had not. Their special advantage, coming from their work, was in their ability to steer their flyer by warping the shape of its wings.

The Wright brothers’ having fulfilled all three criteria was new wealth created. And that new economic value, which heretofore had not existed, can and should be isolated from what an airplane-manufacturing firm does. If a business executive was wise in all of his human-resources management decisions and overhead-cost-cutting, but pirated the Wright brothers’ designs for the units he sold or leased, and profited therefrom, that executive would indeed be stealing from the Wright brothers. He would be stealing from the Wrights the value of the resources they inputted into the R-and-D for their flyer, and for which they were to be reimbursed by any customer or client who directly made use of the product of their R-and-D.

Patents are the recognition that, by default, the inventor places her specific original design on the market on the implicit contractual understanding that those who directly make use of her design will, according to her terms, reimburse and remunerate her for the “scarce” resources she inputted in the creation of her design.
It is through the practicably intellectual combination of thought and action that a homesteader makes a plot livable, thereby producing in land a new value that was not present before. It is by the same token that, through a practicably intellectual combination of thought and action, an inventor produces a cost-efficient and consumer-satisfying new design. And, without these inventor efforts, the business executive is unable to produce units with greatly enhanced and customer-satisfying features. This is not a Labor Theory of Economic Value but a Creativity Theory of Economic Value.

Economic Value Does Not Come Directly From Inputs of Cost or Labor, But Inputs of Cost and Labor Do Directly Influence the Supply Curve
This should not be misrepresented as a Labor Theory of Economic Value in the tradition of David Ricardo or Karl Marx. I am not saying that an item’s price or value is the direct result of the labor or cost inputted into the production of that item. The item’s free-market price and economic value are indeed the direct result of the intersection of the marketplace demand curve with the supply curve. But those who bother to give a close look at marketplace demand and supply, each, will recall the definition for each. The “supply” curve maps the principle that, the more money will be paid to people for providing a particular service, the greater the number of people or firms there will be trying to provide that service. On the converse, if no one can be expected to be paid for rendering a particular service, we should not be surprised if the number of people or firms willing to supply that service dwindles close to nothing.

And a major reason for why it takes a higher price to induce a larger number of people or firms to provide that service is: the provision of any service imposes a cost upon the provider.

Implicit in the supply curve is the inquiry, “Why doesn’t everyone just supply 100-percent of their services for everyone else for free?” The reason why you don’t give away everything you have, and almost work for nothing, is that every service or good you supply to others imposes a cost upon you — a cost in the form of labor or a financial investment. In most cases, people become more willing to supply their services or goods if the price they charge exceeds the cost. Hence, as shown in the supply curve, the higher the price that can be charged for something, the larger the number of people there are who are willing to supply that something.

Because providing a service imposes a cost on the provider, it is not surprising that someone’s willingness to provide that service grows along with the size of the profit that can be realized by becoming a provider. And that applies to the service of providing original new designs which are to be incorporated into units of products.

Because R-and-D costs, in terms of time and resources, are so great for inventors, someone’s reluctance to go through the trouble of producing useful new design features for products will be overcome if there is a lot of money to be made for producing such inventions. Conversely, if there is no money to be made in producing useful new designs, we should not be surprised if hardly anyone is willing to do it.

And because most useful new design features in products are not produced in-house, it is through patents that inventors and engineers are paid. It is through their patents that inventors and engineers are paid for the service of introducing useful new design features to be incorporated into the units of products sold — a service without which business executives cannot substantially improve the units they sell.

Patents As They Relate to the Creativity Theory of Economic Value
The inputs — labor or other costs — that go into supplying a product to the market do not directly determine that product’s economic value. The product’s economic value is directly influenced by the intersection of marketplace supply with demand. But as the scarce inputs — labor and costs — that go into supplying that product do influence the supply curve, such inputs do influence the supply and quantity of innovative new designs regularly introduced onto the market. In that respect, the costs and labor of invention do indirectly influence the supply-demand nexus, and, with it, the economic value and prices of innovative new products. To deny this is to deny the very definition and principle of the “supply” curve in the supply-and-demand nexus.

To damn intellectual property rights is to deny to inventors any formal ownership over the creative efforts that are the fountainhead to all wealth creation.

On December 25, 2019, I edited out of the final two paragraphs, removing two sentences I thought were redundant to the point I already made in the first two sentences of the penultimate paragraph.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Honesty Versus Unfiltered Speech

or, Carefulness in Word Choice Isn’t Self-Censorship

Stuart K. Hayashi

When people notice me taking time to choose my words carefully, they often convey that they find this off-putting. They misinterpret it as shyness or, worse, some attempt to be sneaky. In the latter case, the assumption is that if I’m choosing my words carefully, it must mean I’m employing some strategy to flatter and deceive. A corollary to this assumption is that the most consistently honest sort of person is one who blurts out every immediate value-based impression that is made upon him — which is what Donald Trump seemed to do regularly on the campaign trail from 2015 and 2016. “Wow,” some people said. “Everything the other candidates said seemed so calculated and artificial. So when Donald Trump throws caution to the wind, and airs the same prejudices I’ve nursed but were too scared to articulate, that is real honesty.”

For a man to tell an outright lie is for him to express a conclusion and for him to intend for it to be interpreted as his reasoned conviction, only for it to turn out that the conclusion contradicted his own actual views the entire time. Recognizing this, too many people on Twitter, 4Chan, and 8Chan conflate unfiltered speech with honesty and even free speech. On the latter count, they conversely presume that in any situation where people exercise caution before articulating their opinions — be that caution based solely on one’s own judgment or based on social pressures — that situation is necessarily one where free speech is suppressed.

In this vein “Onision” — a well-known narcissist on YouTube who has over a million subscribers — has been very consistent about airing various derogatory prejudices about other people and, because those prejudices do not contradict any knowledge he knows to be true, he apparently decides to call himself “the most honest person on YouTube.”

But to speak the truth, someone must first know what truth is — not just a specific item of truth, but the very concept. Someone can indeed be honest when making a statement that turns out to be inaccurate. That is to be honestly mistaken. But being honestly mistaken is more than just believing in an inaccurate statement in the very moment one makes it. Another component is required but too often overlooked: even if an honestly mistaken person does not always succeed in his being accurate, he is consistent in trying. And to try to be accurate is to be aware of one’s own present limitations in knowledge and to investigate the facts of a matter before conveying confidence in one’s conclusions about it.

Honesty is not just the absence of doubt in one’s own statements, but the consistent employment of rationality in evaluating the merits of the conclusions expressed in those statements. Thus, part of being honest in one’s evaluations of a topic is often, in many instances, to refrain from airing a declaration about it.

If, upon first glancing at Mr. X, I announced I suspect Mr. X of being a crook because he looks how I imagine one to look, it wouldn’t contradict what I know about Mr. X. But it wouldn’t be about investigating facts either. In turn, it wouldn’t be about truth-telling. And even if such an announcement were prefaced as tentative, the announcement having been made would influence the evaluations and actions of other people with respect to Mr. X, “poisoning the well” for him. Hence, the announcements of one’s negative prejudice about Mr. X is not an honest statement of one’s own admittedly narrow understanding, but an action that one knows can contribute to prejudicing other people, implicitly encouraging those other people to prioritize prejudice over the search for truth. That a person’s evaluation doesn’t contradict anything that he knows to be factual isn’t sufficient to make the expression of that evaluation a truthful one.

If a man airs an evaluation without any concern for whether it is accurate or not, it does not count as an outright lie, but it still errs on the side of likely falsehood, and therefore precludes it from being an exercise in truthfulness.

To be truthful, a person must have real convictions, convictions reached through objective observation and remembering of evidence. It doesn’t require that one be a stubborn Sherlock Holmes-style detective who is on deliberate “investigation mode” in every waking moment. But it does mean that a person does take some time to introspect and ask himself why his opinions are what they are, and if they stand up to scrutiny.

On this topic, I remember a rather disturbing statement made by someone to whom I was very emotionally close. After she met my mother, she said to me something I didn’t understand at the time: “I didn’t disagree with anything I said. But it was still all an act.” It turned out that my friend has a dangerous mental illness where she doesn’t have a stable “narrative identity.” She doesn’t have any well-considered firm opinions; there is only comfortable mimicking of the opinions and mannerisms of the people who give her the desired sort of attention. (To my knowledge, the situation has not improved. 😱)

Someone who has no firm convictions, and yet states opinions confidently anyway, is not telling outright lies — but is not being truthful either. (And, contrary to today’s clichĂ©s, no, it’s not the case that “life and the world are so complex that being objective will preclude you from forming any confident convictions anyway.”)

Hence, if someone engaged in unfiltered speech — divulging every prejudice, or even just some prejudices — without qualification, and not actually looking into such matters objectively, that person would not be contradicting what he knows to be factual, but this would still not be an exercise in honesty. It would, at best, be the equivalent of just making a lot of noise. And making gibbering noises is not the same as spelling out the truth.

Someone who expresses just about every snap judgment on whim, and leaves it at that, is someone who has very little concern for learning what is true. And one who does not care about learning the truth, in turn does not care about telling it.

Perhaps it is the case that none of the many harsh and sweeping value-judgments aired by Donald Trump and Onision contradict anything they know to be true. But they have both demonstrated that they do not know or care what the concept of “truth” even means. And, by that standard, they are anything but truthful.

Having the First Amendment and freedom of speech means that someone cannot and should not face violent reprisals, especially from the State, based on the peaceable expression of opinions when using the private belongings of consenting parties. This applies even if the opinions are hateful and willfully oblivious to concerns about accuracy. A free-speech republic does not use the law to proscribe a person or private establishment from exercising unfiltered speech — the one exception being credible articulations of violent threats. But, by the same token, when a single person or private establishment places filters on what it states openly, that is not the same as an attack on free speech. That is not self-censorship. Nor is it a private establishment censoring anyone. What it is, is simply a private party choosing to exercise its own judgment within a political environment of free speech.

There are some occasion in which, when people’s speech is consistently very guarded, there is reason to be suspicious. There are many cases where people observe a phenomenon that is dangerous or pathological, and yet they refrain from speaking out for fear of social rejection. That is why Donald Trump gets to be surrounded by sycophants who pretend not to notice his pathology. When people notice obvious and urgent facts but refrain from acknowledging them, that guardedness is indeed a form of dishonesty. To name obvious facts when it is urgent to do so, is the same as honoring truth. And, on the converse, to refrain from naming obvious facts when it is urgent to name them, is indeed to desecrate the truth.

And politicians being calculated in their choice of words is indeed a form of dishonesty for the reason that when they do select the words they will speak, the gaining of immediate emotional approval is prioritized above an adherence to facts, facts of which many voters find unpalatable.

Yes, when a very conscientious and self-conscious person takes an extraordinary long amount of time to choose his words — to an extent where it becomes debilitating — that can indeed detract from a conversation. At that point, guardedness can end up concealing urgent truths rather than just being diligent in double-checking the facts in preparation for their eventual release.

But as long as one doesn’t reach the point where it becomes debilitating, taking one’s time to choose words carefully, for the purpose of trying to be accurate, is an exercise in honesty.

Unfiltered speech, saying whatever one feels — even when it doesn’t contradict what one knows consciously — is to be indifferent to accuracy and facts and truth, and therefore is not to be honest. By contrast, filtering one’s speech — when thoughtful and with consideration for accuracy and facts — and delivering it when it needs to be delivered, is what it means to be honest.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Neptune’s Discovery Shows How Proven Facts About Nature Are ‘Logically Necessary’ and Could Not Have Been Anything Else

Stuart K. Hayashi

Many educated people believe that there’s a distinction between observed facts (synthetic truths, arrived at through sensory observation and inductive reasoning) vs. logical necessities (analytic truths, arrived at through deductive reasoning). The latter refers to conclusions that are deduced and could not be anything other than what they are, such as “3 + 2 = 5.” Such educated people believe these two types of truths must be distinct because “theoretically, natural laws like gravity could have turned out different from what they are. For instance, it’s true that, when water freezes, the molecules move further from one another, but it’s theoretically possible that this principle could have turned out differently, with water freezing making the molecules go closer together.” But no, synthetic truths and analytic truths are the same: any natural phenomenon that isn’t directly subject to a conscious entity’s volition is something that couldn’t have natural properties different from what they are.

Image of Neptune from NASA JPL;
via Wikimedia Commons.
Example: in the late 1830s, scientists only observed the existence of seven planets in the solar system. However, John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier — working separately from one another —noticed unusual behavior of Uranus in its orbit. Before directly observing such, Adams and Le Verrier each deduced that there had to be an eighth solar-system planet that would be located in a specific location in relation to Uranus. Such a planet being in a particular location in relation to Uranus would explain the anomolies of Uranus’s orbit. Later, based on Le Verrier’s work, Johann Gottfried Galle searched for the then-unknown planet in that location and found it: Neptune.

One might conclude that because Adams and Le Verrier deduced Neptune’s existence and location without first observing Neptune itself, this event undermines the credibility of inductive reasoning. The opposite is true: it affirms the validity of inductive reasoning.

According to the Law of Identity, insofar as you know the natural attributes of an entity, the easier it should be for you to predict that entity’s behavior in a specific situation. Insofar as you understand the nature of gravity and a tennis ball — an understanding you initially gained through sensory observations — you should be able to predict that in the next instance where you lift a tennis ball and release your grip on it, the tennis ball should fall to the ground. That is the source of the principle of “prediction-making” and “replicability” in science — if Scientific Party 1 claims to have observed, under specific conditions, that a stimulus of type A will consistently elicit the same specific response in an entity of type B, then it follows that that if Scientific Party 2 reproduces those pertinent conditions, its provision of a stimulus of type A should elicit the same response in an entity of type B.

Through observations of the first seven planets of the solar system, scientists induced their knowledge that the gravitational pull of other objects will act upon planets and their orbits in a specific fashion. Then, considering observations of Uranus’s behavior in orbit, John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier applied the Law of Identity to deduce that in relation to Uranus there had to be another planet in a specific location that was affecting Uranus enough to cause the irregularities of its orbit. Then sensory observation by Galle proved Adams and Le Verrier to be correct.

It wasn’t the case Adams and Le Verrier were just lucky in guessing the location of an eighth planet from the sun. From a set of principles — principles originally induced through observation and inductive reasoning — Adams and Le Verrier deduced the logically-necessary conclusion that there was an eighth planet from the sun in a specific location in space in relation to Uranus. That was an analytic truth. Then this was proven through a more direct observation — a synthetic truth. There isn’t an unbridgeable distinction between analytic truth and synthetic truth — they are the same. If some natural phenomenon isn’t being manipulated by some volitional being (humans), then its existence and actions could not — in sound theory — be anything other than what they are: recognition of its existence and actions is “logically necessary.”

Here is another example of which I have previously written on Facebook: first, scientists observed a lot of data about prehistoric creatures that were in a “transitional” stage between fish and four-legged amphibian. This was information processed inductively. Then, based on such information, Neil Shubin and Ted Daeschler deduced that if there were any more remains of such fish-amphibian creatures to be found, they should be on Ellesmere Island near Canada. That was an analytic conclusion. Shubin and Daeschler went to Ellesmere Island and found this fossil, which they named Tiktaalik roseae. Its existence and properties were a synthetic truth.

Principles of Nature that you observe (synthetic truths) are, through the Law of Identity, consistently applicable insofar as they are understood , and thus logically necessary (analytic truths). Accordingly, to contradict such an observed fact and synthetic truth as the existence of Neptune or Tiktaalik is also to contradict deductive logic, as contradicting this fact commensurately contradicts the deductive reasoning and prior known facts that Le Verrier and Shubin respectively undertook to arrive at conclusions that were later empirically proven.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

To the Extent That People Behave Peacefully, Disparities in Wealth Are the Benign Result of People Having Made Different Choices From One Another

And That Many Billionaires Were Already Born Into Financial Privilege With a “Head Start” Over Other People, Doesn’t Change That

Stuart K. Hayashi

A photo of me next to a bust of Ayn Rand. The organization that owns this bust
does not endorse this blog post; I speak only for myself.

A clichĂ©d rejoinder to what I said in the previous blog post — what I said about Mark Zuckerberg being richer than I am as a peaceful consequence of our each having made different choices — is that it is unfair of me to attribute the disparity in wealth between billionaires and myself mostly to the benign results of our having made different choices. The objection is that many of these billionaires were born into much more advantageous circumstances from the outset — they had a “head start” over me — and no one chooses to be born into an advantageous or disadvantageous situation.

Bill Gates was born into wealth — if his parents were not millionaires, they were close to it. Steve Jobs did not grow up wealthy, but he was raised in a Californian environment where computer engineers were common.  His classmates’ fathers were Californian engineers.  He therefore he had a much easier time recruiting well-trained people for Apple than I would have if I tried to start my own computer-related business. Therefore, goes the rejoinder, the consideration that some people were already born with a “head start” over others nullifies any credit they might deserve for profiting from their own independent business decisions.

The profits earned by Zuckerberg and Jobs and Gates might indeed have resulted from genuinely wise and beneficent choices on their own parts, goes the rejoinder, but they were already in a position to make such choices.  This was as they were born into a privileged position over which they had no choice. Worse, the objection continues, even if every billionaire who got this head start makes profitable choices that were entirely benign in themselves, such billionaires having the freedom to endow their children with their own already-large fortunes will grant even bigger “head starts” to subsequent generations.  That perpetuates and ultimately exacerbates the ultra-rich’s mega-advantage. Inequality would worsen over the course of every generation.   I am told that this consideration means it is shallow for me to attribute market-based wealth inequality mostly to differences in people’s benign financial choices — respect for individuals’ choices pales in comparison to the “head starts.”  I am told this morally justifies collectivist redistributions in wealth after all.

That rejoinder fails.  Neither (1) the justness of these billionaires being wealthier than I am, nor (2) the wrongness of the State sending armed agents to the billionaires to redistribute their wealth, hinges on everyone starting at the same place in life, no one having a “head start” or financial “privilege” over anyone else. Choice still matters. Consider how Steve Jobs’ classmates grew up in the same environment as Steve — with them even having Californian engineers as parents.  Those classmates didn’t co-found Apple or become billionaires; Steve did. That is properly attributable to Jobs and his classmates having made different choices even as they had many cultural advantages in common.

Moreover, even though many people, such as Bill Gates and Paris Hilton, are born into families much richer than my own, their being far richer than I am is still the result of benign choices. Haters like to say that wealth is not subject to choice because Paris Hilton did not choose to be born into a billionaire family.  It is said that her inheriting hundreds of millions of dollars is a reward to her for doing nothing. Actually, Paris Hilton inheriting that much money is indeed the result of benign choices: the benign choices of her great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton.

Conrad became a multimillionaire because the lodgers in his hotels had consented to paying for his services, valuing his services more than the monetary sums they exchanged for such services. If those lodgers valued the money more than they valued what Conrad provided to them, they wouldn’t have given Conrad repeat business. And freedom of choice means not only making financial choices and experiencing the peaceful results of those choices, but also being free to dispose of one’s own earnings as one peaceably chooses. That entails that you be free to transfer ownership of your rightful earnings to whom you choose.  That applies even if other people judge the recipient of your largess to be unworthy.

Freedom of choice means Conrad Hilton be free to will his earnings to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Paris Hilton inheriting that fortune is not a reward to Paris for having done nothing. Nay, it is Conrad’s customers voluntarily rewarding Conrad for his having made choices that these customers judged to have been of benefit to them. And insofar as the State threatens to send armed agents to Paris if she does not relinquish a chunk of what Conrad chose to bequeath her, that is the State trying to quash the peaceful consequences that Conrad desired of his benign choices — consequences that would have been fully and benevolently realized if not for the State’s intrusion.

Say you are a billionaire and you try to transfer your wealth to your designated heir.  Then say the State takes some of that money from your heir and hands it to me.  That would be an instance where freedom of choice is denied not only to your heir but denied to you yourself.

The short version of the above paragraphs: that some people are born into more financially “privileged” positions than others does not negate the fact that forcible wealth redistribution is an exercise in collectivism antithetical to the individual’s freedom of choice.

Friday, May 03, 2019

White Supremacists Saying Whites Are . . . Collectively Individualistic?! 😳

Stuart K. Hayashi

Lana Lokteff in her racist propaganda video “Why They Want to Replace White People”

Most professed fans of Ayn Rand’s are familiar with her having said in her essay “Racism” that the eponymous pathology “is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” But a disturbing number of white supremacists who claim to be loyal Objectivists, or at least to be deeply influenced by Ayn Rand’s thought, seem not to have taken Rand to heart, flagrantly ignoring Rand’s elaboration of those words. I am referring to the white supremacists who demand that Western governments restrict immigration of dark-skinned people from poor countries, often on the rationalization that such dark-skinned people are perpetually violent barbarians, and increasingly on the rationalization that these dark-skinned people are trying to “replace” native-born whites. These white supremacists who claim to be carrying Ayn Rand’s mantle simply deny, contrary to what their actions have made blatant, that they are racist and that they engage in the very actions that Rand’s essay identified as racist. And especially confounding is that this clique of white supremacists claims to be urging its bans on nonwhite immigrants in the name of . . . individualism.  o_O

Among the racists who claim to be influenced by Ayn Rand, the twisted reasoning goes something like this: based mostly on cultural conditioning, or maybe even inborn biology or both biology and conditioning, nonwhites — mostly blacks, Arabs, and Latinos, but the racists can include people from India and other parts of South Asia too — are programmed to be collectivist. Sure, these racists aver, there might be some nonwhites who are individualistic, but they are unusual and therefore unimportant in the final analysis — the majority is what matters. By contrast, the only ethnic group capable of producing individualists in a sufficiently large number, these racists believe, is white people.

Then, continue the racists, nonwhite immigrants just vote for politicians who give them more tax-funded welfare payments. You could point out to these racists that in U.S. federal elections, the only immigrants who can vote are naturalized citizens, and that this rule applies in most of the USA’s state and municipal elections as well. But the racists just reply with made-up stories from Breitbart News and The Gateway Pundit about how undocumented immigrants and green card holders all illegally vote anyway. And, as the racists stress increasingly, the dark-skinned immigrants are instrumental to a nefarious plot to “replace” the native-born whites. Thus, say the racists, whites should learn to stereotype nonwhites in general as congenital, programmed collectivists, and should demand that the State use its guns to discourage and reduce such immigration from nonwhites. Favorite slogans circulating among this crowd include “Numbers matter; demographics matter” and “demography is destiny.” The racists then conclude by saying that believing and urging all this on the masses is what it means to be a great individualist(!!!).

These racists are not honest actors. But, for the benefit of any young person who might be confused by all this, I will try to explain how this racist pseudo-individualism is self-refuting.

“Individualism” Versus “Collectivism” — What Those Terms Actually Mean
Collectivism is the idea that holds that among human beings, the proper unit to be judged and acted upon is not the individual but some grouping of human beings. In contrast to collectivism is individualism — the recognition that the individual is the unit that acts, is to be acted upon, and to be judged. Essential to individualism is the recognition of free will — that it is only the individual who ultimately makes and enacts choices, and that it is therefore by one’s choices that one is to be evaluated and held accountable.

When it comes to judging someone’s character and moral standing — and especially when it comes to how the law is to treat a noncombatant in a peacetime context — the focus is to be on that person’s actions, which are almost always chosen. And, no matter how much an adult may be influenced by other people, her ultimate choice is, on a fundamentally physiological level, up to her alone in the privacy of her own mind. (If someone is mentally ill, mentally challenged, a minor, inebriated, or otherwise lacking in contractual capacity, one would still be on shaky grounds in denying that such a person’s actions are subject to his or her choices. When some condition impairs a person’s contractual capacity, that person still retains some modicum of choice in thoughts and actions.) Even when a law court recognizes that some forcibly inflicted form of harm was not consciously chosen — a drunk driver might have accidentally struck a pedestrian — choice is recognized. The drunk driver did not consciously choose to hit the pedestrian, but the drunk driver did choose to partake in a series of actions that made the hitting of the pedestrian a very likely outcome.

Human individuality and the faculty for choice are corollaries — to condemn a whole ethnic group as congenitally violent, dismissing the capacity for individual choice and dissension within the ethnic group as nonexistent or existentially unimportant, is to reject in practice the very concept of human individuality.

One can be an individualist and properly judge many people as a group . . . provided that one judges everyone in that group insofar as all members of that group are unanimous in each having directly chosen to partake in the same action. For example, it would be very collectivist for a European to denounce all Americans, or Americans in general, for Donald Trump becoming President of the United States and imposing his pathology. That would be unfair to individuals, as not all American individuals supported Donald Trump — he did not even win the popular vote. However, it would not contradict individualism to make a disapproving judgment about everyone who, knowing of his clamor for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to keep Latinos out of the USA, supported Donald Trump for President . . . qua their role as Trump supporters.

 To say that it’s proper to make a negative moral judgment about Trump supporters is not to assume that these people engage in cruelty in every waking moment. It is not to say they don’t love their children and grandchildren. It is not to say they always cheat their customers in their business dealings. It is not to deny that they ever did anything nice for anyone nonwhite. But it is to say, properly, that all Trump supporters did something unethical when they pledged to support Donald Trump for President — unethical because it has terrible consequences that were and are being imposed forcibly on those who didn’t support Trump, and because Trump’s own actions in public made it obvious long before November 2016 that his becoming President would yield such adverse consequences.

Hence, an individualist would not necessarily reproach all Trump supporters in their role as parents or accountants, but an individualist would properly reproach all Trump supporters in their role as Trump supporters.

Yes, an individualist can morally judge everyone in a group to the extent that the judgment is only on the action directly chosen by everyone in that group. And an individualist doesn’t go farther than that. An individualist doesn’t judge individuals according to actions they didn’t take (someone tacitly enabling and reinforcing another’s pathology is not really inaction, but a tacit action), and definitely doesn’t demand that the police exercise government force on individuals for actions of which they had no part.

What all forms of collectivism have in common is the attempt to elide that distinction. Collectivism is the attempt to evaluate individuals and hold them as being bound to chosen actions over which those individuals had no say, based on those individuals’ affiliation to some group when that group affiliation is not directly pertinent to the chosen actions. The collectivist feels comfortable ignoring distinctions in differing, or even contrasting, chosen actions among members of the same superficial grouping, as the collectivist presumes that it is only the superficial grouping that matters as a unit, not the distinct individuals. To wit, collectivism presumes that persons’ affiliations in groups beyond their own choosing are of greater significance than the persons’ own choices. (And it is self-contradictory to proclaim that one recognizes choices but that we should concede that every person having been born into a group not of her own choosing is the factor that informs and therefore determines her own choices. Such “pre-set choices” are a contradiction in terms, and the assertion is again to downplay the role of individuals’ choices.)

To summarize, the collectivist attributes a particular decision to an entire group of people when not every individual within the group personally decided to go with it; the individualist attributes such a decision to an entire group of people only as far as each individual within the group in fact made that decision for him- or herself.

Well-Known Variants of Collectivism 
In civics discourse, the most common variant of collectivism exercised is based on political geography — the attempt to bind people together by law, as if they are acting as a single unit when they in fact are not, because all these people reside in a particular geographic area over which a single central governmental body holds jurisdiction. As I have explained before, that is Hobbesian Social Contract Theory. That is the notion that even if you withheld any conscious support for — or even vocally opposed — some tax or statute over peaceable actions and private property, the very fact that you occupy the same geographic territory as the majority that supported that tax or statute renders you of the same collective unit as those supporters, which somehow means that you did implicitly consent to that tax or statute with the majority after all.

Perhaps Amy, Rick, and I are all native-born citizens in City X. Amy and Rick are part of the majority that votes to impose a tax on the consumption of sugary soft drinks. I vote against that and loudly argue against it. According to the collectivism of Hobbesian Social Contract Theory, because Amy and Rick and I all passively fall into the same grouping — we were all born as citizens in City X — somehow I do ultimately implicitly consent to the soft-drink tax, notwithstanding my painfully obvious actions to the contrary.

Collectivism is also found in calls for a forcible redistribution of wealth and incomes by the State. The collectivism is specifically in the redistributionist’s refusal to distinguish how one individual’s choices differs from another’s — and the concomitant refusal to acknowledge that, to the extent that they operate peaceably in laissez-faire conditions, two adults having unequal wealth is the logical and just result of those two people having peaceably made choices different from one another’s. Mark Zuckerberg is billions of dollars richer than I am, but that doesn’t mean he stole that money from me or victimized me.

The absence of resentment, on my part, against Zuckerberg when Zuckerberg is enormously wealthier than I am should not be misconstrued as any belief on my part that Zuckerberg’s life or work is inherently more valuable than my own. It is simply the recognition that, inasmuch as parties are free and peaceful, the number of parties that willingly paid money to Zuckerberg for advertising space on his website greatly exceeds the number of people who willingly pay money to me for services that I offer. The individualist recognizes that Zuckerberg and I having ended up in different financial strata is simply Zuckerberg and I each facing the peaceable consequences of our own respective choices.

When a proponent of government wealth redistribution demands that the State rectify this inequality by forcibly taking some of Zuckerberg’s wealth and handing it to me, it places emphasis on Zuckerberg and me being in the same group superficially — we are both in the collective category of “Americans” or “humans” — while downplaying the fact that Zuckerberg and I are individuals who each made his own individual choices and are facing the repercussions thereof.

Indeed, the wealth redistribution is the attempt to use force to override the facts (1) that Zuckerberg and I embarked on dissimilar sequences of choices and (2) Zuckerberg and I peaceably accumulating vastly different quantities of wealth is logically inseparable from our having made different choices and trying to manage the consequences of those choices.

The whole purpose in coming to a decision and executing it is to experience the results of that decision. The choice itself cannot be divorced from its results (including its unforeseen consequences and the consequences that are considered a byproduct less important than the main goal that the choice was to reach). To call upon the government — which means the government’s guns — to obstruct someone from experiencing the peaceable consequences of her peaceable choices is to obstruct her freedom to make such choices. As far as government-imposed redistributions of wealth are concerned, the State employing its force of law to undo some of the personal financial gain someone reaped as a result of her peaceful choices is to impinge on her very freedom to make such choices. A governmental initiative to redirect Zuckerberg’s wealth to me, based on the premise that our common humanity overrides our freedom to experience the fruits of our respective choices, is thus a denial of individuality and a virulent manifestation of collectivism. In briefer terms, what is prioritized is the alleged social collective —“Society as a whole” — and the individual’s freedom of choice is reduced, sacrificed.

I know that many readers will find it unfair of me to attribute the disparity in wealth between billionaires and myself mostly to a benign difference in our choices, as many of these billionaires were born into much more advantageous circumstances from the outset — they had a “head start” over me — and no one chooses to be born into either a privileged set of circumstances or a disadvantageous one. As many other readers might consider it too long a digression from the main topic of this particular post if I rebut the “head start” objection in this post here, you can check out my rebuttal to that objection in this other blog post.

And, as Rand said, the crudest collectivism is racism. If persons A and B are of the same skin color, speak the same language, or grew up practicing most of the same ethnic customs, they are still individuals — and if person A partakes in an action that person B did not, then an individualist does not judge, directly reward, or forcibly punish person B for what person A did. Yet too many white supremacists, who claim to be individualists inspired by Ayn Rand, do just that.

What Makes It the Crudest Collectivism 
JosĂ© Inez GarcĂ­a ZĂĄrate was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who made terrible choices that killed Kate Steinle. Jorge Garcia was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who did not inflict violence on Kate Steinle or anyone else, but was deported nonetheless. An individualist recognizes that JosĂ© and Jorge are both individuals with free will, who made their own choices — even if they’re both named GarcĂ­a — and therefore JosĂ©’s actions have no bearing on Jorge’s moral standing or worthiness of remaining in the USA.

Yet I have heard white nationalists — real name: collectivists — cite the example of JosĂ© Inez GarcĂ­a ZĂĄrate to proclaim that Jorge Garcia and all other undocumented Mexican immigrants are violent and should be deported at gunpoint. As with forcible wealth redistribution, we find in Jorge’s deportation that the alleged good of the collective — the native-born white majority — is prioritized as the individual’s freedom of choice is reduced, sacrificed. It is immaterial to these collectivists that JosĂ© Inez GarcĂ­a ZĂĄrate killed someone and Jorge Garcia did not — as far as the collectivists are concerned, those two men fall into the same inessential categories of ethnicity and country of birth, and therefore JosĂ©’s actions should influence how Jorge is to be judged and treated by law enforcement.In their interpretation, JosĂ© and Jorge having superficial and unchosen commonalities proves JosĂ©’s wrongdoing to be Jorge’s as well. To the collectivist, the very quality that determines the individual’s identity — the individual’s choices — is dismissed as irrelevant.

In the “Racism” essay, Ayn Rand’s words explain what I explained above: racism “means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions...” and that “a man’s convictions, values and character are determined” by circumstances “beyond his control. . . . Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice...” The citation of the JosĂ©/Kate Steinle case to condemn Latino migrants in general is based not on the individualism of Ayn Rand but on collectivist presumptions. Such presumptions, Ayn Rand notes, are a “quest for the unearned. ...a quest for automatic knowledge — for an automatic evaluation of men’s characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment.”

That is what the racist pseudo-Objectivists are doing when they dismiss Jorge Garcia as inhuman on the basis of JosĂ© Inez GarcĂ­a ZĂĄrate’s actions — too lazy to bother to evaluate dark-skinned immigrants as individuals, they apply their canned opinion of JosĂ© Inez GarcĂ­a ZĂĄrate to other Latino immigrants. These racists can say all they want that they were inspired by Ayn Rand and “We’re not racist” — but, by Ayn Rand’s judgment, they are.

In an exercise of such racism, Milo Yiannopoulos proclaims,

You’re constantly telling us white people are the source of all evil, that white people have all this stuff to apologize for. Well you know what? We’re not that bad. We did some pretty good stuff. We did Mozart, and Rembrandt, and Descartes, and Beethoven, and Wagner, and we went to the stars, we explored the oceans, we built Western civilization. 
Can’t white people be proud of what white people have done?

The idea of Milo’s rant there is that because Milo and Mozart are both white, Mozart’s accomplishments are also Milo’s — never mind that Milo didn’t make the choices that Mozart made.😑 “We [white people] did Mozart,” Milo says. No, the opera Don Giovanni was not composed by “white people” in general; it was composed by Mozart. Period.

In her own lifetime Ayn Rand saw this sort of psychological parasitism in which Milo engages, and she brought it up in the “Racism” essay:

 ...the bum who boasts that his great-grandfather was an empire-builder, or the small-town spinster who boasts that her material grand-uncle was a state senator and that her third cousin gave a concert at Carnegie Hall (as if the achievements of one man could rub off the mediocrity of another)... — all these are samples of racism.

This reminded me of a rather disturbing boast I received online from an old man-baby who claimed (and, apparently, still claims) to be Objectivist. He spun this long yarn about how his ancestors were great Scotsmen, as if that said anything about him — and the implication was that of course it did. Sure enough, years later I learned he was delivering tirades online about Arabs and Mexicans, eventually going as far as castigating legal immigrants from India, arriving in Silicon Valley as engineers, for being “invaders.”

But the individualist judges a whole group of people insofar as the group’s members are classified together specifically according to their each having chosen to take the very action that the individualist is judging. As adopting and propagating collectivism in general and white supremacism in particular is an action chosen by individuals, it is consistent with individualism to denounce all white supremacists in their role of adherents to, and practitioners of, racism.

This is why Rand identified racism as the crudest form of collectivism. At least in the cases of wealth redistributionism and Social Contract Theory, these fallacies have some superficial plausibility to them. With racism, the sleaziness is harder to overlook. When a racist praises what he holds to be the collective achievements of people of his own skin color, it is plain that the racist is trying to take credit for celebrated actions he himself did not perform. And even more baldly ugly is how, in casting aspersions upon everyone in general from other “races,” white supremacists apply their dehumanizing prejudgments to individuals about whom they know nothing.

White Supremacists Presenting Their Collectivism As Individualism 
I think that what I said above about individualism versus collectivism, with respect to skin color and “race,” is common sense. Yet I found it necessary to explicate because it escapes the comprehension of the clique of white supremacists who call themselves loyal defenders of Ayn Rand’s legacy. The phenomenon was of particular curiosity to me because the racist clique sounds intent on foisting the idea that native-born whites in general are individualists whereas nonwhites in general are collectivist, and the racist clique oddly seems not to notice that anyone who puts forth such a notion is directly contradicting himself.

The internal contradictions in the racist pseudo-Objectivists’ delusions are so numerous that I have lost count of them. The most obvious one is that because people of other skin colors have volition just as you do, you can’t be an individualist as you stereotype those people and deny their capacity for individual choice, which is to deny their individuality. To the extent that you issue sweeping and stigmatizing ethical judgments about members of a population on account of traits that are out of their control, you expose your own hypocrisy when you accuse those same people so disapprovingly of all being collectivists.

This internal contradiction is very apparent in the likes of white supremacist Stefan Molyneux who, by his own efforts, is still often mistaken for someone sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s viewpoint. Molyneux contradicts himself in statements mere minutes apart from one another in the same video — the one I discussed before, where he infamously tells a caller that people who disagree with Molyneux politically don’t deserve to be protected from mass shootings. Molyneux tells the caller that he should think of himself, first and foremost, as simply a member of a “tribe.” Then, establishing that the tribe is more important than the individual, Molyneux says that this tribe must revile “collectivism.”

Still posturing as the defender of individualism and enemy of collectivism, Molyneux propounds in a later video,
...the end [waning influence] of religion in the West had more to do with “I don’t want to be told what to do, I don’t want to have any rules, I don’t want to have any [unchosen] obligations, and I don’t want to have any need for sacrifice.” And the reality is that to maintain a civilization, it requires vigilance; it requires sacrifice, and it requires that you be passionately in love with something much larger than your mere mortal existence.

Gainsaying Ayn Rand, and similar to the totalitarians whom she fled, Molyneux demands the individual be sacrificed for the ostensive benefit of the collective. He even says, “I can’t judge any individuals. [ . . . ] No, it’s [social] patterns. I don’t care about individuals; I do care about ideologies. You can’t judge individuals; you can judge ideologies” — ideologies allegedly programmed into people by their skin color, cultural conditioning, or both.

And recently I came across a white supremacist who is even more explicit than Molyneux in this bizarre narrative about how whites, as a collective, are programmed to be individualist whereas nonwhites are programmed to be collectivist. It is Lana Lokteff of Red Ice TV. This was a YouTube podcast that started off being about UFOs and the paranormal but eventually came to be about the much more far-fetched pseudoscience that is “race realism.” As of my typing this, this channel has over 315,000 subscribers on YouTube. Fittingly enough, Red Ice TV interviewed Molyneux back in 2012 when Red Ice was still about UFOs — this occasion, in retrospect, shows us a moment when Molyneux and Red Ice were only starting to bridge into explicit racism.

In her video “Why They [Who?! Being Openly Anti-Semitic, She Usually Means Jews] Want to Replace White People,” Lana Lokteff pronounces at the 5:10 timestamp, “White people are rebellious and independent — a blessing but, right now, a curse. We don’t like being told what to do. We aren’t collectivists or easy to control like some others.” White people don’t like being told what to do? Someone should inform Lana that her friend Stefan considers that a detriment caused by the erosion of Christianity’s influence.

Then, consistent with Alex Jones’s paranoia about industrialization and biotech companies, at the 5:49 timestamp, Lana goes into what sounds like self-parody: “White people don’t always drink the toxic Kool-Aid: the chemicals [like H2O?!], GMOs, bad food, vaccines, etc. We shop at health food stores, eat organic, making a soft kale, making dependency on Big Pharma a bit more challenging.”

The alleged “defense” of white people by Lana Lokteff and the other racists is that they see white people, in general, as . . . collectively individualistic.😳 Molyneux has been explicit about this before. Citing the racist known as Anonymous Conservative (Michael Trust), Stefan Molyneux tells a sycophantic Bill Whittle, “if you drill down into the biology, you can see physiological differences between collectivists and individualists — between the r’s [r-selected people] and the K’s [K-selected] — which go a long way toward explaining why reason doesn’t work.”

White Supremacists Claiming Not to Believe That Race-Related Genetics Determines Behavior, But That Skin Color Is a Valid Proxy for Sizing Up Someone’s Cultural Influences — And, With Them, Someone’s Character
It is embarrassing that I have to explain something so basic to the racists: some whites are individualist and some whites are collectivist; some nonwhites are individualist and some nonwhites are collectivist. This is caused not by their skin color or even by the culture into which one was born; it is the culmination of one’s own choices. In some societies, the collection of customs — the culture   — can be more encouraging of individualism or collectivism than in other societies. To dispute racists like Molyneux who conflate culture with skin color, customs themselves are chosen actions and therefore subject to change, and thus an individualist recognizes that a person’s character has more to do with her own choices than do the customs with which she was raised.

That brings us to a favorite rationalization of the racists. Some of them still insist that they do not agree with Molyneux that the genes associated with someone’s skin color concomitantly program someone to have specific customs, to be more violent or more economically productive than other people from other continents. These racists say they are ultimately concerned about culture, not genetic programming, but that someone’s skin color does indeed convey to them essential information about his cultural background and thus the likelihood of his being collectivist and violent.

According to these racists, because almost all nonwhites are collectivist, and because almost all individualists are white, someone’s skin color and country of origin are indeed reliable proxies in ascertaining who has been culturally conditioned into individualism versus who has been culturally conditioned into being collectivist. And, they conclude, this rule of thumb should be applied in law, with immigration policy in white-majority countries being consciously crafted to prevent nonwhites — presumed collectivists —from becoming the West’s demographic majority.

Again, as Ayn Rand noted, this epistemological approach is disgraceful in its laziness, being an attempt to short-cut through “the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment” — which takes place on a case-by-case basis — in order to pretend that one has arrived at a legitimately “automatic evaluation of men’s characters...” And in demanding that armed law officers of Western countries enforce such an approach, these racists would impose, at gunpoint, the fatal consequences of their own laziness upon impoverished nonwhites who seek entry into the West simply for a better life.

The proposition that immigration officials can properly discriminate against immigrants by “race,” with “race” being used to guess who comes from a “good culture” and who does not, is of course just another flimsy excuse for the racists to write off individuals as worthless when they know nothing about those individuals except their skin color and country of origin. The racist, being intellectually lazy, considers that to be a sufficient quantity of information when he calls for the State to apply force against other persons. Hence their empty-headed slogans “Numbers matter; demographics matter” and “demography is destiny.”

These white supremacists should stop pretending to agree with, or understand, Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Rand grew up in a culture that she considered to be primitive, collectivist, and violent. If she agreed with these racists — if she agreed with their slogans about demography being destiny — then she would not have come out an individualist in spite of the culture that conditioned her. And it definitely contradicts her when the racists proclaim that law enforcement should target dark-skinned individuals for actions that were not theirs, based on those dark-skinned individuals being the same ethnicity and coming from the same country as someone else violent — Ayn Rand was of the same ethnicity and country of origin as people who were violent.

In proclaiming that the cultural conditioning of dark-skinned people is all that concerns them and should concern everyone, these racists still deny the faculty of individual choice — the faculty that helped Ayn Rand rise above all that.

As what makes you an individual distinct from everyone else is the series of choices you have made in your life, it is also self-contradictory for these racists to pronounce that what makes them individualistic is that the wider social collective around them — the culture — molded them into being such. They believe that what makes someone an individualist is that he passively soaked in such “individualism” from the collective of “the culture” around him — not being primarily something he actively had to choose for himself to contemplate and implement, regardless and often in spite of the nearby cultural influences. In presuming that someone’s philosophic individualism is caused by a collective and not that individual’s own personal choices, even here they attempt to minimize the individual’s capacity for choice and autodidacticism.

When they propound that everyone passively developed into a philosophic individualist or collectivist according to his or her cultural upbringing, these racists are not merely presuming collectivist nonwhites to be passive drones that are predominantly shaped by forces external to their conscious selves  — the “culture”-shouting racists even implicitly presume that of the people they call white-skinned individualists. These racists pose as individualists as they conspicuously give short shrift to the agency of the individual — even the very agency of the people they call individualists. Hence, these racists do not comprehend or practice any philosophy of individualism.

These racists keep shouting the word culture, but make it all too evident that they don’t know what it means. When they pontificate that individualists and collectivists alike are mostly the products of “culture,” they take “culture” as some primary — a Jehovah-like First Cause — that actively shapes all human beings who, individualist and collectivist alike, cannot help but be psychologically passive in the face of this “culture.” In reality, it is the individual’s faculty of volition that is primary. Human beings, individualist and collectivist alike — and of every “race” — are the ones actively exercising choices affecting the culture, either keeping aspects of it the same or changing them.

And the white supremacists make a sneaky partial admission of this when they blare that, instead of passively adopting the native supposedly-individualist culture of the West, nonwhite immigrants actively opt to convert Western culture into something more collectivist. But the white supremacists only acknowledge that these nonwhite immigrants can act on “the culture,” rather than it always being “the culture” acting on them, when it involves the accusation that any cultural change initiated by the nonwhite immigrants can only be in the direction of converting an individualistic culture into something more collectivist. The white supremacists take it for granted that it cannot happen in the other direction — of nonwhite immigrants affecting the culture in such a manner that individualism becomes more tolerated or even celebrated.

The white supremacists do not concede that these nonwhite immigrants, being psychologically active, are also capable of learning the importance of individualism on their own, possibly exploring aspects of individuality that too few native-born whites have considered. Ayn Rand wasn’t an immigrant from a primitive and collectivist foreign culture who passively assimilated into native-born white culture; having come from a primitive and collectivist foreign culture, she was the immigrant who taught new ideas concerning individualism to the native-born whites who had previously assumed they already knew everything there was to know about individuality. Likewise, the white supremacists would profit from considering that, instead of it always being immigrants from India or Honduras who should learn individualism from native-born whites, there could be a case where native-born whites might learn some new insight involving individualism that was thought up by such an immigrant from India or Honduras. Yet, for the ostensive benefit of what the racists deem to be “white culture” — their favorite collective — the racists would have the State sacrifice actual individuals at gunpoint.

It is not that individualists are predominantly “made” by “the culture” in which they were reared — it is that individualists largely make themselves and then remake the culture. I have come across racists mindlessly repeating Andrew Breitbart that “politics is downstream from culture” — but these racists are loath to admit that culture itself is downstream from individuals’ choices. Among whites and nonwhites alike, individuals are less the product of their “culture” than their “culture” is the product of those individuals’ choices. That is why a woman who spent her childhood in a backwoods Czarist Russian Orthodox village and who endured Soviet indoctrination can emerge from such a cultural background as the preeminent author on the topic of individualism.

I anticipate that some of the racists might want to protest, “No, my having become a philosophic individualist indeed largely came from my own choices, often in defiance of the pressures of the culture in which I grew up.” Such a racist should consider that the same is possible of would-be immigrants from Africa or Latin America — the same would-be immigrants he has already dismissed as hopeless and deserving of nothing more than armed federal agents obstructing their entry into the West.

Ayn Rand stated it herself in a letter to someone who was neither white nor from a Western cultural background: “there will always be men who will respond to a philosophic truth in every country on earth.”

That is worth repeating. She did not say “there will always be men who respond to a philosophic truth . . . as long as they’re whites in a white-majority country with a Western Christian background.” She said there will always be men who respond to a philosophic truth in every country on earth. And if such people are being oppressed by their governments to the point where they are starving or at risk of being murdered, and therefore are trying to seek a safer and freer life in the West, it would be a travesty to Ayn Rand — and for the rest of us — if armed government agents block them from the same lifesaving freedom to which Ayn Rand escaped.

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, I added the paragraphs about Ayn Rand saying “there will always be men who will respond to a philosophic truth in every country on earth.”  On Friday, July 19, 2019, I embedded the tweet from Adam Serwer and the YouTube video from Yaron Brook. On Monday, January 27, 2020, I added the quotation and link from Stefan Molyneux wherein Molyneux tells a credulous Bill Whittle that ideological collectivists and ideological individualists are physiologically different from one another.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

On ‘Learn to Code’: Right-Wing Protectionist Trolls vs. Market Economics

The Articles in an Online Collage, Which Right-Wing Trolls Present As Evidence of Journalists Conveying Callous Dismissal of Blue-Collar Workers, Don’t Say What the Right-Wing Trolls Accuse Them of Saying

Stuart K. Hayashi

Protectionist Trump-apologist vlogggers and right-wing internet-trolls use this collage
of six articles as their proof that mainstream, left-leaning journalists callously
tell laid-off blue-collar workers that they should suck it up and Learn to Code.
The problem: the articles do not say what the right-wingers accuse them of saying,
as we shall see below.

This is an abridged (medium-sized) version of the longer blog post “Right-Wing Trolls and Vloggers and Their Delusional ‘Learn to Code’ Narrative.” I thought perhaps many readers would consider my prolonged discussion of “creative-destruction” economics, especially concerning the moral implications of factories closing either due to governmental interference or to market conditions, in the longer version to be tedious or distracting. Therefore, here I edited out some of those passages.

For readers who want to bypass all explanation of the economics of “creative destruction” and the history of the media’s bias concerning this topic, please see the shortest version of this essay, “ ‘Learn to Code’? More Like ‘Learn to Read.’ ”

In January of this year, Buzzfeed and HuffPost announced hundreds of employee layoffs to cut costs. On cue, politically right-wing trolls scoured Twitter for journalists lamenting the layoffs, and then spitefully tweeted at them that they should just suck it up and “Learn to Code.”

What was meant by that? Since the 1990s, the mainstream media have been running stories about how factories, plants, and mines in the U.S. Rustbelt have been closing, in part due to foreign-born competition, but much more due to the provision of manufactured goods and energy being automated, conducted by computer-programmed robots.

In the blinkered narrative of right-wing trolls, mainstream journalists — most of whom have an admittedly politically left-wing perspective — have for years been gloating about the job losses in the Rustbelt. This is because, proclaim the right-wing trolls, mainstream journalists look down on members of the white working class, dismissing them as bigoted rubes and cultural villains. The right-wing trolls conclude that because mainstream journalists hold dislocated blue-collar workers in such contempt, these journalists express no sympathy or concern for them, crowing at them that they should “Learn to Code,” analogous to a caricature of a rich man snapping at a beggar, “Go inherit your own money!” Hence, say the right-wing trolls, mainstream journalists themselves getting downsized out of their jobs is an instance of poetic justice. The right-wing trolls admonished the journalists “Learn to code” to show them how it feels.

Disappointingly, this tweet is from someone who has a Fellowship at an organization that purports
to be a free-market think. I hope the reader will see, by the end of this blog post,
how this tweeter’s depiction of journalists is a straw man.

As the Alt-Right YouTube vlogger “Black Pigeon Speaks” frames it to his 480,000 subscribers,
“Learn to code” was the response by many to tweets and posts made by the newly unemployed journalists talking about having been let go on social media. The meme was, in effect, being thrown back at many of the activist-slash-journalists that had just been fired to pretty much rub their noses in their own sanctimonious and smug suggestions, beginning in the 1980s but really ramping up in the 1990s when working-class Americans who saw their livelihoods and jobs evaporate as manufacturing was outsourced to China and Mexico, and their suggestion to those workers was to go out and Learn to Code. Obviously, people with gender studies- and psychology degrees working at news outlets across the United States came off as totally out-of-touch with people in the Rustbelt. And thus the retort to journalists who themselves are now seeing their own industry dying out as a result of technological change, and telling them to “Learn to Code,” is as genius as it is simple.
The “anti-Social-Justice-Warrior” vlogger “ShortFatOtaku” — who, to my knowledge, is less politically radical than “Black Pigeon Speaks” — similarly phrases it to 56,000 subscribers, the past, when the working class of hinterland America saw layoffs, firings, and factory closings, as the combination of globalist trade policies shipping their jobs overseas and influxes of cheap labor into the market through mass migration completely destroyed America’s mining, manufacturing, and energy sectors, these bourgeois upper-class journalists and bloggers, sitting in their coastal elite offices, would write about how the working class should just “Learn to Code.”  [ . . . ] There is[...]a dedicated section of hell for journalists who tell coal miners “Learn to Code”; you’re experiencing it right now.
There are many inaccuracies in those jeremiads.

First, contrary to “ShortFatOtaku,” the USA’s domestic manufacturing sector isn’t anywhere near “destroyed.” From 1962 to the present year, the percentage of the U.S. workforce that is in blue-collar manufacturing jobs has been decreasing, and yet the per-capita manufacturing output and per-capita manufacturing exports have only had a dramatic net increase in the same duration. The main cause of this phenomenon, though, will be of little consolation to ShortFatOtaku and “Black Pigeon Speaks,” as it is automation that the latter decries.

Job Obsolescence and the Market’s “Creative Destruction”
These phenomena are part of a larger principle of market economics that Joseph Schumpeter dubbed creative destruction. The idea is that the purpose of the market is for vendors to maximize the satisfaction of consumer demand with maximum plausible efficiency. As every input of labor or natural resources imposes a cost upon the entrepreneur,“efficiency” in this context means maximum production of economic value, per unit sold, from the smallest and fewest such inputs.

When the market finds a new production method that improves efficiency, that displaces marketplace demand for workers and firms whose jobs and income rely on the older and less-productive methods.  Throughout much of history, people relied on fireplaces to heat their homes, creating a market for chimney sweeps. As industrialization advanced, people adopted much more efficient methods for heating their residences. Homes with chimneys, as a percentage of all domiciles, decreased — and, consequently, chimney sweeps had to search for other lines of employment.

In the term creative destruction, the “destruction” is in the discontinuation of older, less-efficient practices.  The “creative” is in the creation of newer, more-efficient jobs.  That may result from any or all of the following measures that attempt at cost-cutting:
  • Firm restructuring – this happens when the owners of a firm ascertain that the firm has become too large and bureaucratic.  Thus, its divisions and job functions need to be scaled back or simplified. Hence, they close entire divisions or shrink them down. An example of this is Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’s (KKR’s) turnaround of the grocery chain Safeway (more about that later).
  • Foreign-born competition – this can come in the form of immigrants coming to the United States to work for low pay, or in the form of these foreigners remaining in their countries of origin and having the job transferred over to them from the USA. “ShortFatOktau,” “Black Pigeon Speaks,” and many other Donald Trump apologists especially object to this phenomenon, though I explained in Arc-Digital why they should not.
  • Technological change – new machines performing functions that previously only human beings could perform (also addressed in my Arc-Digital piece).

The Media’s Actual General Attitude Toward “Creative Destruction”
Thus, we come to the second falsehood in the narrative promulgated by “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku”: far from conveying any schadenfreude about the plight of displaced blue-collar workers, the mainstream journalists who report on this phenomenon have consistently evinced the same sympathies as these right-wing protectionist trolls. That is, insofar as any ideological bias may be inferred from mainstream left-leaning journalists’ articles from the 1990s about job losses in the Rustbelt, their implication was that the displaced blue-collar workers were the innocent victims, and the villain was either a cabal of cost-cutting billionaire stockholders or, more often, the wider phenomenon of the market’s “creative destruction” itself.

That was the case with Susan Faludi’s much-vaunted coverage in the Wall Street Journal of the KKR Safeway buyout. In 1990, the financial firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) made a leveraged buyout (LBO) of the grocery chain Safeway.  Essentially, KKR borrowed money to purchase controlling shares in Safeway, and its shares were the collateral if KKR could not pay back its creditors. Just as automation and the hiring of foreign-born workers are thought to cut costs, KKR underwent another method of cost-cutting for Safeway: restructuring it, closing unprofitable outlets and eliminating redundant positions and divisions. Consistent with the tone taken by most news articles about the market’s “creative destruction” — and actually consistent with the moralism of “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” themselves — Faludi painted an unflattering portrait of cost-cutting executives.  She highlighted the plight of employees anxious over their job security. This won her a Pulitzer, and it was specifically because, the Pulitzer Committee announced, the article “revealed the human costs of high finance.”

Since the online version of that article is behind a paywall, I will quote a non-paywall summary of it from a 1997 Fortune article,
In 1990 a public offering of Safeway stock and the buyout’s prominence led Susan Faludi of the Wall Street Journal to write about the company in one of the longest articles ever published in that newspaper. Titled “The Reckoning: Safeway LBO Yields Vast Profits but Exacts a Heavy Human Toll,” the article described employee traumas — all said to be directly linked to the LBO — that included suicides and job-related heart attacks. [ . . . ]
The “vast profits” mainly referred to capital gains and fees extracted from the buyout four years before and definitely didn’t describe Safeway’s finances in 1990: The company wasn’t making much money, and the public offering itself had received only a tepid welcome. But these were matters swallowed up by the wave of emotion that greeted the article. Many readers brought to it their own opinions about LBOs, some finding the article monstrously one-sided, others chorusing in agreement with its harsh indictment of the business mores of the Eighties. In short, the article not only immediately became emblematic of the Safeway buyout but also came to frame the entire debate about LBOs. 
The article also rocked KKR, whose principals thought it hung the firm with a totally unjustified reputation for, in George Roberts’s words, “coming in and firing everyone.” That image, he says, both hurt KKR’s negotiations with certain acquisition candidates and riled some of its limited partners, particularly public pension funds whose constituents included unionized workers.
This trend was also plainly visible in 2004. Democrat presidential challenger John Kerry received sympathetic coverage when, to set himself up as a foil to globalist incumbent George W. Bush, he denounced corporate executives as “Benedict Arnold CEOs” on account of their hiring foreign-born workers over native-born Americans.

Since, following Donald Trump’s lead, so many right-wing trolls are quick to label any news piece “fake news” if it provides evidence for any conclusion that might not be entirely palatable for their sensibilities and preconceptions, I would be remiss if I did the same myself. Susan Faludi’s article and the many copycats following it are not fake news. Fake news consists of complete fabrications — what you find with Paul Joseph Watson having claimed the FBI itself did the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, or the bogus health advice in Health Impact News. Biased left-wing journalists do report actual events and usually do mention actual data. Contrary to too many right-wing trolls I have encountered online, center-Left news publications such as the New York Times are not to be dismissed as wholly unreliable.  They still contain actual information in them, albeit often presented in a subconsciously slanted manner.  This means they should still be read but with thoughtful caution.

I have grievances about these mainstream center-Left periodicals inasmuch as they mislead the reader by downplaying or omitting important information that would give the reader a better understanding of the context. In the case of the articles from the 1990s lamenting the market’s “creative destruction,” it is that they frequently omitted or downplayed how quickly significant portions of the laid-off workforce found new jobs comparable to the old ones.  The also overlooked how inflation-adjusted employee US compensation actually increased since the 1950s.

As Cypress Semiconductor cofounder T. J. Rodgers observed in 1996,
These job losses are highly publicized: Richard Allen, the CEO of AT-and-T, was labeled a “Job Killer” in a recent Newsweek magazine article because of layoffs, many of which came from AT-and-T’s decision to exit the personal computer business in which it was not competitive. What is not publicized is that my company has already hired some of those AT-and-T people. And, unfortunately, our rival, Cirrus Logic (a billion-dollar chip company about which I bet you’ve never heard) beat us to the punch in starting up a design center in South Carolina to take advantage of hiring those highly skilled ex-AT-and-T engineers. The bad news from big companies gets front-page coverage, but the near-immediate absorption of their skilled workers is rarely discussed.
“ShortFatOtaku” and “Black Pigeon Speaks” would likely scoff at Rodgers’s claim that laid-off skilled workers are rehired more often than the public believes. That would be ironic, as, against their own intention, “ShortFatOtaku” and “Black Pigeon Speaks” themselves showed, right to their audience, evidence that lends more support to Rodgers’s case than their own.

“Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” Directly Contradicted By the Six Case Studies in the Collage They Present
No doubt, apologists for President Trump and protectionism maintain that there are indeed myriad examples of the mainstream media being smarmy and lecturing laid-off blue-collar workers that their dislocation from heavy industry is for the best and that it would behoove them to “Learn to Code.” As supposed proof, both “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” present, pictured below, the exact same collage of six online media headlines. “Black Pigeon Speaks” does it at the 3 minute, 55 seconds timestamp and “ShortFatOtaku” at the 1 minute, 35 seconds timestamp.

Again, this is the collage they cite.

“Black Pigeon Speaks” citing the collage.

“ShortFatOtaku” citing the collage.

That same collage was tweeted to journalists who vented online about the lay-offs.

Here is the problem: when you actually look at the articles in total — or even bother to read their headlines — the articles don’t actually do what “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” accuse them of doing.

And it turns out I am not alone in noting this. Days after I uploaded the three different versions of this essay, I learned that the blog Angry White Men pointed out back in January that the articles “are anything but malicious, and none of them are examples of journalists ‘push[ing] coding on the coal miners.’ ”

Not one of the six articles is a prescriptive essay urging laid-off blue-collar employees to learn to code. All of them — even the one in the right-hand corner from the New York Times labeled “Opinion” — are straight-news articles that are descriptive of the phenomenon of blue-collar employees actually learning to code.

 When it comes to the mischaracterization by “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” of what the articles actually say, a red flag should go off immediately from the title of the Bloomberg Business article directly in the middle. It is not “Appalachian Miners Should Learn to Code.” It is “Appalachian Miners Are Learning to Code.”  ARE Learning to Code — as in: regardless of what anyone’s opinion is, the reality is that laid-off miners are learning to code. In fact, all of them except for the New York Times piece, are about the same for-profit company, Bit Source, founded by M. Lynn Parrish and Rusty Justice and employing former coal miners as software engineers.

Let’s start by addressing the three news articles that first seem to be the likeliest to be sermons exhorting laid-off workers to stop feeling sorry for themselves and just learn to code already.

The one that at first seems to be such an opinion piece is the one on the bottom from Forbes, by Anne Field, “Turning Miners Into Coders — And Preventing a Brain Drain.” It begins, “Is learning to code the answer to the plight of struggling coal miners? For business partners Rusty Justice and M. Lynn Parrish, it’s at least one solution.”

That sounds like it may be opinionated — the author saying that Justice and Parrish believe learning to code is a possible “solution” sounds like praise for that prospect. But those two sentences are the most opinionated in this and the other five articles from the collage. The rest of the Forbes article is just straight news. Here is a sample:
Three years ago, Justice and Parrish got tired of watching out-of-work coal miners struggling to survive. So the owners of Jigsaw, a Pikeville, KY, excavation and engineering company, decided to start a new business — a software development company that would hire former miners in eastern Kentucky, first teaching them how to code.
This is the conclusion:
The partners plan to ramp up their current employees’ skill level before making any more hires. Still, so far, according to Justice, his newbie coders have been doing just fine. He points to one employee, a former miner who used to run a shuttle car underground and recently attended a lunch in New York City about agile software development. “He fit right in,” says Justice.
Now let’s get to the New York Times story in the upper right-hand corner, titled “The Coders of Kentucky.” It is, after all, labeled “Opinion.” But it is actually not structured as an argument. The only one of these six articles that is not about Bit Source, it consists of straight news contents like these:
Mr. Gopal is at the forefront of a new movement to bring money and jobs from the coastal capitals of high tech to a discouraged, outsource-whipped Middle America. Ro Khanna, the Democratic representative from California whose district includes Apple, Intel, LinkedIn and Yahoo, was among the first politicians to float the idea of Silicon Valley venturing inland. “Why outsource coding jobs to Bangalore when we can insource jobs to eastern Kentucky, poor in jobs but rich in work ethic, and every one I.T. job brings four or five other jobs with it?” he said.
Unlike the videos from “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” on this topic, this New York Times piece isn’t telling you to adopt a particular opinion or value-judgment. Unlike even Susan Faludi’s Wall Street Journal piece, this one doesn’t even have any subtext about who are the bad guys against whom the reader is expected to root. It is, like the Forbes piece, bringing attention to the fact that former blue-collar workers in Kentucky are becoming computer programmers. And this New York Times piece focuses on a company called Interapt, indicating that Bit Source is not alone in what it is doing.

Now let’s get to the article with the most ambiguous title: the Wired piece “Can You Teach a Coal Miner to Code?” Again, this is an article about the computer programming firm Bit Source, which employers former coal miners. It does not condescend toward former coal miners, ridiculing them as relics to be cast aside if they cannot adapt to the new IT marketplace.  It does mention that the firm’s cofounder believes that true condescension comes from the assumption that former miners are helpless and unable to adjust to the new global competitive marketplace. Although former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg — similar to “ShortFatOtaku” — seemed to believe he was standing up for dislocated blue-collar workers by protesting that it is unrealistic to think they could learn to code, the article quotes Bit Source cofounder Rusty Justice on how that attitude severely underestimates the capabilities of the working class.
Rusty Justice thought he might know miners a little better than some fancy tycoon in New York did. That’s why, at dawn one October morning last year, he trotted down his driveway towards a silver F-150 truck idling in the street and drove some 150 miles along the Mountain Parkway to Lexington.

It was time to go and prove Bloomberg wrong.
And, judging from the article’s relaying of facts, that is precisely what Rusty Justice did.

The National Public Radio article in the bottom right-hand corner, “From Coal to Code,” is straight news like the others:
...the coal industry is shrinking fast. More than 10,000 coal workers have been laid off since 2008. 
Many have had to leave the area to find work, but a few have found employment in other — and sometime unexpected — fields, as businesses are innovating to use former coal workers in new ways. 
Rusty Justice’s company is one of these.
This one from the bottom of the collage is the most straightforward about focusing on the same IT firm that most of the other articles do: “BitSource Building a Coal to Code Mentality in Appalachia Kentucky.” It says,
BitSource has gained national attention for its “Coal to Code” mentality that has taken the transferrable skills of coal miners and turned them into world-class computer coders. 
A proud East Kentucky partner of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), BitSource redesigned the SOAR website, and, in 2016, helped create, an innovative platform to allow people and organizations from across the region to share ideas and network with one another.
Finally, the most obvious one, the one in the middle, “Appalachian Miners Are Learning to Code”:
Jim Ratliff worked for 14 years in the mines of eastern Kentucky, drilling holes and blasting dynamite to expose the coal that has powered Appalachian life for more than a century. . . .

He works for Bit Source now, a Pikeville, Kentucky, startup that’s out to prove there’s life after coal for the thousands of industry veterans who’ve lost their jobs in an unprecedented rout that has already forced five major producers into bankruptcy.
To the extent that these articles betray an ideological bias, the bias is in the implicit premise that, everything else being equal, former coal miners working as computer programmers is preferable to them not finding any new work. Imagine a reporter from a local newspaper doing a story on someone in the community receiving an award or undertaking some high-profile project. The reporter doesn’t know the community member well, but has no reason to root against him. The reporter is happy for the community member and wishes him well, and, while the article is just a presentation of straight news, the goodwill is apparent from the article. That’s how far the ideological bias goes.

That’s what we find with these articles. Not turning up any noses at dislocated workers and saying, “Just learn to code; now shoo!”, the only discernible opinion that the journalists let slip is their hope that these dislocated workers succeed in their lives and future endeavors, whatever those might be.

Remember from the beginning that the “Learn to Code” meme came from the mass layoffs of journalists of HuffPost and Buzzfeed.  Also recall that when right-wing trolls told these journalists “Learn to Code,” the trolls were simply saying back to the journalists what the journalists had said to laid-off blue-collar workers first. And also remember that the six aforementioned articles were presented by “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” as case studies of left-wing journalists callously dismissing the plight of laid-off blue-collar workers by telling them “Learn to Code.” Not one of the articles presented as “evidence” of the phenomenon in this collage came from HuffPost or Buzzfeed. This casts doubt on any supposition that the right-wing trolls are trying to inflict vengeance on the specific parties who had supposedly wronged blue-collar workers in the manner that the right-wing trolls claim.

Here is the real reason why the six articles of the collage were cited as an excuse to celebrate the misfortune of journalists laid off from HuffPost and Buzzfeed.  It is that the right-wing trolls who mocked them have developed a bigoted grudge against young mainstream journalists in general. The assumption is that writers for HuffPost, Buzzfeed, Forbes, and Bloomberg Business are all so alike that they are interchangeable.  We are to think they’re all just generic bad guys who deserve to be subjected to vindictive gestures when they are at their lowest points emotionally.  But as far as accuracy and precision are concerned, the citation of the six articles in the collage — as case studies in mainstream journalists’ callousness toward the white working class — amounts to whacking at a big straw man. In this case, it is the journalists who have been stigmatized in a sweeping, false, and bigoted generalization.

Some right-wing protectionists might retort that regardless of the specifics of what the articles said or who wrote them, such right-wing protectionists still resent the articles for their subtext, the subtext that blue-collar workers learning to code was a change that was welcome and is worthy of further reinforcement.  It is still offensive, they may maintain, as they believe that society-at-large, at least to some degree, just owes it to blue-collar workers in the Rustbelt that they retain greater job security. That makes no more sense than saying that, decades after more efficient methods of indoor heating became available and affordable, people should have felt obligated to continue building homes with fireplaces and chimneys.  That way, chimney sweeps could persist in steady employment and not feel pressured to train in a new set of skills in a new line of work.

I hope by now the reader will discern how
this tweet makes use of a straw man.

At this point, we can discern the falsehoods in the above tweet from Preston Byrne, who holds a Fellowship at the Adam Smith Institute. Contrary to some alt-right protectionists who, for their own blinkered reasons, call themselves capitalists, their hatred for creative destruction exposes their internal contradiction. It is not that creative destruction is what happens when capitalism mutates into something else, such as a once-healthy cell mutating and becoming cancerous. Creative destruction is not a perversion of capitalism; it is capitalism. And it is disappointing that someone at a think tank named after Adam Smith would fail to acknowledge that.

Also contrary to Preston Byrne, it is not as if mainstream journalists have been sour grapes about capitalism only after they or their colleagues were on the receiving end of mass layoffs. The tone of Susan Faludi’s Pulitzer-winning piece is not unusual. The general attitude that journalists — including financial journalists — have expressed about creative destruction ranges from it being distasteful at best to it being evil at worst. Fellows at free-market think tanks usually notice that bias. As far as journalists have disapproved of creative destruction, they have disapproved of capitalism. And the right-wing trolls churlishly tweeting at fired journalists that they should “Learn to Code” happen to share in that disapproval.

And, finally, regardless of whether the readers of my blog post approve of creative destruction or not, it should be clear that in starting from the trolls’ presumption that left-wing journalists, in general, have brusquely told laid-off blue-collar workers that they should just “Learn to Code,” Preston Byrne is presenting an obvious straw man.

When it comes to their false presentation of the aforementioned six articles as evidence of journalists snidely admonishing displaced blue-collar workers that they “Learn to Code,” there are three possible reasons why “Black Pigeon Speaks” and “ShortFatOtaku” might have done this.
  1. They didn’t actually bother to read the articles in-depth. They just saw in the headlines some optimistic-sounding mentions of former coal miners learning to code, and decided that that was close enough — egregiously imprecise as it is — to the narrative they wanted to foist.
  2. They didn’t consider that some member of their audience — someone who didn’t have 100% faith in their assertions — might take a closer look at the six articles shown in the collage.
  3.  They did read the articles but, because they are so committed to their narrative and already know what conclusion they want, they re-interpreted the articles and told themselves that the articles were snide lectures to displaced blue-collar workers that they should just learn to code. Never mind that they were really straight-but-sympathetic news articles about how displaced blue-collar workers are already learning to code.
Notwithstanding Michael Bloomberg and the right-wing trolls and vloggers, it appears T. J. Rodgers was right — former blue-collar workers are more adept at adapting than assumed. If the trend continues into the next decade, some of these former blue-collar workers might end up programming the computers that run the very robots that perform the old jobs these same blue-collar workers once held in heavy industry.


* Longest version of this essay (with the longest discussion of economics, including the passages on political economy and related ethics, removed from this medium-length version).

* Shortest version of this essay (bypassing the discussion of the economics of “creative destruction,” and removing the history of the media’s bias concerning this topic).

On April 25, 2019, I added the paragraph mentioning that the blog Angry White Men also noted that none of the articles cited expressed callousness toward dislocated blue-collar workers.