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Fake, but Accurate

Fake but Accurate

Taking Happiness Research Seriously

Will Wilkinson surveys the literature on happiness research, and comes to this conclusion:

It seems that there is almost nothing one can do to significantly and permanently alter one's natural temperamental disposition to happiness.


If you're on good terms with your family, have close friends and meaningful work, you're probably doing about as well as you're going to do.

Arnold Kling Agonistes

Arnold Kling doesn't like happiness research, and gives a rousing and rather Austrian explanation why not.

My point is that reported happiness is all about comparisons. To report how happy I am, I have to make that report in comparison to something else--how I felt a month ago, or how I imagine someone else feels, how I imagine I'll feel tomorrow, or something. Because the survey questions do not specify the comparison that the respondent is supposed to make, we have no idea what the answers mean.

Choice vs. Voice

In the course of reading many of the discussions held here on Catallarchy and around the 'sphere this summer, I remember thinking that the formulation of "Exit vs. Voice" seemed to be a dichotomy rigged for the statists. Read more »

The Efficient Markets Paradox

Stefan Karlsson explores the myriad paradoxes inherent in at least the strong version of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, and how one can, despite it all, make money in the stock market beyond average returns.

None so blind as those who will not see

Even though Bush has, at every turn, exhibited socialist tendencies and proudly boasted of his statism, there are still people who believe the libertarianish words that come out of his mouth. Specifically, Gregory Scoblete, who writes in TCS about Dubya's supposed committment to a "market state"[1]:

Bush embraced this transition to the Market State. In his domestic proposals, Bush explicitly acknowledged that the Nation State welfare-model needed to give ground:

The times in which we work and live are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents' generation typically had one job, one skill, one career, often with one company that provided health care and a pension. And most of those workers were men.

Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives, and, in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all moms also work outside the home.

This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family and have a rewarding career.

Bush's domestic agenda, allowing younger workers to direct the investment (of their own money) in Social Security, of portable pensions to follow a mobile work force, and reforming a cumbersome tax code, is specifically aimed at devolving responsibility for individual welfare from the State to the individual.

And if you believe that, you'll believe anything. Exactly how many bills has Bush had introduced to Congress that have addressed any of these things? All the talk and rhetoric from the Bush White House about free trade, free markets, and individual liberty has generated only heat, no light. For not one bill or resolution has seen the light of day that has addressed any of these things, but in the meantime Bush has increased government spending by 27%, vetoed no bills, massively increased federal liabilities with Medicare, and refers to the US people as 10 year olds for whom he feels paternal responsibility.

Bush doesn't give three whits about individual responsibility or an "ownership society". He wants a society that votes for him and his party and keeps his friends in power, and his domestic agenda reflects that.

It gets worse, however:

Even the President's proposed spending initiatives -- increased money to education, to child heath care, and to junior colleges - had one consistent, Market State theme: the State is responsible for laying the foundation for your well-being but ultimate success is up to you.

Excuse me? The state is what? Setting aside the obvious question of how 'well-being' would be defined in a legislative and regulatory sense, or how to constrain such a definition in the future from growing to encompass anything and everything, it simply happens to be 100% incorrect. The state is simply not responsible for laying the foundation for your well-being, and it won't be, no matter what the enablers intend, because of a combination of bad incentives and the ultimate problem of knowledge.

Ultimately, anyone's foundation for well-being is laid by their family, or whatever social unit takes charge of raising that individual. History suggests that it is highly unlikely that any attempts to use state power to "equalize or normalize" foundational circumstances will not have serious negative consequences for individuals trying to better themselves once they are adults. That is, the burden the state will lay on productive adults (workers, managers, owners all) to pay for all of this foundational support will likely reduce or severely curtail economic opportunity later in life- so much so that in many cases the net benefit for a given individual will be negative[2].

Kerry is a pompous jackass. I have and will continue to mock and deride him until such time as he leaves the presidential stage. But let no one doubt that I believe George W. Bush is an equally odious President/candidate who, worse than Kerry, talks the libertarian talk but walks the red line with a goose step.

Whoever wins, we lose.

Notes: Read more »

Like a rock, like a stone wall of conviction...

The Kerry campaign responds to anti-war criticism with a hard hitting statement on the war:

"those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

You tell 'em, Kerry.

UPDATE: Read more »

MC Dubya-B breaks it down for free

Julian Sanchez, possessed by what can only be described as genius, channels the darker rap persona of George W. Bush, freestylin' on John F'n'Kerry. An excerpt:

John Kerry aint a mother-fuckin MC,
I know everything he's got to say against me,
I do swagger, I smirk like a chimp,
The New York Times used to call my dad a wimp,
I scope the marchers with my Fuji blimp,
I do got a Veep candidate named Dick,
Who calls his Halliburton peeps with contracts to pimp,

Crisis Abated

It seems that the comments and archives work again.


We\'re there when you need us

Technical Difficulties

Sorry for those who want to comment or otherwise view archived posts... I'm not sure what the problem is, but hopefully it will be back up soon.


Why vote?

In response to my post below about voting strategies for libertarians, John T. Kennedy says, by way of questioning, that "the utility (in terms of electoral outcome) [of a vote] ... is negligible," :

Groups do not evaluate arguments, nor do they vote. Any argument offered for the utility of voting a certain way is necessarily an argument put to individuals and evaluated by individuals. And since the utility of the individual vote in terms of electoral outcome is negligible there is no sound argument that can be offered based on such utility.

So yeah, there can be utility to the individual in swaying a number of other individuals to vote a given way. But that cannot be accomplished by any valid argument from such utility, it can only be accomplished by purveying nonsense.

(emphasis added)

The key to John's criticism of voting is an electoral-outcome utilitarian analysis. That is, if I understand correctly, an individual's vote is so unlikely to be the deciding vote (the single, unique one that puts a candidate at 50%+1, or to plurality), and thus any given vote is unlikely to sway the election, so there is little value in voting; its no better than playing the lottery as far as expected payoff (worse, probably).

If the argument to individuals for voting depended upon electoral outcome utility, then John would be correct- why vote when you have less of a chance to influence the election than winning $130 million in a lottery?

Thus even in the face of certitude of electoral failure, voting still 'has value' in the sense that a preference can be lodged, and if it so happens that the emergent property of such "wasted votes" is that one candidate loses who might have won had he appealed to the disaffected marginally more, then important data may be revealed to the candidate who normally commands greater support. Or, contrariwise, should the people "wasting" their vote realize that after years of effort in the political ring they can't get more than 2% of the voting populace to prefer them to the alternatives, maybe they ought to think of something else (quit politics, alter strategies, etc). In any case, its all about the info, not about trying to hit the "power lotto" and be the one deciding vote among millions.

Though I haven't elaborated on this position before, this belief informs my strategy for urging fellow libertarians to vote. As much as I've dissed Badnarik (and probably will continue to diss in the future), it is likely that I'll vote for him anyway[2], primarily to make libertarian voters seem worthwhile targets to either party[3], and thus perhaps tempt some of the major candidates to make political concessions to buy woo these 'splitters' back into a fold. That's why I hope libertarians, if they vote at all, vote Badnarik this time around rather than Kerry. Because as I explained above, the system only registers votes "for", not votes "against". If you vote for Kerry, Kerry will think you are for him, not simply anti-Bush. If you vote Badnarik, you are counted as "none of the above, with this set of preferences". A loony set, perhaps, but at least you're counted separately from the socialists and chickenshit interventionists who want Bushism but with different targets. Read more »

Beaker, Bunsen Honeydew named Top Scientists in UK

Bunsen Honeydew & Beaker


RNC planning revealed!

So this is how the whole Zell Miller thing came about...

Time for plan B?

I know a lot of libertarians are planning to vote for Kerry as their protest vote, counting on the assumption that the GOP keeps the congress, and that divided government will bring the long missed fiscal conservatism back to the budget.

That plan looked OK when Bush and Kerry were neck-and-neck and Kerry had a comfortable if not commanding lead in the Electoral College projection.

Now, post-RNC bounce, Bush is starting to campaign and Kerry is down, both nationally and state-by-state.

If Kerry can't pull it out, wouldn't that suggest that the next option is to work to defeat Republicans in house/senate races this fall? One hopes that if the "divided government" strategy is indeed the reason for some libertarians' votes for Kerry[1], I'd hope that their down-ticket voting would be complimentary- vote Kerry for Pres, GOP for congress. If Kerry looks to lose, vote Donk for congress.

The problem then being that, if successful, we'd elect people who, instead of being hypocrites, are genuinely and openly in favor of spending gobs and gobs of federal cash... (and taxing you more now, to boot) Read more »