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Radical gradualism

This is a pointless thought experiment, but I think it gives interesting results. Assume that you gain political power in a country, and - before you become absolutely corrupted - try to turn it into a happy anarcho-capitalistic society. How would you do it?

The first approach is to dissolve the State. Tear apart the whole structure, leave your office and throw the key. Unfortunately, should you do that, the State will be recreated instantly, election held etc. Society is sensitive to hysteresis, it's not just the institutions that define how it works, it's also where you come from. By shutting down the State, you will just have quit your job not destroyed it. The second approach is to gradually transform the State by reforming it until it completely disappears. Unfortunately, this second approach has drawbacks. First, it is unethical, it makes you a criminal. Second, you are very susceptible to become corrupted by the power on the way, to encounter obstacles etc.

Fortunately, there is a way to combine gradualism and radicalism all in an ethical way (hooray).

The way to do it is to grant secession rights to every landowner. Most likely, few people will use that right at first, because the services provided by the states are needed, therefore they will voluntarily chose to stay in the State. Once this right is granted, you are not a criminal anymore! You can then engage in extensive gradual reforms with the ultimate check and balance that people can secede.

At first, secession would probably be used to create free trade zones, that require little protection. Later on it could be used for gated communities. Meanwhile, you'd try to do the best job you can to provide something efficient people want to stay in, with very little budget due to easy tax avoidance.

The key idea here, is that market will provide the best balance between incremental changes and radical transformation of society by letting people chose. Pragmatism dictates that people won't probably secede en masse, but their right to ensures efficient policies and satisfies any ethical concerns.

Theories of terrorism

Reprisal theory: They kill us because we killed them. Proof: look, we killed them. Doesn't take a genius to figure this out.

Aggression theory: They would kill us whether or not we killed them. Proof: look at all their targets - not just big bad US. Notice all the hot spots (Sudan, Indonesia, etc.). Threats against non-Muslim artists and writers. See Religion theory. See Shark theory. See Theater theory.

Synthesis theory: They would kill us whether or not we killed them, but they kill us more because we killed them. Proof: see Reprisal theory and Aggression theory.

Shark theory: They smell blood in the water. It is our weakness that attracts them. Proof: Their rhetoric, our obvious lack of resolve. It would not be the first time someone was attacked because he was weak.

Religion theory: Their interpretation of jihad instructs them to attack us because we are nonbelievers. Proof: Their rhetoric. Their many religious explanations of what they are doing and why. Their violent attacks on apostates, disrespectful nonbelievers, Christian schoolgirls, Buddhists, Muslims of the wrong sect, Jews, etc.

Theater theory: They attack us primarily to impress other Muslims and gain power, adherents, and influence within and outside the Middle East. Proof: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse” (Osama bin Laden). This is often the effect (see attack on Israel from Lebanon); it is not unreasonable to suppose it was part of the motivation.

[updates] Clausewitz theory: Governments encourage, protect, and fund terrorism to achieve cold political purposes. Politics by other means. To attack and distract and weaken enemies with deniability, to deflect attention of restive subjects.

Die Hard theory: It's really for money. Terrorists receive ransom in various forms. So do governments.

OBL was right

Bernard Lewis wrote a very thought provoking article on a subject I have been thinking about for a few years. His conclusion:

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

I think it is pretty clear that they are right and the US is the paper tiger OBL thought it was. Only the stubbornness of George W Bush has kept us from slinking off in defeat from Iraq and the lesssons of Iraq have been learned well, both in Washington and the rest of the world. A government will be able to support terrorism and thumb its nose at the rest of the world and all the US will do is pointless whining and empty threats. Rogue governments have nothing to fear from the US except trade embargoes which will impoverish the people while making the regimes more secure. Potential allies know that we are a fair weather friend and can not be relied on in a fight. The implications for the Middle East are relatively easy to anticipate, the status quo and lots of it, but the implications for the US are not as clear. Will we make changes to our policies and what will they be? or, more likely, we will just carry on as if nothing has happened, like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he has seen when he looks away.

Here is the url for the article:

Narrow conceptions of determinism

Still haven't had a chance to read Taleb's Black Swan as my local bookshop hasn't received it yet but I did read, last week, his earlier (and entertaining) Fooled By Randomness which is pretty eye-opening by itself. In passing, I was reminded of Popper's stance on determinism - one of the few things I reckon Popper got wrong - and it occurred to me that much of the discussion around determinism is hampered by the fact that the popular conception of determinism, including that of Taleb and Popper, is overly narrow. Taleb makes the correct point that we often mis-identify predictable patterns in mere "randomness". But one needn't posit "true" randomness under indeterminism for this to be true. Even under determinism, any complex system is going to be "functionally" random with causes "effectively" (but not "in principle") impossible to identify. It seems to me that Taleb and Popper try (and fail) to establish an "in principle" objection to determinism but an "in principle" objection to determinism is not necessary to show that "naive determinism" - the idea that simple cause and effect are easy to identify and can be used to make accurate predictions - is wrong. In other words, the problem with Laplace's Demon is not that it would be impossible for such a "vast intellect" to predict the future but that naive determinists vastly underestimate (and misunderstand) just how (unimaginably!) vast that intellect would have to be to process the amount of information required.

Why we tip

"We" being Americans (and any other culture with tipping).

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen discusses tipping.

The best way to understand tipping is to go to a restaurant you will never patronize again. Once your meal is over, when she is not looking, leave your tip not on your table but rather on another table she served. That way she still gets her money and you have in no way ripped her off.

That is psychologically tough to do. You fear the waitress will think you are a lout and a deadbeat. Of course in no-tipping countries, or for that matter non-tipping sectors, this dilemma does not arise.

The real question is why America is structured so that waiters and waitresses can sell feel-good services ("you are a generous tipper and a fine man") to strangers, in return for money.

Tipping could have evolved gradually. To begin with, many customers may have wanted to give something extra, and the servers had no objections. Initially, this tip may have been above and beyond what was expected. Restaurant owners may have encouraged it, meanwhile offering the possibility of tips to potential employees as a fair exchange for a lower wage. If tipping happened to become common enough, it may have become expected, a positive reaction to the tipper being replaced gradually by a negative reaction to the non-tipper. This may have caused customers to feel pressured to tip, and then this may have snowballed. An element of voluntariness remains, but it is dominated by a strong sense of expectation (e.g. a fear of being thought a deadbeat).

The institution of tipping in effect divides one service provider into (almost) two. The customer almost pays separately for two services rather than for one (to be more precise, he separately pays for a portion of server's income). This economic separation effectively makes the server into a semi-independent business entity who has, to an incomplete but substantial degree, both the freedom and the responsibility to decide what to do to ensure a revenue stream, much as any independent business entity would. This, to an incomplete but substantial degree, frees the restaurant owner to focus on the remainder of the business.

We could, however, ask why the tip is treated even now as a voluntary (if strongly expected) payment. This may be to deal with an information asymmetry. The customer knows nothing about the server initially but knows everything he needs to know at the end of the meal. A treatment of tipping as mandatory may be prevented from developing by a reluctance on the part of customers to obligate themselves to pay for an unknown quantity. Additionally, a separate but still mandatory server fee does not have much meaning if the customer is not able to choose his server, and in most cases he is not (though the causality may go both ways here: since tipping is voluntary then there is less dependence on competition between servers and so less pressure to allow the customer to choose his server). Therefore, if the economic division between restaurant and server is to arise, it may need to be through a treatment of tipping as voluntary rather than mandatory.

The practice of treating the tip as voluntary if strongly expected may be the element that is most constrained by culture, because it depends on the degree to which customers' behavior can be influenced by strong expectation. It may be that Americans are especially responsive to the fear that they may be thought a lout and a deadbeat by a server. This willingness to pay someone we may never see again in order that they not think ill of us might arguably be classified as an irrational element of the American character - i.e., we're suckers. However, in the setting of the restaurant this arguable irrationality leads to an economically defensible outcome, because the server is still being paid for his service and is not being overpaid (the market ensures this). The customer really is a sucker, but because the market compensates for tips by reducing the cost of his meal, he's really not being ripped off.

Tyler Cowen concludes:

I view tipping as correlated with effective fundraising in other areas, and Americans as being especially willing to set this additional fundraising arena in motion.

I'm not sure what he's getting at, though a comparison with (other) fundrasing sounds intriguing.

Why is the government so good?

Reading Bryan Caplan talk about how voters are irrational leads me to ask a question. Given the level of irrationality among voters, why aren't our economic policies worse? Since protectionism is so popular, why has the level of tarriffs been going down for over fifty years? If taxes on the rich are so popular, why have the top rates been in decline for most of the past 25 years?
I think one reason is that politicians know that if the economy goes down they will get blamed. They saw what happened to the first George Bush because of a recession and don't want that to happen to them. If the economy does poorly, they will receive no credit for having enacted popular proposals. So it is their best interest to seek out the best policies to keep the economy strong.
Secondly, politicians need economists to give them ideas. If a candidate has policy ideas that no reputable economist will sign on to, his opponent can use that to attack him. Also, politicians are too busy campaigning to think of ideas so they hire economists to do their thinking for them. As the profession of economics grows toward consensus, the politicians will follow them. The success of the free market economics is because the battle of ideas has been won. Once the battle of ideas is won, those ideas will slowly seap into platforms, and from there into policy. That is why the battle of ideas is so important even though most voters will be ignorant of those ideas. And why rationality has a chance against irrationality.

Is God Angry?

AP reports:

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority and built the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said. He was 73.

Newt '08

Hints of running:

Newt Gingrich for president? It could happen.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America," the former Republican speaker of the House said there was a "great possibility" that he would run for president.

He will make that decision sometime in the fall. Sawyer noted that previously Gingrich had only said he was "thinking about" a run for president.

"You said you'll make a decision at the end of the September,{is it} more likely, less likely this morning? Sawyer asked Gingrich.

"I think right now, it is a great possibility," Gingrich said.

"A great possibility you'll run? Sawyer asked. But Gingrich declined to elaborate.

"I don't want to get into all this stuff," Gingrich said. "I want to focus on what we have to do to make America successsful."

Newt Gingrich, despite the spotlight on Clinton, was the most charismatic politician of the 1990s. He was the heart of a small-government political movement that today no longer exists. I doubt he has any political capital left, but with his personality and charisma, he could make the next election very interesting.

"We're in this virtually irrational process," he said. "It's exactly wrong as a way of choosing a national leader."

Newt? Or Bryan Caplan?

Typical of his independent spirit, he thinks Bush was wrong about Iraq:

Polls show that the Iraq War is a big undertow for Republicans. Gingrich said as far back as 2003 that Bush had "gone off a cliff" with the Iraq War. Gingrich believes the United States should get out of Iraq as soon as possible.

"I think we have to turn over policing responsibility for the Iraqis as rapidly as possible," he said. "Pull our troops out as rapidly as possible."

Fake school attack

Not sure if it's appropriate to post an entire article, but here it is:

MURFREESBORO, Tennessee (AP) -- Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

"We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said.

But parents of the sixth-grade students were outraged. (Watch student recount incident, mother react Video)

"The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.

Some parents said they were upset by the staff's poor judgment in light of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and professors dead, including the gunman.

During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on a locked door.

After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said.

"I was like, 'Oh My God,' " she said. "At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out."

Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation "involved poor judgment."

Neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus

It's nice to be able to create content, since I've always wanted to ask question like this on Catallarchy but would've been practically trolling to put this in the comments.

I'm curious as to how Libertarians like yourselves deal with the results of Neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. As far as I can tell, the "structural adjustment programs" that have been shoved down the throat of every country that needs some IMF money are almost perfectly in line with everything that Libertarians advocate as policy. Here's a list of the basic conditions (culled from wikipedia):

* Cutting social expenditures
* Focusing economic output on direct export and resource extraction,
* Devaluation of overvalued currencies,
* Trade liberalization, or lifting import and export restrictions,
* Increasing the stability of investment (by supplementing foreign direct investment with the opening of domestic stock markets),
* Balancing budgets and not overspending,
* Removing price controls and state subsidies,
* Privatization, or divestiture of all or part of state-owned enterprises,
* Enhancing the rights of foreign investors vis-a-vis national laws,
* Improving governance and fighting corruption.

With the exception of last one (which is really so vague as to be meaningless) I should say that I've probably heard every single one of these programs defended on Catallarchy and can't remember any of them being disputed by any non-left-Libertarians (I could easily be wrong on that last one, though.) These programs have almost always been unmitigated disasters (indeed, the countries which have developed have always RADICALLY violated these rules) and so I guess i fail to see why this stuff hasn't just basically ended the economic argument for Libertarianism altogether. Actually, that's disingenuous, because i think I do understand but for a group as intellectually honest as ya'll, well I don't get it.

I suppose someone could get on here and argue that they haven't all been unmitigated disasters (there might be an example of certain exceptions, though I haven't seen them outside of city-states.) More likely though is the standard marxist-style claim that every single country this has been tried on (and there have been a LOT) has simply had some critical flaw in it that nobody could've seen beforehand that prevented our magic from working. I'm happy to refer anyone who makes this argument to some overheated rhetoric (probably culled from No Treason) about how we "can't afford to keep trying these horrific experiments when the consequences are so deadly" and "when will we stop imposing our utopias on other people's lives when we wind up killing them."

One last thing, and this could get controversial: I think the deaths caused from these programs and programs like these (which we can just go ahead and call "free market capitalism" unless anyone can present a good case why we shouldn't) are plausibly higher than those caused by marxism/communism as an economic system. Let me explain what I mean: while I probably agree with most the people here that something like the Stalinist purges are derivable from Marxism (that nonsense about a "Vanguard party" will probably lead inexorably to totalitarianism) I'll say that has to do with Marxism as a socio-political system rather than an economic one. With this same spirit of fairness in mind, I don't attribute to Capitalism the 2 million+ killed by the US in Vietnam. Famines attributable to communism (like in China) are fair game.

Why people oppose immigration

Most of what I have read about the immigration debate seems to focus on the economic implications of mass immigration to the United States. Maybe that is because it is the easy to quantify the arguments for or against immigration in economic terms or maybe it because most of the blogs I read are economic blogs. From my reading on this issue the pro-immigration people have the better argument. The tradeoff seems to be that some low income people are harmed by immigration while most of the rest of the country and the immigrants themselves are helped. Many people are genuinely interested in the fate of low skilled American workers, but for the most part the economic arguments against immigrations are superstructure.
One of the surprises (to some) that came about after the civil rights era is that even if you remove the laws that mandate segregation people will then voluntarily self-segregate. This is because people like being around people who are similar to themselves. One of the great attractions of living in small town America is that sense of similarity to ones neighbors. People feel that their norms of behavior are shared by those around them, and that feeling produces a peace of mind that whatever comes up they will be able to act appropriately. Constantly being around those who are different than us can produce feelings of normlessness. People feel as though they are playing a game where the rules are unclear. If people feel that the norms they grew up with are stifling they tend to move somewhere diverse, like a big city. This feeling of normlessness can be thrilling for short periods of time, but most tend not to like it over the long term. That is one of the reasons people have been moving away from cities and to the suburbs.
The sudden influx of immigrants to a community can replicate this feeling of normlessness. Studies have shown that people living in diverse communities feel less safe than those living in non-diverse communities even after adjusting for crime rates. Suddenly being confronted everyday by people, who look, talk and act differently makes people feel anxious even if the statistics do not show they have a reason to be. One of the differences in the most recent wave of immigration from previous waves is the extent that it has hit places that are not big cities. People are responding negatively to this wave of immigration not just because of largely mistaken economic concerns, but understandable psychological ones.

Killing your own child is genetic suicide

And that's okay

Somebody else's suicide is none of my business. Somebody else's child is none of my business either. If a child wants to defend itself against its parent by hiring protection, that is its business, but not really my concern. This ability/willingness/decision to effectively protect itself against its parent might in some future society mark the distinction between childhood and adulthood.

We need to punish people who murder non-family-members, because if we were to fail to implement that law, then natural selection would eventually produce a breed of human that felt no compunction about killing other humans outside of their family.

In contrast, we as a society (and especially we as individuals considering what to do about strangers killing their own children) do not have a need to punish people who murder their own children, because if we were to fail to implement that law, then natural selection would nevertheless keep down the number of people who murdered their own children. While I might need to worry about my own parents, that's my business - thanks but no thanks, I don't need your help. If it gets bad, I'll take care of my problems with Mom and Dad.

The instinctive horror that you and I and everyone have about murdering our own children once born is the basis of the massive distinction that we make between the baby that we do not see (i.e. before birth) and the baby that we see (after birth). Our instincts are evidently keyed to the visual stimulus of the baby. This is why pro-life groups believe that showing photographs of aborted babies is effective. Indeed, it is somewhat effective in getting a response because the dismembered corpses of unborn infants look like infants who are victims of horrifying murder (and some number of pro-lifers may have been persuaded by such images).

But this horror itself is instinct, and that instinct arose no doubt through natural selection. The very existence of this instinct keeps down the practical problem of people killing their own children. (Which is, of course, really their own problem to begin with, genetically speaking.)

We have, curiously, discovered a loophole in our instincts: we are horrified by killing our born children (presumably because of the visual and tactile and olfactory stimuli that they provide, which normally creates a parent-child bond about as strong as what has held the Golden Gate Bridge together), and so rare is the parent (other than a desperate parent) who kills his or her own infant child. However, the same logic of natural selection, one might think, would dictate that we should be extremely reluctant to abort an unborn fetus. The loophole is that for the most part we cannot get any stimuli from the unborn fetus that would attach us to the fetus, and so many of us feel very little reluctance to kill these little infants of ours whom we have not yet seen or touched or smelled.

Significantly, the fetus starts visibly bulging the mother's belly at around three or four months, which, curious coincidence, is also about when we stop aborting our unborn children. The baby having made its existence unmistakably seen and felt, is now rather safer than before, though not entirely out of the woods.

Evil is real - an argument for

From a comment:

I can conduct an objective study on whether beating your children causes them to be more likely to commit violent crimes, and to conduct it in such a way that people can objectively judge the evidence I give.

You say you can conduct an objective study about violent crimes. A crime is an evil act. It would appear, then, that you can conduct an objective study on whether beating your children causes them to be more likely to commit violent evil acts.

I have been down this path so I will anticipate the most frequent sort of objection and answer it. The most likely objection is that one can define "crime" as "act which is against the law", and "law" can be in turn defined as whatever the state says it is.

But if this were all there really were to crime, then it would mean that the results of the study would be valid only relative to the state under which the study was conducted. It could not be generalized beyond the state, nor could it even be generalized beyond the moment, as laws may change. It would be of almost no interest at all. It would be almost as senseless as an objective study of whether beating your children causes them to share Barack Obama's musical preferences (whatever those might be - I have no idea). Obama's musical preferences are of course subjective, specific to him, at most shared by only some other people. It would be odd to conduct an objective study that has as one of its key measures, something subjective (Obama's preferences). Of course technically there is an objective fact about what Obama's preferences are, but nevertheless it would be odd to conduct that study. And similarly, it would be odd to conduct a study about whether beating your children causes them to commit violent crimes - if violent crimes are merely whatever the state says they are and nothing more than that.

Briefly: the study that you describe makes sense because violent crime is what it is independently of what the government says. It is, in other words, an objective category of action. But what is crime if crime is not merely whatever the state says it is?

Crime is evil.

So you can conduct an objective study of evil.

I do not know how to conduct a study to show whether beating your children is "immoral" that would yield a similar kind of evidence.

But you are not being fair at all here. The two studies are not at all parallel. Do you know how to conduct a study to show at what point beating begins, along the continuum of possible contact? How fast must the hand be going in order for contact to constitute a beating? Can you conduct a scientific study to discover this? One that does not merely study the concept of beating, the limits of what people consider to be beating? That would be merely a linguistic study. And similarly, the study that you propose would be a merely conceptual, linguistic study.

I've been down this road, so I'll anticipate and answer an objection. "Now wait a second", someone might object. "If morality is merely a linguistic and conceptual question of what people consider to be moral, then doesn't that show that morality isn't objective? "

To answer, morality is "merely" a question of what people consider to be moral, in the same sense that a beating is "merely" a question of what people consider to be a beating. And yet you were ready to conduct a scientific investigation of beating. If "beating" were merely an arbitrary category that just happens to exist in English for whatever reason, then, for reasons I outlined above, it would be of scant interest to study it scientifically.

It is of general and lasting interest to study beatings because "beating" is a natural category. It is for language to adapt itself to natural categories, and not to arbitrarily create them. And similarly, crime is a natural category. Which is why it is interesting to study crime.

By the way I've supplied you with a rule of thumb in discovering whether a category is a natural category. I pointed out that it is of general and lasting interest to study the effects of beatings because "beating" is a natural category. That gives you at least one method to distinguish natural categories from other categories.

The War on Terror

Writing in part to respond to McIntosh and Constant, I thought I'd make a few simple points about the so-called war on terror.

1. Can you declare war on a tactic? This is not as pedantic a point as one might think, since it may be deeply problematic to declare war on something so obviously bad if one if one is only masking more sinister aspirations. Sort of like declaring yourself "pro-family" or "anti-death."

2. Can you declare war on something you're definitionally guilty of? Which is to say, is it logically possible to declare war on oneself? To take a simple example, Orlando Bosch is a known terrorist (one of the worst, in fact- take a look) we funded and now keep in the United States, refusing extradition. Okay well step two simply requires that classic Bush quote "Those states which Harbor terrorists are no different than the terrorists themselves." Therefore, the US is a terrorist nation, QED. Could the US declare a war on terror in that case?

3. Can Iraq be considered part of a war on terror? Consider, first of all that the war in Iraq is drastically increasing active terror, the threat of terror, and recruitment for Al Qaeda-style groups (I don't know anyone who disputes this, but I'll happily provide a source if you like.) Furthermore, this was known ahead of time (the CIA for example, warned that invading Iraq would increase terror) and should have been perfectly obvious anyway- the US fighting an obviously unpopular war adds at least another 10 minutes of solid propaganda to the Al Qaeda recruitment videos. Either Iraq was simply not fought as part of the war on terror (obviously) or it was one of the most catastrophic military defeats ever recorded, one that actually saw the opposing army quadruple (at least) in size and spread even further around the globe rather than dwindle .

4. Is there then a war on terror? I've seen no evidence other than simply "it's true because the dear leader says so" and I would hope that people as devoted to anti-stalinism/statism as there are around here would despise such evidence. What might we expect a war on terror to look like? It'd start with the addressing of underlying grievances that lend public support to these inexcusable acts and it'd probably continue by avoiding the acts that give rise to terror (the most tell-tale, as I understand it, is illegal/unjust occupations of foreign land) and, well see point 3 again.

PS- this is a great look for the site- what a radical change. I'm excited about this.

Still trying not to vote stupidly

The second issue I use to determine who to vote for is abortion. I feel that an unborn baby is a human life and as such should be protected. My reasoning comes from my conviction that human life is the most valuable thing in the world and if there is a question about it one should always err on the side of protecting life. I don't think an unborn baby is the same as a human, but it is definetly close enough to protect. I can see the arguement that a unborn baby in the first two months is not developed enough to warrant protection but am not persuaded. I think the likelihood that I am right about this position is 75%. If I am wrong hundreds of thousands of women will bear unwanted children, though most will probably grow to want them. Also millions of women will have to more careful in their birth control, and hundreds of women will die in botched illegal abortions. If I am right millions of babies' lives will be saved, and although the crime rate may go up, I think it would be worth it.
The next issue I use to decide on a candidate is economic growth. I want a candidate to whom growth is the number one priority economically. I believe that governments that have low taxes, a small number of clear and simple business regulations, and a strong belief in fair trade encourage growth. I think that economic growth improves life for everyone, especially the poor. It will lead to healthier lives, a cleaner environment and happier lives for ourselves and our descendants. I think that the likelihood that I am right about this is about 90%. I am not worried about income inequality or the prospect of the superrich taking all of the money and making everyone else poor. The reason I feel so confident in my opinion is that I like to read economists and, even if they worry about the side effects of growth alot more than I do they seem to agree for the most part about what causes growth. I think that the government's role in the economy is overblown in the US so even if I am wrong about what causes growth I think that the national economy can overcome most anything without a catastrophe. If I am right the lives of hundreds of millions of peoples' lives will be improved slightly at first, and then more and more as time passes.
The last issue that I use to decide on a candidate is gay marriage. I feel that if gay marriage is allowed it will change the definition of marriage in a fundamental way. If marriage becomes more about love and the feelings of those involved and less about obligation to the spouse and the raising of children people will enter and exit marriage more frequently and with less thought than now. Marriage will lose some of its specialness and become just another option. Children will suffer as more people will have children out of wedlock and divorce will become more common. Poor children will be hit especially hard, as they benefit most from two paychecks and the stable environment that traditional marriage provides. On the other hand, maybe the ship has already sailed and traditional marriage will continue its downward trend no matter what the government says. Perhaps gay marriage is just a symptom of the culture change surronding family issues and will do nothing but provide recognition to what has already happened. I think the likelihood of my being right about this is around 65%. If I am wrong tens of thousands of gays and polygamists will be inconvenienced and may feel slightly worse about themselves. If I am right millions of children will grow up in better environments and will lead happier more productive lives.
If mutliple candidates agree with me on the issues I base my vote on effective they have been in the past in getting their policies implented and how well I think they will be in communicating their policy preferences to the people and getting more people to subscribe to those policies.
On the whole the likelihood that my vote will influence the world for the better is 0%, but the likelihood that my policy preferences would lead to a better world is about 75%. That is much better than deciding my vote based on race or sex or the flip of a coin, but I wish it were higher.