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Morality and infinity

The simplest moral distinction may be the binary distinction between wrong and right.

But there are important moral distinctions that can be made between different wrong acts. Some acts are worse than others. One distinction that can be made is the punishment merited by the act - no longer a binary distinction.

For each wrong act, then, we might state the punishment that it merits. Having done this, the statement that it is a wrong act is, on the face of it, superfluous, since the wrongness of the act would seem to consist in its meriting a certain punishment. How can an act be wrong if it does not merit any punishment? So instead of classifying acts according to whether they are wrong, we might classify them according to what punishment they merit (and of course most acts merit no punishment at all).

But now we are relying on the idea that a certain punishment is "merited". But what does this mean? It seems to mean something like this: normally it would be wrong to put someone in a cell for a year, but because they committed a certain act (e.g. theft), it is not wrong to do that. So "merit" seems, itself, to be a binary statement about wrong and right - one which, as explained above, fails to make important non-binary distinctions. And since it is a statement about right and wrong, we can perform the same operation on the punishment that we performed on the original act, replacing the binary right/wrong distinction with a non-binary distinction among punishments merited by the act.

Rather than say:

Theft merits the punishment of one year in prison,

we say:

Putting a thief in prison for one year merits no punishment.

We can perform this operation recursively. For example:

Putting someone in prison for putting a thief in prison for one year merits one year in prison.

Putting someone in prison for one year for putting someone in prison for putting a thief in prison for one year merits no punishment.

And so on.

This recursion is, of course, more than the human mind can handle on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it's really there, lurking "behind" moral statements. Events can happen which act out the chain at a deep level. A corrupt official might be imprisoned for a list of crimes, one of which might be to have placed a judge in prison for having placed one of the official's cronies in prison. There is no question that the corrupt official deserves to be in prison and that his jailers do not, for that just act, themselves deserve punishment. But to recognize this is to recognize that:

It would be unjust to jail someone for jailing someone for jailing someone for jailing a thief.

In the specific hypothetical:

It would be unjust to jail the official's jailers for jailing the official for jailing the judge for jailing a thief.

This recursion (I'm not sure it's a recursion - I can't think of a better word) can be carried out arbitrarily far. But not to infinity, because both ends are needed - i.e., there must be an end that contains the punishment that is or is not merited, and there must be an end that contains the initial act which hypothetically gives rise to the contemplated chain of punishments. And since this cannot be carried out to infinity, ultimately we are left with a binary judgment that such-and-such act is wrong or right.


If I were president

A friend of mine visited a boys and girls club in Hartford, Connecticut. He took these pictures of a project where the kids tell what they'd do if they were presidents. Enjoy

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
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Last but not least,
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A serious comment: it struck me that kids do not think in term of budgets because, as far as they're concerned, getting stuff only depends on the willing of the authority. The state can allocate free stuff to everyone, merely by agreeing to. There's no notion of trade off. Adults do it to, I shall call it, the allowance fallacy. The belief that the government can will things into existence.


Consequentialist Fox sacrifices truth to the greater good

Fox News will attempt to maximize global utility.

Ailes responded to the report in the New York Daily News that he instructed FNC to tone down attacks on President-elect Barack Obama. He denied giving specific orders, but said he told staffers "all presidents deserve time to get their team on the ground and get organized."

"We have some obligation in a new presidency not to attempt to destabilize it," he said.

News is to be reported, not on the deontological basis of whether or not it is true, but on the consequentialist basis of whether or not reporting it will destabilize the presidency, thereby threatening global utility.

Of course, we have long known that members of the media see their noble mission not as to inform their audience but as to promote the greater good by manipulating the public. It is too bad for the media that the paying customer remains the audience and not the greater good.


New Scientist reports on Club of Rome prophesy...

Maybe a change of title to New Junk Scientist is in order. Prophesy is in the realm of faith, not science.

Changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with the book's predictions of collapse in the 21st century, says Turner. According to the book, the path we have taken will cause decreasing resource availability and an escalating cost of extraction that triggers a slowdown of industry, which eventually results in economic collapse some time after 2020.

"For the first 30 years of the model, the world has been tracking along an unsustainable trajectory," he says.

According to Herman Daly of the University of Maryland, Turner's results show that we "must get off the growth path of business as usual, and move to a steady state economy," stopping population growth, resource depletion, and pollution.

newscientist.com article.

Yeah, population control, that'll work. While they are at it, lets see if they can legislate us some morality, or some of that much desired justice.

May your chains rest lightly.


Somalia: Pirates Hijack Saudi Ship Off Kenya

"Increasingly daring attacks are being conducted by Somali pirates on a variety of merchant vessels," said a statement from the U.S. Fifth Fleet, issued from Manama, Bahrain.

The statement said that pirates attacked the very large crude tanker, Sirius Star, more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa. The ship was sailing under a Liberian flag and was owned by the Saudi-based company, Saudi Aramco. The crew comprised citizens of Croatia, Britain, The Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Story at allafrica.com


Is economics about allocating assets or social status?

Asking, I don't know. Boggles my mind that a person with $2 billion would waste an hour of time to acquire another billion.

Thought experiment: Say that free for the taking zero point energy was discovered and all labor was done by robots, and every sort of consumer good was free for the asking/taking. Thanks to free energy and robots, every part of the dry earth could be used for building residences.

1. How would shorelines and mountain tops be allocated?

2. How would Las Vegas, NV and Mt Athos evolve?

3. In other words, if money didn't matter, would not humans find a way to raise their own social status and to dump of people they thought beneath them?


Change.gov changes without notice, not surprisingly.

I have seen a lot of screenshots of change.gov on blogs today. So I tried the google cache, which apparently updated its snapshot of change.gov on November 17th, so hitting the cache button in a google search did nothing for me.

See for yourself.

Check the agenda link on www.change.gov right now. I bet you may have noticed you cant get to the Agenda pages, which have generated so much internet based controversy on just about every topic covered by the President-elect's team. Apparently the statists tried to chuck this one in the memory hole, wanting to prevent further analysis and discussion.

Good thing there is a mirror, so we can keep this train rolling.

http://www.mega.nu/ampp/obama_agenda/agenda.html


Watchmen, Heroes, the Wrath of Khan, and the greater good

Major plot spoilers if you haven't seen (or read) one of these.

Linderman - the villain.

Rorschach - the only hero.

Spock - the hero because he sacrificed only himself, not someone else, to the greater good.

Utilitarianism - the moral philosophy of evildoers with god complexes.

Spock, as he died, espoused utilitarianism but applied it in a way that did not truly put it to the test. The nobility of his sacrifice ennobled what he said - but had he murdered someone else - i.e. killed an innocent person against their wishes - using that philosophy as an excuse, then the same philosophy would not have sounded nearly so noble. Spock's statement: "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... or the one."


Russia: Civil disobedience mocks statist ability to 'control'.

On the night of November 7th, the Russian anarchist revolutionary art group known as War made a mockery of state power by committing a little breaking and entering at the Russian White House.

Yasha Levin of the Exile goes on to say in his article regarding the incident:

But most importantly, young revolutionaries everywhere should live by that old adage: “If you can’t blow up something good, you shouldn’t don’t do any revolutionizing at all.”

I don't think violence or bombing is going to help any revolutionary anarchist cause at this moment in history. It would only feed the fires of nationalistic fervor and xenophobic paranoia, while also giving the state issue to take what little rights they let you have in the first place.

Non-violence sends a bigger message in my opinion, an all important message that just may help bring about the catalyst:

When the police cant defend Government House, what can they defend?


Love songs

No particular reason.

This is Lillian Roth singing If I Could Be With You as a prisoner in one of my favorite movies, Ladies They Talk About. (libertarian point of interest: the movie was pre-code)

Return to me sung by Dean Martin with scenes from Roman Holiday.

I was reminded of this song by this Maaco commercial.


Byrd steps down

From Politico:

Senate legend Robert Byrd, approaching 91 this month and hailing a “new day in Washington,” said he would voluntarily give up the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee with the new Congress.

“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven,” said Byrd, who had fended off earlier challenges this past spring and summer. “Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.

While we're quoting Ecclesiastes, dear appropriator of Robert M. Byrd Federal Highway, this is my more-fitting tribute:

Ecclesiastes 2:5-11:

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem [a] as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

or perhaps Ecclesiastes 5:8:

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.


American serfs

http://www.change.gov/americaserves/

When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That's why it's called the American dream.

Truly evil, and not a hoax (notice the .gov)


Author Michael Crichton dies at age 66.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

In a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, Crichton came with a tape recorder, text books and a pile of graphs and charts as he defended "State of Fear" and his take on global warming.

"I have a lot of trouble with things that don't seem true to me," Crichton said at the time, his large, manicured hands gesturing to his graphs. "I'm very uncomfortable just accepting. There's something in me that wants to pound the table and say, 'That's not true.'"


Remember, remember, the fifth of November.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, or; How I learned to stop worrying and love anti-establishment revisionist historians that delight in regicide.

Apologies to Kubrick.

I would prefer if regicide never fell out of favor. That may seem inconsistent, but just because I follow the NAP and adhere to Agorism doesn't mean that I make moral judgment on others who do not. With that disclaimer out of the way, lets begin.

As John Hull would observe on the occasion of the Charles I execution: "a very solemn and strange act; and God alone can work good by so great a change."

To wit, I agree with the first part of that statement. As for God, I find that working good out of any situation is the domain of those who wish to place the event in framework suitable for moral application in their mind. Regardless of intent, the act is done.

Others such as John Cotton have defended regicide on moral grounds, that is not my intention. I am here to declare regicide as my preferred spectator sport.

May it forever be. Justice and morals be damned.

With that in mind, I salute Guy Fawkes on this most auspicious day for his attempted regicide. Tonight I shall drink merrily and viddy my copy of V for Vendetta, a revisionist masterpiece.

Have a good night, its the LAW.


Obama will cure leprosy

He might. Leprosy:

I wept because, on several occasions, I've been told I can't date someone because her parents wouldn't approve of my race; that in spite of my intelligence, my responsibility, my diction, my future prospects, my talents and my everything else that makes me a good person--and even the fact that I look white--I'm different. It didn't matter whether the parents were liberal or conservative; or whether they were college educated or not: being black made me not good enough.

The example of a black man in the White House will surely go a long way toward eliminating what remains of the social leprosy that afflicts blacks in the United States.

The obese, in the meantime, should despair. They will remain social lepers until humans evolve into sea lions, which is to say, forever.