10 Aug 2014

The Importance of Willpower and Wisdom

Religious 19 Comments

My son and I were discussing spiritual matters and came up with these observations, which may interest some of you:

==> If you give your soul to the Lord, you may suffer greatly in this life (look what happened to Jesus, who obeyed His Father perfectly), but you will receive eternal bliss.

==> If you give your soul to the Devil, you may bask luxuriantly in this life (we can’t know, but probably some members of the Bilderberg Group come to mind), but you will receive eternal torment.

As I told my son: “Not everyone believes in this stuff, but suppose for the moment that that really is the tradeoff: What’s the wise choice?”

Now, for those of you who don’t “believe in this stuff,” notice that it still serves a useful metaphorical role. People talk about “selling your soul” all the time, even atheists; this is a real thing.

09 Aug 2014

A Question on Computer Chess

All Posts 23 Comments

My son and I were discussing how computers can play certain games. I explained that a computer can easily “solve” Tic Tac Toe–meaning it can consider every possible future state of the board before making a move, and hence will never make a mistake.

However, with chess this is not possible (at least yet). I admitted I didn’t know for sure, but speculated that the computer relies on standard opening sequences, then in the mid-game relies on heuristics involving the “point” system (1 for pawn, 3 for knight, etc.). It was only near the end where the computer could once again revert to brute force and generate its (flawless) moves in an acceptable time.

Does anyone know if that’s right so far? If so, is it right to say that as computing power increases, the earlier in the game that “switch to brute force” becomes possible? In the limit, once that boundary had been extended to the very first move, then the computer would have solved chess. Any computer programmers and/or chess enthusiasts who can add specificity to my BS’ing would be greatly appreciated.

Also, since I was on a roll and just makin’ stuff up, I went this route with it: I speculated that in the middle game, the computer probably relied on a mixture of brute force and “common sense” wisdom from humans’ chess experience. So for example, when considering the various permutations following a particular move, maybe the computer wouldn’t bother chasing down the paths in which the opponent does something apparently “stupid,” like give up his Queen in exchange for a Pawn (with no checkmate imminent). So the computer doesn’t bother exploring those paths too deeply, in which case it might be vulnerable to a big sacrifice that leads to checkmate several moves later. Thoughts?

08 Aug 2014


Potpourri 29 Comments

==> Tom Woods had some great guests on for his “World War I” week. (Tom was against.) You can browse the full archives of his show, but don’t miss the interview with David R. Henderson. Also check out Anthony Gregory talking with Tom about how awful George W. Bush was.

==> I don’t know what else to say about this: The head of the Executive Branch recently admitted that he thought American government officials had engaged in torture. He acted as if this were an open-and-shut case. Well, the United States government passed the “War Crimes Act of 1996,” which specifically lists “torture” as a war crime. So…when’s the grand jury? I guess the hold-up is that Obama has assigned a task force to assemble jurors who’ve never heard of Dick Cheney?

==> By FAR–it’s not even close–the most Shares I’ve gotten on Facebook is when I linked to this Salon article about a new meaning of “literally” going into the dictionary. Is this something worth arguing about? Yes, I understand that we no longer talk as Shakespeare did, but on the other hand if my son says “I goed to the store” I’m going to correct him and say the proper word is “went.”

==> Oh man, I don’t have time to deal with this right now. But David Glasner is talking Hayek/Sraffa debate again, and he’s defending the Austrians while I would defend Sraffa. Weird? We’re in a liquidity trap, everything’s upside down.

==> Michael Tontchev not only read my hard-hitting analysis of the Nordhaus “DICE” model, but Michael pushed it further. Some really cool stuff he found.

==> Bryan Caplan faces off against Scott Sumner.

==> I’m not going to blog separately about this, since I’ve been hitting Krugman too much lately on the issue of inflation, but here ya go. Let me know if you agree that this guy has found damning Krugman textbook quotes, or if this is silly.

==> Pamela J. Stubbart needs her swooning couch, she is so shocked by our sexualized culture. But seriously, I think she makes some great points about the difference between legal permission and social approval.

08 Aug 2014

How Would a Free Society Handle Quarantines?

private law, Shameless Self-Promotion 38 Comments

I tackle this weighty issue at my latest LibertChat post. An excerpt:

In my view, the answer here is not to try to “deduce” the blanket answer from first principles, and declare that in a free society, we would necessarily see either outcome X or outcome Y. Instead, I think we should be humble and acknowledge that one of the supreme virtues of freedom is that its outcomes derive from the contributions and expertise of the millions or billions of people composing the society. We don’t know exactly how a free society would handle a hypothetical outbreak, just like we don’t know how a free society would handle food distribution, education, or transportation.

Not what many of you were expecting, was it? I’m an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

07 Aug 2014

Krugman Wants the Press to Take Sides in Debates, So Long as They Side With Him

Krugman 5 Comments

As usual with this stuff, I only blog about Krugman and his inner Kontradictions because no one else will have such insight as I…

Now before we jump into Krugman’s latest post, you need some background. Daniel Okrent was the New York Times ombudsman, or what the Times calls the “public editor.” Here is how the NYT currently describes this role:

Margaret Sullivan is the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times. She writes about the Times and its journalism in a frequent blog – the Public Editor’s Journal — and in a twice-monthly print column in the Sunday Review section. The public editor’s office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.

OK, so when Daniel Okrent left this position, he wrote a farewell article in 2005 that contained the following:

Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales “called the Geneva Conventions ‘quaint’ ” nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. Before his retirement in January, William Safire vexed me with his chronic assertion of clear links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, based on evidence only he seemed to possess.

No one deserves the personal vituperation that regularly comes Dowd’s way, and some of Krugman’s enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn’t mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn’t hold his columnists to higher standards.

I didn’t give Krugman, Dowd or Safire the chance to respond before writing the last two paragraphs. I decided to impersonate an opinion columnist.

Everyone got that? The guy had been hired by the NYT to stand up for the readers, to make sure nobody giving them news via the NYT was misleading them. In his opinion, he thought Krugman (and others) weren’t living up to the standards of the NYT, he said so publicly (as he was allowed to do, in his capacity as NYT Public Editor), and he didn’t give Krugman the chance to respond.

Now keep in mind, the NYT itself did give Krugman the chance to respond; here is a catalog of the back-and-forth.

OK, now with that context, check out Krugman’s latest post today, titled “Sliming Rick Perlstein”:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

Can I say, I’m familiar with this process? There was a time when various of the usual suspects went around claiming that I was doing illegitimate things with jobs data; what I was doing was in fact perfectly normal — but that didn’t stop Daniel Okrent, the outgoing public editor, from firing a parting shot (with no chance for me to reply) accusing me of fiddling with the numbers. I also heard internally that there were claims of plagiarism directed at me, too, but evidently they couldn’t cook up enough stuff to even pretend to make that stick.

The thing to understand is that fake accusations of professional malpractice are a familiar tactic for these people. And this tactic should be punctured by the press, not given momentum with “opinions differ on shape of the planet” reporting.

Does everyone see the irony here? Krugman wants the press to take sides in these debates, and to not simply give a microphone to “both sides” and let the reader judge who’s right or wrong. He says this, right after complaining about the time the NYT ombudsman declared that Krugman should be held to a higher standard as a NYT columnist, and didn’t let readers hear Krugman’s side of the controversy.

07 Aug 2014

Krugman Admits His Model Has Been Wrong Since Great Depression

Inflation, Krugman, Shameless Self-Promotion 1 Comment

Them’s fighting words, huh? It’s not worth summarizing; if you are into this stuff, click the link and read.

07 Aug 2014

David Stockman on Debt-Fueled Growth

Federal Reserve, Night of Clarity 23 Comments

From a recent post at David Stockman’s blog:

“Monetary central planning is failing to achieve Keynesian “escape velocity” because it has deeply impaired the engines of capitalist enterprise. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the grotesque financialization of American business that has occurred since the 1980s. As usual, this deformation is rooted in the massive growth of debt carried by non-financial businesses.”

Remember everyone, David Stockman (plus Tom Woods and other Austrian speakers) will be in Nashville for our annual “Night of Clarity” event August 15. Details here.

07 Aug 2014

Money Doesn’t Really “Go Into” Other Financial Assets

Banking, Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

This is one of those posts where I’m really nit-picky about commentary that typically comes from people on “my side.” Not trying to tear people down, just trying to raise the bar on precision of language. An excerpt:

[A] booming stock market doesn’t actually mean that there is an accumulation ofactual money in Manhattan. For one thing, stock prices are set on the margin. If XYZ stock has 1 million outstanding shares and is originally trading at $100, and Smith comes along and spends $120,000 buying 1,000 shares of XYZ from a previous owner, then the price of XYZ just jumped 20%, causing the total “market cap” to jump by $20 million. It’s not as if $20 million in currency just “went into” XYZ. No, it was the transfer of a mere $120,000 that did the trick, and even there, the $120,000 in actual money isn’t going to now be “in” the company XYZ, or even in the possession of the previous owner of the stock (for very long).