Monday, August 31, 2015

Personality Disorders and Free Will

According to some recent theories in psychology, some people (“sociopaths” and “narcissists”) are evil and can only be evil, regardless of how hard they work, whatever work they do on themselves, or what good they do in the world.

This militates against basic rationality. If people are responsible for who they are, then anyone can act rightfully; and if some people cannot act rightfully then people are not responsible for who they are.

This belief is compounded by the idea that these people cannot change. This is a worthless mentality, useful only for conducting witch hunts. Anyone can change. That is a function of free will and free choice. And anyone can act rightfully, whatever their psychology happens to be.

On this matter religion is light years ahead of psychology. Christianity says from the get-go that we are all sinners, but that all of us have the capacity of choice to avoid sin and act righteously. Psychology needs to catch up to religion in this unless it wants to see people go to religion instead of psychology. If people are responsible for who they are then anyone can act righteously; and if some people cannot act righteously then people are not responsible for who they are.

As a young science, psychology is likely to make mistakes; and this is a very major mistake in psychology. There have been others, such as behaviorism and the lobotomy man. Psychology needs to realize that choice means choice, and that free will means free will. Once it does that, it will be a force for good instead of a force for witch hunts.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Biggest Problem with War

The biggest problem with war is that it makes political hatreds personal hatreds. The reason is not that difficult to understand. Close friendships form in the military; and people hate their enemy for killing their best friends.

This is very unfortunate, as in many cases these people would otherwise be friends. As Thomas Hardy said,

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn
We would have sat down and wet
Right many a nipperkin.

A woman from Missouri who's traveled to Germany once told me that the older Germans who fought in the Second World War were very similar to the American people she knew in Missouri. Surely there can be a better way for these people to co-exist than by killing each other.

War should be a weapon of last resort. Much more needs to be done by way of changing people's minds and diplomacy to avoid this unfortunate scenario.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Do Republicans Really Own Work?

I have a question to ask. Am I the only person who thinks that it is ridiculous for Republicans to claim that they own work?

Scientists and teachers in America work very hard, and most of them are Democrats. The computer professionals in America also work very hard, and most of them are either Democrats or libertarians. The manufacturing workers tend to vote Democratic, and most of them also work hard. So where do the Republicans get off claiming that they are the working Americans and that nobody else is?

Many of the Republican entities owe a lot to the government. Science is at the root of everything that business sells. Infrastructure projects such as the Interstate and the Internet provide a backbone on which business can do its work. As for the majority-Republican economic entities – government-subsidized oil, government-subsidized beef, and the military that is the branch of the government – they are either supported by the government or they are part of the government.

So where, once again, do the Republicans get off claiming to have a monopoly on work?

I've worked for the bulk of my life, except the time that the economy was in the dumps and I could not find employment. I am all in favor of work; and I vote Democratic. Most Democrats I have known had a strong work ethic. That included people who came from the inner city and had a fierce determination to do something valuable with their lives.

It is wrong for Republicans to claim credit for America's accomplishments or to claim that they've built America. The Chinese built America's railroads. The blacks staffed its plantations. The Jews and the atheists dominate its science and entertainment. The Hindus and the minority religions dominate the computer industry.

In no way am I against people being Christian or Republican. I've known wonderful people who were the above. I am however against ignorance; and this is what we see here.

America owes to all sorts of people. And the Republicans have no business taking credit for it.

Betrayal of Russia

There are some in America who think that they've won the Cold War. They are wrong. The Cold War ended the way that it did because the Soviet Union elected a noble-minded leader who tried to make the place more democratic and more humane. In 1991, this leader was placed under house arrest, and the Communist hardliners sent in tanks into the Red Square to confront the people who poured into the Red Square. The military however refused to follow the  orders to shoot; and the Soviet Union was no more.

And what does Russia get for this noble decision but having the country plundered and its people treated like trash.

The Nazi Germany did many things more wrong than did the Soviet Union; but after the Second World War they were welcomed into the world. The result was Germany becoming a prosperous and beautiful country. The people at that time rightly said that the problem was not with Germany but with Nazism. So they prosecuted the leaders of Nazism but left everyone else alone, so that Germany was able to rise as high as the efforts of its people would take it.

Whereas with Russia, we have seen a predatory attitude and a very real betrayal. Russians looked up to the West, but the West for a long time did not do much in Russia except build a few cigarette factories and make deals to transfer Russian wealth into Swiss banks. The Russians have every reason to be angry about this state of affairs; and of course the place is at no shortage of opportunities for unscrupulous politicians to take advantage of this anger.

The West needs to reach out to Russia. The errors of the two previous decades should be overcome, and intelligence should triumph over ignorance. The Russians have every reason to be angry; and it is important that the West talk to this sentiment before skinheads or Communists do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anti-Jewish Ideologies

As anti-Jewish ideologies continue to spread, it becomes rightful to ask the question: What would the world be like if there were no Jews?

America has 6 million Jews, and it is the world's greatest country. Poland has 800 Jews, and it's not.

The Jews have been vast contributors to science, medicine, entertainment and finance. The number of Nobel prizes won by Jews is comparable to England and Germany combined. For a tiny population, the Jews have been vast contributors to the Western civilization; and to attack the Jews while claiming to speak for the Western civilization is pure foolishness.

As for the claim that the Jews are either in control or that the Jews are evil: If either had been the case, then the people saying such things would be facing a firing squad. That they are instead free to spread their rubbish shows that either the Jews are not in control or that Jews are not evil; or both at once.

Jews make a convenient scapegoat; and that is extreme ingratitude. Jews have been vast contributors to the civilization, and they deserve respect. Nothing good has come from the Jew-hating ideologies, and nothing good ever will come from the anti-Jewish ideologies. The people involved in such things should find better things to do with their lives. As if the world is not at shortage of real things that need to be done.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Errors of Christian Right

Am I the only person who thinks that Christian Right is completely ridiculous?

Nowhere in the Bible is there support for the American system. The Hebrews did not have democracy; they had kings.

Nor did the Bible have a positive view of capitalism, with Jesus calling money-changers thieves.

Nor did most people in the Bible practice “traditional family values.” Most were either single or slept with any number of women.

Why did a dogma as obviously flawed as the Christian Right become as big as it did? Probably for the same reason that did Communism – another dogma full of obvious errors. People fall for all sorts of foolishness.

For the bulk of its history, Christianity did not support democracy, and it did not support property rights. It supported the divine right of kings. And the people who fought for democracy and property rights were attacked by the Christianity of the time.

The people who wear the cross and the flag at the same time are simply not thinking. America is not based on Christianity; it is based on 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, which once again was strongly attacked by Christianity of the time. It was Thomas Jefferson who said about these people, “I have sworn upon the altar of God my eternal hostility against all forms of oppression over the mind of man.” These same people invoke Thomas Jefferson and America's other founders while militating against everything for which they have worked.

I have a high view of Jesus and any number of other Biblical figures; I do not however have a high view of hypocrisy, and that is what we see here. Christian Right simply does not make sense. More people should be out there exposing these obvious errors, resulting in scrutiny over an ideology that thinks that it owns America even as it militates against the best qualities of this great country.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Defeating Isamofascism

As Islamofascism continues to spread, it becomes incumbent upon the rest of us to fight it. I have some suggestions as to how this can be done with greater effect.

First: Win the numbers war. The Taliban's advantage is that there are one and a half billion Muslims, which means that they will never be at a shortage of willing recruits. Whereas the population of America and Europe is much smaller. My suggestion for winning the number game is involving places with large populations – such as China and India – in the fight against Islamofascists. Recently China had a bombing from Islamofacists; and India has a long and hostile relationship with the Muslims. Getting the Chinese and the Indians involved will tip the numbers balance against the Islamists. Both of these countries have population comparable to the Muslim; and once they realize that the Islamofascists want them as much as they want Americans and Israelis, they will be willing to help out.

Second: Win the propaganda war. One large reason for America's victory in the Cold War was its Voice of America broadcasts into the Soviet Union, where they were able to reach regular Soviet citizens and give them America's side of the story. America needs to do more to change the minds of the people in Middle East and other places where Islamofascists have influence. The more is done to explain to these people what America actually is about – and the more is done to explain to these people what the Islamofascists mean for them – the more these people will be able to resist the Islamofascists and stand strong against their propaganda.

Third: Win the money war. This is a place at which the West is at an absolute advantage; and it should be able to use its financial superiority to stand up to the Islamofascists. Governments – and businesses – should be prevailed upon to reject Islamofascism, with those who accept it having sanctions imposed upon them.

The military war, for its part, should not be just America's burden. The Islamofascists focus most of their rhetoric on America and Israel; but really they want the world. This means that other parts of the world should be just as involved in fighting them as are Americans. It is not fair to America to do the bulk of the fighting against Islamofascists. Europe, China, India, Africa and Latin America should as well.

An ideology that wants the world is a danger to everyone; and that is the case with Islamofascism. Fortunately there are things that can be done to stop its spread. Win the numbers war; win the propaganda war; win the money war; and get the rest of the world involved in the military effort. The result will be a strong global resistance to Islamofascism, cutting across all borders and across all societies to defeat this menace.

Nazism, Marxism and Political Correctness

There are all sorts of ideologies out there, and most of them are easily found to be flawed. I will write about three obviously wrong ideologies that have had – or now have – vastly more power than they deserve to have had. These are neo-Nazism, Marxism and political correctness.

Of these, Nazism is the easiest one to refute. There is no such thing as a master race. For 1000 years that were the Dark Ages, the white man was at the bottom of the world, and China was the world's greatest country. The Jews are not a uniform entity; there are all sorts of differences among the Jews, with Orthodox Jews behaving much like the Muslims, the Conservative Jews much like the Americans, and the Reform Jews much like the French. Finally, if Jews had, as Nazis claim, all the power, and if Jews had been, as Nazis said, evil, then the Nazis would be facing a firing squad. That they are instead free to spread their rubbish shows either that Jews are not in control, or that the Jews are so good as to tolerate even the people who want to kill them. In either case, the claims of the Nazis are obviously false.

Marxism is also not that difficult to refute. Central to Marxism is the obviously wrong concept of historical inevitability – that the history is inevitably working toward creation of worker's Utopia. This claim is likewise easily refuted. There is no such thing as historical inevitability; all sorts of orders rise and fall for all sorts of reasons. The businessman is not a thief; he is someone who assumes the financial risk for a project and gets things done. And class struggle – a believable concept in rigidly stratified societies such as Tsarist Russia and Confucian China – becomes much less believable in places where there is social mobility, and where someone can rise from humble upbringing to become a billionaire or President of the United States. The problems that the Marxist wants to solve through class struggle are solved much better through social mobility; and this is the reason why America has resisted Marxism as something that's inconsistent with American values.

Political correctness, for its part, encourages a lazy-mindedness which shames wrong ideas – as well as ideas that are not as wrong - instead of refuting them. This is entirely against what academia is meant to be about. University is meant to be a place of education, not a place of indoctrination. Wrong ideas are meant to be confronted by better ideas. And if it as easy as it has been for me to make effectual refutations of two major hostile ideologies, then shame it be on the academia to not be able to produce the same.

The real way to refute stupidity is through intelligence; and that is the case with all of these ideologies. Real intelligence should be cultivated, not shamed or attacked. The smarter people are, the greater becomes their ability to resist foolishness and evil. The better decisions made, the better the life for everyone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Better Ways to Deal With Unwanted Attention

There have been any number of people interested in me whom I did not want. I am what is known as “fagbait” but I am not gay. I also have been pursued by much older women, whom I likewise did not want.

Now I could have been a jerk about this and accused these people of “harrassment” or “stalking”; but I have better values than that. So instead, when pursued in this way, I think of what the person could want that she or he could have.

When I was working for a Lebanese food place, there was a woman there who was old enough to be my grandmother who wanted to get together with me. Now there was no way that I would have been available for that relationship; so instead I started thinking of what this woman could have that she would want. I figured out that she, having never been married or with kids, needed to be around children. So I advised her to become a babysitter and made up signs for her to put out around the neighborhood.

When someone feels that way about you, you have power over them; and it becomes imperative to use that power for good rather than for ill. I do not consider myself victimized by this kind of attention; if anything I find it flattering. If I am not available for this kind of attention, the least thing I want is to see the person come to a place where they can have something that they want. The result is being able to make a positive difference in someone's life – and that person coming to a better place.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cross-Age Relationships

I've observed a trend: Women of my generation getting together with baby boomer men.

It appears to work in the best interests of both parties. The woman gets to be with a man who is prosperous, non-violent and has wisdom; and the man gets to feel young again and to have an attractive wife.

Now there are many people who see men who go for younger women as scumbags. I did not notice that; in fact the people I've seen involved in these matches were far less likely to be scumbags than the average person. The needs of the men and the women involved in such relationships are complimentary with each other. And that makes for what I've seen to be very good relationships.

As a man who's been with a significantly older woman, I can say that this is a valid pathway as well. Sure people may start claiming such things as that the woman is the man's mother or whatever, but that does not prevent the relationships from being beautiful. The woman provides the wisdom, and the man provides the passion. And that results in wisdom being affectuated, including in creating beautiful interaction between the woman and the man.

Like cross-cultural relationships, cross-age relationships reward the best in each side. If a young woman can go to an older man – or a young man to an older woman – then that rewards those who are willing to offer good things in a relationship while putting an incentive on everyone else to do as well. The more choices people have, the more there is a reason for people to act rightfully in their relationships – because, if they don't, the partner has other options than staying with them or those like them.

So no, these men aren't scumbags or “exploiters”; they are men who have something to offer that the woman may legitimately want. Nor are older women who go with much younger men “cradle-robbers”; they likewise have something to offer that the man may legitimately want. The less these kinds of distinctions matter, the more people can create workable marital situations. And that will be good for them; it will also be good for society.

Why will it be good for society? Not only will this make a lot of people happy, but it will also create an incentive on everyone else to treat their partner rightfully – because, if they don't, the partner has other options. And that will do more to improve the lot of women than any amount of feminist rhetoric and more to improve family than any amount of family values agitation.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Rational Self-Interest and Psychology

I am going to tackle a very serious subject - one of the axioms that are central to classical economic theory. Classical economics states that economic decisions are driven by rational self-interest. I am parting with that axiom and suggest the following: That while some economic decisions are in fact based on rational factors, many more are based on psychological and emotional factors. And the amount of economic decisions based on these factors is vast.

I start here with the most obvious examples. A person who stuffs herself with food until she becomes obese and diabetic, or a person who spends all his money on gambling, is clearly not driven in consumption decisions by reason. Such a person is driven by factors that are not rational in any manner and that are in nature psycho-pathological. It occurs to me that similar psychological factors extend far beyond these obvious examples and apply to many people, including ones who are not gambling addicts or who are morbidly obese.

Here is an economic choice based in rational self-interest: A comfortable, affordable, fuel efficient vehicle. Here is an economic choice not based in rational self-interest: A hugely expensive, polluting vehicle such as the Hummer. Here is an economic choice based in rational self-interest: Nice looking affordable clothes. Here is an economic choice not based in rational self-interest: Super-expensive clothes that one buys because they are in fashion. Here is an economic choice based in rational self-interest: A functional, comfortable, affordable house or condo. Here is an economic choice not based in rational self-interest: A vast house that one's wife has to spend six hours a day cleaning. Here is an economic choice based in rational self-interest: Nice simple shoes. Here is an economic choice not based in rational self-interest: Expensive trendy sneakers that one needs to sell drugs in order to procure. Here is an economic choice based in rational self-interest: One plastic surgery treatment when one's features are disfigured. Here is not an economic choice based on rational self-interest: Many plastic surgery treatments when one is already beautiful.

Some economic choices are based in rational self-interest. They however do not begin to include the total sum of economic choices that people make.

The biggest argument against the idea that all economic choice is based on rational self-interest is not any of the above. Instead is the fact that many products that are bought, are bought not because of the quality of the product but because of the quality of the marketing. A consumer driven by rational self-interest would buy the superior product; but time and again - with Beta vs. VHS, with Borland vs. Microsoft, with mom-and-pop shops vs. fast food chains - we see inferior product dominating the market. The reason that these inferior products dominate the market is that their makers are better at marketing. And choices based on marketing are not choices based on reason. They are choices based on psychology.

Why are these choices based on psychology? Because that is what is targeted by most marketing campaigns. Very little of ads out there are simply and rationally stating the benefits of the product. They use all sorts of psychological devices to manipulate people into buying the product. Advertising very rarely targets reason exclusively; far more often it plays with people's emotions. Which makes these emotions, as manipulated by the marketer, the centerpiece of a vast chunk of economic choices that people make.

Does this make most economic choices that people make wrong? No; but what it does show is that many of these choices are not based on what classical economic theory regard them to be based upon. Does this damn capitalism? No, but it shows where one of its major axioms is incomplete. Yes there are economic choices that are driven by rational self-interest; but there are many economic choices that are not driven by rational anything, and it's important to take such things into account whether one is a consumer, a producer or a policy maker.

The consumer on his part needs to learn more about psychology so as not to be as vulnerable to psychological manipulation by marketers. The policy maker needs to see where someone is taking advantage of people and do what he needs to do to stop the unscrupulous practices. And the honest producer, such as Borland and mom-and-pop shops, need to see where their competition is using unethical ways of marketing and respond with effective and intelligent marketing on their own part. I do not advocate Communism. I advocate a more ethical capitalism. And that means, first and foremost, seeing where people are being taken advantage of and putting a stop to the unethical economic practices that play them for fools.

Of course a large part of the burden for this lies with the consumers themselves, who frequently are either not thinking or are thinking stupid. Many of these problems stand to be solved by broad-based education that teach people better thinking habits so that it's not as easy to take advantage of them, and also so that they exercise greater discretion and responsibility in their economic decisions. The more choices are actually based on rational interest, the more the economy functions as advertised; the more they are based on psychological manipulation, the more the economy turns into an unethical and irresponsible plutocracy that treats people as idiots and laughs all the way to the bank.

At the very least it is important to make this clarification. An economic theory that fails to see a vast chunk of the reasons for people's consumption decisions is a theory that is incomplete. The role of psychology in consumption decisions must be examined and credited for the large chunk of consumption decisions for which it is responsible. And based on that it can then be possible to determine which economic practices lead to people's benefit and which economic practices do not.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Clinton and Eminem

When Eminem was confronted about the misogyny in his songs, he said, “The president gets his cock sucked and I have to care what I write?”

My response to that is that America is not North Korea. The president is not the only person in America who wields influence; there are many other people in America who wield influence, and that unfortunately includes Eminem. Which means that Eminem, like others, need to be held accountable for the wrongful influence that they wield.

What happened with Monica Lewinski was between Bill Clinton and his wife. It is nobody else's business. Unlike Eminem, Bill Clinton never beat his wife or wrote songs about shoving her in the trunk of a car.

Really, who is a worse husband: Bill Clinton or Eminem? With Clinton, his wife has become the most powerful woman in the world. Whereas Eminem was brutal to women in his life and motivated many other young men to be brutal to their women as well.

So, yes, Eminem does have to be made accountable for the wrongs that he has done. And these wrongs are far greater than being fellated by an intern.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Governments and Libertarianism

Americans hate the government; yet their government is one of the most benign and non-obtrusive governments on the planet. The Chinese like the government; yet their government is far more controlling and invasive than anything that has ever existed on the American soil.

In the first case, the better entity gets attacked and vilified. In the second case, the worse entity is supported. This absurdity goes on because not enough people are noticing it. I just did.

The American government can only dream of constituents such as the Chinese, and Chinese people can only dream of a government like the American. In both cases, the better entity gets attacked and the worse entity gets elevated to power. American government is vastly superior to the Chinese government; yet it is attacked even in its positive outcomes while the Chinese government gets away with torture and murder.

One positive effect of an international flux is that it incentivizes both the populations and the governments in the world to be the best that they can be. When a Chinese person can move to America, that gives a reason for the Chinese government to behave properly. The more this is done, the more choices people have, the greater is the reason for political entities around the world to treat people right.

The attention of the American libertarian is much better spent on scrutinizing entities other than the American government. These entities include truly bad governments such as the Chinese; they also include violent husbands and fathers, suffocating communities, oppressive religions and corrupt networks in law and medicine. The American government is nowhere close to being the source of all evil. There are many much worse governments around the world; and there are many entities in America that are much worse than the American government.

A person truly interested in liberty will recognize this and act accordingly. American government is easy to attack; but it is nowhere close to being the worst government in the world or the worst entity in America. From the Chinese government to the Westboro Baptists, the person truly interested in liberty will have his hands full fighting real corruption and tyranny. As for the American government, if it was really bad, the libertarians would be in labor camps. That they are not shows that the American government is better than most governments, and also better than many other organizations on the American soil.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Values, Interests and the Middle

Ayn Rand stated that every issue has the right side and the wrong side, but the middle is always evil. The political debates are either based on a clash of values or on a clash of interests; and while her statement can be defended about the first, it is a complete disaster when dealing with the second.

On issues that are a clash of values – such as whether or not to have a death penalty or whether to have a monarchy or a democracy – the middle can in fact be construed as evil. That is because, in these situations, finding the middle ground involves compromise on values; which a moral absolutist, whether Christian or objectivist, would find to be evil. But most political issues are a clash, not of values, but of interests; and in these, this attitude leads to complete failure.

In debates such as between business and labor, men and women, environment and civilization, and private sector and public sector, neither side is either right or wrong, nor is either side good or bad. They reflect different interests which are all capable of both right and wrong and both good and evil. And the rational solution in these situations is not to side with one interests at the expense of the other, but look at both interests and support them in the benefit that they accomplish while confronting them in the wrong that they do.

Business can mean anything from computerizing the world to hooking millions people on fattening and disease-causing fast food items. Labor can mean anything from principled, motivated self-starters to the person who spends all his time at work chatting with his co-workers or bullying and harrassing other employees.

Men can mean anything from Thomas Jefferson to Adolf Hitler. Women can mean anything from Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin.

Environmentalism can mean anything from clean-energy enterprises and Nature Conservancy to the atavists who militate against business and technology. Civilization can mean anything from scientific and technological progress to burning the rainforest and flooding the atmosphere with CO2.

Private sector can mean anything from Apple Computers to Monsanto. Public sector can mean anything from the Interstate and the Internet systems to burdensome, petty, time-wasting and money-wasting bureucratic controls over private enterprise.

In all cases we see human endeavors that have the capacity for both the right and the wrong.

Siding with either side in these situations is disastrous. When this is done, wrongs get institutionalized on the side of the duality that is favored, while the other side of the duality is suppressed even in its possibility to produce beneficial results. When the men dominate the women, the result is support for wrongdoings on the part of the male and a brutal oppression against women; when women dominate men, the result is castration and devaluation of the male. When business dominates labor, the result is support for wrongful practices on the part of the business and disenfranchisement of the worker; when labor dominates business, the result is a soporiphic kakistocracy that manages enterprises in an incompetent manner and fails to allow innovation. When public sector dominates private sector the result is economic oppression under an overpowering bureaucracy; when private sector dominates public sector the result is short-sighted and unethical business practices gaining dominance of the market. When the worse elements in environmentalism dominate the result is a stranglehold over technological progress; when the worse elements in the economy dominate the result is blind and irreversible destruction of treasures that people have not created and cannot begin to recreate.

In all these interest-based dualities, we see interests that require one another for their existence yet are essentially pitted against one another. When one of these interests dominates the other, the results are disastrous. The result is that the dominant interests finds itself in a situation when it can do as much harm as it wants to harm, and the other side is powerless to do anything against it. The dominant interest abuses and oppresses the other interests as much as it wants to; and the other interest is powerless to do anything about it.

Business and labor, men and women, private sector and public sector, and environment and civilization, will always exist. The rational solution is not to side with either interest in these equations, but support each interest in where it is right and confront it where it is wrong. The issue in these cases is not clash of values, but clash of interest. And in the situation of clash of interests, the moral high ground consists, not of siding with one interest against the other, but of supporting each interest in its capacity to produce beneficial outcomes while confronting each interest where it chooses to go wrong.