Monthly Archives: September 2013

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The Last Generation to Die – Article by Reason

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Categories: Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
September 27, 2013
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The last generation whose members will be forced into death by aging is alive today. It won’t be the youngest of us, born in the past few years – they, most likely, have thousands of years ahead of them. It won’t be the oldest of us either, as even under the plausible best of circumstances we are twenty to thirty years away from a widespread deployment of rejuvenation therapies based on the SENS research program. As to the rest of us, just who is left holding the short straw at the end of the day depends on the speed of progress in medical science: advocacy, fundraising, and the effectiveness of research and development initiatives. Persuasion and money are far more important at this early stage than worrying about how well the researchers are doing their jobs, however.

We live in a world in which the public is only just starting to come around to the idea that aging can be treated, and demonstrations of rejuvenation in the laboratory could be achieved in a crash program lasting ten to twenty years, at a comparatively small cost. But still, most people don’t care about living longer, and most people try not to think about aging, or the future of degeneration and sickness that awaits. They think it is inevitable, but that is no longer true. If you are in early middle age today in the first world, then you have a good shot at living for centuries if the world suddenly wakes up tomorrow and massive funding pours into rejuvenation research. You will age and die on a timescale little different from that of your parents if that awakening persistently fails to happen.

So, roll the dice, or help out and try to swing the odds in your favor. Your choice.

Crowdfunding on Kickstarter and related sites is still the new new thing, the shine not yet worn off. One of the truths that this activity reinforces is that it is far, far easier to raise funding for the next throwaway technological widget than for medical research projects aimed at the betterment of all humanity. Research crowdfunding is a tiny, distant moon orbiting the great mass of comics, games, and devices on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others. Hell, it’s easier to crowdfund a short film that points out how close human rejuvenation might be to the present day than it is to crowdfund a project to actually conduct a portion of that research. Is this a reflection of rationality? You decide, though it could be argued either way regarding whether a dollar given to raising awareness is more valuable than a dollar given to the researchers at this point in time. Both research and persuasion need to happen.

The Last Generation To Die – A Short Film

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Set in the future when science first begins to stop aging, a daughter tries to save her father from natural death. The story takes place roughly 30 years in the future at the moment when science has first figured out how to stop aging through genetics. It is framed around the gulf between generations that would occur with the first release of this technology. A daughter who works for a company called Aperion Life – the first to bring this new technology to the public – wants to save her aging father. She starts him on the trials but he soon stops coming. The film continues with the conflict rising between them as she wants him to live on with her while he feels a natural ending is more human.The film centers itself around the natural conflict that would exist at this divide. Upon developing this story, I’ve asked many people and I’ve found a pretty even 50/50 divide of opinions strongly on one side or the other- either they want to die naturally and believe there is beauty in finality, or they want to see what the future holds and have more time to explore and learn more in life. I’d like to turn the question to you… Which side are you on? Would you want to live on or die naturally?

I feel this is a film that needs to be made. Asking these questions in the form of art and story will help start the discussion. Our world is changing very fast and the rate of technology is speeding up. What does all of this mean for humanity? Everything we know, from a book to a play to a song, ends… What does it mean when there is no ending? Would we be more complacent? Would life be as meaningful? Is there more of a beauty in the way it has always been with our passing or is there more beauty in our bodies and minds staying fresh and alive for many, many years to come? What about social justice and overpopulation? Would life become boring after living on indefinitely or would you find it exhilarating to have time to learn new languages, instruments, subjects – to read more books, to love more – to live several lifetimes? Would it be worth it if some of your most loved friends or relatives passed on and wouldn’t live on with you? Are you interested in seeing what the future brings in technology and social evolution or are you happy to have contributed and be a part of it for a short time?

Tim Maupin’s Film, ‘The Last Generation to Die’, to Explore Longevity and Life Extension

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Chicago filmmaker Tim Maupin launched a Kickstarter for a short film titled, “The Last Generation to Die.” Maupin thinks now is a great time to start a conversation about life extension. And he’s right. The idea that within decades a genetic fountain of youth may plausibly reverse the aging process, even indefinitely stave off death, seems to be rising up in pop culture. Maupin’s Kickstarter has so far raised over $15,000 – $6,000 more than its initial funding goal. Encouraged by the positive response, they’re dreaming bigger and hope to fund a stretch goal of $25,000 in the last 10 days of the campaign.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.  

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license.  It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Editor’s Note from G. Stolyarov II: I am proud to have donated $50 to help make the film The Last Generation to Die a success. I encourage all readers to donate during the remaining nine days in which the Kickstarter project is open to accepting funds.

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Mercantilism vs. Free Trade: The Early Years – Article by Chi-Yuen Wu

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Categories: Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Chi-Yuen Wu
September 27, 2013
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Note from the Ludwig von Mises Institute (reprinted with permission, pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution license): This selection is from Chapter II of Chi-Yuen Wu’s An Outline of International Price Theory, available in paperback and ebook editions in the Mises store.

In Chapter II, Wu discusses some early controversies in Mercantilist thought, and their effects on our thinking about free trade. It is interesting to read Wu’s summary of the debate between the interests of England-based manufacturers of clothing and the importers of clothing from the East India Company. In both cases, they are arguing from the position of special interest groups, but the arguments made by the East India Company, while not made in the spirit of any true devotion to free trade, are harbingers of later advances in our understanding of the value of free trade.

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The overseas discoveries in the last decades of the fifteenth century had widened the boundaries of international trade and had given rise to a change in its nature and an expansion of its volume. As a result of the opening of the new silver mines between 1540 and 1600 in America, Europe was supplied with an abundance of money metals and thus the establishment of a real price economy was facilitated. That change in commerce together with the extension in the use of money accelerated the development of the new spirit of private enterprise and paved the way for the triumph of the moneyed classes. In fact, the time had come for a transition from a number of local economies to a national economy, from feudalism to commercial capitalism, from a state of comparatively little trade to an epoch of extensive international commerce. That change in the economic structure is sometimes called by economic historians the “Commerical Revolution.”

In the world of thought, that change in the economic structure found its expression in what is known as “Mercantilism.”

… First of all, all mercantilists considered the benefit of the State as the end and object of economic activities, in their view the interests of the State had always to take precedence to the interests of the individual. The aim of all mercantilistic doctrines is to increase the economic power of the State. Moreover, the interests of the state were, in their eyes, by no means necessarily in harmony with the activities of the individual. According to them, wages, interest, industry, and trade should be regulated so as to benefit the State. Finally, the importance of “treasure” to a State was greatly emphasized. The reasons given in support of their advocacy of the accumulation of the previous metals changed from one time to another, but all mercantilists agreed that a nation must try by all means to increase its “treasure.” In general, they recognized that countries which did not possess gold or silver mines could not increase their stocks of the previous metals except by an annually recurring favorable balance of trade (if peaceful means alone were adopted). Consequently, they gave foreign trade the foremost place among the industries of a nation. …

The protection versus “free trade” controversy at the end of the seventeenth century was connected with the East India trade. In the latter half of that century the imports of Indian textiles into England were increasing, especially in the last two decades. Owing to the high costs of production, the English textile industries could not withstand the competition of the Indian imports. The result was that in the last decade of the century the English woolen and silk industries faced a grave crisis. Those industries were experiencing depression and unemployment, and complaints were made by the weavers and the public in general against the East India trade.

The best spokesmen of the weavers’ interests were John Cary and John Pollexfen. Like other mercantilists, they based their contention upon the conception of the State as an economic entity and stood for a definite national economic policy for the benefit of the state. … Cary and Pollexfen … judged the benefit of trade … by the nature of the exports and imports [rather] than by their quantity and value. In other words, “that Trade is advantageous to the Kingdom … which Exports our Product and Manufactures; which Imports to us such Commodities as may be manufactured here, or to be used in making our manufactures; which supplies us with such things, without which we cannot carry on our Foreign Trade; [and] which encourages our Navigation, and increases our Seamen.”

Judged by those criteria, the East India trade was said to be harmful and not beneficial to England … [Cary and Pollexfen] no longer valued foreign trade and the treasure brought by it for their own sakes but for the effects upon home industries and trade.

The ablest upholders of the East India Company were Josiah Child and Charles Davenant. They did not deny the obvious fact that the Indian trade was detrimental to certain industries, but they maintained that the fact was not a sufficient condemnation of the East India trade.

In place of those criteria, they tried to establish a new rule for testing whether a trade is beneficial to a state or not:

The best and most certain discovery … is to be made from the encrease or diminution of our Trade and Shipping in general. … Where-ever Trade is great and continuous so, and grows daily more great and encreaseth in Shipping, and … for a succession not of a few years, but of Ages, that Trade must be nationally profitable.

Using that criterion and facts that they had adduced to show that the East India trade had promoted the general prosperity of the nation, they were able to make out a case for the view that the East India trade was beneficial to the country.

Negatively, they tried to show that the proposal to prohibit the wearing of all Indian imported textiles in England would be detrimental to the nation.

However, they could not do so without sacrificing some part of their mercantilistic doctrines and approaching the doctrine of free trade. The following quotations perhaps sufficiently reveal their main arguments:

Trade is in its nature free, finds its own channel, and best directeth its own course: and all laws to give it rules and directions, and to limit and circumscribe it, may serve the particular ends of private men, but are seldom advantageous to the public.

For all trades have a mutual dependence one upon the other, and one begets another, and the loss of one frequently loses half the rest.

It should be noted they were not free traders at heart. They advocated leaving trade free from restraints only in so far as the argument served the purpose of their Company and their views constitute a mere case of special pleading.

Author Description from the Ludwig von Mises Bookstore:

Greatness often comes from the most unlikely corners. Chi-Yuen Wu began this treatise while a student at London School of Economics during the Great Depression, then returning to an anxious China, on the verge of war, and in the throes of economic instability, finished it from the remoteness of Western China after being displaced from his home.

Wu looked at the history of economic thought as a way to explain what was happening and why. Lionel Robbins, in the Preface, says “Few, can read his penetrating commentaries without feeling that he has added substantially to knowledge, both in his elucidations and in his presentation of the general perspective of development.”

Murray Rothbard considered Outlines of International Price Theories to be a seminal contribution to the theory of price and international trade.

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Internet Sales Tax Could Crush Small Businesses – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Business, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 26, 2013
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One unique aspect of my homeschool curriculum is that students can start and manage their own online business. Students will be responsible for deciding what products or services to offer, getting the business up and running, and marketing the business’s products. Students and their families will get to keep the profits made from the business. Hopefully, participants in this program will develop a business that can either provide them with a full-time career or a way to supplement their income.

Internet commerce is the most dynamic and rapidly growing sector of the American economy. Not surprisingly, the Internet is also relatively free of taxes and regulations, although many in Washington are working to change that. For example, earlier this year the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, more accurately referred to as the national Internet sales tax act. This bill, which passed the Senate earlier this year, would require Internet businesses to collect sales tax for all 10,000 American jurisdictions that assess sales taxes. Internet business would thus be subject to audits from 46 states, six territories, and over 500 Native American tribal nations.

Proponents of the bill deny it will hurt small business because the bill only applies to Internet business that make over a million dollars in out-of-state revenue. However, many small Internet businesses with over a million dollars in out-of-state revenues operate on extremely thin profit margins, so even the slightest increase in expenses could put them out of businesses.

Some businesses may even try to avoid increasing their sales so as to not have to comply with the Internet sales tax. It is amazing that some of the same conservatives who rightly worry over Obamacare’s effects on job creation and economic growth want to impose new taxes on the most dynamic sector of the economy.

Proponents of the law claim that there is software that can automatically apply sales taxes. However, anyone who has ever dealt with business software knows that no program is foolproof. Any mistakes made by the software, or even errors in installing it, could result in a small business being subject to expensive and time-consuming audits.

Some say that it is a legitimate exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause power to give state governments the authority to force out-of-state businesses to collect sales taxes. But if that were the case, why shouldn’t state governments be able to force you to pay sales taxes where you physically cross state lines to make a purchase? The Commerce Clause was intended to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across state lines, not to help states impose new burdens on out of state businesses.

The main proponents of this bill are large retailers and established Internet business. Big business can more easily afford to comply with a national Internet sales tax. In many cases, they are large enough that they already have a “physical presence” in most states and thus already have to collect state sales taxes. These businesses are seeking to manipulate the political process to disadvantage their existing and future small competitors. The Internet sales tax is a bad idea for consumers, small Internet business, and perhaps most importantly, the next generation of online entrepreneurs.

For more information about the small business program well as all other aspects of the Homeschool curriculum, please go here. And to purchase a copy of my new book, The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System, please go here.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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A Rational Cosmology – Treatise by G. Stolyarov II – Third Edition

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A Rational Cosmology - Third Edition - by G. Stolyarov II

A Rational Cosmology – Third Edition – by G. Stolyarov II

Contemporary science does not make as much progress as it could, due the fallacy of empiricism-positivism – the idea that no knowledge is certain beyond refutation and that every claim is contingent on highly narrow, particular, and expensive experiments. A Rational Cosmology, however, provides a thorough refutation of prevalent empiricist-positivist fallacies, both in content and in method. It shatters some of the erroneous philosophical interpretations of theories such as Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Moreover, it refutes the ex nihilo origin of the universe – including its manifestation in popular views of the Big Bang and Big Crunch – the particle/wave view of light, and a host of other fallacious ideas, using the proper, axiomatic-deductive methodology of identifying those theories’ conceptual flaws and internal contradictions.

As constructive alternatives to these fallacies, A Rational Cosmology presents objective, absolute, rationally grounded views of terms such as universe, matter, volume, space, time, motion, sound, light, forces, fields, and even the higher-order concepts of life, consciousness, and volition. The result is a system verified by ubiquitous observation and common sense, the underpinnings of objective science which demonstrate a knowable, fathomable reality and set the stage for unfettered progress, confidence in reason, and full-scale logical investigation of just about everything existence has to offer.

The Third Edition of A Rational Cosmology has been enhanced and edited, with augmentations and revisions to several of the previous essays. There is a new, beautiful cover design by Wendy D. Stolyarov. Furthermore, there are two additional numbered essays and more recent writings within the Related Essays section.

For the first time, A Rational Cosmology is available for free download in the form of unified files. There are four options to choose from.

Download the PDF version.

Download the MOBI version.

Download the EPUB version.

Download the AZW3 version.

The Rational Argumentator welcomes your reviews of A Rational Cosmology. You can submit them to TRA by sending them to gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com. You are also encouraged to spread the word by reprinting the information on this page or your own comments concerning the book on other media outlets.

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Calico and the Paradigm Shift in the War on Death – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 19, 2013
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Finally, the war on human senescence and involuntary death has become mainstream. With Google’s announcement of the formation of Calico, a company specifically focused on combating senescence and the diseases it brings about, a large and influential organization has finally taken a stand on the side of longer life. Unlike the cautious, short-term orientation of many more conventional manufacturers of drugs and medical devices, Google’s philosophy of making investments with possible immense payoffs in the distant future offers tremendous hope that this company will be around through the many years it will take to engage in the search for promising treatments and their subsequent testing.

 Aubrey de Grey, one of the chief strategists and key intellectual innovators in the escalating war on senescence, has written that Calico signals that the war on aging has truly begun. De Grey emphasizes that it is no longer necessary to persuade most of academia that this war is a worthwhile endeavor: “With Google’s decision to direct its astronomical resources to a concerted assault on aging, that battle may have been transcended: once financial limitations are removed, curmudgeons no longer matter.” As with its remarkable advances in autonomous vehicles, mobile operating systems, and wearable computing, Google does not need to ask the permission of the entire world to explore the possibilities. Rather, it can simply achieve the breakthroughs, whose momentum and adoption naysayers would be powerless to halt.

Funding has always been a major bottleneck for true life-extending research, but now the resources of Google, as well as the highly skilled researchers who will surely be recruited by Calico, will enable this bottleneck to be overcome. Few details about the company are yet available, and it is likely that several years will elapse before major discoveries are announced. However, the barrier to mainstream acceptability of the war on senescence has been breached. Once significant successes are announced, other companies will hopefully shed some of their current caution and will seek to profit from the burgeoning field of longevity research. A few other companies still may even try to emulate Calico before any results are announced – just so as to remain competitive with Google and stay ahead of the pack, in their view.

The key to the success of any sustainable enterprise focused on life-extension research is to recognize that the sole pursuit of profits next quarter or next year is not a viable strategy for altering the status quo in radical ways. Great innovations require great leaps outside the norm. Such leaps are not often immediately rewarded financially by the broader market, which is why much of the longevity research to date has been sponsored by non-profit institutions such as the SENS Research Foundation and various universities. However, a prudent, forward-looking pursuit of profit can take the radical alteration of the status quo to the next level, by harnessing the immensely powerful motive of self-interest for the purpose of improving human lives. In this case, the improvement from gains to human longevity – and hopefully the ultimate defeat of senescence altogether – would be so immense as to be humankind’s crowning achievement. Google develops technologies with the eventual intent of marketing them to millions of consumers, and the success of Calico would be a triumph not just for longevity research but for the dissemination of cures to age-related diseases, and perhaps to senescence itself.

While anyone of sufficient intellectual courage can have a long-term vision and projects aimed at advancing that vision, Google has the distinct advantage of an extremely viable business in the present, which continues to bring in short-term revenues so that Calico does not need to be concerned with profits next quarter or next year. Instead, Calico will be able to survive on the profits of Google’s many ongoing operations, while devoting the time and effort of world-class researchers to pursuing all of the explorations, experiments, and tests that are needed to ultimately develop marketable cures. Once the cures are out there, though, the profits could be unprecedented, because life is the most precious, the most fundamental value we humans have. Any entity that discovers a way to transcend the current frailties of old age and push back or remove the current limits on human lifespans will become fabulously wealthy beyond comparison.

May Calico usher in Adam Smith’s invisible hand in the realm of longevity medicine – a hand that pushes back senescence and death and creates a world where health and wealth are ours to enjoy indefinitely.

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Has the Tide Turned Against the Warmongers? – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 16, 2013
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Will the history books record these past couple of weeks as the point when the tide finally turned against our interventionist foreign policy?We began September with the Obama Administration on the verge of launching Tomahawk missiles at Syria. The missiles were needed, the administration claimed, to punish the Syrian government for using poison gas on its own people. There were reports that in addition to missiles, the administration was planning airstrikes and possibly even more military action against Syria. The talks of a punishing “shot across the bow” to send a message to the Syrian government also escalated, as some discussed the need to degrade the Syrian military to help change the regime. They refused to rule out a US ground invasion of Syria.Secretary of State John Kerry even invoked an old bogeymen that had worked so many times before. Assad was another Hitler, we were told, and failure to attack would equate to another Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement.

The administration released its evidence to back up the claim that the Syrian government was behind the gassing, and the president asked Congress to authorize him to use force against Syria. Polls showed that the American people had very little interest in getting involved in another war in the Middle East, and as the administration presented no solid evidence for its claim, public support eroded further. The media, as usual, was pushing war propaganda.

Then something incredible happened. It started in the British parliament, with a vote against participating in a US-led attack on Syria. The UK had always reliably backed the US when it came to war overseas, and the vote was a shock. Though the House and Senate leadership lined up behind the president’s decision to attack Syria, the people did not. Support among the rank and file members of the Senate and House began to evaporate, as thousands of Americans contacted their representatives to express outrage over the president’s plan. The vote looked to be lost in the House and uncertain in the Senate. Then even Senators began to feel the anger of the American people, and it looked like a devastating and historic loss for the president was coming.

The administration and its pro-war allies could not bear to lose a vote in Congress that would have likely shut the door completely on a US attack, so they called off the vote. At least for now. It would have been far better to have had the president’s request for war authorization debated and voted down in the House and Senate, but even without a no vote it is clear that a major shift has taken place. A Russian proposal to secure and dismantle the Syrian government’s chemical weapons was inspired, it seems, by John Kerry’s accidental suggestion that such a move could avert a US strike. Though the details have yet to be fully worked out, it seems the Russia plan, agreed to by the Syrian government, gives us hope that a US attack will be avoided.

The American people have spoken out against war. Many more are now asking what I have been asking for quite some time: why is it always our business when there is civil strife somewhere overseas? Why do we always have to be the ones to solve the world’s problems? It is a sea change, and I am very encouraged. We have had a great victory for the cause of peace and liberty, and let’s hope we can further build on it.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Feedback Loops and Individual Self-Determination – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: History, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 15, 2013
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I have always been fond of the concept of feedback loops, and it is indeed the case that much of humankind’s progress, and the progress of a given individual, can be thought of as a positive feedback loop. In the technology/reason interaction, human reason leads to the creation of technology, which empowers human reason and raises rational thinking to new heights, which enables still further technology, and so on. This, I think, is a good way of understanding why technological progress is not just linear, but exponential; the rate of progress builds on itself using a positive feedback loop.

Positive Feedback LoopNegative feedback loops also exist, of course. For instance, one eats and feels sated, so one stops eating. One exercises and becomes tired, so one stops exercising. Thomas Malthus’s mistake was to view human economic and technological activity as a negative feedback loop (with the improved life opportunities that technology makes possible defeated in the end by overpopulation and resource scarcity). He did not realize that the population growth made possible by technology is a growth in human reasoning ability (more bright minds out there, including the extreme geniuses who can produce radical, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs), which in turn can result in further technological growth, far outpacing the growth in resource demands caused by increasing population.

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I do also think that positive feedback loops play a role in the questions surrounding free will and determinism. For instance, the growth trajectory of an individual – the process of intellectual empowerment and skill acquisition – is a positive feedback loop. By learning a skill and doing it well, a person feels better about his situation and becomes more motivated to make further progress in the skill. How does it start? This, I think, is where the substance of the free-will/determinism debate has historically led people to be at odds. In my view, free will plays a crucial role, especially at the beginning of a chain of undertakings, in the individual’s choice to focus on a particular subset of reality – certain entities about which one would like to know more, or certain projects one would want to pursue further.
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Generally, the choice to focus or not is always under an individual’s control under normal conditions of the brain and body (e.g., adequate rest, lack of physical pain, freedom from pressing demands on one’s time). A young child who chooses to focus on productive, mind-enhancing endeavors essentially sets himself up for a virtuous positive feedback loop that continues throughout life. The first instance of such focus could make a very subtle difference, compared to a child who chooses not to focus, and the other child could possibly catch up by choosing to focus later, but an accumulation of subtle differences in individual decisions could result in very different trajectories due to path-dependencies in history and in individual lives. The good news for all of us is that the decision to focus is always there; as one gets older and the set of possible opportunities expands, the harder decision becomes on what to focus out of a myriad of possibly worthwhile endeavors.
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This understanding integrates well with the portrayal of free will as compatible with an underlying entirely physical nature of the mind. There is undeniably an aspect of the chemistry of the brain that results in human focus and enables the choice to focus. Yet this kind of physical determination is the same as self-determination or free will, if you will. My physical mind is the same as me, so if it is chemically configured to focus (by me), then this is equivalent to me making the choice to focus, which is how the virtuous cycle of skill acquisition leading to motivation leading to skill acquisition begins.
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In general, in these kinds of recursive phenomena, it may be possible to legitimately answer the question of what came first if one considers not only the types of phenomena (A leading to B leading to A, etc.), but also qualitative and quantitative distinctions among each instance of the same type of phenomenon (e.g., a small amount of A leading to a little bit of B, leading to somewhat more of A with a slightly different flavor, leading to radically more of B, which opens up entirely new prospects for future feedback loops). We see this sort of development when it comes to the evolution of life forms, of technologies, and of entire human societies. If traced backward chronologically, each of these chains of development will be seen to contain many variations of similar types of phenomena, but also clear beginnings for each sequence of feedback loops (e.g., the philosophy of Aristotle paving the way for Aquinas paving the way for the Renaissance paving the way for the Enlightenment paving the way for transhumanism). History does repeat itself, though always with new and surprising variations upon past themes. In the midst of all this recursion, feedback, and path-dependency, we can chart unique, never-quite-previously-tried paths for ourselves.

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Illiberal Belief #25: Immigration Must Be Restricted – Article by Bradley Doucet

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The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
September 15, 2013
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Those of us who believe in the rightness and the benefits of free markets spend a good deal of time defending free trade between countries. But aside from the free movement of goods and services across international borders, augmenting the free movement of people across those borders would, I believe, greatly increase the peace and prosperity of people the world over. Opening up our borders to increased immigration is in fact demanded both by considerations of economics and of justice.Unfortunately, immigration is not very popular. The Economist reported in 2008 on a November 2007 poll of Europeans showing that only 55% of Spaniards and 50% of Italians considered migrants a boon to their economies—and that’s the good news. The number for Brits and Germans was only 42%, and for the French it was a dismal 30%.

One reason we fail to appreciate the economic benefits of immigration is that we are predisposed to see the world in zero-sum terms. We assume, for instance, that there are a limited number of jobs available. Immigrants, we worry, will steal “our” jobs and depress the wages of those who manage to hang on to theirs. This worry is especially prevalent with regard to the poorest, least-skilled workers. In fact, there is little evidence to support this worry. Even the least-skilled migrants do not just suck up jobs; they also help create jobs, since as consumers they raise demand which itself gets translated into more jobs. They can also free up skilled workers to re-enter the workforce by providing childcare, for instance. According to The Economist, the numbers tell a similar story: “Studies comparing wages in American cities with and without lots of foreigners suggest that they make little difference to the income of the poorest.”

Fear of Foreigners

We humans also seem predisposed to fear those who are different from us, and events in recent years have not exactly been reassuring. From riots in France to devastating terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere causing massive damage and loss of life, we see people from different cultures causing various levels of mayhem, and our natural xenophobia is reinforced.

But the unrest in France is not so much evidence of a deep cultural divide between Western hosts and Eastern immigrants. There do exist important cultural differences, but it is also the case that France’s sclerotic employment regulations deserve much of the blame for recent unrest. By making it extremely difficult to fire employees, those regulations discourage the hiring of employees— especially the hiring of foreigners of whom one might already be suspicious. Sky-high rates of unemployment in an immigrant population, while not excusing violent demonstration, surely help to explain it.

As for terrorism, it is clearly just a fanatical fringe of Islamists who are so fervent in their beliefs that they would commit suicide and murder hundreds or thousands of innocents for their cause. There is no reason for a free society to fear the average Muslim immigrant. Nevertheless, the War on Terror will continue to be used to justify such projects as the building of fences along the Mexican border, despite the lack of Hispanic suicide bombers and fact that the September 11 terrorists did not sneak across the Rio Grande. And while fences will not keep many out, they might keep many in. As The Economist points out, “After all, the more costly and dangerous it is to cross, the less people will feel like leaving. Migrants quite often return home for a while—but only if they know it will be relatively easy to get back in. The tougher the border, the more incentive migrants have to stay and perhaps to get their families to join them instead.”

Be Our Guest

If there is little chance that developed countries will just throw their borders open anytime soon, guest-worker plans seem like a practical compromise. For one thing, our Ponzi-style welfare schemes, to which we are still very much attached, cannot support the whole world. Temporary migration, in which foreign workers come for a limited time just to work without drawing on government benefits, would still be appealing to those workers while alleviating concerns about breaking the welfare bank. So why are they not more popular?

Well, there is the concern that some guests might overstay their welcome. As The Economist Report reminds us, “The old joke that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary migrant has more than a grain of truth in it.” The historical record is mixed, with some countries running guest worker programs that function smoothly, and others failing to enforce the temporary nature of their arrangements.

The more serious problem is that even supporters of more open immigration, especially those to be found among well-intentioned elites, as often as not oppose guest worker programs. These critics lament the creation of a second-class of citizens. It is not right, they argue, to withhold welfare benefits from guest workers. They worry also about the possibility of those second-class citizens being taken advantage of and abused by unscrupulous employers. But is the answer to keep people out altogether, holding out for true open borders some day?

Harvard economist Lant Pritchett is the author of Let Their People Come. In an interview with Kerry Howley in the February 2008 issue of Reason magazine, he addresses concerns about second-class citizens: “The world now is divided into first-class citizens of the world and fifth-class citizens of the world.” He adds that, ironically, in places like the Middle East where people are not so concerned about denying migrant workers all the benefits of citizenship, immigration is high but far less controversial. “One of the awkward paradoxes of the world is that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and Nepalis are enormously better off precisely because the Persian Gulf states don’t endow them with political rights.” [Emphasis in original.]

Internal Dissent

There are in fact some libertarians, most notably Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who argue against opening the borders to greater immigration. Hoppe has a case to make, but I don’t think it gets him nearly as far as he thinks it does. First, he points out that a truly free society would have no single, national immigration policy. Rather, the many private owners of land along the “border” would decide whom to allow onto their land, resulting in a patchwork system in which some areas would tend to restrict entry and others would throw their gates wide open. Under current conditions, though, Hoppe sees immigration as “forced integration” because, given existing anti-discrimination laws, people are forced to associate with others they might not wish to associate with. In a truly free society, people would be free to choose with whom they wanted to associate.

Until they are, however, governments should come up with second-best, least-bad national immigration policies. Hoppe argues that in order to minimize the harm to the rightful owners of the land in America (i.e., the current American population) the American government should follow a policy “of strict discrimination.” Immigrants should have “an existing employment contract with a resident citizen” and demonstrate “not only (English) language proficiency, but all-around superior (above-average) intellectual performance and character structure as well as a compatible system of values—with the predictable result of a systematic pro-European immigration bias.”

Of course, we all have an interest in keeping out hardened criminals and terrorists. The main problem I see with Hoppe’s logic, though, is that if America (or Canada) were a truly free society, many hard-working foreigners (and not necessarily Europeans or those of above-average intellect, either) would have bought into ownership of some of the land in North America. A system that tries to minimize harm to the rightful owners of the land should also minimize harm to these multitudes who would have been owners if the society were truly free. This suggests to me far more immigration than Hoppe envisions, and far more than is currently allowed into sparsely populated North America.

Slow But Sure

Lant Pritchett asserts that holding out for more sweeping change is the wrong way to go. “I think we’re going to move ahead on migration; people are going to become more and more exposed to the fact that people from other places in the world are, in very deep ways, human beings exactly like us; and eventually, in an unpredictable way, the attitude toward this will shift.” Small changes will beget more changes—with the added benefit of slower change being less disruptive for host countries.

Removing immigration restrictions, even if only a little at a time, is an excellent way to help the world’s poor. Immigrants themselves benefit, of course, but so do their families back home, through remittances. Says The Economist, “For most poor countries remittances are more valuable than aid. For many they provide more than aid and foreign direct investment combined.” And because money is remitted directly to families, it neatly sidesteps the problem of corrupt government officials siphoning off aid money to enrich themselves.

In the end, those who oppose more open borders must ask themselves by what right they would deny the freedom of movement of others? Put differently, by what right would they deny the freedom of association of those of us who want more open borders? Increased immigration would help the world’s hard-working poor, and without entailing the negative consequences we fear. But most of all, it’s just the right thing to do.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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Mainstream Economists Prove Krugman Wrong About Hayek and Mises – Article by John P. Cochran

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The New Renaissance Hat
John P. Cochran
September 13, 2013
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Paul Krugman has recently been critical of Friedman (and Phelps), the Phillips curve, and the Natural Unemployment Rate (NUR) theory in the process of arguing that due to the recent Great Recession, the accompanying financial crisis, and Bush-Obama-Fed Great Stagnation, Friedman has vanished from the policy front. Krugman makes this claim despite the fact there is an on-going vigorous debate on rules versus discretion with at least some attention to Friedman’s plucking model. While maligning Friedman’s contributions, Krugman manages a slap at Austrians and claims a renewed practical relevance for Keynes:

What I think is really interesting is the way Friedman has virtually vanished from policy discourse. Keynes is very much back, even if that fact drives some economists crazy; Hayek is back in some sense, even if one has the suspicion that many self-proclaimed Austrians bring little to the table but the notion that fiat money is the root of all evil — a deeply anti-Friedmanian position. But Friedman is pretty much absent.

The Friedman-Phelps hypothesis was the heart of the policy effectiveness debate of the 1970s and early 80s. The empirical evidence developed during the debate over the policy implications of the NUR model, at least temporally, discredited active Keynesian discretionary policy as an effective tool to reduce unemployment in the long run. One result of the debate: monetary policy appeared to improve, especially compared to the Fed’s dismal record in the late 1920s and 1930s and the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. Central banks, à la Friedman, focused on rules-based policy and inflation targeting resulting in what many, following John B. Taylor, call the Great Moderation of the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Krugman does recognize the “stagflation (of the 1970s) led to a major rethinking of macroeconomics, all across the board; even staunch Keynesians conceded that Friedman/Phelps had been right (indeed, they may have conceded too much [emphasis added]), and the vertical long-run Phillips curve became part of every textbook.”

My early work on Hayek and Keynes (see here and here) argued that this development was important, but misleading. The then current business cycle research and its newer variants could benefit from re-examining the issues at the heart of the Hayek-Keynes debate.

Money, banking, finance, and capital structure were, and still are, for the most part ignored in much of the new (post-Friedman-Phelps) macroeconomics including the new–Keynesian approaches. In this regard, Hayek (and Mises) had then, and has now, more to offer than Keynes.

Recent papers by respected mainstream economists are beginning to recognize that attention to Hayek and Mises can be useful. Guillermo Calvo of Columbia University, in a recent paper [PDF], has even gone so far as to argue, “the Austrian school of the trade cycle was on the right track” and that the Austrian School offered valuable insights and noting that:

There is a growing empirical literature purporting to show that financial crises are preceded by credit booms including Mendoza and Terrones (2008), Schularik and Taylor (2012), Agosin and Huaita (2012), and Borio (2012).

Calvo adds “[t]his was a central theme in the Austrian School of Economics.”

Claudio Borio highlights what Austrians have long argued is a key flaw in inflation-targeting or stable-money policy regimes such as many central banks either adopted or emulated during the 1980-2008 period. This flaw contributed to back-to-back boom-busts of the late 1990s and 2000s:

A monetary policy regime narrowly focused on controlling near-term inflation removes the need to tighten policy when financial booms take hold against the backdrop of low and stable inflation. And major positive supply-side developments, such as those associated with the globalisation of the real side of the economy, provide plenty of fuel for financial booms.

Borio thus recognizes that a time to mitigate a bust is (contra-Keynes) during the boom:

In the case of monetary policy, it is necessary to adopt strategies that allow central banks to tighten so as to lean against the build-up of financial imbalances even if near-term inflation remains subdued.

William R. White, another economist who has worked at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and has been influenced by Hayek, has come to similar conclusions as does Calvo, who argues “Hayek’s theory is very subtle and shows that even a central bank that follows a stable monetary policy may not be able to prevent business cycles and, occasionally, major boom-bust episodes.”

In the current environment, many, including Krugman, have argued for a higher inflation target or a higher nominal GDP target to jump start the current sluggish recovery.

Austrian business cycle theory on the other hand, as recognized by Borio and Calvo, provides analysis on why such a policy may be ineffective and if temporarily effective in the short run, harmful if not destructive, in the long run. (See here and here for more.)

An easy money and credit policy impedes necessary re-structuring of the economy and new credit creation begins a new round of misdirection of production leading to an “unfinished recession.” Calvo expounds:

Whatever one thinks of the power of the Hayek/Mises mix as a positive theory of the business cycle, an insight from the theory is that once credit over-expansion hits the real sector, rolling back credit is unlikely to be able to put “Humpty-Dumpty together again.”

It is too bad it took back-to-back harmful boom-bust cycles for the profession at large to begin to again examine Austrian insights, but it does illustrate how foolish Krugman is when he argues Austrians have nothing to bring to the table.

John P. Cochran is emeritus dean of the Business School and emeritus professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver and coauthor with Fred R. Glahe of The Hayek-Keynes Debate: Lessons for Current Business Cycle Research. He is also a senior scholar for the Mises Institute and serves on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. Send him mail. See John P. Cochran’s article archives.

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This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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How to Make a Dictator: The Latest Bizarre Rationale for Bombing Another Country – Article by Michael Nolan

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Michael Nolan
September 12, 2013
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I usually look forward to getting my copy of The Economist in the mail each week. For one thing, it draws me away from looking at various screens—at least for a few minutes each day. For another, it has a really good Science & Technology section, and some funny subhead and caption writers.

The best thing, though, is that it causes less damage when hurled against the wall than if I pulled that with my iPad. That thought occurred to me when I read the official Economist rationale for the United States to bomb the tabbouleh out of Bashar al-Assad.

Frankly, I can’t make much sense of it. But man, oh man, do they like unrestrained executive power.

“The hope is that Congress will for once put principle before partisanship and support the president,” it says. Rousing stuff—I mean, principle is one of my favorite things to put before partisanship!

It’s the “principle” that’s the problem here, though. For one thing, it’s not clear that whoever wrote this thing has any beyond the following:

  • A President should be free to make war whenever he damn well pleases.
  • America has to impose its will. Just as a general thing.
  • Once you make a threat, you have to carry through on it. (Someone’s gotta pay for the Prez’s political mistakes.)
  • America’s founders did some inspirational stuff, and the Prez needs to bomb whenever anyone disrespects it.

What could possibly go wrong?

What’s more, the writer here thinks all of us need a good pick-me-up after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and that blowing up a few parts of Syria is just the thing.

It’s curious how impatient the writer is with President Obama’s insistence on going to Congress for a rubber stamp. In fact, the entire article can be read as a love letter to executive authority. Check this out: “Whether Syria was a vital American interest before this attack was debatable, but not after Mr Assad’s direct challenge to Mr Obama’s authority,” it says.

Or this: “The executive needs to be agile and quick when dealing with the world. The president sometimes needs to take hard and unpopular decisions. Mr Obama insists that his choice to consult the legislature does not curtail that freedom.”

Heaven forbid the President’s authority or freedom face any restrictions.

It gets even more mind-boggling. Later on in the same issue, a writer notes that Obama, by opposing the Iraq war (and not being totally on board, way back then, with Dick Cheney’s version of the War on Terror), won a Nobel Prize “without trying.” It’s a funny line. It makes me wonder, though, if a magazine can somehow have an aneurysm from time to time.

It’s not that I want all the writers in a magazine to agree with one another—that’s not journalism, that’s a party newsletter. But the same publication put the headline “Liberty’s Lost Decade” on the cover a couple weeks ago. Inside, they catalogued the endless abuses of the U.S. government since it, you know, lied its way to Baghdad.

So they should be well acquainted with the effects of unlimited power, especially during wartime. Why, then, turn around and advocate for war because otherwise the allegedly most powerful office in the world might face limits to its power? Makes me think the editorial meetings go something like this.

The main argument I hear elsewhere in support of bombing Syria boils down to Bashar al-Assad being too much of a bastard not to be bombed. The videos of the victims of his sarin attacks are gruesome. It’s inhumane not to want to strike, right?

But this line of thinking is so absurd it’s difficult to know where to begin. When they started raining down on Baghdad, the bombs were a bunch of duds, failing to deliver either shock or awe. Now, if they rain down on Damascus, they’re delivering … what, encouragement? A “hang in there, champ” to everyone stuck in the middle of the civil war? Admittedly, I don’t keep up on military kit, but I thought when they called them “smart bombs,” it meant they went to the right place, not that their hearts were already there. The Economist’s editorial writer at least has the decency to spare us this line.

Instead, we get some good old-fashioned Cold War realpolitik, talking about Obama going to Congress to “dip Republican hands in the blood,” and then saying this: “The international arena is inherently anarchic. Only laws and treaties that are enforced impose any order. By being the world’s policeman, America can shape the rules according to its own interests and tastes.”

That’s no more appealing, but far more honest. It’s a shame it has to come muddled with talk of “America’s values,” let alone the line, “Mr. Obama is not about to invade,” right in the middle of talk about the need to strike quickly now so another dictator knows how much of a bastard he can be before he loses a palace or two. Apparently, the air strike is meant to be purely symbolic (tell that to the folks killed as collateral damage; not everyone the air strikes kill is going to be a bad guy). But somehow it’s also meant to make, say, Kim Jong-Un let his hair down and start clearing out his gulags.

I confess, I’m just taking shots in the dark at this point, because the more I reread this thing, the less sense it makes. They mention the damage done to America’s brand by Dubya’s imperial overreach. Then they prescribe what could charitably be described as “Imperial Extension.” Because we have a “good” excuse, and we’re the world’s policeman. Because of the international interests of our rulers. Because the Constitution. And Western values. And America, and stuff.

Your guess is as good as mine.

There might have been a time when a country might, periodically, not have been at war. Even this country has taken the occasional breather. If that’s ever to become possible again, choosing not to make war certainly must be one of the prerequisites. But apparently not only is that option not on the table, but the nation also needs a commander-in-chief who’ll at least shoot off a few tomahawks whenever something unpleasant enough is happening somewhere. Pausing to speak to other members of the ruling class—let alone the people in whose names the bombing would allegedly be done—just gets in the way of that. Apparently, the world needs an American president who will brook no opposition to war-making.

That doesn’t sound like a way to bring down a dictator. It sounds like swapping one in Syria for a series of them closer to home.

Michael Nolan is the managing editor of The Freeman

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.
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