Friday, 22 January 2010

Common Sense and Pragmatism

Samizdata have and interesting post up about the different approaches that Pragmatism and Common Sense, (as they label them), provide.

Pragmatism can be summed up as the "win at all costs" approach so often adopted by those who advocate grand solutions to problems. They see no problem with lying or forcing people to act against their own interests because the goal is, like, sooooo important. In other words, in pursuit of an end that is sufficiently important, the means can come from any circle of hell you choose to name and that's just dandy.

The Common Sense approach on the other hand is that not only must the ends justify the means because its wrong to act otherwise but that this approach is more effective. Not only are most people drawn to "decent" behaviour but as the Climategate debacle showed, when the foundations of your argument are dodgy people become very dubious of anything you have to say.

I'm sure you can see which style of argument the libertarian and statist tend to use. Though to be fair there is probably as much structural bias built in as anything else. Try using arguments from authority on Libertarians and you will swiftly have your arse handed to you, for the statist arguments from authority are the natural way of things even if they tend to see themselves as the one in authority.

There are those, Perry in the comments for instance, who are tempted to adopt some the tactics from the "pragmatic" approach, (though I don't know exactly what he is proposing), but I would caution against this. The pragmatic approach, particularly in these days of mass interactive communication, is eventually counter productive. Regardless of the truth of the matter, (I have no idea but doubt anyone else does either), the IPCC is now known as a a bunch of lying fucks and few of the public will pay them much attention in future. Tempting as it may be, the problem with using the devils tactics is that you become just like him and that is not only wrong in principle but will ensure we lose the argument.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Smoking day 3

Irritable. Irritable, easily distracted, suffering terrible insomnia and having the constant, (and I do mean constant), feeling that I'm due to light up any second.

On the other hand, I do feel more energetic, my clothes no longer smell of fags and I haven't actually stabbed anyone despite terrible temptations to do so.

Part of my dastardly plan to get healthy involves taking up exercise again and I think I've found the very thing, the gentleman's martial art, the most famous exponent of which was a certain Mr Holmes, Bartitsu:

Copy of Montage.jpg

I have been fortunate enough to find a course starting in a few weeks time, (unlikely as it may seem, I am being entirely truthful about this), and I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Nonsense from Brown

Broon has announced that flights from Yemen to the UK will be banned and that a "watch list" and a "no fly list" will be put together.

Quick questions:

The UK is a global travel hub, how the cock is stopping people flying in from one country going to prevent terrorists from travelling to the UK by another route?

These lists will be put together from existing lists held by the security services so how will they be in any way different? Was the previous list called the "people we know are terrorists but aren't going to do anything about" list or is this just security theatre waffle for the retarded?

When will Gordon Brown fuck off and die? It really can't happen soon enough.

Smoking day 2

Had one cig yesterday which may not sound like a great start but is radically different from the normal situation.

I have Boots NicAssist 2mg gum for those points where the craving get too bad. They taste a bit better than the ones I tried a few years ago, (I think they soak the little bastards in peppermint oil), but the aftertaste is just how I imagine the contents of an elderly badger's bladder to roll across the tongue.

No fags for me at all today and I really, really don't want to have to have any more badger piss.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Having smoked very happily for about 15 years, fags and I have reached the point of departure. I'm giving up, not because I no longer enjoy them, nor because of the governments ever more insane anti smoking propaganda.

The reason is that I've been ill on and off for the last couple of months with epidiymo orchitis, (very much on the not at all fun side of illness), and I need to get healthy enough that the bloody infection doesn't keep coming back. I know the smoking is not directly related, but if I'm going significantly raise my fitness levels it's got to go.

So I quit in sadness rather than zeal, annoyed that my body seems incapable of putting up with the fun I have selected for it. The only consolations are that I will be donating less to the treasury and I'll be fighting against the smoking ban from a position that appears less self interested.

Tea & Sophistry

A new blog and a new start.

My old blog, Don't Set Fire to Your Jacket, was always intended to be somewhat experimental and my posting was sufficiently haphazard as to prevent it getting far off the ground.

The intentions I start this blog with are:

At least two posts a day.

Remaining acerbic but a bit less ranty.

Include some posts about things other than politics, (the "try to get a life" clause).

We'll, (assuming some readers turn up sooner or later), see how it goes and in the mean time I'll get the tea on:

If anyone knows where you can get hold of Boh Tea in the UK please do tell. The pot of it I had at the plantation in the Cameron Highlands, ( below), was one of the best of my life, (might be due to the influence of sitting in a pretty place with a beautiful Mexican girl).

Monday, 18 January 2010

She who entangles men*

Via the lovely Bella we have the gibberings of Cass Sunstein.

"What is unreasonable and, in fact, preposterous is the all-too-familiar conservative rhetoric that flatly opposes individual liberty to the government power to tax and spend. You cannot be for rights and against government because rights are meaningless unless enforced by government."

What is Cass saying here? Well firstly, he claims a large proportion of US conservatives would like to, or at least claim to want to, see the government destroyed in it's entirety in order to preserve liberty.

If only, bonkers idea as it may be it would be wonderful to have such pressure in that direction, the phrase "Beacon of Liberty" springs to mind from this side of the Atlantic. Sadly, this is not the case, conservatives in the US seem to want a great deal of government in their lives albeit for different purposes and possibly slightly less of it than the left.

Secondly he makes a classic lefty logical fallacy:

A is bad, B purports to solve A, therefore if you do not support B then you must want A and be evil.

Guess where you'll be come the revolution? Eh comrade!

Applying that to Cass' statement; the loss of rights is bad, (note the crossover from liberty to rights as if these were exactly equivalent), government purports to protect these rights, therefore you must support the government.

You'll notice there is no consideration that there could be any other support for liberty than "THE GOVERNMENT" and when it comes to Cass that's no great shock:

"Most rights are funded by taxes, not by fees. This is why the overused distinction between "negative" and "positive" rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty, free exercise of religion--just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps--are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being."

This failure to see the difference between positive and negative rights leads inexorably to Cass' warped conclusion on the necessity and extent required of government power. Negative rights, liberties as they are otherwise known, requires very little of government. A minarchist state could comfortably guarantee them, indeed that is the point of having such a state. Positive rights, aka large demands on other's resources backed up by force, require more government. Not as much as we currently have but mission creep and bureaucratic empire building will tend to cause very large government.

However, could it be that Cass has got his central point right? Is the distinction we make between positive and negative rights mere sophistry, (what do you mean "mere"? Ed), given that even negative rights seem to work better with some governmental structure? Well, let's hear from Cass once more:

"What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy
theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counter speech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions."

Gosh, what a stunning shock this is. Cass is advocating the interference with negative rights by, surprise surprise, the government, the very body that he believes is the only protection for those rights. This is the problem with powerful government, the problem with any massive accumulation of power; power tends to corrupt. The government's motivation is to look after those who are part of the government before and above anyone else and if it decides to trample your liberties beneath it's sandalled feet then there is very little to stop it from doing so.

Here then is our distinction, only government can enforce positive rights, only the people can prevent that same government from destroying liberty.

*If you thought the title was odd it's because Cass is a girl's name, derived from Kassandra the meaning of which is the title.