Evidence Of Control

Unfortunately the linked article is behind a $30 paywall, so we will merely content ourselves with speculation beyond the excerpt that Caplan provides.

One is tempted to pass the time with a nice game of killswitch.

UPDATE: ungated version here (.doc format)! No need to immerse ones self in a bleak communist expressionist wholly apocryphal game!

You won’t find a simpler description of why anarchism is morally mandatory than this.  It’s a somewhat schematic argument, but it neatly frames the question that freedom asks and authority must (and in my view cannot) answer.

"it’s a moral illusion we’re suffering from.”

I continue to think that anarchism has difficult questions of social technology to answer (David Friedman notwithstanding, we are a long way from finishing R&D on the “machinery of freedom”).  But this should be viewed as part of the long quest embarked on by the Enlightenment to bring our social means into alignment with our moral ends — the single most morally urgent task that has ever existed.

The Unintended Consequences of Intention

Patri “The Craziest Friedman Yet” Friedman recently tossed up a post titled "The San Francisco Bay Area Survival Guide" which, apart from reminding me how happy I am to be in Boston, contained this little gem:

Intention, n. Your purpose, stated at the beginning of any endeavor, in order to free yourself from the responsibility of the consequences.
Example in conversation:
“I let you crash on my couch and you went and slept with my boyfriend and my therapist.”
“That wasn’t my intention.”

This more or less exactly sums up my view of intention, and of the increasingly hilarious notion of “unintended consequences”.

Every time some political time bomb blows up, predictably, from some past policy error, the response is always to characterize the outcome as an “unintended consequence.” There are a number of theoretical problems here (eg, is it even meaningful to speak of the intention of a political process? Surely if Arrow and Chomsky both agree that good intentions are not a property of states, should we not agree with those odd bedfellows? What if different members of a political coalition wanted different things?) that already justify shunning any media outlet that drags out this old trope. But all of that leaves untouched the underlying notion: That it even makes sense to treat a foreseeable outcome of a voluntary action as “unintended”.

In fact, I will be stronger. “A reasonably foreseeable result of a voluntary choice” is the best available definition of “intended consequence”. To say otherwise is to give intention an independent existence apart from actual human conduct that is not merely ridiculous but dangerous.

Moral choice is not an a la carte business. We do not get to choose, “oh, I will intend to take Bob’s laptop, but not intend to steal from Bob.” We do not allow people to say, “I shall detonate a bomb into this neighborhood, but only intend to kill the bad people there.” Is the intent there that the laws of physics should be suspended, or the laws of logic? To treat reasoning without consequences as legitimate intent is to give too much credit by far to self-deluding casuistry.

It is true that there is a substantial specialist literature derived largely from a Catholic doctrine of “double effect” that is based on allowing people to pick which consequences of an act they will intend, and that among other things the laws of war are wholly predicated on this odd little quirk. But specialists will have their own jargons (my speciality, for instance, insists that “architect” and “platform” can be verbs); if they want to use “intent” in a way that allows them to “intend” incomplete, inconsistent, or incoherent worlds, the least they can do is avoid polluting the public discourse with this slavish nonsense.

Will Wilkinson, reliably interesting, is interesting again. I am absolutely fascinated by all things Haidt, and the “default” view Wilkinson is investigating is one of the most important abstract questions of our time.

Even if you like me believe that the moral intuition is a useful but flawed tool which we must recalibrate though philosophical reflection, and that its “default” setting is largely morally uninteresting, knowing more about that default will help us know which areas of moral reasoning will be easier or harder to drum into our moral intuitions.

This, gentlemen, is how you defend the state against anarchism.  An argument along these lines is why I am not always a consistent anarchist (although, it being Tuesday as I write this, I am at the moment; I am always an anarchist on Tuesdays).  The medium-term future features the state as a central figure, and even if that state is regarded as some sort of morally neutral natural disaster it is still incumbent on us to figure out what to do with it.

If you only ever read one thing about neoconservatism, it should be this; I have my quibbles (Thompson is addicted to the scare-quote) but on the whole I would go even further.

Thompson pulls back from linking neoconservatism either to the practice of popular history or to fascism.  I would do both: the national greatness, divine-right-of-executives view is exactly the view of popular historians, as evinced in the eternal recurrance of “historians rank the best president” polls; the view of fascism as starting with race-hate and devolving to permanent war-and-debt nationalism might well be an historical accident, as in the modern state cause and effect are more likely to run quite the other way.

Yeah, what he said.

If I ever need a terse explanation of the Mill-and-Weber model of liberal state legitimacy, here it is in a nutshell.  That it motivates a lucid demarcation between public- and private-sector unions is just gravy.

A very succinct statement of the problem.  I very much hope that the eventual book will deal seriously with the literature on voluntary and polycentric legal orders, since Schneier is a first-rate thinker and I am eager to see him break some new ground on these issues.

Not quite consciously, but in the back of their minds, Europeans felt that they had tried both politics and religion, and neither would work…there was no justice to be had from the law. The attitude is legitimate as a starting point for inquiry, but rationally it should lead to an examination of the existing system of law and the proper axioms of law, a course which was to be pursued subsequently with useful results.
Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine, 1943