29 November 2006

Panorama Puritans

Never mind 'Auntie', the BBC should be nicknamed 'Nanny' (or perhaps the less cuddly 'Authoritarian Socialists') after broadcasting this tripe. The Panorama program that I am referring too was 'investigating' the world of online gambling. Now there was so much bias, underhand implicating and misinformation going on it would be hard to describe it all in one blog post, but I shall try and give you a flavour. My specific problem was with the handling of poker, although the more general stance of the program makers was clearly at odds with any kind of libertarian or even generally liberal attitude to the law.
First online poker was described in it's basic workings, along with some examples of the people who make money playing as a living and those with enough business acumen to take advantage of the potential of online poker. Then suddenly these were juxtaposed with a woman who had gambled away thousands of pounds of other people's money on the horses. Now clearly we are supposed to infer that this is the 'dark side' of online gambling, which it could arguably be, but what it is clearly not is the 'dark side' of poker. Whatever else one may think of gambling, the particular game of poker has a certain degree of skill, otherwise there could be no consistent winners.* Incidentally, even this biased broadcast left you with no doubt that there were winning poker players, so how it could brazenly equate that with the fleeting luck of a not-too-bright woman betting on the gee-gees, then losing it all, is beyond me. Horse race betting is specifically tailored to make sure bookies come out ahead; poker is a game between players who are on a level playing field. The house does not take players bets directly; it merely charges them to play at their tables, a perfectly equitable arrangement.
The other point that particularly grated was the way the program portrayed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (the USA passed recently) as some sort of pure moral crusade against 'evil' poker. If that were really true why are fantasy sports and horse racing exempt?
Finally the program went into overdrive to hammer home how terrible online poker was. This was done by the presenter telling his resident poker pro to play way above his bankroll (i.e. to play at tables where he could wager all the money he had on one had), predictably enough he lost it all. If the program had really been interested in helping people avoid trouble would it not have been sensible to at least mention bankroll management in passing? In fact I am almost as annoyed at the poker pro for not pointing out that this is nothing like how he plays poker, but then he was probably having a laugh at the earnest presenter's expense.
To the BBC, you stop thieving my money, I might just listen to your advice on what to do with my earnings, although considering this effort, I doubt it.
*It is theoretically possible that winning poker players are simply statistical anomalies, but I would be willing to make bet (somewhat ironically) that their number, consistency and success rate makes it highly improbable that their winning is pure luck.

17 November 2006

RIP Milton Friedman

A great man who clearly changed the world for the better. To my mind he did not quite go far enough in his pursuit of freedom, but if the world now turns to the ideas of his sons, Milton will have done another great service to humanity from beyond the veil.

My sincere condolences to David and Patri for their great personal loss.

24 October 2006

Greenpeace want you to turn ALL the lights out

I notice Greenpeace are up in arms because the Queen (or whoever advises her) wants to light the Palace so that the tourists and see it better in the gloomy evenings of a British winter. Now I have no fervent opinion either way, it seems their business what they light up (with the usual proviso of not using my money to do it of course). What I don't understand is where Greenpeace draws their line in the sand? For example they say the palace will be "lit up like Blackpool Tower", that implies a certain frivolity about the lighting, but does that mean they don't think Blackpool Tower should be lit either? How far do we go, at what stage is lighting permitted? Football games seem to use a hell of a lot of electric light, maybe we should force them to only play on sunny days? I certainly hope the Greenpeace office isn't open outside of daylight hours, although no doubt they think their logically inconsistent outpourings are worthy of electric lighting.

'Natural Rights' are ultimately foundationalist

Johan at frimarknadsanarkist has an old essay Rights Do Not Exist on ASC. Unfortunately the subsequent comment thread seemed to descend into people ranting about how not believing in 'natural' rights meant you want to kill babies and the usual non-sequiturs!

However, an interesting question is what exactly natural rights sympathisers mean when they use the term rights. I think they are correct in saying it is more than mere approval or disapproval, maybe it is just a 'right-for' as someone mentioned in that thread. In this case it comes down to your ends and as I have argued before, ancap is about means not ends. So although 'natural righters' generally have similar ends to me (i.e. individual freedom) which generates similar 'natural rights' to the preferences I hold, ultimately their 'rights' are still ends based and categorically not universal.

It was also admitted in that thread that virtually all, if not all, argument about positive principles rests on shakey ontological grounds. Now this is fine for a non-rights inter-subjectivist ethical system, but is highly problematic for a foundationalist system of natural rights as we have the same old problem of no universally agreed foundation or even definition of the problem.

19 October 2006

It's quite simple really

"Ethics is in origin the art of recommending to others the sacrifices required for cooperation with oneself."

Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)
A Free Man’s Worship and Other Essays, ch. 6 (1976).

17 October 2006

What's so natural about rights?

As an anarcho-capitalist I do not hold with the idea of a positive right, in that such a right automatically entails the bondage of the individual to the collective. However, I am now also beginning to doubt the usefulness of trying to argue from negative rights, this is partly because it seems to create situations where negative rights suggest one course of action whilst the would be adherent of negative rights prefers another course of action (suggesting that the negative rights have somehow broken down in the particular instance). It is also because in situations where we do want the effect of negative rights, we can eliminate the need for 'rights'. An example of this is your right not to be killed, surely this is equivalent to the lack of anyone else with the right to kill you. I think this line of reasoning can lead to an non-rights based explanation for why anarcho-capitalism is the preferable system for the general furthering of individual goals.

This article, A Positive Account of Property Rights, by David Friedman, led me to thinking that maybe rights (or more specifically 'natural rights') are actually problematic for a systematic description of the basis for anarcho-capitalism. Rights are still talked about here, but they are specifically contractual, not philosophical. This then explains their origin and integrates them into a more evolutionary system, which has the potential to deal with the ambiguity apparent in philosophical systems of rights and ethics.

16 October 2006

A lady with your drink?

Well, I haven't been pouring over many dusty library economics books recently, instead my girl and I have been experiencing the more glamourous side of London nightlife. After much drama (including my girlfriend trekking over to the venue) we managed to get tickets to see Dita Von Teese at London's Koko Club, a show which had sold out in hours rather than days. Apparently it was her first performance in Britain since 1998. Interestingly we later saw tickets on Ebay going for as much as £255 a piece! (There's some economics for you - supply and demand, there was a hell of a lot of demand and very little supply!).

Unfortunately when we got there the queue was round the block and unless you were one of the first in you got to see nothing. Fortunately, a quiet word in a few ears got us into the VIP lounge (with other such notables as Amy Winehouse & Gary Kemp, who we think was standing next to us, but to be honest wasn't as interesting as the spectacle on stage) where the view was far superior and a stroll to a virtually empty bar, much more civilised.

I'm not sure how you review a show involving a scantily clad woman splashing about in an oversized champagne glass, but if you get the chance to see her (and it may mean a street brawl for a ticket) I'd recommend it. The main impression I took away from the performance is of someone who is able to look glamourous, amusing and alluring without looking trashy - a character that many of todays 'celebrities' clearly find painfully difficult to achieve.


Dita Von Teese

11 September 2006

Back to the future

Well, at least back to what I would consider the present, in that we finally have broadband in the new flat. I was actually surprised how much I have come to rely on always accessible internet and I imagine I (and others) will only get more so when internet access is widespread on mobile phones. It is basically that the internet provides such a huge quantity of instantly accessible information. To inquisitive minds this is a positive boon. Although much of what I look up is no doubt trivia, there is still a substantial amount of serious knowledge that I would either not have discovered or taken longer to discover were it not fot the internet.

06 July 2006

An apt acronym

"...has anyone ever noticed that The War Against Terrorism is never abbreviated as TWAT?"

'baggy' @ bash.org

03 July 2006

A new start

Well, leading on from me claiming to have another life offline, I have found myself a new job! Oddly enough the interview seemed to be going the worst out of all the interviews I have been to (although obviously I failed to get offered the previous jobs) and yet they offered me the job on the spot. I probably should have been more composed than I was, but they rather caught me by surprise! The salary was excellent though and the job certainly looks interesting, so I think I may well have landed on my feet. My girlfriend has also got herself a new job that sounds like it could offer her a lot of opportunities, especially the potential for travel, something she is keen to do more of. So, after a rather stagnant period since we both wrapped up our long-winded educations, it seems like it is finally onward and upward.
It is instructive to look back at how both my girlfriend and I arrived at this point in our careers. From my perspective I would advise any graduate to pick who they work for as carefully as possible, with a mind to where they want their career to go in the future. This is to avoid finding yourself drifting into a career path that fails to motivate or excite you. From my girlfriend's perspective, I think she would advise caution in pursuing post-graduate qualifications, they may not necessarily lead you where you initially thought they would. That is not to say that such qualifications will not give you an edge in the job market or allow you to aquire tremendous knowledge, they will. It is to say that such knowledge comes at a high price; it requires a strength of commitment unlikely to be reached by those who are either not interested enough in the subject or who are merely using the qualification as a means rather than an end in itself.
Perhaps I am idealistic, I still think there are intellectual, as well as financial, rewards in the pursuit of knowledge and work.

23 June 2006

Another two kinds of people

Statements starting with 'There are only two kinds of people in this world...' have become a bit of a cliche, but I think the following binary view is still worth considering. The opposition I speak of is between those for whom justice resides in ends and those for whom justice resides in the means. It is an insight that has no doubt been expanded on in depth elsewhere and I hope to do some more research when I have some spare time, but even in its basic form I think it is key to much of the conflict of ideologies.
If it is not immediately apparent, Anarcho-Capitalism is predicated on justice residing in the means used, not the ends, one of it's chief observations being that people hold varying, often incompatible ends. Once this is understood, it is immediately apparent that any ideology that holds the ends as its justification must necessarily be coercive, as the justified end will have to be forced upon those who do not agree with it. This is an essential aspect of collectivism of all types, social conservatives and puritans fall prey to this thinking as much as the run-of-the-mill socialist.
I suspect the majority of people do not base their thinking strictly on one or the other approach, but rather stick to non-coercive means for the most part, whilst turning to coercion for an end they particularly value. Unfortunately in a democracy this means that for any given issue there is always someone who believes the ends justify the means, and they tend to be the ones 'shouting the loudest'.*

13 June 2006

iQuote of the day

doktorschadenfreude said...

"Apple stores are for people who think Gattaca represented a perfect utopian future (apart from the bitter cripple and genetically impure dude)."

via Idiot Toys

18 May 2006

Going Postal

So, the British government has decided to bail out the PO's pension scheme to the tune of £1.75 billion. This is the same Post Office we are told is moving with the times, upgrading, even turning a profit. Odd how a (basically state backed) company can claim to be turning a profit whilst simultaneously requiring subsidies. However, this bail out is not the truely ingenious part, no that comes with the regulatory body who, in their wisdom, have fixed the price of stamps and hence stripped the Post Office of their ability to set prices in line with their own costs and the market. So the end result is that, to save some money on the cost of stamps, everybody's taxes go up (or at least are diverted from other areas).
Now, I by no means defend the Post Office, if it's management have got into a situation where the PO will either go bankrupt from the pensions black hole or have to raise prices so much that it will go out of business anyway, then so be it. If a company is inefficient it should fail and it's competitors take over, fixing prices and subsidising is a gross distortion of the free market and, regardless of any perceived short term gains, will always lead to worse results in the long run.

11 May 2006

Chomksy - Oxymoron incarnate

What is it about those on the 'left', who claim to be libertarians, to offer people freedom, that invariably translates into calls for the creation of the most illiberal, corporatist, unaccountable, transnational bodies? Well, at least this comment gives us a name these so-called defenders of our rights can rally around:


Chomsky should start his own political party some day. He could call it "Anarchists for World Government".

Posted by: Steve Edwards

May 11, 2006 at 06:56 AM

09 May 2006

For Update's sake

It seems clear that to get a committed readership for a blog, one needs to update on a regular basis, probably daily if not more. This is quite a commitment for the lone blogger who has a life as well (believe it or not I do) and I have started to think that as the blogosphere develops it will be the team blogs that survive the test of time. I think a blog needs a certain momentum, once this has occured the regular commenters reinforce the main posts of the blog. Maybe this blog will achieve that momentum if I post more regularly, perhaps shorter more frequent posts? Or perhaps I should get my own team? After the short time I have been blogging I now see why so many blogs end up abandoned, something I will make every attempt not to do, especially since I think in general blogs are far more interesting than static websites.

11 April 2006

Sblargh

I've added Sblargh to my links, unfortunately for me the site is in Portuguese, which I can't read, but it needs to be there if for no other reason than quotes like these:

"I like the lazy more than the incompetent, at least lazy people achieve their objectives."

I like this guy!

07 April 2006

My, that's an offensive weapon, that is!

A couple of days ago the BBC news ran a piece about the ridiculous proposal to have airport style scanners at all train stations. In support of the argument for the scanners the BBC refered back to the purported vast numbers of knifes the police have confiscated from the general public in the past. In part of the film the police displayed the fruits of their policy to 'protect the public'*. In amongst the assorted collection of penknifes and the odd flick knife, a knife not dissimilar to the following one was on show:

Palette Knife
Good work chaps.

*Pull that off. My, that's an offensive weapon, that is.

30 March 2006

Blog VS MSM showdown

Help this guy out by completing his questionaire (every one loves random surveys don't they?). He is examining the influence of 'journalistic blogs' (which I think he basically defines as blogs with news content as opposed to personal content etc.) compared to the MSM. Sounds like an interesting undergrad project, hopefully he will publish his results in the blogosphere!

27 March 2006

Any excuse for a new terrorcrat

Hat tip to my girlfriend for noticing this one; now that Scotland has introduced a smoking ban in public* places it suddenly needs a vast army of 'smoking enforcement officers'. From the TV report on these officers it appears that these new state employees warrant fancy business suits and have to operate in pairs (and I doubt it is two for the price of one!). So yet again 'public health' is a convenient excuse for the state employing ever more non-workers and placing ever greater strain on the productive sector. It is amazing that that Edinburgh City Council has trouble emptying the bins or maintaining the streets, but it can afford to divert vast resources into stopping people lighting up.
Just another day in the life of the state.
*I say public, but it is obviously a pretty incoherent definition of public that includes privately owned businesses.

13 March 2006

Morons abound

It makes one wonder at the general intellectual prowess of the people of Great Britain when reading letters to a broadsheet newspaper that contain statements as inane as the following: that the airline industry;

"receives enormous subsidies by escaping tax and VAT on fuel."

You, sir are officially moron of the day.

Thank goodness the government gives me such a massive subsidy, what with letting me keep half my wages and all. I feel rather nauseous.

03 March 2006

The forbidden fruit

Apple do not seem keen on filling you (or more precisely your ipod) up with musical goodness, at least not if their pricing policy is anything to go by. From this article at The Register, Jim Griffin, former director of Geffen's technology group points out:

"It costs $20,000 to fill an iPod from iTunes Music Store."

So, yet another good reason not to use Apple's proprietary software or hardware, that combined with the reasons alluded to in this post about leftie ipod owners over at AngloAustria. I'd note that my comment about socialists (at least in places like the UK) being seen to be cool rather than being rational is not quite correct, as pointed out, I should have said they are rational in-so-far as acheiving their aim of looking cool, rather than my prefered aim of buying an mp3 player that is actually good at playing music (good battery life, simple interface, good sound quality, etc). Anyway, I will be sticking with my stylish Antec encased PC and my glowing Creative Zen thanks all the same Apple!

24 February 2006

Makes your skin crawl...

George Monbiot is hardly my favourite columnist, but this article just goes to prove the old adage that a stopped watch is right twice a day. Monbiot cites the introduction of subcutaneous implants as a security measure and then looks out how this rapidly advancing technology could become widespread in current situations where people are tracked (i.e. mental health facilities, hospitals, the military, etc.). His main point is that these types of uses for tracking implants will not be objected to, people will probably accept them in these situations without complaint, even if they are not compulsory.

The fact that all this is not particularly objectionable in and of itself is paradoxically the most worrying aspect of such developments. How long before states see the potential in this technology? How long before babies are tagged in hospital, ostensibly to prevent kidnapping and the like, but where function creep rapidly expands the system's scope - preventing truancy at school perhaps? Eventually with so many young adults having grown up with such implants making them mandatory will no longer be politically difficult and we will have sleepwalked into the ultimate Orwellian state.

Paranoid? Perhaps. Yet we see how hard the government twists and turns to introduce ID cards and to be honest most of the opposition is due to cost rather than principle. What if your "citizen tag" was cheap, easy to use and you were virtually unaware of it, I'm not sure those of us concerned with liberty will be pleased with the number of people who are fundamentally opposed to the state tracking and controlling our lives.

06 January 2006

Should food be free on eating?

Miss Sudha Shenoy comments on this post about the NHS at the Adam Smith Institute Blog;

1. “They are making huge savings...” Where? Where? Who benefits from these so-called ‘savings’? Have taxes been reduced?
You are not suggesting we should take money out of the NHS? The horror of it! You have to remember who the NHS is for, it has to think of the interests of it's employees first, obviously. Thus any surplus will naturally be consumed by increased salaries, especially of those smart civil servants who helpfully unburdened the government of the responsibility of healthcare (the private sector is always a good scapegoat when things go wrong), whilst simultaneously retaining control of the money and expanding the complexity of the bureaucracy required to manage these 'partnerships'.

2. “Taxpayers’ funds should be spent on cost-effective health care..” How cost-effective—when that same taxpayer simply stumps up whatever suppliers charge? Taxpayers don’t go bankrupt from unwise buying.
So elementary, and yet a fact that seems to escape the majority of people. Government cannot do cost accounting, ever, at all. It has no feedback mechanism for evaluating cost effectiveness as it is an enforced monopoly supplier.

3. Why not provide supermarkets on the same principle? The state pays all grocery bills, but the market provides the groceries. Surely this would result in cost-effective supply of groceries—wouldn’t it?
Because food isn't essential... uh... no... I'm confused! Socialism must be a synonym of cognitive dissonance.

A stronger point the statists might make would be to note that healthcare is essentially a service based on insurance (i.e. often costly treatment is required for short, unpredictable periods, whilst there may be long periods where no healthcare is required), thus they could try and make a case for compulsory insurance, arguing that without compulsion people would underestimate the costs and risk and fail to protect themselves adequately. However, even given this thesis (one which I would also contest, for reasons I will not go into right now) , the argument only goes that far and no further, giving no reason why any services should be directly run by the state. Indeed that state would only be requiring and monitoring insurance contributions.

However my digression is moot, the Adam Smith Institute is not arguing that the state should merely ensure individuals provide for their own health or even that it should subsidise the poor's healthcare insurance. The user of healthcare services will not benefit from "choice and the competition between new, diverse providers" if these services are still funded and administered through central government. The Adam Smith Institute is essentially arguing that the state should continue to control and administer healthcare from the centre, a dangerous line of thinking that has exactly the same repercussions as Miss Shenoy implies it would have (and has had) in relation to food production; at the minimum creating artificial shortages, as already occur, and potentially far worse. One need only look to the biggest famines in history - oddly enough a result of centrally planning and controlling food production.

Maybe this is a position that the Adam Smith Institute believes is pragmatic in the current politcal climate and, if it was their decision, would ultimately welcome wholesale privatisation of healthcare provision in the UK. One can only hope.