Thursday, May 26, 2005

Swanson Libertarian Blog Emergency!!

Read here and follow the advice to hook a brother up. Poor student Timmy needs a bit of financial help to keep his blog alive. I already gave him my two cents, so I think I'm covered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Gil's 12 books

Pretend not to notice that there are two entries for number 2.

I apologize for giving in to the blog meme making the rounds, which suggests that I should list the twelve most influential books in my life. Wow -- what a tall order! I will try.

Unlike some men without hobbies, I have several major interests in my life, and I shall endeavor to cover a few of them. But left out are: gardening, winemaking, languages (especially Esperanto), rhetoric/persuasion, logic, grammar, and everything to do with my children (theories of homeschooling, phonics, math for kids, history for kids, and so on). I have tried to make this chronological.

I have provided some commentary, but I will leave others with none.

1. Commodore 64 User Manual. I was born at the right time. For my 13th birthday (1983), I got a Commodore 64. In those days, computers were simple enough that you could program them right out of the box by reading the user manual, and a text-only game was really exciting to show friends and relatives -- even amazing. This manual taught me BASIC. I am convinced that all those late nights and long weekends of programming and swapping programs with my friends developed my ability to think logically. It is in this way that I am somewhat persuaded that instruction in computer languages can supplant to some degree the instruction of natural languages. When before one learned the logic of the grammar of another natural language, now one can learn the syntax of a computer language and struggle with telling the computer exactly what you want it to do. This book put me on the long road to Numerical Recipes in C, which I enjoyed reading in graduate school in much the same way as my first computer manual.

Besides my computer, my first intellectual interest in life was spiritual. I read about all sorts of stuff: Tarot cards and Zen Buddhism, I read the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita -- all wasted, I guess, on an adolescent mind. When I was younger (11 and 12) I attended the Lotus Center and studied meditation. However, what blew me away when I was 16 years old was L. Ron Hubbard. I eventually read all of his 22 basic books on Dianetics and Scientology and took several courses. I am no longer a scientologist in the active sense, but I hold in high regard many of the methods of personal improvement scientologists and dianeticists use. Most important for me were:

2. Fundamentals of Thought by L. Ron Hubbard. I thought of using this slot for Science of Survival, but FoT is where I picked up the idea that my potential for understanding and application of ideas is unlimited. While I may be of finite "intelligence" (what Murray and Hernstein refer to in The Bell Curve as 'g'), any normal person, with the right dedication, can wrap their brain around any idea formed by another man, and learn to apply it. This is an interesting and important point, not central to the book in question, but it was a watershed for me: it is an open invitation to reach for the stars. Zig Ziglar no longer seems so wacky. I really can do whatever I put my mind to.

2. An Introduction to Scientology Ethics by L. Ron Hubbard. A book that I recommend even today. I don't quite know how to describe it. It's not about ethics like Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is. It's a book about how to create and maintain integrity in your ethical relations with individuals and groups with which you are affiliated. I've never seen another book that even comes close to this topic.

3. The Student Hat. This is a Scientology course on how to learn and how to study. I finally took the course while a sophomore in college, summer of 1991. There are many derivative books on this now. The thrust of the course is to become familiar with and to learn to avoid and overcome the 3 barriers to study: misunderstood words, too steep a gradient, and lack of mass. This has helped me to be an excellent student in all of my endeavors.

It took quite a bit of effort for me to decide between majoring in Theater or Chemical Engineering. I went with chemical engineering. It was there that I found:

4. Thermodynamics. By now, I have many books on thermodynamics, and the particular author of the first book which I read is immaterial. The ideas in this course were mind-blowing. Finally understanding how energy and heat interplay, how steam cycles and refrigeration cycles work, and how to calculate their performance was empowering and exhiliarating.

During a summer internship at Shell Oil in Houston, I also took:

5. Method One Word Clearing. Also taken summer of 1991. This is a Scientology course in which one learns to use an E-meter, and then applies it in a specific endeavor: find all of the misunderstood words you've ever come across, and "clear" them -- that is, find and understand their definitions. It is amazing how completely this revolutionized my ability to understand new fields of study. Killer

More college. More engineering.

6. Physical chemistry. Again, a subject, not a specific book.

7. Div Grad Curl and all That.

My last semester of college, I took my required Econ 101 class. It was so confusingly topsy-turvy, that I immediately latched onto this book when I found it in the bookstore in grad school:

8. Economics on Trial by Mark Skousen

Years later, as a member of the Libertarian Party, I decided to run for Congress. Figuring I ought to know what I'm talking about, I looked around for an all-out course on libertarianism. This is what I found:

9. Cato Institute Home Study Course. Again, not really a book. It's a bunch of books, and a bunch of lectures. This was an incredibly good course. Someday, I hope that the Cato Institute will post these lectures in MP3 format on their website, like the Mises Institute does.

That course, which took a year to complete, persuaded me to seek out:

10. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises and Man, Economy, and State by Murray Rothbard. It was Human Action I was after, but after getting about 200 pages in, I got bogged down. Even though I'd read several books on economics, I got MES and read it cover to cover and then returned to HA. That made HA much more understandable.

11. The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard. I had been thinking about anarchism ever since starting the Cato Home Study Course, but it was while reading this book that I became convinced.

12. The Enterprise of Law by Bruce Benson. And this book broadened and enriched my concept of private production of defense. It was this book that started me thinking that I should start my own security company, which I continue to work on.

Ha ha! Baker's dozen:

13. The Structure of Liberty by Randy Barnett. An important and interesting book that talks about issues anyone attempting to devise institutions for liberty should read. I don't buy it as a defense of libertarianism (I'm a natural lawyer of the Rothbardian type), and I have a big problem with his parable at the end. Nonetheless, the issues and their treatment are sizzling!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I like the words meticulous (as in, that's a meticulously crafted argument, as an anonymous reviewer said about the early draft of my article Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights, later published in Reason Papers in Fall 1992); glimmer (as in the great title to the stupid Steven Seagal movie The Glimmer Man); and especially drizzle (as on a menu when they say something is "drizzled" with chocolate or some sauce). In fact I think if I open a restaurant I will call it Drizzle.

I apologize for this post not having any apology in it. Waitasec. Now it does. I retract my apology. ... But.... if I retract it... then I have to apologize again. Damnit, now I'm in a fricking self-referential fugue state. For which I apologize.


I apologize for even noticing that sometimes white people use "articulate" in a perhaps unwittingly condescending manner when they attempt to pay a compliment to a black person. For example the person will be speaking highly of a given black person, and then will mention, "and he's very articulate, too."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Feed Pigs Swill

I would like to apologise for not heeding the wise words of such dignitaries as Aristotle, Gellius, Shakespeare, the bible, etc., etc., as I occasionally argue with those who are not worth the trouble. One time I was asked, "Maybe our differences are caused by us having different aims? I want what is best for society in general. Do you argue just out of your own self-interest?" So, of course, to this I had to respond and tell the truth, that I was only in it for the money and respect that the holder of such a popular philosophy as libertarianism expects to recieve.

On another occasion when I was trying to explain that I was a big fan of the Austrian school of economics, I was instantly interrupted "You know, Hitler was from Austria?" I then tried to explain that the Austrian school are as anti-fascist as can be. I said I was not a fascist, but an anarchist. Needless to say, that didn't help either. In the back of my head I realise that eventually we must succeed in educating these folk for their to be a truly free and humane economy. And, by the way, these two examples of insolence were not from strangers, but people who I have known for years.

Apologist for David Stove

I apologise for recommending the work of David Stove. I apologise for enjoying it, and thinking Stove to be the greatest essayist ever. He was not all that keen on being politically correct. He wrote against Darwinism, sociobiology, egalitarianism, relativism and other silly ideas. Here is an excerpt from his essay "The Intellectual Capacity of Women":

I believe that the intellectual capacity of women is on the whole inferior to that of men. By "on the whole," I do not mean just "on the average"; though I do mean that much. My belief is, if you take any degree of intellectual capacity which is above average for the human race, as a whole, then a possessor of that degree of intellectual capacity is a good deal more likely to be man than a woman. ... In the past almost everyone, whether man or woman, learned or unlearned, believed the intellectual capacity of women to be inferior to that of men. ...

An opposite belief has become widely current in the last few years, in societies like our own: the belief that the intellectual capacity of women is on the whole equal to that of men. If I could, I would discuss here the reasons for the sudden adoption by many people of this opinion. But I cannot, because I have not been able to find any reasons for it, as distinct from causes of it. The equality-theory (as I will call it) is not embraced on the grounds of any startling facts which have only lately come to light. It is not embraced on the grounds of some old familiar facts which have been misunderstood until lately. It is not embraced, as far as I can see, on any grounds at all, but from mere prejudice and passion. If you ask people, "What evidence is there for the equality-theory?", you do not get an answer (though you are likely to get other things).

[Stove poses this excellent] question to the equality-theorists: What would convince them of the falsity of their belief? What would they even regard as being some evidence against it?

Any serious answers to these questions would be instructive, but I do not really expect to receive any such answer. The evidence for the inferior intellectual capacity of women is so obvious and overwhelming, that anyone who can lightly set it aside must be defective in their attitude to evidence; and our contemporary equality-theorists are in fact (as I have hinted several times), religious rather than rational in their attitude to evidence. As providing some further indication of this, the following thought-experiment may be of use. Suppose that the historical evidence had been the exact reverse of what it has usually been: that is, suppose that the intellectual performance of men had been uniformly inferior, under the widest variety of circumstances, to that of women. Rational people would in that case be as confident of the superior intellectual capacity of women as they now are of the reverse. But would those people who are at present equality-theorists be as confident then as they are now of the equal intellectual capacity of the two sexes? To ask this question is to answer it. The fact is, our egalitarians treat evidence on a basis of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose; indeed, to say so is "putting it mild," at that.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Re my previous post: Well, they were successful in having my Wiki entry deleted. I think we should do what Pete Canning suggested, do a Wikinerd entry. I apologize for violating Wiki rules by editing a page that should not be edited with "WIKINERD!"

plagiarism and bigotry

I would like to apologize for pretending that Vache Folle's words on bigotry are my own:

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Wikipedia defines bigotry here :

In a nutshell, bigotry is defined as an unreasonable intolerance of opinions other than one's own.

This seems fair enough, but I sometimes observe the epithet of bigot used in cases where the accused is not necessarily intolerant. For example, one may be called an anti-religious bigot if one opposes religious teaching in government schools notwithstanding that one is himself an adherent of the religion in question. One may be called a homophobic bigot for opposing hate crime legislation involving crimes against homosexuals notwithstanding one's indifference to the sexual orientation of others. One may be called a racist bigot for criticizing rap lyrics and hip hop fashion. One may be called an antisemitic bigot for criticizing Israeli policy.

Some of my conspecifics appear to regard any position as intolerant which does not, in fact, embrace and celebrate the opposing position. It is not enough to accept homosexuality and advocate a society in which folks are free to be as homosexual as they care to be; rather, one has to be willing to declare that homosexuality is a positive good and that it is out of bounds to think otherwise. It is not enough to accept that others have differing religious views and to respect their right to hold and espouse them; rather, one must be willing to declare that one's own religious views are questionable and that all religious views are equally valid. It is not enough to accept differences in "culture" and to defend the right of others to engage in conduct and speech which one finds offensive; rather, one must be willing to declare one's admiration and love for cultural differences of every variety.

To me, tolerance and respect for diversity entail a willingness to live and let live, not an uncritical acceptance and affection for every other opinion or lifestyle. I can be a confessing Christian and tolerate the right of my neighbor to practice Islam without believing that Islam is as correct as Christianity. I can loathe rap music and oversized pants while recognizing that others are free to enjoy these things, and this does not make me intolerant. I can understand why some folks have bishops and a Pope without admitting that such institutions are a good idea. What is "tolerant" about accepting things that you like or agree with? Tolerance is living with things you don't necessarily admire.

On the other hand, some of my wingnut conspecifics insist that tolerance consists in adopting their position whole hog.

Either way, the epithet of bigot becomes a meaningless conversation stopper and is, in my experience, mainly deployed in lieu of reasoning. There should perhaps be something like Godwin's Law governing charges of bigotry in argumentation. Whoever makes the charge is deemed to have lost the argument unless it can be demonstrated that a) intolerance of a point of view has been exhibited, b) that intolerance is unreasonable, c) that the intolerance persists even in the face of valid refutation of the reasons, and d) the bigotry is not self evident.

posted by Vache Folle | 8:13 AM
I would also like to apologize for using the No Copy image from without permission.