Archives for category: limited rationality

Somebody shared this tweet on Facebook:

technicality

Nothing but American ingenuity efficiently solving the problems at hand.

The technicality used to put Capone away was ‘invented’ because Capone had pissed off so many people, so hard, that enough of them had eventually decided to do something about him.

Let’s see what Trump chooses to do from now on.

People are very passionate when discussing about their future and their rights.
As they should be.

Children are a very strong ‘avatar’ for our future while the rights to live and to freely dispose of our bodies two of the most important rights.

And this is where things get really complicated.

Some people advocate mandatory vaccination against the most dangerous diseases.
Some people advocate women’s absolute freedom to have an abortion – a few of them extending this right up to the last moment of the pregnancy.

Other people believe that vaccines are mostly benefiting the big pharma and choose not to immunize their children.
Other people believe in the absolute right of the fetus to live – so much so that some of them would even ban all contraceptive methods.

The ‘interesting’ thing here is how this four categories of people intersect each-other.

A lot of the people who advocate women’s right to have abortions also advocate the mandatory vaccination of children while a lot of people who consider abortion a mortal sin also consider vaccination to be inspired by the devil.

Now let me get this straight.
You have the right to ‘kill’ your baby inside the womb but you should not be allowed to let them die of a preventable infectious disease?
You are to defend a fetus, at all costs and against all consequences for the mother, as long as they inhabit the womb only to let them catch whatever preventable infectious disease might come across their path?

Consistency is over-rated?

We really need to restart using our common sense?

gambit noun [C] (CLEVER ACTION)

– a clever action in a game or other situation that is intended to achieve an advantage and usually involves taking a risk:

 – specialized games a way of beginning a game of chess, in which you intentionally lose a pawn (= game piece) in order to win some other form of advantage later

I borrowed this definition from Cambridge Dictionary, the on-line version.
You have already noticed, I’m sure, the accent on cleverness, the ‘intent to achieve an advantage’ and the relative downplay of the risk that is only ‘usually’ involved.

A more nuanced definition of the concept would mention that the person who uses this tactical maneuver has to get out of their psychological  comfort zone in order to perform it properly.
The whole thing involves offering a valuable bait which, once taken, might produce consequences favorable to the party that is ‘spending’ it.
Since the favorable consequences are not sure – otherwise it would have been a bribe, not a gambit – but the expenditure is certain the guy who initiates this has to thread very carefully. Hence the need for the bait to be really valuable. Valuable enough for the taker to take it and valuable enough so the giver would be really careful when performing the maneuver.

We have witnessed three gambits in close succession.

Britain’s David Cameron promised a Brexit referendum in an attempt to win the 2015 general election. He won the election but lost the referendum.

Quite a large number of Americans, fed up with what has been going on in their country, have pinched their noses and elected Trump into the Oval Office. The deal is not going exactly as they have planned it – Clinton is not going to be charged, the ‘swamp’ is more likely being repopulated rather than drained in earnest – but the jury is still out on this one.

Italy’s Matteo Renzi tried to cash in on his popularity and stream-line the constitution – a move which would have given more powers to the central administration. He has just lost the referendum, is about to resign – as promised and his losing the gambit has opened a wide venue for the opposition 5 Stars Movement led by a comedian – Beppe Grillo.

Need a moral to this?
Gambit works fine when playing chess. That’s a special kind of game where all the pertinent information is out there on the table and the sole variable is the opponent’s mind/will.

Real life, a.k.a. politics, is a completely different game. There are lots of stakeholders, instead of the two chess players, while most of the pertinent information is jealously guarded by each of the stake-holders – along with most of their real intentions.

If we add here the ‘detachment’ of the players – Trump and Cameron are both independently wealthy while Renzi is rather inexperienced – we’ll soon arrive at the conclusion that we’d be better off with some unadventurous, bland even, politicians.

taxation-is-theft

Americans voting in the last elections had four options.

Two authoritarians, one libertarian and a “greenhorn”.

I really like Dr. Stein but her lack of ‘high level’ political or business experience made her an unlikely choice.

The authoritarians have generated much hype but so little real enthusiasm that many voters have chosen to stay home.

voter-turnout

In this situation, with so many voters – who had shown up in 2004 and 2008 – dissatisfied with the mainstream parties, how come the libertarian candidate – who had both a solid experience, as a two term Governor, and a reasonable electoral platform did not manage a better score?
He did ‘rake in’ a little over 4 million votes – more than trebling his 2012 result – but he is still shy of the 5 % needed to qualify the Libertarian Party for federal funding in the next campaign.

Could it be that the libertarians need to ‘clean up their act’?

Judging by the antics performed by the current winner some ‘pundits’ might counsel them to ‘increase the pressure’ but I don’t think that that would be a wise thing to do.
Yes, today’s 2016 President-elect did display a rather unusual behavior for a presidential candidate, and ‘won’, but I’m afraid this was due to a certain set of ‘co-incidents’ rather than the American political scene undergoing a massive upheaval.
Trump is, we must admit that, a great ‘comedian’.
He does have a huge fortune – and presently enough  Americans are sufficiently obsessed with ‘financial success’ to forgive his rather unorthodox ways of amassing that fortune.
And we must not forget that there is a sizable number of Republicans so eager to regain power that they did tolerate his antics – precisely because they have perceived him as a ‘winner’ AND because he has successfully led them to believe that he will uphold their values.
Therefore I’m afraid that Trump’s performance would not be that easy to reproduce nor do I think that America should really go down this path.

Coming back to the Libertarians, they present to the general public such a wide spectrum of ideas that the ordinary American voter is actually bewildered.
For instance, everybody hates paying taxes but give them up altogether?

The business tycoons – those who successfully avoid paying taxes, as private individuals  or through their corporations – won’t give up this system simply because being able to avoid paying taxes constitutes a huge competitive advantage. Actually it would be rational for them to try to increase the ‘fiscal burden’ that weighs down everybody else but them.
The ‘man in the street’, the one who pays little to none income tax but who contributes hugely to the GDP formation simply because he buys the stuff sold by the business tycoons, won’t give them up because he knows that taxes pay for the roads he uses to go to work, for whatever emergency health care he gets, for his children’s schooling, for his meager pension, etc., etc….
It so happens that only the middle class would have any direct, even if highly debatable, benefit if the state would give up collecting taxes. They have private medical insurance, they send their children to private schools, they don’t rely on public pensions in order to have a decent retirement, and they think they have enough money to pay the tolls whenever they’d need to use the roads.

I’m not going to discuss here the practicality of the arrangements proposed by the ‘anarchists’ – private fire-fighters and private police, among others.

What grabbed my attention was the concept of ‘voluntary taxes’.

I work with the Catholic Church (on a consulting basis) and all payments are voluntary. If people don’t like what the church is doing, they either stop participating or stop donating. Similar idea for the government. If it performs a useful function at a friendly cost, people would support it.

This makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

OK, I won’t bother reminding you what would have happened up to two or three centuries ago to the brave enough guy who decided to stop paying the tithe.

But I will mention the fact that there still are countries in Europe who continue to collect taxes in the name of the church.

And, because of that – where possible, many people leave their churches.

Which reminds us that in modern days belonging to a church is optional.
People who actively engage in church life constitute a subset of the entire population, a subset of people who have selected themselves into this (mental)state.

Living (somewhere) is (not yet) fully optional.
Really?!?
No matter how hard someone tries it is possible that they will never get to live where they wish. Sometimes the natives don’t accept them or they die trying to get there.
On the other hand there are ‘places’ that don’t allow their inhabitants to leave – North Korea and Eritrea are the first two examples that cross my mind. Romania also used to be such a place.
In this sense taxes somewhat resemble Schrodinger’s cat. They are optional – for those who choose to join a certain group, to remain in a certain country or to join one – and are forcefully levied from those who cannot, no matter how hard they try, to leave the place where they have to live.
To compound the situation usually the countries who allow their citizens to leave also determine in a rather democratic manner the amount of taxes that have to be paid by those who choose to remain while in those who act as a prison for their inhabitants it is the local ruler who imposes the fiscal burden unto his subjects.
Now, isn’t it rather strange that this idea, “taxation is theft”, is making furors in the freest country on Earth?
One can leave America at will and most Americans have enough money to live like ‘princes’ almost anywhere on Earth. Not as safely nor enjoying the same degree of civilization… no wonder that very few of them actually leave while so many ‘aliens’ try to get in there…
But why don’t they reform the tax system AND the (wasteful?) way the taxes are being spent, instead of dreaming of a tax-less world?
And how come they don’t realize that in a ‘voluntary’ situation the ‘rational’ think to do would be to save your money, leave the other to pay whatever they want to and benefit from whatever spoils are there to be enjoyed ‘for free’?
After all this is already happening with vaccines.
Many diseases have all but disappeared from the ‘civilized’ world. So much so that ‘rational’ people have begun to stop vaccinating their children.
‘What’s the use to submit my children to a risk, however small, if all the other children are being vaccinated?’
For how long do you think this ‘rationale’ is going to work?
measlesincrease2
You will tell me that people have grown doubtful about vaccines only after a scientific study was published in a peer reviewed magazine…
Well, people believe what they want to believe.
Even the defenders of Dr. Wakefield do not pretend that he is against vaccination as a principle but only that he still is, to this day, preoccupied with the safety of the ‘triple vaccine’ (MMR) involved in the initial paper.
He did not advise his patients to stop vaccinating, but instead to vaccinate for these three diseases with single vaccines, rather than the combo.
See what I mean?
Far from being rational – people are seldom rational beyond their field of expertise and sometimes fail to be so even in that realm – we are nevertheless convinced that we consistently behave in a reasonable manner.
And this conviction of ours makes us easy prey for the spin doctors who constantly stalk us.
We need to admit that our rationality is bounded before the reasonable libertarians, like Gary Johnson, will have a real chance of stepping into the lime light.
Until then the authoritarians will divide the spoils amongst them.
Not before staging a heated, but fake, fight for our benefit.

The essence of spin doctoring is to present a sequence of true facts in such a manner that will compel the audience to reach the conclusion desired by the ‘good-doctor’. The really skilled ones don’t even need to lie in order to achieve their goals. At most they ‘shave’ some of the rough edges so that the truths they choose to mention fit smoother into their narrative
In fact it doesn’t matter much whether the conclusion they mesmerize their audience into is ‘true’ or not – truth is relative, anyway. The only thing that’s important here is that ‘the’ conclusion fits the intentions of the spin doctor.
Also, it even doesn’t matter what those intentions are. Good, bad… the end is always the same.

Because of the manner in which all this works.

The principle involved here is the same as that used by the magicians who entertain the crowds of circus goers.
They first concentrate the attention of their audience to a single point and then direct it in such a way that the people are no longer able to see anything but what they are allowed to by the magician.
Or by the spin-doctor.

Unfortunately the similarities between magicians and spin-doctors end here.
While most of the circus goers have a nice experience, albeit a relatively short one, most victims of the spin-doctors have to endure long lasting trauma and/or substantial material loss.

Again, irrespective of the spin doctors’ intentions. It doesn’t matter whether the method is used by a (well wishing socialist) utopian or by a callous Nazi.  In my previous post I mentioned how ‘political hyenas’ spring up and monopolize all the situations in which their ‘dark talents’ cannot be kept in check by the rest of the society.
Here we have the explanation for why the otherwise reasonable members of the society are unable to perceive the mortal danger they find themselves in.

Because the spin doctor had skilfully overloaded their attention.
Because after living for so long ‘under the spell’, too many people have become accustomed to let others think for them and in their name.

Was that clear enough?
The spin doctor doesn’t have to be malefic in order for the tragedy to take place. It is enough that they have occupied the attention of the people and have exhausted the ability of too many of the individuals involved to think with their own heads.
In these conditions the ‘political hyenas’ will undoubtedly make their appearance and attempt to gain control over the society.

And, undoubtedly again, those attempts will be extremely detrimental for the entire society.

Apparently these two have nothing in common.

The first appears to be a pleonasm while the second sounds like an oxymoron.
The first was a window dressing for a kind of dictatorship that managed to survive for sometime while the second, if ever attempted, would be so volatile that it would ‘evolve’ almost instantly into a ‘dog eats dog’ situation soon to be followed by the most horrid authoritarianism ever known to man.

But there is something that binds them together.

Both had first appeared in the minds of well intended people who were fed up with and trying to do something about what was going around them.

Socialism, the predecessor of ‘popular democracy’ (a.k.a. communism) had grown as a consequence of the excesses committed by some of the ‘savage capitalists’ during the late XIIIV-th and early XIX-th centuries while libertarianism, the reasonable predecessor of libertarian anarchism, as a reaction to the prevailing statism of the late XX-th and early XXI-st ones.

Let me first explain, briefly, why the concept of ‘popular democracy’ is only apparently pleonastic while in reality this wording covers a sheer impossibility. Then I’ll try to extend my practical experience of living under such a regime into a prediction about what would happen if a group of people would ever have to face a truly anarchic situation.

First things first. Democracy means a situation where everybody can voice their concerns about what is going on and where decisions are made in a collective manner, after anyone who cared to had access to all information pertinent to the decisions that had to be made.
In this, theoretic, context ‘popular’ adds absolutely nothing.
In reality ‘popular’ was a window dressing for ‘the population doesn’t know what’s good for it so we, the communists, have to guide it’. Exactly as Marx had explained in the Communist Manifesto. “The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

Secondly, but not a iota less important, liberty and anarchy are antithetic terms.
Anarchy is absolutely natural. As natural as water boiling in a kettle. It is impossible to say which drop would ‘burst’ first in a bubble and which would be the last to transition from liquid to gas. OK, if you have a mixture of water and alcohol the latter will boil first and the water later but this would happen only if the sill is heated gradually. If the heat source is too strong, a.k.a. ‘uncontrolled’, the process of distillation becomes ‘anarchic’ and the result is lousy – to say the least. In ‘human terms’ this would translate into a ‘dog eats dog’ situation where things become very quickly aligned along a uni-dimensional criterion – usually ‘brute’ force used in a most callous way.
By the way, this is a second ‘connection’ between these two concepts.
‘Popular democracies’, and dictatorships in general, are eroded by the same dissolving force that would cause any anarchic situation to implode – the most callous and less principled members of the group eventually gain absolute control over the rest, only the process takes longer in a dictatorship.

My point being that dictators are constantly being challenged. Both from within and from outside. It is seldom that a dictatorship passes through all its fazes – like Romania’s communist regime did, or Cambodia’s. Usually at some point a group of people understands what’s going on and try to do something about it. For instance what happened in Russia during Perestroika.
Yes, that could have had better results but just imagine Russia going down to the same depths Romania has probed almost 30 years ago. When most (actually non)public offices were held by incompetent nincompoops whose only goal was to prolong their survival by serving their demented master. Could you have slept at night knowing that Russia’s nuclear arsenal was being managed by such idiots?

Most dictatorships are being ‘weighted down’ by tradition and cultural norms. A dictator needs some time before they can do what they want and they can almost never accomplish all that they would like to. Good or bad.

On the contrary, in a truly anarchic situation – when no rules are observed anymore, except for ‘he who has the biggest fist prevails’, of course – things degenerate very fast. And need a lot more time to get back on track.
Like what happened during the French Revolution. When “the Revolutionary government (the ‘big fisted’ guys of the moment) decided to make “Terror” the order of the day (September 5 decree) and to take harsh measures against those suspected of being enemies of the Revolution (nobles, priests, hoarders). In Paris a wave of executions followed. In the provinces, representatives on mission and surveillance committees instituted local terrors. The Terror had an economic side embodied in the Maximum, a price-control measure demanded by the lower classes of Paris, and a religious side that was embodied in the program of de-Christianization pursued by the followers of Jacques Hébert.”

You might be wondering how come that such a generous concept like ‘let’s treat the workers fairly’ was high jacked into the horrors of communism and whether the same rationale could be extended to predict what a libertarian-anarchist society might (d)evolve into.
The way I see it people’s imagination is huge. A lot of things that might seem bland to ordinary eyes are perceived as resources by ‘crafty’ people and a lot of situations that seem helpless, or even desperate, to normal human beings are seen as very good opportunities by those adept at fishing in troubled waters.

It’s exactly the individuals where this kind of ‘craftsmanship’ is associated with ‘moral lassitude’ who would spare no effort in their attempt to make the’ best’ of the opportunities present in a country being run in an authoritarian manner or during an anarchic situation.

For this kind of guys it doesn’t matter whether the ancient regime was toppled by some socialist utopian (for instance Kerensky in Russia or Dr. Sun Yat-sen in China) or by a bona fide dictator (like, for example, Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina under whose regime some 10 000 to 30 000 people have been ‘disappeared’ by the authorities). Or whether the anarchic situation has been a consequence of regimes imploding from within (pre-revolutionary France, communist Russia, yesterday day Libya) or being unsettled by  sloppy outside interventions  (Afghanistan and Iraq)

All these situations, and many others, are the perfect breeding and hunting ground for  ‘political hyenas’, callous ‘operatives who would eventually ‘denature ‘even the most well intended dictatorship or ‘well organized’ libertarian anarchy.

I’ve already experienced one of this situation.

I really don’t want to experience the other. No matter how appealing it might seem to the libertarian ‘fundamentalists’.

socialism-for-dummies-explained

What’s going on here has nothing to do with what the bona-fide socialists were about (long time ago they tried to reduce the imbalances produced by the ‘savage capitalism’ that was roaming freely in those days) and a lot to do with what’s currently going on in so many contemporary societies.

What’s left for us to do is to find out who is the ‘socialist’ here.

Those two bone headed morons who are fighting over who to be in control of that ladder?
And who are crying now because both halves have become useless?

Yes, that was what they were fighting for!
If all they wanted was to leave the pit it wouldn’t have mattered who did it first…

Or, maybe, the ‘serpent’ who offered to help those two divide the ladder amongst them?

And who, by doing precisely that, made sure that his control, over his ladder – which was not shown, remained unchallenged?

But what has any of this anything to do with socialism? At all?

Did anybody whisper ‘monopoly’?
Back there?

Anyone?

‘He just says what he has to say in order to get himself elected. Once he will get there he will do like all the others, he will mellow down. Besides that, the system of checks and balances is too strong for one man to upset it.’

The first, and most obvious, problem with this line of reasoning is ‘why on Earth have we grown so accustomed with being lied that we find it acceptable’? Why do we brush aside so easily the lies professed by ‘our’ candidate – along with many other indiscretions, while we meticulously and vehemently point out those committed by the ‘opposition’? Weren’t we supposed to be making ‘rational choices’ when it comes to who governs the country?

The sad fact that there isn’t much to choose from doesn’t exonerate us from the consequences of our mistakes.

But our laziness has yet another – and even more malignant, ‘after-growth’.

By voting for a candidate who promises rather ‘unsavory’ things in order to get elected we not only encourage him to ‘make good’ those promises but we actually ask him, imperatively ( 😉 ), to do his ‘best’ in order to achieve as many of those promises as he possibly can.

Hoping that once elected he will ‘forget’ about (some of) them is both near-sighted and ‘double-standard’.

fake-vs-real-news

“When Silverman (the author of the study that produced the chart quoted above) confronted Facebook with this data, the social media giant argued that…”

Why would anyone confront Facebook with something like that?

Facebook is happy that we, the users, share anything at all on our walls for others to read.

This is how Facebook makes its living. They sell add space on top on whatever we choose to share on our walls. From a mercantile point of view Facebook shouldn’t really care whether what is shared by its users is legit or not, they simply must enforce the rules – no pornography, no open incitement to hate, no bullying, etc., etc…

We do the sharing, we bear the responsibility for our acts.
And it is we who will, eventually, experience the full consequences.

shark2-625x352

Over reliance on ‘tradition’ and over reliance on ‘science’ (a.k.a. rational thinking).

The individual prone to falling victim to the first method is convinced that:

They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer, to that particular problem or to one close enough so that the old answer is still usable,  has already been found and recorded in the collective archive currently known as ‘tradition’.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer inside that huge wealth of  rather haphazardly accumulated knowledge.

The individual prone to falling victim to the second method is convinced that:

– They has adequately framed the problem.
– The answer to that particular problem can be reached scientifically.
– They is smart enough to identify the correct answer using the scientific tools currently at their disposal or to develop new ones, if necessary.

If, on top of all this, that individual, in no matter which of the two situations described above, is so convinced of the adequacy of “their” answer as to be prepared to impose it on others, even against their will – or without telling them before starting the implementation of “the answer”, then all hell will break loose – sooner or later.

By now you have probably figured out why these two methods are ‘only apparently different’.

In fact both of them are nothing but variations of the ‘inflated ego syndrome’.
This theory has been proven by the fact that all the dictators that have ever ‘ruled the Earth’ have always been convinced they were ‘rational people’, regardless of all of them either pretending to had been ‘blessed by God’ or explaining their ‘arrival’ as a ‘natural consequence’ of Marx’s scientific/dialectic materialism and/or Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

The people suffering from this syndrome can be identified by the manner in which they react to every input they receive. If their response is either ‘No, you’re wrong about this’ or ‘Yes, I was thinking along the same lines’ but never ‘Thank you for this fresh and very interesting perspective’ then you are dealing with someone harboring a very ‘inflated’ – and usually also very jealous – ego.

This kind of people are usually very good at spearheading change but allowing any of them  to acquire any considerable amount of power is, to say the least, suicidal.

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