Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Perverse Incentives facing the American Psychiatric Association

Standard

Which also applies to any medical professional who is compensated through insurance programs and is able to affect what types of things are covered by insurance. There is an interesting post on the Cato Blog called Will “Internet Addiction” Be Our Next “Crisis?”and it mentions a recent NPR interview of a psychiatrist “who believes that internet addiction is indeed a mental health disorder and laments the paucity of programs available to treat afflicted adolescents.” But, “because it is not recognized as a disease in the US, treatment is not usually covered by health insurance.”

This is not to say that psychiatrists will try to have behaviors officially labeled as disorders solely in order to create more opportunities to receive money through insurance claims, but this psychiatrist does say that “some clinicians creatively assign as a diagnosis one of the psychiatric co-morbidities that accompany almost all of their patients with internet addiction, in order to get insurance to pay for it.”

Advertisements

Is Living Out One’s Beliefs Ignoble or Contemptible?

Standard

I previously wrote about Jason Kuznicki’s flawed economic analysis of the refusal of bakers, decorators, photographers, etc. to participate in same-sex weddings. I feel that it is also important to address his claim that these individuals take satisfaction in the act of discriminating. I believe this reveals how out of touch Kuznicki is in this regard.

I take issue with Kuznicki’s judgment that such people are acting ignobly or contemptibly. Consider this analogy: A non-practicing individual of non-Jewish heritage desires to have a bar mitzvah ceremony. He asks an Orthodox Jewish photographer to take pictures of the ceremony. The latter would rather not participate, as he does not consider it a proper bar mitzvah and believes his participation helps to improperly legitimize what he considers an affront to Jewish tradition. By refusing to participate in the ceremony, is the Jewish photographer acting like a bigot?

I would think the reasonable answer is no, he is not. He is holding true to his faith and traditions, even if he forgoes revenue by doing so. Rather than this being a contemptible or ignoble act, I would think of it as the opposite: the photographer acts according to his conscience even though it may result in embarrassment, disapprobation, etc.

And so it is with the bakers, decorators, and others who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. Seeing marriage as a holy covenant between a man and a woman made before God, they do not wish to participate in a ceremony that they believe desecrates the institution. They do this out of a conviction to following their faith, despite potentially facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil damages, disapprobation by the national media, losing their business, and other negative consequences. How much easier it would be to just betray their conscience! The fact that they don’t, to me, demonstrates strong integrity.

And what should be emphasized is that by doing so, they pick no one’s pocket nor break their legs. Kuznicki does a disservice to the classical liberal perspective by claiming that they do harm by imposing an externality. They do nothing of the sort.

Kuznicki’s concluding paragraph suggests the fragility of the pluralistic, cosmopolitan, liberal (PCL) order that Cato and Niskanen Center-types champion:

We are all crazy by someone else’s lights. By our own lights, we may sometimes seem exiled to a planet full of crazies. We should be careful, then, not to purchase a small amount of symbolic protest at the price of a large amount of gains from trade. We may be on the offensive today, against what we view as the absurd politics of our bigoted neighbors. But tomorrow, someone will come asking about us, and perhaps they will boycott us as well, for reasons that we cannot fathom. Barriers to market entry should not be so easily had: Much of what we do in the way of social coordination consists of strategically ignoring everyone else’s odd, indefensible, reactionary, bigoted, hair-on-fire leftist, or otherwise totally inexcusable beliefs or practices. The market is how we lunatics all get along despite ourselves.

Now, I don’t deny that markets allow people to interact in peaceful ways. But Kuznicki is not clearly distinguishing this from the political order. The PCLs tend to be against political decentralization. One can find numerous blog posts from Cato scholars against state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and secession, as well as Niskanen Center scholars advocate against such “balkanization.” But let’s be real: most on the left do not share their commitment to not having the state punish people who do things they don’t like. Furthermore, if your intimately-held beliefs are seen as “bigoted,” “odd,” “indefensible,” “reactionary,” or “absurd,” by a sufficient number of people with whom you are forced to associate as part of a democracy, even if those beliefs violate no one’s property rights, will you be free to believe those things?

Despite the tolerance those calling themselves classical liberals like to think they embody, they are clearly not neutral on this issue. Stated in such a way, there is a conflict between classical liberalism and holding traditional beliefs, even if those beliefs hurt no one. Why, from a classical liberal perspective, should certain beliefs that hurt no one be favored over other beliefs that hurt no one? Kuznicki gives no answer.

Crying Wolf

Standard

From a look at the archives of this blog, one should be able to tell that I am critical of the institution of state-provided monopoly policing. I believe criticism of the police, whether they are private or state-actors, is healthy, as long as it is made coherently and with a realistic sense of alternatives.

The incident I’m about to mention, and the outrage that followed, do not belong in this category. Quillette provided a pretty good summary of it. Basically, a black male student at Columbia University entered the premises of Bernard college (the undergraduate all women’s school) late at night and ignored security’s request to show student ID. This student went to the library canteen and was asked to show ID a second time and refused. More officers were called, requested ID again, and he refused. Two officers pushed the student’s upper body into a countertop and he then handed over his ID.

In response to a video of the incident, college administrators, deans, and the president of Bernard college all sent emails to the student body about legacies of racism, etc. The tweets and chants about racist police were sent and shouted.

Responses like this just give further confirmation to supporters of police that critics of the police are just crying wolf, are juvenile, and beyond reason. The security officers (who are not actually police in the sense of government agents who carry guns and claim more rights than the rest of us) enforced a reasonable policy (that is, ensuring that people on the premises of an all-female educational institution are, in fact students by requesting ID when they enter) and did so using the minimum amount of force necessary. The actual complaints people have made about the security officers’ response are singularly unconvincing: that they are racially biased by letting white students enter without checking ID (of which they can provide zero evidence – and regarding which there would have undoubtedly been complaints prior to this incident if this were the case) or that there were too many security officers called for backup (whatever that means).

Though I don’t like to admit it, the more stupid complaints there are about non-events like this, the more Heather Mac Donald is going to be right in her depolicing thesis (which states that in response to criticism, police officers will avoid legitimate law enforcement activities to reduce their risk of being accused of racism, bias, et cetera and as a result, crime will rise). Consider the alternatives now facing these university security officers: do their job and get smeared and placed on suspension, or don’t do their job and allow for increased risk of victimization on campus. If they just let anyone in and, say, a sexual assault occurs, will they be blamed or will notions such as “rape culture” or “toxic masculinity” take the blame* (if such an occurrence even received outside media attention at all)? It’s pretty clear that the greater the costs of doing one’s job, the less willing security officers are going to be willing to do them. And the costs of not doing their job well are deferred and less likely to be born by them (though, unlike government police, the university will internalize some of the costs of having an unsafe campus, and thus it is not the case that university security will have the leeway to slack off like government police do).

*It does, strangely, seem to be the case that for all the emphasis the social justice left places on the problem of sexual assault and violence against women, the cases to which they give the most attention are the ones they are most able to weaponize politically. Downplayed are cases of grooming gangs or New Year’s Eve gropings in Europe, for example. In some cases, leftist policy becomes an unfalsifiable, self-fulfilling prophecy. If people are unable to defend themselves with guns, but are the victims of gun crimes, this is further proof that more civilian disarmament is needed. In this case, if any crimes that occur on campus that could have been prevented through the policy of checking ID, no one will blame the college administrators and Twitter mobs who criticized the security officers.

When dealing with the government…

Standard

There is a contrast between their expectations from you and what you can expect from them. The following is a Tweet from the Canyon County in Idaho, saying you’re just gonna have to wait if you want to get your driver’s license renewed:

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, if the government wants something from you (and it always does), you better have it ready on time:

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Can’t pay your car taxes by Oct. 5? You’ll get slapped by a penalty.

 

The government will make you wait, but will not wait for you.

Why Does Steven Horwitz Hate When People Make Money?

Standard

The title of this post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but essentially describes the topic I want to address. Recently, Steven Horwitz criticized Jordan B. Peterson on Facebook, calling him a “charlatan” who profits off of selling people self-help snake oil. There is more to say about the problems of Horwitz’s post, which Robert Murphy and Bionic Mosquito have already done. What I would like to focus on is the silliness of Horwitz’s criticism of Peterson for profiteering.

For those who may not be aware, Peterson is a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who became fairly well-known for his refusal to obey the Canadian government, which was trying to force him to use people’s preferred gender pronouns. He has garnered quite a following since, with donors contributing tens of thousands of dollars a month to his Patreon. He speaks on a variety of topics, including post-modernism, clinical psychology, and gender.

As far as I can tell, Horwitz seems to dislike Peterson for his critiques of leftist ideas. Horwitz won’t just come out and say this, however, because to do so would just seem petty and reveal that he is intolerant of political thought that differs from his own. That is why he has to criticize Peterson’s academic work, even though it’s highly likely Horwitz has never viewed any of it. But, for some reason, he has to attack Peterson for making money for his efforts.

This is quite strange from someone who claims to be a libertarian and support the free market. Even if he thinks Peterson’s ideas are bad, why does making money based on those ideas through voluntary means make it worse? Indeed, a lot of academics with bad ideas receive their incomes exclusively through their university salaries, which are heavily subsidized by taxes, but I doubt Horwitz has criticized any such academic for making money in this manner. Ironically, therefore, he is criticizing Peterson for making money voluntarily.

If I may engage in some psychologizing here, I think part of the motivation for Horwitz’s criticism is jealousy: Horwitz is unable to make money through selling his ideas to a mass audience. He must tear others down who are successful where he isn’t. This is quite similar to when he belittled Tom Woods for self-publishing some of his books, whereas real scholars like himself are able to find academic publishers who are willing to publish their work. He was probably jealous of the fact that Tom Woods’ self-published books are much more widely read than his own, which very few individuals are willing to pay the prices academic publishers charge. At least this allows him to use the price as an excuse for low sales. I won’t hold my breath waiting for him to self-publish a book, allowing him to set the price and thereby prove that people are actually willing to pay to read his ideas.

Aside

I wanted to share some solutions that worked for me to some different technical problems. Hopefully someone finds them helpful.

Fixing Chrome OS

For some reason I have not yet determined, my Chromebook (an ASUS C300S) came up with an error message telling me that Chrome OS had an error. Following the instructions given by Google, I created a Chrome OS Recovery program on a USB drive. However, when I inserted this into my Chromebook, I received the error message that Chrome OS was not detected on the USB drive. I tried this with 2 different USB drives and got the same result.

At this point, I am told to contact tech support. They ask me to find the error message and tell me to turn the Chromebook on and off 10-15 times. On the ninth cycle, Chrome OS started normally.

Fixing the USB Drives

After installing the Chrome OS Recovery program on my 2 USB drives, Windows wanted to reformat them, which I did. However, these 7.5 GB USB drives then had only 17 MB of space.

I followed the instructions in the following video and it solved the problem:

It took some effort, since I had many partitions to delete. Furthermore, I ran into an error when trying to delete certain partitions: “Cannot delete a protected partition without the force protected parameter set.” To fix this problem, I had to type “delete partition override” (H/T to TechJourney).

Getting rid of “Activate Service” Notification on Android

I have an LG G4 that I use exclusively with wifi and it brought up an annoying notification that I could not get rid of. Most forums said you could simply hold down on the notification and the “App Info” option would eventually appear, allowing you to force stop the app. This, unfortunately, didn’t happen for me. Other options required having root access to your Android system, and this was more effort than I wanted to put in.

A quick fix that worked for this particular problem was putting the phone into airplane mode and restarting it (it actually took a couple of restarts to work). But in airplane mode, the phone will not search for a cellular signal and will ignore the fact that your phone isn’t activated.

Fixing Chrome OS, Fixing Your USB Drive After Trying to Fix Chrome OS, and Getting rid of “Activate Service” Notification on Android

Some Links

Standard

Nick Turse has done some great research on the extent the US military is involved in Africa’s affairs. Apparently no single person in the US Army knows the extent of SOCOM’s operations in Africa.

Glenn Greenwald calls out most of the mainstream media’s unabashed support of Hillary Clinton and shaming anyone who questions her. (He belittles Paul Krugman’s self-perception as someone who is so brave for supporting her).

David Edwards, a math professor, writes a thought-provoking article at FEE, claiming that an 8th grade level of mathematical understanding with knowledge of Excel is adequate for the vast majority of professionals. So why is there so much emphasis placed on higher-level math?

I’m Disappointed with Scientific American

Standard

In the December 2015 issue of Scientific American, Naomi Oreskes writes,

For the past 30 years the ideology of the unfettered marketplace has so dominated our discourse that most of use can scarcely imagine an alternative way of organizing our affairs. Individuals who try are dismissed as unrealistic, romantic, polemical or (in America) communists.

Like many others, she cites the 2008 financial crisis as the result of “deregulated capitalism” and the blames the Great Depression on “market failure.” She goes on to cite other favorite complaints of those with an anti-market ideology, such as inequality or the environment.

It seems that no matter how much the government will intervene into the economy, the “unfettered,” “deregulated” market will always be the alleged culprit. Indeed, Ms. Oreskes acknowledges the “spectacular government intervention” apparatus that was created after the Great Depression. How can she believe that with the modern regulatory state that creates thousands of new regulations every year that the US economy can accurately be described as laissez-faire? I can see one making an argument that perhaps the currently existing regulatory scheme for various sectors of the economy do not have the optimal rules or that certain regulatory agencies are under-powered. But at what point will the US economy have to be regulated in order for people like Ms. Oreskes to classify them as non-free market?

Furthermore, what I find particularly ironic about Ms. Oreskes’ article (which is called “How to Break the Climate Deadlock” but reads more like an anti-market diatribe) is that she does nothing to reassure those who question the efficacy of government efforts to abate the effects of climate change that their concern is unwarranted. Near the beginning of her essay, she makes a reference to those who suspect that empowering supranational governments to implement grand plans to combat climate change might significantly impact their freedom.However, instead of addressing their concerns (which I think would be more in line with breaking “the climate deadlock”), she seems to confirm them. Instead of explaining how people’s lives wouldn’t need be dramatically changed or how the power of the state wouldn’t need to be greatly expanded, she writes of how we “can scarcely imagine an alternative way of organizing our affairs.” She throws in the red herring of how the absence of state authority “opens the door to tyranny and tragedy.” The title of her article led me to believe that she was going to attempt to bridge the gap and try to foster a legitimate dialogue with those with differing opinions than her own. Her essay did not seem like one written by a level-headed scientist trying to find areas of agreement about climate policy, but an ideologue that should be relegated to the opinion section.

 

But is justice being served?

Standard

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is an advocacy organization that pushes for criminal sentencing reform. They have had successes:

Twice since 2011, FAMM and its members have successfully campaigned for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce guideline sentences for drugs—and to make those guideline changes retroactive. In 2011, the Commission voted to make its FSA-conforming amendment retroactive, a policy change that affected 12,000 federal crack-cocaine prisoners. In 2014, after receiving more than 60,000 letters, the Commission voted to make All Drugs Minus Two apply retroactively, allowing more than 40,000 prisoners to petition for resentencing.

I think the very fact that the U.S. Sentencing Commission can even consider retroactively changing sentences implies that the sentences themselves were most likely unjust. Furthermore, this problem seems to be inherent in crimes which have no identifiable victim. Since there is no identifiable victim, there is no basis for which to calculate damages. And since there is no basis to calculate damages, what foundation is there for deciding a sentence?

It is thus absurd to designate punishing victimless criminals under the rubric of “justice.” Really, justice has nothing to do with it; rather, punishment in this case is a tool that the state uses for social engineering purposes. Incarceration is not about giving the offender what is due to him, it is about bending the individual to the will of the state. Once this is generally realized, we can begin the move towards victim justice, rather than this confused notion of criminal justice.

No, Jon Stewart

Standard

I don’t usually watch The Daily Show. The following is one reason why.

Jon Stewart (at about 2 minutes and 10 seconds into the following clip) refers to the “Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, unless the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape.

Stewart says that it’s called the “Hyde Amendment” because Republicans have to sneak it into bills and facetiously remarks that “just because the procedure is legal doesn’t mean it has to be treated that way.” I take issue with this second statement, which seems to imply that because something is legal, it should be federally funded.

But obviously this is false on its face, and I’m sure if Stewart took just a minute to think about it, he could come up with things that are legal that he would not want to be federally funded. The free practice of religion is legal, but should it be federally subsidized? I imagine that most of those who support the federal funding of abortions would respond in the negative and consider being forced to fund something they don’t agree with (if that happens to be the case regarding religion) to be morally abominable.

Exactly.

Regardless of what one thinks about the efficacy of abortion, there are those who very much dislike it and want to have nothing to do with it. Some oppose it to such an extent that their opposition is literally part of their identity. For the sake of argument, let’s say these individuals are completely wrong in their views and demonstrably so (whatever that may mean). Even if that is the case, should they be forced to fund something they ardently oppose?