Quick Roundup 138

Monday, January 15, 2007

Aaargh! is Aaargh!

Continuing with the theme of "A thing acts in accordance with its nature," it is amusing to note that a Swedish band of virtual pirates hopes to continue flouting international copyright law -- by relying on Great Britain's respect of international law.

Swedish file-sharing website The Pirate Bay is planning to buy its own nation in an attempt to circumvent international copyright laws.

The group has set up a campaign to raise money to buy Sealand, a former British naval platform in the North Sea that has been designated a 'micronation', and claims to be outside the jurisdiction of the UK or any other country.


The "island" of Sealand, seven miles off the coast of southern England, was settled in 1967 by an English major, Paddy Roy Bates. Bates proclaimed Sealand a state, issuing passports and gold and silver Sealand dollars and declaring himself Prince Roy.

When the British Royal Navy tried to evict Prince Roy in 1968, a judge ruled that the platform was outside British territorial waters and therefore beyond government control.
In short, Pirate Bay hopes to take advantage of the notion of property rights and the fact that Great Britain, as a civilized country, will not simply "take" Sealand -- so it can go on violating property rights and simply taking intellectual property.

Parasitic is as parasitic does.

The Latest "Virtuous Cycle" Argument

I have already examined arguments like the one Arnold Kling makes in his latest TCS Daily column here before. Nevertheless, Kling's column has gained quite a bit of attention and so deserves closer inspection. My comments on some of its more glaring weaknesses are interspersed [bracketed and in bold] within the below billeted excerpts. All hyperlinks have been removed.
  • One of the most dramatic illustrations of the cognitive improvement is the Flynn Effect, which demonstrates that average IQ has been rising steadily in many countries for most of this century. Average IQ's in Britain may be more than two standard deviations higher than they were a hundred years ago, which says that the average citizen today would have been in the top 5 percent of intelligence early in the 20th century. [Perhaps, but it is not entirely clear what IQ measures.]
  • Further support for the hypothesis that cognitive skills are improving is the increase in the average number of school years completed. More young people than ever are qualified to go to college -- although I also feel that we have overdone it on higher education and are enrolling too many students who are not qualified. [First of all, the quality of those years is so low as to make the duration of time spent in the educational system (especially the public schools) worthless as a measurement of improved cognitive skills. Indeed, the fact that so much remedial instruction is necessary at the collegiate level makes this time better "evidence" of the opposite effect. They don't say that "College is the new high school," for no reason.]
  • I suggested several years ago that a prosperous society requires a work ethic, a public service ethic, and a learning ethic. If that view is correct, then the increase in prosperity since World War II, particularly recently in China and India, implies that these ethics have improved, also. [This shows that Kling's entire discussion of morality is confused. What is an "ethic" and what relevance to man does it have? Is "society" really the proper beneficiary of a moral system or is the individual? Kling himself appears to think that "society" is, as evidenced by his own proposal of awhile back of massive medical experiments on human subjects as a "test" for whether socialized medicine "works"! With someone like this claiming that our society's morality is improving, I am not sure I even want to believe him!]
Once again, we see a potentially interesting analysis fail badly for lack of a firm philosophical foundation, and we haven't even gotten to the complete lack of discussion of free will.

"Pajamas Epistemology" in Broad Daylight

And speaking of "virtuous cycle" analyses, I am looking forward to reading Noumenal Self's series (which starts here) in which he plans to analyze Robert Tracinski's "What Went Right" series. Blair and Myrhaf (Who has just hit the big 5-0.) both add comments on their own blogs.

In addition, Joe Kellard posted a couple of really good comments here that helped me make some valuable mental connections about Tracinski's war commentary. The following comes from my reaction to Joe's second comment:
In the short term, a society can improve materially, but without a rational foundation or its culture changing on a fundamental level, it will lose whatever it gains and probably more. This is why we see some of the progress in India he discusses and yet, to put it in the way he might, we are "losing the American Revolution after we won it."

If the virtuous cycle argument trumped Ayn Rand's theory of how ideas drive history, America should already be colonizing Mars by now. Instead, we're about to nationalize the medical care industry!
To repeat something else I said during this discussion, one of the best-kept secrets about my blog is the often high quality of the comments I get. Once I am able to shift to New Blogger, I can and will make the comments available via news feed.

Thank you, Joe and Bill, and everyone else who takes the time to leave comments!

More on Toxic Unions

Commenting on another post, the Inspector points to an in-depth treatment, by George Reisman, of how the UAW has mortally wounded GM.

A Few to Check

There's lots of interesting recent activity over at the blog of the Penn State Objectivist Club, which has a post speculating on shelf-space as a cultural barometer and a good section called "Visual Islam".

Daniel Rigby, who just marked his 100th post at University Suckers, and Karl Martin Mertens of Dithyramb, who has posted some very nice photos of Iceland have also been busy lately.

Sucked Up?

Bubblehead discusses why Venturi Effect may be to blame for the recent collision of the USS Newport News with a Japanese tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. Very interesting, but will it save the CO's hide? With the devil's bargain one must make with the Navy to become a captain -- and the fact that there is almost certainly something about this buried in the official guidance somewhere -- I doubt it.

Is he or isn't he ...

... a dictator yet? Bruno asks that question about Hugo Chavez.

Whatever the answer, his behavior (and America's non-response) seems to be emboldening other two-bit socialists in Latin America. Mighty Honduras has just "temporarily" seized the assets of two American oil firms, I see.

"[Oil company spokesman] Mario del Cid, warned on Sunday the imposition would hurt the country's reputation among investors."

How much more of this can the world economy take? The only motivation anyone has to develop industrial infrastructure is the possibility of making money down the road. How long can that motivation continue to exist if even a place like Honduras feels like it is safe to steal private property?

This is a bigger deal than about 99% of the people who hear about it will think it is.

-- CAV

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