Venison Mince Pies

I forgot to take a picture, but the venison pies were great. I took AVI’s advice and omitted ingredients I wasn’t sure about, but left in Christmas spices that sounded plausible with game. Highly recommended. 

Plato's Laws VI

The sixth book of the Laws contains an important argument on the need to maintain equality versus the need to ensure that not just anyone is given a public office with great powers. The last book showed us limits on how much equality human beings are really prepared to accept, with the Athenian nevertheless advocating for taking it as far as possible -- the ideal society absolutely abandoning any idea of property or ownership per se, and the second-best society at least trying to impose a kind of proportionate equality. Neither one was really workable, but we're going to proceed 'as best we can' with the second-best society. 

(Note that the Athenian promised us a third-best kind of society, and then said he'd get back to it later.)

In this book, though, the Athenian himself is suddenly pointing out how important it is to set limits on equality. Equality of wealth may be fine and dandy, but equality of power is really dangerous. Power should only belong to those who have been carefully trained and taught how to wield it in accord with society's values and constitution. If it should fall into the hands of people who don't understand the value of the society's laws and existing order, they'll run things up on the rocks. 

I'm going to skip nearly all the discussion about the proper offices, since they pertain to a kind of social organization we won't attempt. I'm going to focus instead on two points: who the proper voters are, and who the proper officials aren't

This is going to be a kind of representative democracy, with officers like magistrates elected by voters. The Athenian wants voters who will make good choices, but he thinks that it takes time to see the value of a set of laws. The thing to do is to reserve the right to vote, then, to only those who "have been imbued with them from childhood, and have been nurtured in them, and become habituated to them." These will choose officers, it is hoped, who will use the power entrusted to them to support the constitutional order and the values of the state. Until that class has had time to develop, the original founders of the colony will serve as trustees. 

That class of voters turns out to be a subclass of citizens, but not just anyone who grew up in the new colony. They're going to be veterans: nobody gets to vote who has not served in the infantry or cavalry (a surprising and pleasing addition, given the earlier discussion of the worth of the infantry vs. the marines -- who were like the cavalry in the way the Athenian criticizes). They also have to have continued their service for as long as the law permits, i.e., they can't stop showing up for drill and duty and retain the power to vote. 

Now this will not be an expeditionary army, but a defensive one. So we are not talking about committing to endless tours of war, but about remaining part of the defensive force in the city -- somewhat akin to being qualified to vote by being a member of a volunteer fire department, or the citizen's militia, or the National Guard, or the police. Those citizens, who put their lives on the line and do the hard work of being on call to protect the city, are the ones qualified to elect officers.

There is no secret ballot. There is the opposite of a secret ballot. You have to put your nominee's name on a tablet with a list of all your ancestors and relatives. Then there is a process of multiple ballots, so that if anyone objects to any of the proposed magistrates all your ancestors and relatives can be asked to discuss the matter with you before you vote again. Only after this process has occurred three times is the selection final. 

Note that the voting is a sacred process, done in the most revered sanctuary, but the objections and disputation about who is a fit officer is moved to the marketplace. It interests me that this ties the whole of the public spaces of town into the process and allows for hot disputation, while emphasizing the sacredness of the duty to vote wisely. 

Who are the right officers to elect? Obviously, at this point in the dialogue, you know the answer:  the right officer is the person who has the right virtues for the job. Virtue is worthy of honor. A just society rewards that virtue by assigning the person who has it an office that is an honor, and also allows that person to exercise their virtue in a way that benefits everyone. There is a very nice reflexivity between the virtues you have and the duties and honors you receive. 

Who are the wrong people? Just as obviously, those who lack the right virtues for the job. But there's a problem: people who lack virtue may also lack humility, and be unwilling to accept (or unable to recognize) that they aren't the best person to be entrusted with power. 

There's another problem: this recognizes a basic inequality between the citizens. Some are good and worthy, and others are not. This society is supposed to be based on equality, to the point that the Athenian is striving to create mathematical equalities as far as possible. Yet at the root of the politics, if it is going to work, they need good officers and not bad ones. The truth is that not everyone is equally fit to wield power. 

What this is likely to produce, says the Athenian, is a demand from the unworthy for offices to be assigned randomly -- so that they will not miss out, or be treated as lesser men by their society. The problem, of course, is that they are lesser men. Not treating them that way is very perilous. 

Ath. The mode of election which has been described is in a mean between monarchy and democracy, and such a mean the state ought always to observe; for servants and masters never can be friends, nor good and bad, merely because they are declared to have equal privileges. For to unequals equals become unequal, if they are not harmonized by measure; and both by reason of equality, and by reason of inequality, cities are filled with seditions. The old saying, that "equality makes friendship," is happy and also true; but there is obscurity and confusion as to what sort of equality is meant. For there are two equalities which are called by the same name, but are in reality in many ways almost the opposite of one another; one of them may be introduced without difficulty, by any state or any legislator in the distribution of honours: this is the rule of measure, weight, and number, which regulates and apportions them. But there is another equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so easily recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all, greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and to either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and education. And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of states, at which we ought to aim, and according to this rule order the new city which is now being founded, and any other city which may be hereafter founded. To this the legislator should look-not to the interests of tyrants one or more, or to the power of the people, but to justice always; which, as I was saying, the distribution of natural equality among unequals in each case. But there are times at which every state is compelled to use the words, "just," "equal," in a secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in some degree from factions. For equity and indulgence are infractions of the perfect and strict rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are obliged to use the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent of the people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme justice. And therefore, although we are compelled to use both equalities, we should use that into which the element of chance enters as seldom as possible.

This is an interesting philosophical move, one that tries to preserve the idea of equality while admitting blatant inequalities -- 'gives to the greater more, and to the lesser less.' The basic idea is that the same rule is being applied to all parties, and those who are found by the rule to be more worthy are given more. They're held to the same standard, and gain more honors (including especially the honor of being assigned power) if they prove worthier. 

So why not just say, "Look, people aren't really equal, so let's stop pretending and give the better people more power"? According to the passage, that leads to sedition among the worse; and sometimes that sedition grows strong enough that even the best kind of society can't help but distribute honors at random, or anyway according to some scheme that makes sure they're more available to the less worthy. That should be minimized, the Athenian suggests, but it can't be expected to be avoided. 

Note again that this is about power, not wealth. The same society is going to enforce some proportionate limits on wealth, at the same time it tries to assure inequalities of power as much as it can. If successful, the inequalities of power won't cause corruption in the wealth equalities because virtuous people will be given the power, and they won't use it to dodge limits or enrich themselves. But we know it won't be successful: sometimes powers have to be assigned by lot, or in another way to ensure the less worthy have offices. Thus, corruption is sure to arise at least insofar as less virtuous people are elevated to positions of power. 

Aristotle viewed this approach as unlikely to be workable anyway; as he says in the first book of the Rhetoric, it's always best to give as little power as possible to even carefully-chosen magistrates because even the best people tend to use it to help themselves and their factions and families. It's a human weakness. Yet for the Athenian, the only hope of maintaining a successful equality of wealth lies in an unequal distribution of power he admits is impossible to maintain. 


It's the club soda of philosophies.

A Short Delay

I was planning to get to Laws VI today, but we have lost power. I could try reading by candlelight, and perhaps I shall when the meager sunlight is gone. I won’t be able to write much today, though: just picking on my phone while it has power. 

So you are excused from your philosophy lecture for today. Do catch Elise’s explanation in the last section about how she had a similar approach in mind, distinct from both Plato’s and UBI in interesting ways. 



New Year, in the Cimmerian style.

The Late, Great Hank Williams

I have a few records that belonged to my grandfather that give "Hank Williams" as the artist -- not Hank Williams, Sr., but just the name of the man. He died on New Year's Eve, 1953. 

A Refutation of Plato?

Confer this with all you have read.

Is this a refutation, or a confirmation? Is Ireland a proof of his concept, given its commitment to this mathematical music? Or is it a denial of the claims, given that Ireland is not foremost among the world's nations?

The High Reel

Now I've posted this before, some of you may remember it. The concert goes on for a good ways after, and it's all worth your time, as is what came before. But it's this part to which I want now, as in years before, to draw your attenion.

Our friend Plato would have had good things to say about this, I do not doubt. Men who can play like that are on the spectrum with gods, as discussed not long ago.

Philosophy and Safety

A younger cousin is expecting a child. I called to congratulate him. He asked if we were being safe. “I ride motorcycles for fun,” I told him. 

Philosophy is the base human discipline not only because it happened to give rise to all the others, but also because it is the discipline for determining what is best in life. 

Safety ain’t it.

Plato's Laws V, 6

The rest of Book V wrestles with the problems we identified in the last two discussions, especially the ways in which what we call capitalism will distort the equality of the initial division. 

The Athenian suggests that, now, the state must decide on a system for handling property ownership. The best of all system, he claims, is that all shall be held in common and in conditions of friendship. This means not just property but everything: wives, children, nothing shall be thought of as properly belonging to anyone, but all as the common property and business of all. There is no real argument given for this being the best possible system because Plato had already argued for it in the Republic, where he admits that only the Guardians and Auxiliaries will be rational enough to see its value. Here the Athenian simply asserts that it is the best system, but admits that absolutely no one anywhere abides by it, so it probably won't be acceptable to this colony either.

No, people are going to want private property, and private relationships like spousal ones, and to parent their own children. So the problem becomes one of how to ensure that some sort of equality is maintained among the populace.

The Athenian proposes a whole series of anti-capitalist regulations meant to ensure that no one accumulates great wealth. Most important is a regulation that you shouldn't buy or sell your assigned land. It isn't actually forbidden, but anyone who does comes under religious censure and public curse. The idea here is not to provide you with a basis for profit, but with a permanent source of support and standing within a community that is meant to approximate human equality. 

People should not be able to own gold or silver, or currencies issued by other nations abroad; only the local currency should be possessed, as necessary to further local transactions or pay wages (note that slaves are expected to be paid wages). People who have business abroad may draw currency, once the government has approved their going abroad; but when they return, they need to hand in their foreign currency for a like amount of the local currency.

So they can profit, then, on their foreign trips? Yes, profit is allowed, and not just on foreign trips but by regular economic activity at home. However, there are to be limits placed on wealth acquisition. The initial value of the equal lot that everyone received is to be taken as a lower bound: no one should be allowed to fall below it, the Athenian says. presumably meaning that the state should provide new funds as necessary to those who do. 

This lower-bound value is also to be used as the basis for calculating the upper bound. The state is to divide society into classes based on those who have twice, three times, or four times the original value of the lottery distribution. These classes will be assigned different political powers, although so far we have not heard yet exactly how they will be differentially empowered. But what we do hear, now, is that the Athenian wants to limit the absolute upper limit of wealth at four times the initial lottery value. Everything one earns after that is to be handed over to the state.

There is a proof along the way that good men can't grow exceedingly rich, which is mathematical and logical rather than pragmatic. As such, it is subject to Aristotle's dictum (frequently cited here, because I take it to be one of the most important Aristotelian insights and a kind of proto-pragmatism) that proofs from strict logic cannot apply to worldly affairs. I am therefore inclined to dismiss it, but it is worth noting because it allows the Athenian to assume that anyone who has grown very rich is also not morally good.

Note that the upper bound is on wealth, not income. Once you have grown in wealth to four times the original amount you received at lottery, there is a 100% tax on all future income, which carries on forever until you lose enough to fall below the upper bound.

The Athenian also describes the division of the city, physically, into legal departments; here he makes the claim I mentioned earlier, which is that the capital should be at the center of the territory in order to ensure the closest thing to equality of access to the center of law and power. Equality is not going to be perfect -- the most outlying farms will be more distant that the inlying ones -- but that is also true for the wealth system. Some are going to be as much as four times richer than others, and you can rise or fall within limits on how much you can rise or fall. 

It's hard to imagine what a modern society would look like if it attempted to enforce a rule that one could be only four times as rich, in total wealth, as the poorest member of one's society. There are of course also big problems in terms of incentives to work that come from setting a permanent 100% tax on the most successfully productive of the citizenry; but that part, at least, doesn't bother the Athenian. He does not want the society to grow rich, he wants it to be good, and he thinks that excessive wealth concentration is opposed to both personal moral goodness and social stability.

A practical problem: what about the problem of mental health, so that "the poorest" may be incapable of maintaining anything like a reasonable personal standard of wealth? There are two answers to that, one of which is explicit and the other implicit. The implicit answer is that the wealth is not personal, but per household: if a household contains an incompetent member, they are meant to sort that our internally. The householder should be a competent family member, with incompetents to be cared for within the household. The explicit answer is, of course, that households that fall below the lower wealth threshold are to be supported by state resources until they are back at that threshold. 

The book closes ironically, with the Athenian admitting about this system exactly the same thing he admitted about the "everything in common system" -- no one does this, and probably no one would agree to it anyway. The legislator ends up admitting it to the public, and suggesting, "Look, this is just a model, we'll just try to approximate it and leave off the parts that prove impossible." So why did we run through these two systems that are so opposed to human nature that no one does and no one would adopt them? These are two views of human equality, both of which run up against human nature (as well, returning to Aristotle's point, as practical reality). The first one is perfectly equal; the second is only approximately equal; neither is obtainable, because equality is not what we really want.

Social stability is going to require some sort of equality, though. What kind, since neither true equality nor even approximate equality are acceptable to us?

Plato's Laws V, 5: Divisions of Land Part Two

Again, today I'm handling only a few paragraphs of this section, because there's a lot buried in them. The rest of this book turns on the division of land, and tomorrow or thereabouts I'll get to the rest of it. For the moment, though, I want to examine just the introduction to the problem.

"Ath. Another piece of good fortune must not be forgotten, which, as we were saying, the Heraclid colony had, and which is also ours-that we have escaped division of land and the abolition of debts; for these are always a source of dangerous contention, and a city which is driven by necessity to legislate upon such matters can neither allow the old ways to continue, nor yet venture to alter them. We must have recourse to prayers, so to speak, and hope that a slight change may be cautiously effected in a length of time. And such a change can be accomplished by those who have abundance of land, and having also many debtors, are willing, in a kindly spirit, to share with those who are in want, sometimes remitting and sometimes giving, holding fast in a path of moderation, and deeming poverty to be the increase of a man's desires and not the diminution of his property. For this is the great beginning of salvation to a state, and upon this lasting basis may be erected afterwards whatever political order is suitable under the circumstances; but if the change be based upon an unsound principle, the future administration of the country will be full of difficulties. That is a danger which, as I am saying, is escaped by us, and yet we had better say how, if we had not escaped, we might have escaped; and we may venture now to assert that no other way of escape, whether narrow or broad, can be devised but freedom from avarice and a sense of justice-upon this rock our city shall be built; for there ought to be no disputes among citizens about property. If there are quarrels of long standing among them, no legislator of any degree of sense will proceed a step in the arrangement of the state until they are settled. But that they to whom God has given, as he has to us, to be the founders of a new state as yet free from enmity-that they should create themselves enmities by their mode of distributing lands and houses, would be superhuman folly and wickedness."

So here the Athenian begins by nothing something mentioned in an earlier book, i.e., that the colony is lucky because it doesn't have pre-existing distributions of land or debt to worry about. It can divide land anew without having to tread among the pre-existing jealousies and resentments of the people.

These very issues are problems for us, though. As Congress proposes new debts or new divisions, or the elimination of whole classes of debt (like student loans), it aggravates the existing divisions in society. 

This can be ok, Plato suggests, if those who have are generous about giving things up, and those who have not are not greedy. Well, many things could be ok if human nature was better than it is; but both of these are relative concepts. Who is going to say that you have been generous enough, or that the poor who want this or that concession are being too greedy? Is waiving medical debt ok, but not student loans? Both, but not mortgage payments? 

In Aristotle's Politics, this very aspect of government by the many turns out to be the failing point of many constitutions. In aristocracies, the rich are powerful enough to prevent any concessions to the poor -- until the poor revolt. In democracies, the poor are powerful enough to vote to seize whatever they want from the rich -- until the rich hire mercenaries and overthrow the state, establishing themselves as its overlords. In both cases, given Aristotle's concept that there is a healthy form and an unhealthy form of every government, the movement is in the direction of a corrupted form.

Still, say you could do it. Conceptually, how would you do it? What would make sense to me is a kind of corporate form of redistribution: i.e., take land away from those who have not managed to use it productively, and assign it to those with smaller estates who seem to have developed good systems of management and fair conditions for their workers. Just as you might demote an executive, or promote one who seems to be doing well, you might redistribute land and resources in this way. 

You could even then ease the hard feelings from the losers by compensating them: perhaps by disguising the demotion as a "promotion to a distinguished emeritus position" with less practical power and control, but a comfortable sinecure. This kind of fine adjustment might work for the sort of system Plato is envisioning, one with a king (the analog to the CEO of a corporation) and a legislator empowered to introduce new rules. 

That is not what Plato has in mind. What Plato has in mind is mathematical and geometric. 

Ath. "How then can we rightly order the distribution of the land? In the first place, the number of the citizens has to be determined, and also the number and size of the divisions into which they will have to be formed; and the land and the houses will then have to be apportioned by us as fairly as we can. The number of citizens can only be estimated satisfactorily in relation to the territory and the neighbouring states. The territory must be sufficient to maintain a certain number of inhabitants in a moderate way of life-more than this is not required; and the number of citizens should be sufficient to defend themselves against the injustice of their neighbours, and also to give them the power of rendering efficient aid to their neighbours when they are wronged. After having taken a survey of theirs and their neighbours' territory, we will determine the limits of them in fact as well as in theory. And now, let us proceed to legislate with a view to perfecting the form and outline of our state. The number of our citizens shall be 5040-this will be a convenient number; and these shall be owners of the land and protectors of the allotment. The houses and the land will be divided in the same way, so that every man may correspond to a lot. Let the whole number be first divided into two parts, and then into three; and the number is further capable of being divided into four or five parts, or any number of parts up to ten. Every legislator ought to know so much arithmetic as to be able to tell what number is most likely to be useful to all cities; and we are going to take that number which contains the greatest and most regular and unbroken series of divisions. The whole of number has every possible division, and the number 5040 can be divided by exactly fifty-nine divisors, and ten of these proceed without interval from one to ten: this will furnish numbers for war and peace, and for all contracts and dealings, including taxes and divisions of the land. These properties of number should be ascertained at leisure by those who are bound by law to know them; for they are true, and should be proclaimed at the foundation of the city, with a view to use. 

"Whether the legislator is establishing a new state or restoring an old and decayed one, in respect of Gods and temples-the temples which are to be built in each city, and the Gods or demi-gods after whom they are to be called-if he be a man of sense, he will make no change in anything which the oracle of Delphi, or Dodona, or the God Ammon, or any ancient tradition has sanctioned in whatever manner, whether by apparitions or reputed inspiration of Heaven, in obedience to which mankind have established sacrifices in connection with mystic rites, either originating on the spot, or derived from Tyrrhenia or Cyprus or some other place, and on the strength of which traditions they have consecrated oracles and images, and altars and temples, and portioned out a sacred domain for each of them. The least part of all these ought not to be disturbed by the legislator; but he should assign to the several districts some God, or demi-god, or hero, and, in the distribution of the soil, should give to these first their chosen domain and all things fitting, that the inhabitants of the several districts may meet at fixed times, and that they may readily supply their various wants, and entertain one another with sacrifices, and become friends and acquaintances; for there is no greater good in a state than that the citizens should be known to one another. When not light but darkness and ignorance of each other's characters prevails among them, no one will receive the honour of which he is deserving, or the power or the justice to which he is fairly entitled: wherefore, in every state, above all things, every man should take heed that he have no deceit in him, but that he be always true and simple; and that no deceitful person take any advantage of him."

So Plato is aiming at something akin to a true mathematical equality among the households. Everyone should receive as close to a perfectly equal distribution as everyone else, using 5,040 as the basis to ensure that as many perfectly equal distributions as possible are available. He also wants to establish a distribution that is as close as possible to equidistant from the capitol, ensuring equal access. He is motivated by the beauty of math here as he was in music.

Now it happens that I can think of an occasion when something like this was done in reality, and it is a thing I have occasionally praised here. Georgia was set up like this, following James Jackson's overturning of the Yazoo Land Scandal. Georgia was divided into parcels and distributed by lottery; county seats were set up no more than 24 miles from the county border so that everyone who lived in the county could travel to town, do their necessary business at the county seat, and get back in one day.

It worked well for a while, but there are two problems that the Georgian experience illuminates. The first one is that not all land is equally valuable. One of the lottery winners won Stone Mountain, for example. If you had the capitol and resources to set up a quarry, that might have been valuable; as he was a small farmer, it was useless to him. So at once you're going to need to permit trades of these mathematically equal divisions, and some of them are going to require concentration of resources to work effectively. That means inequality.

The other problem is that economics will out. Georgia's lottery system survived hardly any time because it wasn't capable of competing with the slave-based plantation system. That was a much worse system morally, but it produced titanic wealth by comparison. Plato would want the ideal government he hopes to erect to prevent a morally worse system from replacing his division of equality, but practically that is not to be expected. Wealth corrupts politics, so an immoral system that is productive of gigantic wealth will win over a morally better system that does not. Arguably we are witnessing that happening now, with China's openly genocidal tyranny winning out over the law-and-freedom-based American system by a simple practice of mass bribery of international elites. 

Still, there is much to say that is positive about having made the attempt; it has a lot to praise in theory, and even practically for the short while until competition swept it away. 

Plato's Laws V, 4: On the Division of Land

Today's reading is likewise short, this time because it contains a fun mystery as well as some general principles that need to be discussed. I'll take the mystery first. Plato is going to suggest that an ideal population will consist of 5,040 landholders, which he says can be divided by 59 quotients.

A contemporary reader will probably be a bit confused by this, because it would seem as if 5,000 were more obviously divisible into even units than 5,040. You could divide 5,000 into units of one thousand or two hundred-fifty, or one hundred, or fifty. Adding that extra 40 guys seems like it is going to cause a lot of fractions of guys, and while people can be divided into fractions conceptually, dividing them actually tends to ruin the use of the individual.

The Ancient Greeks had a completely different system of mathematics from ourselves, though, one that lacked both fractions and decimals -- that is, both of the ways we teach our young to handle uneven divisions. The Greeks used ratios, so that a number was divisible if you could give a whole number (say "6") and a ratio for the remainder (say "...and two for every three"). It turns out that is exactly what is being captured by the fraction 6 2/3, but this was done on the assumption that really you would not be dividing the two by three. You would be providing two here for every three there. So at first you might think that this aspect of our different systems was behind it.

But actually, if you work it out, 5,040 really is divisible by every number from 1-10, plus 12, and then turns out to have many more ways of evenly dividing it (fifty-nine total, according to Plato; actually 60 if you include itself and 1). So even though it seems like those extra forty guys are going to cause problems, they actually provide for even divisions in more cases. 5,040 can be divided by seven, for example, whereas 5,000 would cause a remainder. 

So it is our conceptual reliance on our base ten decimal system that is fooling us: a number divisible by ten looks like it would be the most obviously useful number.  Because the Greeks worked with practical divisions of whole numbers, they could see that 5,040 was a better choice. This is similar to the way that SAE wrenches and metric wrenches end up fooling the mind when you have to switch between them (as for example when working on a Ford truck, as I do sometimes, which has both SAE and metric fittings for no very good reason I can divine).

This quality of 5,040 was obvious to the Greeks because their quite different approach to math led them to it. The number has some other qualities, some of them more mystical, which are described herehere and here for those interested.

Moon eggs

A couple of Danes shipped a foldable capsule to Greenland and lived in it for two months, as an initial proof-of-concept for Moon or Mars exploration. Much of the experiment was about how bad the shack-nasties might get, but they did pretty well.

Test with St. Stephen's Day Video

 I thought I'd give posting a video a go, using Brave [Version 1.18.75 Chromium: 87.0.4280.101 (Official Build) (64-bit)] and on an old Dell laptop (2014 Inspiron 15) just to see if it works, as a test against Grim's attempts.

Here goes nothing-

Ralph Ellison

 Quillette has a piece on the eminent author that begins oddly.

Ralph Ellison, author of the timeless American classic Invisible Man, was among the most commanding black literary voices to emerge in the 20th century. It is a designation he would almost certainly have resented. Ellison didn’t see his work through the prism of his racial identity but as a means of transcending it... He wanted to “do with black life what Homer did with Greek life” as Clyde Taylor, a professor at NYU, put it.

Quite right. So why label him that way? He probably succeeded as well as anyone can at that great and difficult task.

Otherwise, it's not a terrible essay. It ends on a hopeful note that race may finally be beginning to pass away, though so deep a wound does not heal quickly. Great book. I should dig out my copy and read it again.

First, though, I should get the rest of the way through the Laws. We're just getting to an interesting part, about the perils of wealth redistribution. 


Long-time readers will recall that I've suggested for years that, if Global Warming is really a problem, we have a ready engineering solution:  add dust to the upper atmosphere. It won't stay up there forever, so if we want to adjust later we can just stop putting it up there. It's relatively cheap and quite within our technical capacity.

Bill Gates has decided he wants to do this, which now makes me question this idea that I've long embraced. Partly that is because I don't believe that Bill Gates is the right person to make the decision to do it, of course; my approval of the idea was conditional on if Global Warming really proves to be a problem. I'm not sure we are there yet; last summer was a bit warm and lingered into November. but that's not a proof that we've reached anything like a warming tipping point. We might have just had a warm year.

The Barnum Effect

An amusing matter that came up in a discussion today: the Barnum Effect, named after P.T. Barnum. I have long suspected that astrology is meant to work this way, except it doesn't work on me because I'm so unlike what 'my sign' is supposed to be that horoscopes are almost a negative indicator. 

Toward the bottom is a link to common criticisms of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests. Confer, if you like.