92 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. @Sea-bass
    As ever an idealist Sea Bass. Whats wrong with just taking people as you find them….. without expecting rationality? Your standards are your standards. You act rationally then. You cant control how other people act. Thats the hidden weakness ..and people just dont act rationally.

    There is nothing you can do about irrationality Sea Bass…think of all those murders that wouldnt be committed if people rationally thought about the jail sentence.

  2. @Sea-bass

    The only point on which I agree with you is that Rand had nothing original to say (or have I misinterpreted you). As the Slate article intimates, she was a sad product of a sad time (one of many) in Russian history. Her philosophy, constructed from a mishmash of others ideas which she had picked up in her youth, was ultimately the product of emotion rather than clarity of though. She was, somewhat deluded, somewhat nasty and somewhat pityful. When her toyboy ditched her, her cult became even more bizarre.

  3. @gerard

    Yes. I agree. The real attraction of the libertarianism is that it provides a ready made pseudo-philosophy for those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder because the sufferers like to think well of themselves, which is somewhat difficult to do given their behaviour. Interestingly Rand had the type of background that can result in this disorder. She and her heroic characters are simply dripping in narcissism.

  4. @Alice
    So you say rationality doesn’t exist, then call some people irrational… do you even know what you’re saying?

    I say rationality does exist. Not perfect, permanent or ubiquitous rationality, but it exists, and it’s the best way to think about human behaviour, on average, in aggregate.

    What else would you use? Irrationality? That equals unpredictability, and thus any disbeliever in rationality (on average, in aggregate) automatically loses any ability to analyse or understand human behaviour. Do you really want to place yourself in that category?

    I bet you $100 that you behaved very rationally today. This morning, did you put your socks on before your shoes? Then did you use the most convenient and/or quickest route to work/study/shopping? Did you decide to pay for rent/bills/groceries at some point?

    And even common examples of “irrationality” prove to be otherwise when examined more closely. Hidden/intangible benefits (ie lottery tickets) and future discounting (smoking) are just two reasons why something that is rational can appear irrational.

  5. @Jarrah
    Jarrah

    you say “So you say rationality doesn’t exist, then call some people irrational… do you even know what you’re saying?”

    I know what Im saying Jarrah. Do you know what you are saying???

    Completely irrational. Which is what I was saying about you…and as for today, I had a very bad day with Stata (and the dictates of empricism) and got grumpy with my boss who had very little to do with it.

    Whats rational about that?. Havent you heard of kicking the cat after work ?- well if I was rational I would have.

  6. @Jarrah

    The lottery tickets and smoking future discounting discussion is simply defining them as rational. If you have an all encompasing definition of rationality so that any behaviour, is, by definition, rational, then all you can find is rationality. But you have defined the problem away and simply moved to the realm of metaphysics. That is, you are not saying anything at all meaningful about reality.

  7. @Jarrah
    Id like you to mail me the $100 dollars now Jarrah because I won the bet, unless you were gambling without any convinction which seems a bit irrational.

  8. @Alice
    Im trying again – the moderator got me but for the life of me I cant see any rational reason why.

    “Id like you to mail me the 100 dollars now Jarrah because I won the bet, unless you were gambling without any conviction which seems a bit irrational.”

  9. @Freelander

    Of course. The rich get rich because they sleep in all day and expect society to provide without giving anything back.
    Supply and demand – having a product that people want and selling them it. Hard work – getting ahead of the pack. Risk taking – investing and starting something from scratch.

    You say that none of those matter?

  10. @SeanG

    You seem to want to get rich by taking everything society has to offer, and more and claiming it all as your own, and claiming you did it all by yourself. No one starts anything from scratch. How about a bit of humility?

  11. @Freelander

    You do realise the concept of supply and demand? I have a skill/good that I can provide and you want to purchase it. Saying that it is taking from society ignores reality because individual initiative contributes to society and determination, risk-taking, commitment provide those goods which you purchase and the services you require.

    By your logic anyone who wants to succeed is scum although it is individual drive that has spurred humanity forward for millenia.

  12. @SeanG

    You did it all by yourself. Good for you. Have you heard of supply and demand? The rest of society supplies you with essential protection and confers on you property rights yet you seem to think they should do this for free. The rest of society put you in a position where you could earn but you don’t think they should get anything for that. A very narcissistic perspective.

  13. @Monkey’s Uncle
    Yes I do distinguish between activities that increase wealth and activities that decrease wealth. In other words I see a difference between investing and consumption. Our system of measurement – money – makes no difference between the two and so we get this absurd situation that the more we consume the wealthier we apparently get.

    This failure of our measuring system to distinguish between consumption and investment has lead us down the path of an unsustainable future so we have the system trying to maximize consumption as a measure of success rather than maximizing wealth (or future capacity) as the measure of success.

    It has lead us to make it more financially expensive to invest in a new asset than it is to buy an existing asset. This has lead to the bizarre situation where the cost of building a new piece of infrastructure like the new Cotter Dam for Canberra is going to be double the cost of construction because we insist on paying for investments from savings not from the new wealth the investment creates.

  14. @Alice
    I don’t think you do know what you are saying. First you claim rational humans don’t exist. Then you attempt to insult certain humans by saying they aren’t rational. That doesn’t make any sense. It is, if you’ll pardon the pun, irrational.

    And so sorry, but what bet? Are you now confusing me with someone with whom you had a bet, as well as confusing rationality and irrationality?

  15. @Freelander
    Of course it isn’t. The examples were to show that behaviour that appears superficially irrational can in fact be rational. The lottery ticket is irrational if you expect to win, but may be rational if you take into account the hidden benefits of, say, daydreaming about the winnings. Smoking is irrational if you only count the long-term costs – like disease and reduced lifespan – but may be rational if you also count the short-term benefits and weigh them against each other accordingly.

    I’m not trying to say all gambling and drug-taking is rational, I’m only trying to show that things aren’t cut-and-dried.

    Look at it this way. Human behaviour is either random, or non-random. If non-random, what determines it? I put it to you, and particularly to Alice, that rationality is an important driving force. And I don’t mean a Borg-like hyper-rationality that exists only in undergraduate microeconomics models, but one born of genetics and culture, and which says that humans make cost-benefit analyses.

    In other words, incentives matter. Or – people pursue their self-interest. Always bearing in mind that this is on average, in aggregate, lest you accuse me of ignoring obvious irrationalities.

    It’s up to you and Alice to substantiate the wildly ambitious claim that people aren’t rational, if you dare. But be warned – if by some miracle you can put together a coherent case, it automatically means that you must abdicate from discussing public policy. To regulate and influence behaviour, a rational population is a prerequisite!

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