Jan 202011

It appears that the House of Representatives has voted to repeal last year’s bloated healthcare act and has put committees together to draft new legislation to replace it—without a timetable.

As you will know, the ‘without a timetable’ aspect is something I lean toward favouring, as I criticised the act heavily, in large part for this reason:

Obama and his Congress sure did fuck it up, didn’t they? Instead of doing thorough research, either before the election or after it, and determining the best possible way to ensure universal, affordable healthcare, they cobbled together a travesty of a bill, full of unrelated pork to get various hold-out politicians onside, that when all is said and done, could serve as an exemplar of what every rent-seeker (in this case, the insurance industry) hardly dares even to dream.

But this vote is not a repeal in itself, of course. That whole ‘checks and balances’ thing means that the repeal bill will have to go before the Senate and win passage there, and then go before… the president. And, typically:

Democratic leaders in the Senate have vowed to shelve the repeal bill, and President Obama has said he would veto repeal if it ever reached his desk.

‘Shelving’ essentially means that the Senate Majority Leader, one egregious Harry Reid, can simply refuse to put the House bill onto the Senate’s legislative timetable—more or less indefinitely, if he so chooses. And even if, by some miracle of organised crime, intimidation, and sweet sweet reason, Republicans get the bill put on the Senate timetable and manage to pass it there, Obama can employ a number of veto tactics depending on when over the course of the legislative session the bill is presented to him. (Although he is required to submit his reasons for vetoing in writing; I wonder what boilerplate he’d spew on that occasion?)

The Congress can override the veto, but only with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses. So that’s pretty unlikely unless the Tea Party start getting uppity again.

I’m pleased the Republicans in the House have taken this first step, and they have a backstop in the fact that the healthcare act is being challenged in a number of cases and has already been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. (That ruling is under appeal, naturally.)

But they won’t get anywhere in the absence of some serious pressure from the American people, and given how the sheeple are, and how blind the Democrats are to protest and demonstration when it’s against their policies, I think the actual repeal of this hideous act will not occur. It’s more likely to be struck down by the high court, and even that’s pretty pie-in-the-sky.

Still, I wonder if the Democrats will now begin to hyperaccuse themselves of being obstructive, partisan, and resistant to the expressed will of the demos. It’s hard to imagine anything that demonstrates those qualities more than:

Democratic leaders in the Senate have vowed to shelve the repeal bill, and President Obama has said he would veto repeal if it ever reached his desk.

UPDATE: Hmm, seems I forgot about those little things called states…

Jan 152011

A comment on Clay Shirky’s piece in the Guardian entitled ‘Wikipedia—an unplanned miracle’ hath pleased me:

by any traditional view about how the world works, Wikipedia shouldn’t even exist

I can understand what you mean, if we replace “traditional” with “orthodox”, and I remember that this is The Guardian.

Elsewhere, the idea of emergent order, and its superiority to centrally planned order, has been commonplace for centuries, described by Smith, Hume, Bastiat, Hayek, etc.

This is an unplanned miracle, like “the market” deciding how much bread goes in the store.

Suspicious quotes around “the market”! Perfect.

But you have a point… no need to tax anyone, no need to order anyone to do anything. Mystifying, to be sure. Maybe worth further investigation?

Wikipedia, though, is even odder than the market: not only is all that material contributed for free, not only is all that material contributed for free, it is available to you free; even the servers and system administrators are funded through donations.

Actually the greatest writers on emergent order often wrote about the emergence of the Law, which is also (hopefully) not driven by money changing hands. A more recent example, almost contemporary with Wikipedia, is open source software.

People don’t always value only money; most people want respect and admiration, an many get it from their visible contributions to things regarded as socially valuable.

When a minority were very rich, they would make extravagant gestures like building whole hospitals, orphanages, colleges, etc. (obviously with a nice statue of the generous founder). These days large swathes of the middle classes have enough spare time and income to be a little bit philanthropic, leave their mark and feel good about themselves (and how others see them).

As people get better off, there is less and less need to order them to take care of their society. And people are getting better off. So the real mystery is not that something like wikipedia works, but that we don’t let other things work the same way.

I wonder if Clay Shirky, author of a book subtitled ‘The power of organising without organisations’, is really so blind he thinks his insights only apply to the internet, or if the suggestion this might be the case is the fault of some overly-zealous Guardian editors.

Jan 082011

Via Bishop Hill, I see that Nature magazine has taken to reporting utterly ludicrous “science” in its attempt to justify more utterly ludicrous science climate change alarmism.

Apparently we are supposed to believe that “dire climate warnings” are counterproductive because they undermine people’s belief that the world is fair and just. (Is that belief really sufficiently widespread to be undermine-able?)

The “evidence” for this is the following:

Half of the volunteers were asked to unscramble sentences such as “Somehow justice will always prevail”, whereas the others were given sentences such as “Often, justice will not prevail”. This activity primed them to have either a strong or weak belief in a just world. The participants then completed a survey that measured their scepticism over climate change, asking questions such as “How solid is the evidence that the earth is warming?” and requiring participants to rate their answers on a six-point scale, in which six was not at all solid and one very solid.

Next, participants watched two short global-warming warning videos created by the Environmental Defense Fund, a charity based in New York that campaigns on green issues…

Feinberg and Willer found that participants primed to have a stronger belief in a just world reported levels of scepticism that were 29% higher, and a willingness to reduce their carbon footprint that was 21% lower, than those primed to see the world as an unjust place. Their findings are reported in Psychological Science.

I freely admit I have no training whatsoever in psychology, but even I am canny enough to emit a Flat What in response to reading this.

Is this really what passes for scientific experiment in the field of psychology? An opinion-gathering exercise centred on a premise even the stupidest of volunteers could figure out over the course of participation?

I mean, say what you will about climate data computer models, but at least the data don’t know they’re being manipulated, or on what basis. But put any vaguely aware Western human in an experiment where the concepts of justice and climate change are juxtaposed, and that person is going to have a pretty good idea what is being investigated. And will adjust his or her behaviour or views accordingly.

The “scientists” didn’t even bother to acquire any basic survey data, e.g. “Tick the sentence that most closely matches your beliefs: The world is a fair and just place / The world is not a fair and just place”, just to get an idea of what sort of weight this concept holds in the population generally.

And it’s not even a question of whether the world has these attributes, as actually both fairness and justice are ethical ideals, the understanding and practice of which are primarily the reserve of human beings. The whole experiment pre-supposes a belief in choice ethics outwith the human experience, a world not pertaining to humans that somehow possesses actualised morality. Fate, if you will, or some force external to humans that has an awareness of choice.

As they would say on the internets, LOL WUT.

Perhaps some psychologists out there can explain to me how this experiment is in any way scientific or valid. I welcome correction.

But until then: comrades, if I were you I would cancel my subscription to Psychological Science.