Wolf DeVoon

What doesn't make sense about Objectivist values

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Brant writes:

You can also build your own home and do all the work as long as the inspector signs off on it.

Yes. It's known as Owner/Builder.

We built ourselves without the need for a General Contractor. I pulled all the permits.

You can still enjoy autonomy in America. :smile:

Greg

So, your view of "autonomy" is getting PERMITS yourself? Heh.

Apey, think about what the word "permit" means. Think hard!

J

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The Permits and the Inspectors ...

Today's sublime black comedy:

Krugman Doesn't Understand Why "Darkness Is Spreading Over Part Of Our Society"

"Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause."

Krugman was attempting to explain, in his lordly way, some recent numbers tracking American mortality. Does anyone remember the kinds of stories circling around this pole? -- "Russian mortality rates continue to plunge. Male life expectancy sharply down." Without too much digging, you can place the Russian mortality 'plunge' in time, and track it over time, and draw in all possible variables for inspection: Why have Russian mortality rates failed to reach the European average?

Krugman's wonky waffle aside, how would Wolf explain the underlying issue? The CBC introduced it with a headline like this: Suicide rates are highest for men in their 50s and we're not sure why. The story took note of a recent study that charts unusual increases in the death rates of white, relatively uneducated men in America.

The study's findings also ricocheted around the US media. I don't see any great degree of humour in the issue, though I can laugh along at Krugman.

Me, I get some vague mental images: recession, unemployment, oxycodone, heroin, alcohol, car crashes, relentless depression, family breakdown, isolation, pessimism, economic doom. For a wee slice of Krugman's earnings, I could turn it into an essay. Wolf, what do you think about the study?

Still, there is something to be heeded in the numbers. I don't know if the issue can be inserted as a separate, named campaign meme. Who is speaking to and for this particular cohort: economically-troubled, middle-aged white men? It looks like the Liberal Media fully engaged with the story. Objectivish voices need to be raised, perhaps.

A graphic from the Washington Post's explainer: 5 theories about why middle-aged, white Americans are dying at such high rates. See also the Business Day Letter from Washington, quoted below the chart.

2E0D381000000578-3300978-The_graph_shows

Not only are more midlife whites dying early, they are also, as one might expect from the mortality data, feeling sicker, both in body and mind. They are less likely to report that they are in excellent health than they were in 1999 and more likely to say they are in pain. Blood tests show an increased incidence of heavy drinking. Relatively more respondents to a standardised questionnaire known as the Kessler Six are turning in scores that show serious mental illness.
What’s happening? Chickens and eggs still have to be sorted. Is there, for example, a real epidemic of pain for which addictive opioids such as oxycontin are being overprescribed and then substituted for with opiates such as heroin, contributing to overdose deaths? Certainly there does seem to be a major heroin problem, especially in rural areas and communities suffering from the loss of manufacturing employment. But what’s behind that?
"Although the epidemic of pain, suicide and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible," Case and Deaton conclude carefully. That sounds right. To be middle-aged without a degree in America’s Darwin-world is to confront the reality that you are not going to be better off than your parents and that before you lies the prospect of some seriously ungolden years with little in the way of a safety net, Obamacare notwithstanding.

Rand strongly disapproved of licensing psychotherapists. One assumes that travels to other professions on her principle of thinking in principles.

As I have discovered, 'licensing' is almost always the end-product goal of a controlling guild. Up here we have 'colleges' of physicians/surgeons that set the bars. Psychiatrists, Psychologists have similar guilds, and on down the line to 'new agey' practitioners, from massage/Reiki master to Chiropractic to naturopaths and homeopaths. Each has a granting body, and a peer-system, and at least some if shonky measure of internal regulation and accountability.

Each at some point petitions the government to bestow a legitimacy upon their 'profession' by legislating their areas of competence and the attendant expansion of freedom to operate. Naturopaths urge legislation to 'regularize' practice -- and in some states have achieved freedom to prescribe. Chiropractic associations work steadily to achieve some kind of parity with medical guild members, to be 'noted' as primary doctors. Massage therapist colleges wish to have some kind of provincial imprimatur put upon their version of whoopee.

Psychotherapists come in many flavours, from licensed social-workers to registered psychologists, to flim-flammers. In BC, you are not regulated as a 'psychotherapist' but by business practices. It may be much different in Arizona and Texas.

Brant, I appreciate your argument for 'last to be dismantled' relics of government regulation -- in the realm of safety, there has been an historical dance between industries and regulators where it is hard sometimes to see if a safety-system of oversight and procedural rules and institutions (like the FAA/Air Safety Board/Etc) would end up entirely 'privatized' ... similarly, one could argue that 'pure food and drug' regulation would be one of the last to be off-loaded.

In the future perfecting Objectivist world, there would be a 'withering away of the state,' but I would expect that stop signs would be stop signs, medical charlatanism would be more than a tort, and foisting dangerous foods or drugs on the populace could lead to nasty consequences in law.

I am left thinking which US party really gives a shit about the middle-aged death rates reported in the study. Krugman had his turn at the ball, along with all the usual progressive suspects. Who else is up?

Edited by william.scherk

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I have serious doubts about those statistics on early older white male deaths causing rage against the machine.

Everything I have seen online smells of "trade-up-the-chain" media blah blah blah.

It's something for overworked journalists to write since it sounds controversial and they can blame the source on somebody else after all due CYA. (Me-too journalism.)

Let's have some fun. I wonder what one would find if one compares the rates of older white male deaths against younger black male deaths or younger Latino male deaths in inner cities...

:)

I can think of a million ways to spin shit.

:)

Michael

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I have serious doubts about those statistics on early older white male deaths causing rage against the machine.

A reasonable skepticism is good cognitive housekeeping, part of objective knowledge seeking, I think (though Tony would insist I add in 'methodological' to skepticism). Doubts about the statistical validity of the study's findings are part and parcel of scientific discourse. I think you will be able to discover in the study itself what you will more or less easily accept as true. The paper is called Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. Have a look at the Materials and Methods section for details on how their data was collected.

Abstract

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

-- I may have misunderstood the whole phrase expressing doubt: "early older white male deaths causing rage against the machine."

Is it the 'rage against the machine' you find iffy or off-beam -- in the proffered explanations and suggested reasons for the statistical anomaly? I mean, do you accept the stat, but not spin and speculation?

My own take on some of the speculating/explaining is that the left and right analyses oft take the same general lessons. For example, Wolf brought up the baleful Krugman's potty opinions. However, except for a couple grandstanding partisan moments, the Krugman piece runs along the same factual lines as the Douhat opinion article. Each had a similar tone of inquiry.

Anyhow, for me, the reasons are very interesting. It is a key outlier metric, and all manner of explanations for it will be splayed out like cards. Which make the most rational sense? What explanations are simplest, most warranted, most encompassing? Which are mere partisan jerking-off? Which lines of inquiry seem most fruitful?

That's where we can figure out for ourselves what comports with reality.

Everything I have seen online smells of "trade-up-the-chain" media blah blah blah.

It's something for overworked journalists to write since it sounds controversial and they can blame the source on somebody else after all due CYA. (Me-too journalism.)

Let's have some fun. I wonder what one would find if one compares the rates of older white male deaths against younger black male deaths or younger Latino male deaths in inner cities...

Good one.

The study is pretty straightforward, six pages, in the open-access Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is fairly prestigious by Nobel-association to its first author, and by reputation of the journal's 'fact-checking' review. From Gawker to Mother Jones to CNBC to CBC, Guardian, Krugman opinion-piece, it is difficult to know who went to the open-source first, and who based their own reporting on say, the WSJ, WP, NYT first instances. And then who indulged in the most 'stick-it-to-opponents' spinning -- even in 'news' reporting supposedly distant from mere 'opinion.'

From what I have read so far, the biggest gulf is that between opinionistas linking liberal pathologies in society: drugs, loss of religion, atomism, free-trading jobs -- and so-called progressives blaming economic squeezes of a rapacious capitalism.

Neither of those explains satisfactorily to me so far. Maybe there are proportions of right at each end of the spectrum, adding to the field of reasons.

The comparison most notable, Michael, is the difference between the non-Hispanic white middle-aged uneducated cohort and age and other demographically-matched cohorts. Without taking race into account, America is still experiencing distress (as measured in mortality and its component causes-of-death) in the aggregate compared to other nations of the Western democratic modern model.

The other cohorts in America are continuing the relative decline in mortality as in the graphic above. So, there is a disproportion since around 1999 that the study captures and brings forward for discussion. The authors only briefly suggest possible causes in broad form -- ie, economic distress. You are entirely right that the spinning begins where the study conclusions end.

I can think of a million ways to spin shit.

I can think of maybe six. My least-spun spin would try to account for the distress in social-psychological terms, with a case-control design, find the personal stories that illustrate the larger trend, see the individual who might be part of tomorrow's stats. If there are communities at risk, then these are the people we should be hearing from. What are the reasons they give for their individual distress? What patterns can we see and analyze and generalize from?

My Trump spin would be that all these 'unnecessary' deaths of middle-aged white men (to suicide, drugs, alcohol, etc) are the fault of the Democrats and progressive dismantling of a moral America, that while the middle classes have suffered under Democratic grandiosity, it is the old-stock American working-class who suffer the most. It is the pity-the-poor leftists who have drop-kicked white labouring communities.

I would make it about 'holes' in the economy that open up when free-trade drops the floor on wages or otherwise relocates labour and energy. I would make it about education still being a way out of a hole. I would make it about distant bureaucracies that entirely missed a tragedy.

Against that backdrop spin, my inner Trump would offer a bold new way forward, so that no-one is forgotten, least of all the least-educated and vulnerable.

On the other side of the aisle, my inner Clinton would simply blame the regimes that operate in the most-vulnerable states. The states with the greatest amounts of suffering revealed in the study, well, aren't they Republican-led? Don't they have the shittiest education systems and the shittiest welfare and retraining schemes? Hasn't the Republican party, for all its attachment to old-stock simple values, failed this demographic?

In Canada, of course, although the greatest numbers of suicides are also middle-aged men, we haven't experienced the same 'hollowing out' (of ecomony/education/improvement/reinsertion) even though we experience the same kinds of economic and demographic challenges of the present world order.

It is a very sad bit of information, that a class of 'forgotten' Americans are putting themselves in early graves. I don't know how to spin it positively. I will report back after gleaning more currents and eddies of spin applied to the sadness.

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I get some vague mental images: recession, unemployment, oxycodone, heroin, alcohol, car crashes, relentless depression, family breakdown, isolation, pessimism, economic doom.... Wolf, what do you think about the study?

Pretty simple. White children and grandchildren are in peril. Americans’ optimism is dying (2014)

"Only 12 percent of American voters say that most children in the United States will grow up to be better off financially than their parents. Fifty-nine percent say today's children will be worse off, and another 29 percent say they would be about the same. Republican and independent voters are more negative than Democratic voters, but pessimism for the future is widely shared across parties and financial status levels." http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/poll-americans-pessimistic-about-economy-n454776

Look at what happened in Missouri today. Final score: Free Shit Army 7, Taxpayers 0

"[Negro] athletes can have a huge impact on social-justice causes when they open their mouths, wear armbands or don T-shirts. They do, however, take serious risks with their brand and livelihood when they take a stand on issues that white fans in particular may find controversial. This is especially the case on a college campus where players are dependent on school scholarships for tuition, housing and meals...Mizzou alumni couldn’t care less about social justice, racism or the protection of African-American students. They like football and tailgating every Saturday. And if firing Wolfe and addressing some racism gets them back in the parking lot with a beer and a brat watching black men run up and down a field this Saturday, so be it. At the end of the day, there are lots of people who can serve as a college president, but there aren’t nearly as many who can break four tackles for a score on third and 7. Let’s just hope that other prominent college football teams see the power that was shown by the Missouri Tigers today: that if you stay organized and unified, you don’t have to just run the field; you can run your school." http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/11/university_of_mo_president_tim_wolfe_resigns_proving_that_sportslivesmatter.html

"We demand that the University of Missouri System President, Tim Wolfe, writes a handwritten apology... acknowledge his white male privilege, recognize that systems of oppression exist... After his removal a new amendment to UM system policies must be established to have all future UM system president and Chancellor positions be selected by a collective of students, staff, and faculty of diverse backgrounds... We demand that the University of Missouri creates and enforces comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units, mandatory for all students, faculty, staff, and administration. This curriculum must be vetted, maintained, and overseen by a board comprised of students, staff, and faculty of color... We demand that by the academic year 2017-2018, the University of Missouri increases the percentage of black faculty and staff... We demand that the University of Missouri increases funding, resources, and personnel for the social justices centers on campus for the purpose of hiring additional professionals, particularly those of color..." http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/read-university-missouri-protesters-list-impressive-demands-led-presidents

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised the group of protesters for rallying together and demanding change, pointing out that Obama’s first presidential campaign was embodied by the same spirit. “I think this also illustrates something that the president talked a lot about in the context of – in his campaign, that a few people speaking up and speaking out can have a profound impact on the communities where we live and work,” he said during the daily press briefing today. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/09/white-house-praises-protestors-forcing-university-missouri-president-step/

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William,

PNAS is a government organization. After all the skewed studies and statistics that come from these kinds of organizations, I am not competent to say whether this one on white folks has an agenda behind it or not.

I will await further studies, especially ones from other organizations with other kinds of skin in the game (intentional groaner :) ), like insurance companies.

Besides, I have too much on my plate as it is, so I don't have time for a deep dive right now. But, I am highly skeptical regarding the core story I see trying to emerge from it--that is, the oppressed minorities have finally broken the backs of the evil old white guys and turned them into pathetic little things.

:)

Michael

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There is no agenda!

All white people are Devils even if they did not come to America before 1900 because less than .04% of the 12% of the total population says so!!

Isn't the majority sick of this bullshit?

A...

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Jonathan writes:

So, your view of "autonomy" is getting PERMITS yourself?

Absolutely. :smile:

By developing our own land and building our own home we more than quadrupled our investment. We reaped ALL of the profits of the developer, the general contractor, and the real estate agent. We also earned a generous profit by working in ALL of the trades as well.

You obviously don't understand the Capitalist business principle of production which buys your economic freedom, Jonathan...

...or you wouldn't be asking such stupid questions! :laugh:

I make my way in this world just as it is right now. It does not need to change for me to live a meaningful productive and happy life. It's my own personal responsibility to creatively adapt so as to live a good life regardless of what others choose to do with their lives.

Greg

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Do you understand the Stockholm Syndrome?

--Brant

or how you might really be just another materialist and hiding under moral veneer?

a "good American"?

breathe, breathe--the pain will pass

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Do you understand the Stockholm Syndrome?

--Brant

or how you might really be just another materialist and hiding under moral veneer?

a "good American"?

breathe, breathe--the pain will pass

Quit making me feel better.

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Brant writes:

or how you might really be just another materialist and hiding under moral veneer?

Morality is the key to material success in life, Brant.

And it's just one blessing that overflows into your life from doing what's right. There are many others.

You have no idea of the power of acting in harmony with the objective reality of moral law.

It literally calls Paradise down to this Earth. :smile:

Greg

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I make my way in this world just as it is right now. It does not need to change for me to live a meaningful productive and happy life. It's my own personal responsibility to creatively adapt so as to live a good life regardless of what others choose to do with their lives.

Thanks for this. It is a lesson which I am slowly learning myself.

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To chime in on making one's own way by choice, I recently read about a person who was a janitor and perfectly happy.

It's from the book, Magic Words by Tim David (a surprisingly profound book on persuasion and words--even more so because it's so short and written by a professional magician). I bolded the parts that jumped out at me.

My grandfather was one of only two people in my life who encouraged me in my pursuit of a career in magic. While everyone else was telling me to focus on finding something more realistic and hoping that I would outgrow the phase, he urged me to keep practicing. His pure joy at watching my magic inspired me like nothing else. Every time I saw him he'd ask, "Any new tricks?" or "Got any gigs coming up?"

I didn't know this at the time, but long before I was even born he dabbled as an amateur magician. I discovered this shortly after showing him my first fumbling card trick. He smiled as he watched patiently. When I was finished, he quietly held his hand out for the cards and proceeded to blow my ten-year-old mind with incredible sleight-of-hand tricks. I was hooked.

He never pursued magic as a career. Instead, he ended up working as a janitor until he was in his eighties.

Here's the thing: he loved his job. While other people looked down on his profession, he changed his perspective. He didn't expect his job to bring meaning to his life; he brought meaning to his job. Never once did I hear him complain about work. In fact, whenever I went to the clinic where he worked, the staff treated me like royalty, because I was "Eddie's grandkid." He was always upbeat and positive at work.

It wasn't his position I respected. It wasn't just the fact that he was my grandfather. It certainly wasn't his money, his physical strength, or his tiny apartment.

It was his perspective. He didn't motivate me just by telling me a "because." He showed me.

If you don't have your own compelling "because," then it will be very hard for you to give one to others. So let me ask you, "Why are you going to work?"

It's pretty tough to convince anyone to love their work or to pursue their calling if you're stuck in the humdrum, day-to-day, "need to" stage yourself. If this is you, then it looks like you've got a choice to make. You can either change your perspective, or you can change your profession. That's it. In this land of opportunity and in this time ol abundance, there's really no excuse for a job that makes you miserable. We spend far too much of our lives at work for it to be anything less than fulfilling. So again, either do what you love or love what you do.

However, don't rush to quit your job! Don't head to your boss's office screaming and yelling about how "magic boy" told you that you need to change your profession in order to be happy. Changing your profession should be a last resort. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where it's watered.


This approach reminds me of Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning). Frankl would not let the Nazis, not even in a concentration camp, decide what his life meant. That was his choice, his perspective, and his alone. And that helped him survive when so many around him were giving up and dying (that is, those who were not brutally killed).

Michael

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objectiveMan writes:

Thanks for this. It is a lesson which I am slowly learning myself.

So am I... and I will be for all of my life.

I used to believe that if the world around me was better, I would be happy...

...until I realized that if I'm happy, it makes the world around me better. :smile:

Greg

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