Marginal Utility

Your mother may love you, your friends adore you, and your enemies lie prostrate in awe — but you aren’t worth ten cents on the market for being “you”; your value there depends almost entirely on your productivity. If you cannot contribute to a productive process, you are worthless . . . and it is unfair for you to demand of anyone anything more than what they may willingly pay you. It is especially unfair to demand support from those who have developed skills valuable to others while you have not.

Marginal utility: what is yours?

It appears, from what I’ve been watching on video, that Trump has long confused public sovereign debt with trade deficits, and is a mercantilist at heart. Which makes him a protectionist, too. Hence his earnest pushing of anti-immigrant demagoguery.

The fact that the Republican votership goes for this nonsense is not surprising to me. FREE TRADE was always a Democratic Party principle, not a Republican Party one. The GOP started out as the Whig Party redivivus, and Republicans were protectionists for their first hundred years. But at least since William Jennings Bryan, a strong protectionist streak has run down the yellow backs of populists in both parties. Most people don’t see the peace dividends of free trade. They only think of managing “their” advantages, while avoiding all talk of secondary and tertiary effects.

Trump is dangerous because he is a protectionist (as is Bernie Sanders), but (unlike Sanders) sometimes pretends to be free trade. The fact that America engages in massive mutual trade agreements rather than the less expensive and corrupting policy of unilateral free trade, plays into both Trump’s and Sanders’s hands. And Hillary Clinton’s, too.

You might wonder, how does a philosophical view of the world differ from an ordinary view? Well, here’s a good example:

Five "Truths"

This is a partisan, conservative post from a group I know nothing about. Just came across it on Twitter. The listicle purports to advance “five serious truths.”

But wait. Not one of these “truths” is a fact. Each one is a normative opinion, should statements at best, commands at worst.

It’s really just a series of demands.

You might wish to fard up your demands as “truths” but that doesn’t cut it. Each one of these demands, to qualify as “truths,” requires demonstration, at the very least, with theory and fact to back it up. Not mere dogmatic statement. What we see, here, is really just a form of careless, base rhetoric, claiming for your preferences a factual content that is not evident at all.

Now, I’m not saying these five truths-manqué are not good ideas. I might be convinced of one or two of them, if some argument were offered. Maybe. But what I know is that they are not facts and they are not easily defined as “truths.”

What else do I know? That the mind that put them together is not at all interested in careful analysis or reasonable promotion of his or her ideas.

Take the first claim, about having an “absolute right” to resist immigration. Such a right is not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution, and does not even seem to be there implicitly. It was not mentioned by any of the classical liberal texts upon which the Constitution was, common historical opinion has it, based — you know, the works of Locke and the Levellers and Grotius and Cicero and Montesquieu, or even Tom Paine, whose Rights of Man came later. This “absolute right” is also undermined by the obvious fact that the laws of our land came entirely from an immigrant culture. Yes, I am talking about the European invasion of the Americas. Wandering, migrating Europeans, after re-peopling the Americas with white and African stock, then (we are to belive?!?!) cooked up an absolute right to prevent doing exactly what did?

Nonsense, of course. This “absolute right” is the weakest statement of the lot. It’s not a truth, but almost certainly a falsity.

This is the kind of lowbrow, sub-intellectual nonsense that dominates our political landscape, left and right. I guess this is “right-wing” nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless.


You have a right to your opinion. Sure.

But others also have a right to argue against your opinion, and dismiss you as a crank if your arguments come up short.

Indeed, they have a right to dismiss you even if your arguments do not come up short.

Why? Your opinions and your rights are distinct things, and free speech isn’t about ensuring an audience for your views, or even for your arguments, true or false.

Free speech is merely your rights in a free society to express yourself within the scheme of private property and contract. No one is required to listen. No one is obligated to give you a platform. You must entice them, and cooperate with them. Those who do not listen to others usually, at some point, stop being listened to. Free speech is not merely the proverbial two-way street, it is a whole network of roads and alleyways and overpasses and tunnels . . .

And no one’s opinion is proved true either by consensus acceptance. And no opinion is proved true (or false) by its social marginalization.

The world is not perfect, nor can be made so.

The job of the philosopher is to examine ideas and opinions with a rigor not usually supplied or demanded in either free or unfree discourse. Philosophy has always been an elite activity, often marginalized, only occasionally and temporarily popular. And your “right to an opinion” doesn’t mean much to a philosopher qua philosopher. Opinions are all subject to rigorous disputation. You may passionately defend them, but, in the end, neither you nor your passion account for anything. Does the opinion hold up under scrutiny? Or does it not?

That is about it.

I never wanted to burn a Koran until hordes of Muslims made it very clear that they felt justified in killing me for doing so.

Caveat: the only copy I have of the ancient document is an ebook, so that leaves us with another meme entirely:


In the immortal words of “motorist” Rodney King, “can we all get along?”

As a sort of crazed anger spreads throughout America, two things seem obvious to me:

  1. The police do often over-react, too often with gross injustice.
  2. Suspects and innocent bystanders aren’t exactly proving themselves to be calm, level-headed, and virtuous in the face of police over-reaction.

It’s hard to keep one’s head — one’s “cool” — when others lose theirs. And, sure, we hire police to keep cool, sticking to procedure when violence or some other conflict breaks out to upset the normal peace of society.

But I speak to the kids out there, the youngsters, especially those who think they are being treated unjustly: even when the police are wrong, very rarely does it make sense to defy them. Prudence (as distinguished from justice) most of the time requires us to

  • be polite (show respect);
  • calm down (demonstrate restraint yourself);
  • articulate information helpful to sorting out the situation, whatever that is;
  • comply with explicit demands unless those demands are sure to kill you; and (most of all)
  • remember that police have been authorized to use force — the “police power” — and have a great deal of license and leeway.

Yes, power corrupts. Police are not excepted from this. But we (the less empowered, the until-proven-otherwise innocent) citizens must remember that they do have a tough job, resolving conflict day in and out, and we must always signal to the police our willingness to be peaceful. Even if we are in the right, losing our tempers (our “cools”) demonstrates belligerence, as far as the police are concerned, which elicits negative reactions.

Police abuse of power is no excuse for citizen unruliness. When the police are unjust, the best recourse is court — not the chalk outline of your body.


For all the talk of the “failure of the Enlightenment Project,” despite the tomes dedicated to the passing of modernity, regardless of how time seems to have passed by our past’s greatest markers and makers . . . the truth seems obvious: it is post-modernism that is in trouble.

Typo in the above, from my Facebook page (thumbing on my iPad is no way to type):  “but of past ones as well.”  Not “if.”

We all mispeak, of course, and mistype. Seinfeld, after all, in the quoted interview, does not quite connect the dots between college political correctness and his daughter’s misuse of language. But we get it: “the kids these days” is the subject and connecting tissue. As Seinfeld acutely observes, “they just want to use these words.”

When I was young, I objected to the rampant misuse of words in conservative and mainstream debate. That was where I detected the pattern of carelessness that I now see rampant on the self-identified left.

It is not primarily a problem of left or right, of course. It is a problem of the usual laziness of the moralistic mind. Nearly everybody is naturally a moralist. But few are moral philosophers by nature. That requires some cultivation.

There will always be a role for philosophy, for people in their normal condition just go with the herd, and the herd is almost never known for its collective intelligence. Followers follow blindly, to a regrettable extent. And most leaders are no better; many are worse.

Which is why Plato’s Philosopher King — or Daniel Dennett’s low-level shadow of that notion, the educational “supervisor” — cannot fix the problem. My only solution is for philosophers to transcend their cushy academic ghettos and once again push for public philosophy . . . but without the sanction or support of that most capturable castle, the State.

Why? “Political correctness.”


A recent Facebook post of mine, from my page, the comments on top referring to the visual meme below: 

Not long after posting that, I came across another Muslim-focused meme, based on a story about a Muslim woman who felt “humiliated” on a plane.

I was less than completely sympathetic:

If the story is true, then the airline personnel did, I suppose, behave pretty stupidly. Par for that course, in these days of TSA nonsense and paranoia and idiotic regulation. But over-reaction on the part of others gives us no license, in such cases, for over-reaction ourselves.

I mean, come on here. I have never understood the idea of “humiliation” for being treated stupidly. It is the fool who should feel humiliation. If you have committed no error, no affront, but others have sinned, it is only your own weakness that prevents you from reacting from a stance of honor and confidence.

And, likewise, if others discriminate against you because too many members of your kind behave badly for those others to ignore (reasonably or un-), you may be irked by the discrimination, but remember: people cannot treat you as an “individual” in full humanity and as an end in yourself in all cases — simply cannot. 

Some seemingly unreasonable discrimination will always be with us.

So, be more annoyed with the members of your kind who put you in that predicament. Do not take umbrage against those who prepare against terroristic threat, taking on the risk and uncertainty surrounding that threat.

It is not impossible to do; the terms of your allegiance to “your kind” are under your control.

After all, I managed to do this before I was a mature adult. I reacted against my in-group 35 years ago and more, resisting an easy victim status in how I looked upon members of my kind when I was a young man, when I had to pay auto insurance rates more than double what women my age did. The insurance companies were not regarding my full individuality, focusing exclusively on my good driving habits, but necessarily (at least primarily) on my existence in a class whose probabilities were the basis of any possible contract between us. So, of course I despised (or at least expressed vexation with) the reckless drivers amongst my fellows, against members of my age group and sex. They were to blame for my ridiculously high insurance rates. To blame the insurance companies for “discrimination” (as feminists did at that time, regarding medical insurance that women used at far higher rates than men) would have been witless.

So, too, this woman. She has standing for vexation. Sure. But if she does not have the courage to express it against radical Muslim terrorists who have destroyed planes and accomplished this using small metal objects as weapons on planes — just as the simpleton airline employee expressed as a fear from her — then she is the bigot.

Victimhood is such a prized possession in our memescape that people seem no longer able to think their way out of idea traps like this, so disabled they are by ideology from confronting the issues we inevitably face . . . under the terms we should reserve for this confrontation: honesty and skepticism and tolerance.

Obstacles to self-control

The first hurdle is to accept your own responsibility for as far as that can reasonably go. If you don’t bathe, people will avoid you. You cannot blame them for being “anti-social.” If you hold to an ideology that includes crazed mass murderers, expect to find your belief system and your very own person at least sometimes under suspicion.

The second hurdle is the in-group allegiance, with which we are dealing here. If you always side with “your side” in disputes, you are probably not a moral person: you have either made yourself incapable of impartial thought and judgment, or have prevented yourself from rising to that level.

The the third hurdle is to understand the complexity and context of every conflict and tension. Ideas must reflect the whole and its parts. Mereology is at bottom absolutely essential for all humane thinking and acting.

So very modern

I usually emphasize the atavistic nature of Islam. But modern Muslims sure do have a knack of milking the modish progressive audience for every ounce of “the left’s” sacred victimhood.

Grow up, alleged disciples of Muhammad. Take mastery of yourself. Learn how to think and argue and comport yourselves as competent adults. Then maybe I’ll give your beliefs a modicum of serious attention. Until then, I will continue to dismiss you for your crazy, lunatic mélange of atavism and postmodernism, criminality and “victim” status.

(Womens Health) – Melissa McCarthy has hit back at a sexist male reporter’s harsh comment in the best possible way. In March 2015, the daily mail reporter cruelly labelled her “hideous” in a movie review sparking huge uproar. Her response? Losing an incredible 50 lbs in just 2 months. According to Melissa it was the most profound physical transformation of her life in such a short period.

Or so begins a bizarre Net advertisement for some possibly lunatic diet method I just came across.

What interest me is not its quality as a lede to shill a product (it could be pitch perfect, for all I care), but the bizarre misuse of the word “sexist.”

Sexism is not body shaming. Sexism once had a pretty exact meaning. It did not means “something bad associated with sex, especially by men directed against women.”

Of course, nowadays, that is probably all it means. After bouncing around for years, ideological words tend to degrade in meaning.

This has been a “gender”-free lexical complaint. Sort of.


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