Sam Harris and The Moral Landscape

I suspect that some of you will be interested to hear that I picked up a copy of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris today. I’m planning to finish reading Cicero’s letters before I dive into it, but you can anticipate a review in about two weeks or so. I’ve also sent an email to his publicist requesting an interview; while Sam and I have exchanged email in the past, that’s on a different computer that is presently stowed away. But note that any interview I do will be a non-critical one; it will not be a debate. The point of a literary interview is to help the author accurately get the views expressed in his book out to the public, not to criticize them, and I’m not interested in limiting myself to interviewing authors with whom I more or less agree.

As you know, I refuse to pronounce judgment on a book, any book, without reading it, although I certainly don’t mind expressing my uninformed doubts should I have them prior to doing so. In this case, I have to applaud Sam for having the intellectual courage to seize the bull by the horns; unlike his fellow New Atheists (except Daniel Dennett), he has recognized the weak point of the lack of universal warrant and is attempting to do something about it. As to whether he has the intellectual firepower to successfully make his case, well, that may be another matter entirely. We shall presently see.

I couldn’t quite resist reading the first page or three… and all I’m going to say at the moment is that it is clear that unlike his fellow atheist Michael Shermer, Sam is unfamiliar with the core concepts of the Austrian School of Economics. Those who are familiar with how I operate and can put two and two together should be able to figure out why this seemingly unrelated field is relevant as well as where I’m going with this, in fact, I have even mentioned this specific issue in the past. I also found two major – at this point, I shall merely describe them as points of interest – in the first three pages.

As for that sound you hear, it is merely the blades being sharpened. Just in case they should turn out to be necessary, you understand.

The dryer test

One of Catkiller’s readers poses a dilemma:

You have a matching washer and dryer. The washer breaks down to a point it would cost more or as much to repair as it would to replace. Fortunately, it is under warranty and the warranty company replaces the washer with a very nice new washing machine. However, the washer and dryer no longer match. The dryer functions fine, but it is older and a different brand than the new washer.

Do you replace the dryer? Does it even occur to you to consider replacing the dryer?

In which the verdict is announced

Roissy deigns to issue a bull on the Duke Powerpoint and does not disappoint:

I wasn’t interested at first, having scanned the notorious Powerpoint and concluded that it was just another story of a whore riding the (alpha) cock carousel who happened to forego discretion and publicize her sluttery, nothing to see here move along dystopia down the hall and to your left. But a closer inspection of Owen’s tell-all reveals a river of scorned subconsciousness that the mainstream feminist bloggers have predictably failed to notice – this chick was rejected by each and every one of these high status men she banged.

“But how can that be?”, some of the duller among you will ask. “None of the men turned her down for sex.”

Don’t you know it’s different for women? Failing to get laid is not how women are rejected; they are rejected when they don’t receive romance, love, and long term commitment….

Bottom line: a male Karen Owen would actually see his sexual market value *rise*, while Owen’s value as a girlfriend and potential wife has undoubtedly fallen. This — plus the raw hypergamy on display by her choice of sexual partners and her ability to effortlessly fulfill that limbic impulse — is the underlying message of Owen’s cutesy confessional. And it’s the message that the legacy media, the middle-aged vicars of vicariousness, and the feminists are trying hard to miss.

I didn’t bother reading the Powerpoint myself, having reached that season of life where Cicero and game design documents are vastly more interesting than yet another vicarious rehash of the college years. But this is exactly the same conclusion I reached based on what I saw in the Deadspin and Jezebel articles; a plain, but sufficiently slender 6 with the usual hypergamous instincts fornicating over her socio-sexual value with higher status young men who would never consider dating her, let alone marrying her. Roissy nailed it, right down to the expected manface.

Madonna/Whore is more than a male psychological complex, it is also a significant life choice that women have to make regardless of whether they are consciously aware of making it or not. There are exceptions, of course, as there must be in applying a binary principle to a population of 150 million, but in general, if a young woman has reason to believe she has a reasonable shot at attracting an alpha with whom to settle down, she has to forgo the short-term option of spending four to twelve years riding the alpha carousel if she wants to marry one. And she can’t be tempted into imitating the behavior of the lower-ranking young women who can never hope to do more than take the occasional carousel spin because in doing so she lowers her own rank.

Because all questions of value are intrinsically economic in nature, the vital Austrian question of time preferences – spend now or save and spend later – therefore applies. And it should not be surprising that so few young women grasp this fairly obvious fact, since they are natural and instinctive Keynesians who tend to believe that spending their resources magically creates more demand for them. But one shouldn’t have to study economics to understand that it is scarcity that drives high-priced value.

Bankrupting the big banks

The Great Foreclosure Fraud is not about clerical errors or defaulting homeowners. It never was. It’s about the way in which the U.S. banks selling mortgage-backed securities fraudulently ripped off the pension funds the taxpayer-owned GSEs, and the foreign banks.

In addition to Fannie and Freddie, there are millions… billions… trillions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities out there that are now very much in doubt. And the pension funds have been pushing for some time now for information about the securitizers, the big banks who bought the mortgages and put them in pools and sold the MBS, whether they should have to buy back the mortages for not meeting the contractual requirements. Those may have varied from contract to contract, but I guarantee that every one of them required that there be proper paperwork and a right to foreclose if the debts aren’t paid. If those banks have to buy back all that stuff, it’s a big liability….

There’s a pretty good chance that if they had to buy back a lot of those mortgages because they did not meet the contractual representations and warranties as it’s called, the mortgages were not what they were required to be and in almost every contract if they weren’t what they were required to be the back was required to buy them back, that’s probably more than they can buy back. We may be back where we were two years ago. There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday morning where someone said this is going to be so bad for the banks we might have to have another TARP. That ain’t gonna happen, not in this lifetime…. we certainly aren’t going to give the banks, or lend the banks, more money to get them back to solvency.
– Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC)

The reason the giant banks are desperately trying to avoid turning over the mortgage-backed security documents and resisting subpoenas is because they will be forced into bankruptcy as soon as any of the investors get their hands on them.

UPDATE: Citi delineates the three possible outcomes:

Levitin articulated three possible outcomes to the aforementioned issues and assigned an equal likelihood to each. In his best case scenario, these issues are deemed merely technical in nature and are successfully resolved but it takes at least year to do so and all foreclosures are delayed by at least a year. Levitin disputed the claim by banks that these issues can be resolved in a month or so and attributed the banks’ claims to “legal posturing.” In the medium case scenario, litigation ensues and it takes years to sort out these matters. In the worst case scenario, the aforementioned issues become a “systemic problem” which causes the mortgage market to grind to a halt as title insurers refuse to insure mortgages involving existing homes.

He left out the fact that in the medium scenario, all of the MBS-selling banks go bankrupt. Which is to say, the big four with their $7 trillion in assets, (45% of which I have estimated are worthless), at the very least.