Mailvox: The Hazlitt international trade challenge

Ampontan posed a free trade-related challenge:

When you can offer a serious critique of Chapter 11 of Hazlitt’s Economics in One Easy Lesson without using buzzwords like “bizarre”, I might begin to take this argument seriously.

I find it rather difficult to resist a direct and substantive intellectual challenge, particularly when it stems from an intelligent and knowledgeable source. Throw in the fact that Hazlitt is an economist for whom I have a good deal of respect – his demolition of Keynes’s General Theory is still one of the most thorough available – so this was practically perfect Voxbait. After reading the chapter through twice, I’ve decided that I’m not going to address the entirety of it in a single post, but will instead address Hazlitt’s core argument in a detailed manner which will not necessarily conclude the case, but should suffice to convince doubters that the anti-free trade argument at least merits being taken seriously by libertarians and Austrians alike.

(Note to self: do not use “bizarre” or other buzzwords in the process.)

Hazlitt writes: An American manufacturer of woolen sweaters goes to Congress or to the State Department and tells the committee or officials concerned that it would be a national disaster for them to remove or reduce the tariff on British sweaters. He now sells his sweaters for $30 each, but English manufacturers could sell their sweaters of the same quality for $25. A duty of $5, therefore, is needed to keep him in business. He is not thinking of himself, of course, but of the thousand men and women he employs, and of the people to whom their spending in turn gives employment. Throw them out of work, and you create unemployment and a fall in purchasing power, which would spread in ever-widening circles. And if he can prove that he really would be forced out of business if the tariff were removed or reduced, his argument against that action is regarded by Congress as conclusive.

But the fallacy comes from looking merely at this manufacturer and his employees, or merely at the American sweater industry. It comes from noticing only the results that are immediately seen, and neglecting the results that are not seen because they are prevented from coming into existence.

The lobbyists for tariff protection are continually putting forward arguments that are not factually correct. But let us assume that the facts in this case are precisely as the sweater manufacturer has stated them. Let us assume that a tariff of $5 a sweater is necessary for him to stay in business and provide employment at sweater-making for his workers.

We have deliberately chosen the most unfavorable example of any for the removal of a tariff. We have not taken an argument for the imposition of a new tariff in order to bring a new industry into existence, but an argument for the retention of a tariff that has already brought an industry into existence, and cannot be repealed without hurting somebody.

The tariff is repealed; the manufacturer goes out of business; a thousand workers are laid off; the particular tradesmen whom they patronized are hurt. This is the immediate result that is seen. But there are also results which, while much more difficult to trace, are no less immediate and no less real. For now sweaters that formerly cost retail $30 apiece can be bought for $25. Consumers can now buy the same quality of sweater for less money, or a much better one for the same money. If they buy the same quality of sweater, they not only get the sweater, but they have $5 left over, which they would not have had under the previous conditions, to buy something else. With the $25 that they pay for the imported sweater they help employment—as the American manufacturer no doubt predicted — in the sweater industry in England. With the $5 left over they help employment in any number of other industries in the United States.

But the results do not end there. By buying English sweaters they furnish the English with dollars to buy American goods here. This, in fact (if I may here disregard such complications as fluctuating exchange rates, loans, credits, etc.) is the only way in which the British can eventually make use of these dollars. Because we have permitted the British to sell more to us, they are now able to buy more from us. They are, in fact, eventually forced to buy more from us if their dollar balances are not to remain perpetually unused. So as a result of letting in more British goods, we must export more American goods. And though fewer people are now employed in the American sweater industry, more people are employed—and much more efficiently employed—in, say, the American washing-machine or aircraft-building business. American employment on net balance has not gone down, but American and British production on net balance has gone up. Labor in each country is more fully employed in doing just those things that it does best, instead of being forced to do things that it does inefficiently or badly. Consumers in both countries are better off. They are able to buy what they want where they can get it cheapest. American consumers are better provided with sweaters, and British consumers are better provided with washing machines and aircraft.

I count seven unwarranted assumptions on Hazlitt’s part that render his primary argument in support of free trade incorrect and therefore invalid. They are as follows:

1. Hazlitt assumes that manufacturers are the primary beneficiaries from barriers to trade and therefore the leading advocates of them. This may have once been true, but it is clearly no longer the case. Economics in One Lesson was published in 1946, when the U.S. balance of trade ran a 35 percent surplus and trade amounted to 6.8 percent of GDP. Free trade was operating to the benefit of most American manufacturers and workers alike; since the industrial infrastructures of Europe and Asia were in ruins, few American sectors were at a competitive disadvantage. Like Ricardo, Hazlitt clearly never imagined a scenario when jobs would not be lost to foreign manufacturing competitors, but to the new foreign factories established by the former domestic manufacturers. The additional profit provided by a $5 tariff is now of less interest to the domestic manufacturer than the opportunity to set up a factory in Bangladesh, make the sweater at a lower cost, then import it and sell it for $25. If we leave out the distribution channel which is the same for both foreign and domestic manufacturers and assume a profit margin of 50 percent, we can compare the profit margins of the various alternatives. At the 50 percent profit margin, we know that the manufacturer’s domestic costs were $15 and his profit was $15 with the protection of the $5 tariff. But Bangladesh has a wage rate that is one-thirtieth that of the USA, so if labor is one-third the cost of production and international shipping is 10 percent of the manufacturing cost, his new production and delivery cost will be $11.17. This reduction of $3.83 in costs means the offshored manufacturer can now afford to sell the imported sweater for 22.34 and still make the same 50 percent profit margin he did before; without tariffs he can compete on price with the $25 English sweaters and actually increase his profit margin by nearly six percent. At the old $30 price, his profit margin has risen to 63 percent, thereby creating a serious incentive to move production to Bangladesh even in the absence of any price pressure from the English sweater makers. Either way, the consumers benefit, the manufacturer benefits, and only the thousands of workers, who lost their $5/sweater jobs, suffer.

So, the $5 tariff not only protects the domestic manufacturer from the English competitor, but more importantly, protects the worker from the domestic manufacturer as it would reduce his potential profit margin from 63 percent to 46 percent. With the tariff in place, the domestic manufacturer has no reason to go to all the trouble and expense to relocate his factory to Bangladesh simply to lose four percent from his profit margin. It is also worth nothing that since Hazlitt was implying a profit margin much lower than the 50 percent I utilized for the purposes of comparison, the difference between going offshore and not going offshore might not be an additional 13 percent profit, but the difference between the survival of the business and its failure. Hazlitt’s error here is the result of the failure of the theory of comparative advantage to account for the international mobility of capital.

2. Hazlitt asserts that the $5 left over from the reduced import price of the sweater will go to help employment in any number of other industries in the United States. It may. Or it may not. Again, Hazlitt was writing when imports accounted for a trivial 2.9 percent of GDP. They now account for 15.8 percent, so that $5 is five times more likely to go towards helping employment in industries outside the United States than it was in 1946. Statistically speaking, what would be $5 of the tariff going towards U.S. employment must be reduced to $4.25. This error can also be traced back to Ricardo’s assumptions, although it is not one of the seven that Fletcher lists.

3. Hazlitt erroneously assumes that the British will buy more from the USA because they will be forced to buy more American goods due to their possession of dollars. This is untrue because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency and is often utilized for trade between foreign countries; the British are no more forced to buy American goods due to their possession of dollars than the Thebans were forced to buy from Athenian goods due to their possession of silver talents.

4. Hazlitt assumes that foreign dollar balances cannot remain perpetually unused. (By “unused” he means unspent in the USA). But there are $610 billion in Eurodollars in foreign banks that will never be used, which is more than the entire amount of annual U.S. exports as recently as 1990! Furthermore, the U.S. has been running a continuous and growing balance of trade deficit in goods since 1976. The $9 billion that went overseas has not only not returned to be spent here, but has increased to $646 billion.

35 years and counting is a long time to wait for this postulated inevitable return, and is unlikely to do any good for the worker who lost his job more than three decades ago.

5. Hazlitt assumes that an American worker who loses his job in one sector will automatically find it in another sector. This is Ricardo’s sixth false assumption identified by Fletcher: “Production factors move easily between domestic industries.” There is no reason to assume that the loss of a job in one sector will create any additional demand in another sector, indeed, to the extent there is worker mobility between industries, all the loss of the job in the one sector will do is create downward pressure on wages in the other sector. There is a hidden and implicit appeal to James Mill here, (or alternatively, to Keynes’s critical formulation of Say’s Law), in the idea that supply somehow magically creates demand. While this can be true in a technological sense, as there was no demand for CD players prior to their invention, it is not an economic law as the excess supply of U.S. housing or the dead inventory stock of any business will demonstrate.

6. Hazlitt assumes that American employment on net balance will not go down and that American and British production on net balance will go up. This is not necessrily true, being an erroneous conclusion based on the previous false assumption. The American worker may well remain unemployed on a permanent basis, as have one-quarter of the once-employed male workers since 1948.

7. Hazlitt assumes that consumers in both countries are better off because they are able to buy what they want where they can get it cheapest. But this is a false assumption because most consumers are also workers or are dependent upon workers. The consumer who is employed can better afford the $30 sweater than the unemployed consumer can the $25 one. Free trade does work to the minor advantage of some Americans as well as to its foreign beneficiaries, but at an inordinately heavy short-term cost to around 25 percent of Americans and a severe long-term cost to the entire American economy.

I shall leave it to Ampontan to determine whether this response justifies taking the argument seriously in the future. I freely admit that I have not yet addressed the entire chapter, only one-third of it, but I expect to do so in another post or two in the reasonably near future.

Mailvox: the double whammy

This may be well be my favorite critical email ever received, as KW manages to not only highlight several of my assertions about the more militant atheists, but to underline, italicize, and bold them as well:

I have been reading assorted texts on the internet and I came across a post that you made a long while back entitled “The socially autistic atheist”. I was particularly interested in your articles because I happen to be both an atheist and an aspie.

It seems to me that the purpose of these articles is to use an ad hominem attack against atheists by calling them “socially autistic” or saying that they have “autistic psychopathy”. You never refute or even address the arguments that these “socially autistic atheists” have in regard to religion or god. In essence, I believe that you are just being a giant asshat troll.

In a previous article you wrote this: Here’s an object lesson that perhaps might be capable of penetrating the skulls of even the most autistically psychopathic. (1) Do you dislike being described as a socially autistic asshole? (2) Would you like it any more if that description was scientifically proven to describe you accurately? (3) Would you consider it polite and/or socially acceptable for me to insist on always describing you to others as an autistic psychopath were this proven to be an accurate description of you?

I assume that this was a reaction to certain aspie atheists spreading the idea that belief in god is a delusion, or that people who believe in god are deluded. well to answer your questions:
1. No of course not. I think that an important distinction to make is that it is an attack on WHO I AM rather than an attack on WHAT I BELIEVE.
2. You are asking a question about a hypothetical scientific description where that hypothetical scientific description would not be scientific. It would however be a logical fallacy (an appeal to authority in this case).I’ll go ahead and say no.
3. No, and I would likely react violently to such discrimination.

Whenever an atheist says that god is a delusion, that is not an attack on any person. It is an attack on an idea. Unlike when you call me a “autistic psychopath”, which is very clearly an attack on who I am as a person. There is no moral equivalence for these statements. TL;DR you are a despicable person who resorts to fighting your intellectual opponents with ad hominem attacks.

I would have expected that you would have already been shamed into making an apology about statements such as this. You are not an expert on autism and you should shut your stupid fucking mouth in my opinion.

With disgust and contempt,

Naturally, I replied with all the kindness and moderation for which I am so justly known, considering that the poor lad has about the same chance of ever landing a girlfriend that I have of being named the premier of China. Let’s face it, I couldn’t not respond. I mean, how could I possibly resist the irony of being lectured on the niceties of correct social conventions by an atheist… an atheist with Asperger’s.

My dear boy,

I absolutely believe your claim to be both an atheist and an aspie. Only someone so intellectually handicapped would be so spectacularly stupid as to claim “You never refute or even address the arguments that these “socially autistic atheists” have in regard to religion or god.”

The fact that I have written and published an entire book on the subject that does precisely what you claim I have never done would appear to be sufficient to invalidate your assertion. You can even download a powerpoint slideshow that summarizes some of the more commonly heard arguments from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris should you be so inclined. So, congratulations. In ten years of writing controversial op/ed columns and being the recipient of the most vehement forms of criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations to godless Sciencebloggers, you have managed to write the single most ignorant email I have ever received. You do Asperger proud.

In respect of your handicap, I shall refrain from pointing out the additional errors you have committed in your response to my questions, although I do invite you to contemplate the moral basis for what you claim is a lack of moral equivalence between the various statements.

With no little amusement,

And now it’s time for the moral of the story. If you happen to suffer from atheism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or autism, the chances are exceedingly high that your ideas concerning what is and what is not socially acceptable behavior are not going to be in accordance with the societal norms of the neurotypical majority. Therefore, your offers to help others better understand proper social etiquette, however kindly intended they might be, are virtually guaranteed to go badly awry.

Mailvox: a profound change of thinking

MK writes to tell how she has found the dreadful miasma of misogyny that engulfs this blog to not only have adjusted her thought processes but also aided her marriage:

It occurred to me yesterday what a profound change in thinking I have had as a result of reading your blog and one of the books you referenced (Married Man’s Sex Life). In my youth in the 70’s, I was happy to soak up the happy horse-sh#$ that popular culture sold about roles of men and women. My marriage of [two decades] has been a difficult struggle owing in part to my desire to see my husband as a badly designed female.

For his part, in my assessment, my husband still struggles with the reality that I am not a man – that is, that I lack career ambition, aren’t that good at finishing what I start (except household duties), and would prefer he initiate sex. It might be harder for him to give up the desire for me to share the providing than for him to give up on primary child-care duties (when that was needed) and housework. The upshot: it is a relief to accept I am not the woman Madison Ave. promoted who wants and can bring home the bacon, serve it up in a pan, and also provide hooker style sex services to my man. That never was me and I always felt inadequate.

I hate to say, I think my husband does view me as inadequate (he works with many woman/mothers who earn big bucks alongside him, not to mention his mother was a dynamo working wife/mother out of monetary necessity). The blog has helped me, however, to accept that I am who I am and more importantly, he is who he is as a he. I have a newfound respect for that. Little by little, I am changing my behavior and attitude and while my husband may always feel he got ripped off because I really wasn’t the career woman he thought I was (I had a job when we met, was good at it, liked it, and parlayed it into working from home so I could take full-time care of and homeschool our children, not because I needed to work for my identity or the money; rather, I did it because I knew my husband wanted me to make money).

I am a Christian of [more than a decade], and this has been an area that the church we were involved with was no good at leading (male/female roles). I have a friend who has been a Christian all her life, but struggled in her marriage. She did not marry a devoted Christian and longs for leadership, but from our conversations, it is clear, she’s at least 50% of the problem. I have shared insights with her from the blog and it is changing her too. Thank you and please keep doing what you’re doing.

I’m glad she’s found the blog to be helpful. I think it’s interesting to see how MK’s email shows the flipside of the female employment issue. Whereas many men don’t want their wives to work so that the women can focus on their careers as wives and mothers, those who do marry working women often expect them to continue working so the men do not have to shoulder the responsibility as the sole income provider. This is dangerous ground, because it is a potential deal-breaker should the woman decide she wants to unilaterally change the arrangement ex post facto.

While women tend to feel they always have the right to change their mind, consider it from the male perspective. What wife would appreciate it if her husband told her that he wasn’t happy with his job and had decided to stay home and master Guitar Hero instead? Would she be delighted that he was pursuing his dream or would she be upset that he had, in a single stroke, suddenly put pressure on her to figure out how to increase her salary by at least 50 percent or accept the necessary reduction in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed? Even though MK’s decision was beneficial for both her marriage and her children in the long term, it’s perfectly understandable that her husband would feel as if he had been played with a bait-and-switch, because it would appear that he was, at least to some extent. There are no shortage of men who have discovered that housework isn’t as unpleasant, stressful, or time-consuming as office serfdom and they are more than happy to divide the responsibilities as they have been told that women want them to do. Naturally, they will resist a sudden demand that they to return to a more traditional role for which they are completely unprepared, and indeed, might even consider to be evil and sexist.

It’s also noteworthy that she has found the church to be useless with regards to offering support for traditional male and female roles. Churchianity is relentlessly feminized and feminist, which is only one of the many reasons to reject it as a pale, bureaucratic, heretical imitation of Christianity.

But I am pleased to hear that MK and her friend have derived a modicum of personal utility from this blog, and I’m sure Athol could use the encouragement as well.

Mailvox: aspies and social autism

In which Van Rooinek objects to making a conceptual link between Asperger’s and atheism:

It’s utterly unfair to link “aspie” with “atheist”. An innate defect in social-situational awareness is no way synonymous with either atheism or an inability to grasp the Christian moral duty of charity. Aspie Christians have a tough enough time with fellow Christians assuming that our inevitable social faux pas are intentional sins rather than perceptual accidents; the equation of “aspie” with “atheist” is even more galling.

While I have no doubt that some will manage it, I find it hard to believe that anyone could miss the humor intrinsic in atheists being offended at being labeled socially autistic while aspies take offense at being tarred by association with atheism. Good times. But, since both groups observably have a somewhat difficult time in understanding various aspects of communication and social interaction, I will explain everything in a logical manner that even the most socially challenged individual should be able to follow.

First, let me address a common misunderstanding. The term “socially autistic” is not, as some have imagined, redundant even though autistic people are known to frequently have social difficulties. The reason is that in the English language, the adjective modifies the noun. As von Hayek elucidated in The Fatal Conceit, “social justice” is intrinsically different than “justice”, so “social autism” is therefore different than “autism”.

The observable difference between the behavior of militant atheists and autistic or aspie individuals is that whereas the latter behave in a neuro-atypical manner regardless of whether they are in a social situation or not, the atheist’s neuro-atypical behavior tends to be limited to the social spheres. This tends to indicate that the behavior is, at least some extent, a conscious choice on the atheist’s part, which only underlines the obnoxious nature of the behavior.

And that, obviously, is the crucial difference. The aspie cannot help his behavior; while the atheist may not be able to help his lack of belief, (which, as I have suggested, may stem from a related neurological disorder), he has no similar excuse for the reprehensible behavior that so often accompanies it.

What Van Rooinek would do well to understand and accept is that when non-aspies behave in a certain manner – the excessive literalism with which some students of Game receive the advice of the Game theoreticians to which he referred being but one example – it is perfectly reasonable to describe such behavior as aspie-like, or “aspie” for short. But there is no more condemnation to be inferred in such a description than there is in referring to a sighted person who simply cannot understand something being explained to him as “blind”.

Moreover, given the way in which aspies are predisposed, by virtue of their neurological handicap, to unintentionally offend others, they would be well-advised to be deliberately slow in taking offense, especially when it is unnecessary. Indeed, instead of being offended, they should be pleased by the sufficient awareness of their condition, and therefore recognition of their lack of culpability for any inadvertently maladroit behavior, that casual use of such an appellation indicates.

Mailvox: why do white women choose black men?

The Spartan inquires:

Why is it that in my town, there is a lot of White Women hanging around Blacks. It seems that every Black man in this town has a white wife, white mistress, white girlfriend. Walk into the Salvation Army soup kitchen and every poor white trash woman (or her grandmother) is lugging around some mulatto child.

How does Game answer this? Should not every Beta White male go around in blackface and talk jive? If reproduction is about genes, and moving up the ladder, why are white women flocking to black men, especially on college campuses?

One can never be certain when attempting to ascertain the motivations behind the actions of others. Never forget some of the most important words of Ludwig von Mises from Human Action: “No dialectical artifice can spirit away the fact that man is driven by the aim to achieve certain ends…. We cannot approach our subject if we disregard the meaning which acting man attaches to the situation, i.e. the given state of affairs and to his own behavior with regard to this situation.”

The problem, of course, is that Man in general and women in particular are very seldom able to explain the actual reasons for their actions, they are much better at providing ex post facto rationalizations of them. But, I have made the following observations over time.

1. The media has been pushing multi-racial romance very, very hard for the last 12-15 years, specifically the white female-black male combination. (I would bet that there are at least 10x more WF-BM couples portrayed than BF-WM couples.) There is nary a commercial on television that does not include a token black man with a funky pseudo-afro at the party or a drama that does not feature a romance between a Handsome Black Man and an Open-Minded White Woman. This tends to have an effect on the class most susceptible to mass marketing, the 18-24 crowd, which also the only group without sufficient life experience to understand that the “racist” stereotypes they so enjoy opposing are based on statistical fact.

2. Black men tend to be more aggressive and forward than white men, on the average. They not only take a shotgun approach, but don’t tend to agonize much over being shot down. Possessing -1SD average IQs, they are less likely to be crippled by introspection and second-guessing than white and Asian men. Recall that Roissy has asserted that high intelligence is actually a handicap with regards to sexual status. Also, the observable black male disinclination for monogamous relationships dictates that a higher percentage of them will remain on the market regardless of their current relationship status.

3. Low rank white women tend to be overvalued by black men. The woman who can attract only white 3s is often able to attract black 7s. I know several black male-white female couples where the black man is significantly more attractive than the white woman. This phenomenon is also often seen in white male-Asian female couples. When a woman has the option to increase her sex rank simply by expanding the pool of acceptable men, it should come as no surprise that many elect to do so.

However, it is interesting to note that despite the race-mixing at the prole level, very little of it takes place among the marrying classes. Virtually no white women actually marry black men; even Asian marriages to white men are on the order of 2 percent of all Asian female marriages. As with most cultural degradations such as crime and illegitimacy, multi-racial non-marital relationships are for the lower classes while the shrinking middle and upper classes of all races remain homogenous.

So, on the basis of his email, I can conclude the Spartan’s town is an economically depressed one that is largely comprised of lower class whites with a large minority population. As far as the question about Game goes, the rule is to mimic whatever behavior is proven to be successful. If the Spartan is interested in overweight, peroxide-blonde 3s, he would probably be wise to imitate the behavior of those gentlemen who are presently attracting them.

Stay away from career women II

Yesterday a few working wives took exception to the logic which suggests that because working wives tend to have more affairs than non-working wives, it is wise for the man who is interested in marrying to eliminate career-oriented women from his list of prospective mates. This was entirely unsurprising, but not entirely unamusing.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I have been reading Umberto Eco’s On Literature this past week, and one passage in particular will surely remind the Dread Ilk of why I regard him as a writer worthy of a regard that comes perilously close to idolatry. (Bear with me, this will all make sense soon.)  “Our only commitment is, by serious and continued work, without giving in to any blackmail, to humiliate those who are our inferiors.”

Thus spake Umberto. And as an Award-Winning Cruelty Artist and Internet Superintelligence, I have little choice but to heed the Zarathustranesque call. Hier steh ich, ich kann nicht anders, weil es ist mein Los.

So. With that in mind, let us now consider the claims made by a few of the various female critics yesterday. Connie asserted: “The percentage of men who cheat on women still outnumbers the percentage of women who cheat on men by at least double.”

This is simply wrong; as I correctly concluded on the mere basis of her sex and passive-aggression. Connie is a statistical illiterate. The most recent figures I have seen report that 20% of married men and 15% of married women have been unfaithful. This means that men are 33% more likely to cheat than women, which is significantly less than “more than 100%.” But more relevant given the context of the post is the fact that men between the ages of 25 and 44, (the age range in which most marriage and marital unfaithfulness occurs), are also 21% more likely to be a participant in the labor force. This tends to support the reported link between increased female labor force participation and increased female unfaithfulness.

This link is further bolstered by a 2005 report which shows:

1. “Working women are more than three times more likely to be divorced than their stay-at-home counterparts.”

2. “The longer hours women work, the more likely they are to be divorced.”

3. “Compared to non-working women, those with a full-time job have a 29 per cent higher odds of divorce.”

Now, obviously not all divorces are the result of extramarital affairs, let alone affairs by the wife. But the statistics are conclusive and clear. If a man elects to pursue a relationship with a woman who intends to continue working full-time, he will significantly increase the chances that his wife will be unfaithful to him and that he will eventually end up divorced. Furthermore, he should also know that if his marriage survives, his wife will make for an inferior mother, as his children will be 23% less likely to pass college entrance exams, 29% more likely to be unemployed, and will weigh an average of four pounds more at age 11 than children whose mothers care enough about them to stay at home and raise them.

(For the Nth time, this should not be taken as criticism of single mothers who have no choice but to work and provide for their children. One cannot condemn a nonexistent choice. However, most working mothers who are married do not have to work, they have instead made a lifestyle choice that happens to place a priority on other things than personally raising their children. While it is their right to make such a choice, it is not their right to pretend they have not made it.)

BJ attempted to respond by relying upon the always humorous, but logically invalid Appeal to Individual Nonexistent Hearsay approach, as she wrote: “Sorry, but my husband has yet to tell me that a co-worker hit on him, but rather a customer (i.e., stay at home moms who are good wives and superior mothers).”

BJ’s argument is based on four central assumptions:

1. BJ’s husband as likely to report being hit on by a co-worker, who would be a regular threat to their marriage, than a customer with whom he spends far less, if indeed any, time. This may be true, but it is by no means certain.  And BJ is not a reliable determinant of her husband’s inclination to keep her informed on the subject.

2. BJ’s husband is equally attractive to his co-workers as his customers. This is questionable. Since his work brings him into regular contact with stay-at-home wives, his employment status is probably relatively low, an observation supported by our knowledge that BJ herself works and supplements the marital income.

3. BJ’s husband has a similar number of female co-workers and customers. This is unknown, but unlikely. But it’s an important assumption, because even if he had been hit on 10 times more often by stay-at-home wives than by his female co-workers, the logic would still remain relevant if he had 100 female clients and two female co-workers. While 10>1, 10%<50%.

4. BJ’s husband’s experience is statistically relevant. Since we are dealing with a sample size of one, it is obvious that her entire objection is completely spurious. In my own anecdotal and equally statistically invalid experience, I have never been hit on by a stay-at-home wife while I have been the recipient of definite indicators of sexual interest from working wives on many occasions. Of course, I have always been of relatively high employment status and my work seldom brings me into contact with stay-at-home wives, so it should come as no surprise that my experience would significantly diverge from that of BJ’s husband.

Connie next attempted to appeal to studies that equate women’s “equality” with national “happiness”. “The happiest societies on earth, those that were surveyed quantitatively on quality of life across a variety of factors, correlate strongly with the societies having the most equality for women.”  This is partially true, but as you might correctly conclude, it depends entirely upon how “happiness” is defined. Given that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were rated the 12th and 13th happiest nations on Earth by the New Economics Foundation, (the famously equalitarian nation of Sweden was ranked 53rd), her assertion is as dubious as it is irrelevant to the subject of whether working women are a reasonable bet to make good wives. Most “happiness” metrics are little more than a measure of societal wealth, and since only wealthy societies can afford the economic and societal ills of equalitarianism, (even if only for a few decades before the inevitable structural collapse), it should come as no surprise that the correlation is mistaken for causation by the illogical and statistically illiterate.

But without question my favorite response was the quintessentially feminine one from Betty, who apparently takes an ad hominem approach to ascertaining the truth of any and all things. “After reading vox’s blog about women in the workplace (talk about painting a “Scarlet S” with a wide brush) I can’t in good conscience buy the argument [the column on Herman Cain] above. Being a member of MENSA doesn’t make him unequivocally correct.”

It is absolutely true that my daunting superintelligence is no guarantee that I am correct on any given matter, it merely indicates that those of lesser intelligence, a subset of humanity which includes approximately 6.92 billion people if one rounds up from the nearest hundredth, should at least be open to the possibility that they are wrong when their opinion diverges dramatically from my own. However, neither the vastness of my intellect nor my statistically sound conclusions have anything at all to do with the wisdom of electing a former Federal Reserve executive to fix a problem that was primarily caused by the Federal Reserve, still less a Fed official who believes that the Fed has done nothing questionable, let along wrong.

Mailvox: a leader in spite of herself

Anon writes about the structure of her marriage and wonders how she can modify it:

We are a mix of #3 and #4. My husband has always joked that he “got married so he wouldn’t have to make” certain decisions. Several years later my career blossomed, we moved out of state for my job, and I now make 50% more than he does. I believe that may be the root of his non-committal behavior. Early in our relationship he was very much “in charge” and VD’s post made me realize how much I miss that.

Last year we lost our first child – she was stillborn. Since then he just does whatever I want or ask. I don’t take advantage (seriously), but his lack of leadership is astounding. I can usually get him to make decisions on big ticket purchases, but not much else.

I fully admit that I am a control freak at times – feel I must care for the house, the husband, the pets, and my career. With our recent tragedy I truly want to simplify my life and allow him to take a much larger role in the running of our lives. How??

First, condolences, etc. Miscarriages and stillbirths can be emotionally difficult, but they do happen and should not dissuade a couple from trying again. Second, as the issues this raises are arguably more relevant to Alpha Game, I have responded to it there.

Mailvox: When x is merely x

One of the things that often amuses me about genuinely knowledgeable experts is the way they walk around dragging their well-credentialed hammers behind them, desperately searching for an opportunity to show off their ability to hit nails, regardless of whether the nail needs hitting, or, as happens to be the case here, even exists in the first place.

The Staggering Height of the Logic Midget wrote:

Let X be a logical statement; that is, X is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both.

Assume X is true. By basic rules of logic, not-X is false. Is a truth table needed?

It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.

It could be that you are thinking of a more complicated scenario in which logic quantifiers are involved. For example, if there exists a divine statement that’s true, that doesn’t prove that every divine statement is true.

But regardless, no matter how complicated the statement X is, if X is true, then not-X is false. If X is false, then not-X is true.

It could be that you’re thinking of the common mistake of a person claiming that (A implies B) proves (not-A implies not-B).

But regardless, no matter the form of statement X, if X is true, then not-X is false.

What Logic Midget failed to recognize is that not all discussions of logical conclusions involve formal philosophical logic notation. His increasingly deranged argument with Markku was more than a little amusing; it’s as if an economist overheard a woman say that a certain individual was a GDP, then leaped in and started telling her that she obviously didn’t know anything about trade balances and deflators, little realizing that the acronym simply stood for a divinely doomed bastard. This isn’t merely a failure of an assumption, it’s a failure of basic contextual comprehension.

Logic Midget was referring to a statement that I made in summarizing the example of divine promises cited earlier in the comment thread.

“My position is one of volipotence, which means that God can lie or not lie as it suits Him… But I’ve noticed that very few people who discuss theology are capable of grasping implications… It’s as if they can’t see the negative space that always surrounds the positive assertion. X does not absolutely require Not-X, but it does tend to suggest its existence.”

What I was referring to here was the existence of divine promises in the context of the question of God’s perfect truthfulness. The point I made was that the fact God has explicitly assured that specific statements he has made are true tends to imply that other statements he has made will are not. If we like, we can put it this way: X = divine statement guaranteed to be true and Not X = divine statement not guaranteed to be true. Insofar as the formal logic applies in that way, Logic Midget is correct. But only trivially so, because we’re obviously not talking about a single divine statement here, we’re talking about a comparison between different divine statements, in fact, we’re actually talking about the set of all divine statements and two distinct subsets within it.

(I should note that I was not using X in any formal sense here. X simply served as a variable representing any word with a specific meaning that is limited in a manner that carries intrinsic implications. For example, “afternoon” implies the existence of both “noon” and “before noon” just as saying “what I tell you now is true” implies “what I told you then may not be true”. In this case, when X = afternoon and Not-X = before noon, then obviously X and Not-X both simultaneously exist, the rules of formal logical notation notwithstanding, given that afternoon is not before noon.)

In his myopic focus on the tree of formal logic, Logic Midget has completely failed to notice the forest of the actual subject at hand. Because it is not the logical distinction between the truth or falsehood of a single divine statement that is relevant here, but rather the semantic implication of statements that are promises and statements that are not promises. The two points I was making were as follows:

1. There are implications behind the use of certain specific terms. If God’s promises are guaranteed to be true, then His non-promises are not necessarily guaranteed to be true. Insofar as God makes statements that are not promises, there is an implication that those statements are not guaranteed to be true, as well as a further implication that God makes statements that are not true.

2. On the other hand, the implication that these statements are not guaranteed to be true does not make them untrue, it merely allows for the possibility that they may not be true.

Logic Midget really should have known better, but he was too eager to strike an educated pose. And since I am his logical superior despite knowing far less about formal notation, it’s not hard for me to find his two logical errors, both at the beginning and right here: “It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.”

His first error was his assumption that X “is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both”. He compounded this with his second error in which he stated that “Not-X” is standard logic notation. It is not, as he should have noted that I did not use (¬P), (~P), or even (-P). In fact, if I had been making use of formal logic notation, I wouldn’t have used any of them anyhow, but rather (P –> Q). Sometimes X is just a variable. Note that Logic Midget didn’t bother to ask what X represented, nor did he even comprehend which part of the statement was the logically relevant one here.

So, once more, we see the wisdom inherent in asking a few preliminary questions rather than making assumptions and thereby leaping to incorrect conclusions. But there are few people so predictably prone to making asses of themselves as well-educated individuals eager to exhibit their hard-won educations.

Mailvox: slutwalking

A number of people have emailed me about the Great Canadian Slut Walk – slogan: she’s not slutty, she’s Canadian – and wondered about my response to it. I have accordingly posted my thoughts on the subject at Alpha Game.

Mailvox: Not so much

What we have here is a failure to comprehend a concept… MD asks about a potential equivalency:

On your thoughts about atheism (in your culture) being a syptom of social autism; presumably in my culture ceationism is also a symptom of social autism (given a tiny minority on the fringes of society hold these beliefs)?

My thought is that it simply doesn’t work like that. There are several problems with this attempt to construct an equivalency, beginning with the assumption that there is “an atheist culture” given the fact that atheists repeatedly avow that there is no such thing, indeed, that such a thing is not even possible. But unless you have reason to believe that creationists are prone to behaving badly according to the mores of the dominant non-creationist culture or that the creationists do not understand those mores or are believing as they do in a reaction to that culture, there is absolutely no basis on which to propose such an equivalency.

The social autism of atheists goes well beyond the mere fact of their failure to subscribe to theism. This should be obvious, given that agnostics too fail to subscribe to the dominant theistic beliefs and yet do not exhibit any signs of social autism.