Saturday, October 30, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
I was away this weekend, so I did not make CLR today, but next week I thought with the election coming up it would be pertinent to talk about a topic that I think will make for an interesting discussion: should we vote? One argument is that voting legitimizes the State. I think it will be an interesting topic to discuss.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
This is an article about anonymous free speech, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Should governments be able to regulate how people donate to political campaigns or how people make political advertisements? Isn't that just another form of speech?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Here is a link to a 1971 study researching the psychological effects of having authoritative power over others and having that power placed on you. The experiment was conducted at Yale by simulating a very realistic prison experience putting physiologically normal males of college age in the roles of both prisoners and prison guards for a period of 14 days.
The experiment was ended prematurely, after only 6 days, when it became apparent that the experiment had gone out of control as some of the guards had become habitual sadists and several of the prisoners had psychologically broken down.
Here is another link leading to a TED video on the subject of how ordinary people unintentionally succumb to abusing power that they are given over others. The video is of the Psychologist, Dr. Zimbardo, who conducted the 1971 prison simulation experiment.
The experiment and Dr. Zimbardo's claim that even good people succumb to the corrupting force of power is reminiscent of Glaucon's tale of the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic. For those who have not yet come across that particular gem of wisdom, it concerns a magic ring that is discovered in a mysterious crevice that has opened up in the earth and ends up in the hands of a an ordinary Shepard boy. The ring allows the Shepard boy to become invisible and he uses it to take anything and everything he wants while being completely unaccountable for his actions and he eventually seduces the queen of the land and kills her husband and takes his place as King. The Moral of the story is basically that the corruption the comes with power is irresistible, that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Ring of Gyges Story was obviously borrowed by Tolkien and turned into the One Ring which also could corrupt even the most noble of benefactors or the most ordinary of Hobbits.
This makes a strong case against the overwhelming violent power of the state, but it also brings up the question of how we are to resist against that power. If we accept that power corrupts even good people then we are well armed to fight the state, but it also cuts our own legs from underneath us if we attempt to advocate the election of Liberty minded individuals. How are we to trust a Ron or Rand Paul, or even our selves, with culling the state's power when that power is so irresistibly corrupting?
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I'd like to know what other Libertarians think about the institution of Human Rights. Where exactly they come from, to whom do they apply, and just what are our rights?
So called "natural rights" are intended to be universal, applying in all times and places. But how would such rights be determined? We surely can't rely on subjective opinions on their source being from any God or another. Is it possible to use reason and logic to determine what they should be, and by what criteria should the attempt to do so be made by?
Or are there no natural rights at all, but merely legal human rights that are neither universal nor unalienable? Would "rights" that lack universality and unalienability even be worthy of being called rights, or would they merely be allowances granted to us by our 'benevolent' masters?
I bring up these questions for two reasons. One, is that the UN's Universal Declaration of Rights does a wonderful job and mucking up the difference between natural and legal rights and has thoroughly confused matters. And secondly, because it seems that more and more often so called "rights" are being pushed on the people by the governments, such as Finland's "right" to high speed internet access. The difference often pointed out between the type of natural rights that were named in America's Declaration of Independence or Virginia's own Declaration of Rights (of which I'm a fan) and some of the rights listed in the UN's UDR and Finland's right to high speed internet is that the former are "negative rights" and the latter are "positive rights".
Negative rights are those things that a sentient being cannot be justly deprived of and are often most simply put as being the rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property. Positive rights are what I prefer to call entitlements. Things that people claim that every human deserves to be provided by other humans, such as social security, a job, periodic holidays with pay, and "food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services" (All of which are declared in the UN's UDR).
It is my thinking that the obfuscation of these two types or "rights" is a threat to human liberty because it both 1) Raises entitlements and government programs up to the level of sanctity that the public views human rights as possessing and 2) By watering down the importance of true human rights, no one can take a human's right to liberty seriously when it is set on the same level as a right to high speed internet access.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to draw distinct definitions of what should be held as true universal and inviolable rights are, and by what standard we determine them to be such.
I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts on the matter this Sunday.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Just read the article. The governator more or less said 'pot is OK' but other drugs aren't. Thoughts on what drugs government should allow for in civil society.
Friday, October 01, 2010
This has been bothering me for quite a while now and I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me a bit on the subject. No matter how I do the math I just can't figure out why education costs so darn much. I'm going to take a look at Harvard's tuition and its costs since their tuition is not much higher then UVA's out of state tuition, because the relevant information was easier for me to attain about Harvard, and because its professors are paid much higher then ours here at UVA. Their tuition for 2 full time semesters is ~$35,500 (UVA's out of state tuition is ~$33,700). So for 1 semester that's $17,750. Assuming 5 classes taken on average(Actually it looks like at Harvard its normal to take only 4 courses a semester but I'll give it the advantage of an additional course per semester) would mean an average cost of 3,550 per class, and since the average class size in Harvard is 37 students this means the school collects $131,350 per class taught. The average salary at Harvard is an incredible $168,700 (Harvard pays higher salaries to professors then anywhere else). I'm going to assume that Harvard professors teach an average of 2 courses a semester. That would be about 3 hours in the class room per week per class, perhaps another 3 hours per week in class preparation per week, and 3 hours more per week in grading student work. I pretty much just made up the time for a professor's work load outside of class but I figured it can't be too different then the 2 hours of work we students are expected to do per hour of class work we do. If this is accurate it would mean professors are doing roughly 18 hours of week (full-time employment is 35-40 hours a week) for about 9 months of the year in order to teach 4 courses. That by itself seems to be a rather silly waste of resources but when we look at the numbers involved things get truly obscene.
If we recall the cost of a single course, $131,350, and we multiply that by the number of classes a professor is expected to teach, 4, we come up with $525,400. We can subtract from this the average faculty member's salary of $168,700 a year leaving $356,700. Can this be justified? Even after subtracting out the seemingly ridiculous cost of the salary of the people who actually teach us (who are effectively working part time for 9 months a year) we are still left with more then 2/3 of the tuition to account for. That means that even if we were to assume that the school some how needed enough people to support the professors on a 1 to 1 ratio with the professors, which should be considered ludicrous since they are little more then paper shufflers, that would still leave $188,000 left over. That number only represents 4 courses so if we divide it by 4 and then we multiply it by 5 we can see how much from each of our normal load of 5 courses is left over after over paying the professors and faculty: $235,000 per semester.
To make this as simple as possible we should imagine that the school is as small as possible. Let's say that hypothetically this Harvard is only a single building with 1 class room with 2.5 professors and 1 room for the other 2.5 faculty members that it apparently takes to teach 5 courses in a semester(This also gives Harvard the benefit of the doubt when it comes to expense because it makes sense that efficiency should grow with size, and if it didn't then there is no reason to have schools larger then this in the first place). After subtracting the pay of the faculty this still leaves $235,000 to pay for the facilities... Of a 2 room building which his occupied by 42 people... For one semester... For comparison 3 of my apartments, utilities and all, would put me back less then $4,500 for a semester... Where the hell is all of our money going?
Its true that I leave out stuff like the cost of research, sports activities, ect but I also leave out revenues from book store sales, research fees, ticket sales for sports events, alumni donations, ect. I can't make any sense of this. Even with ridiculously over paying professors, hiring a ridiculous amount of over paid faculty, and reducing the school to the most inefficient size possible, the numbers still don't add up. A nauseating amount of waste is happening here with our money and, since we are in a public university, with the money of tax payers.
What exactly is causing this? Is it some weird market effect where competition doesn't push prices down because people are more willing to go to Universities that cost a lot because degrees from such places are seen as being much more valuable? Why hasn't some entrepreneur gotten a wiff of this situation and offered to pay the best professors in the country $200,000 a year to teach at half the cost of Harvard's tuition while still allowing for a healthy profit by minimizing other incredibly unnecessary costs? Wouldn't students go for that, or is there something I'm missing here that students are getting out of these incredibly expensive schools? Would a degree from a efficient school with the best professors in the nation, but perhaps not much else, be worth less then a degree from Harvard which costs twice as much?
This seems like a situation where the only likely reason for why this is happening is some sort of hidden government involvement which is preventing such competition from being created. is there something about school accreditation or some similar thing that is preventing competition?