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Testing Freedom

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I did a podcast with Brink Lindsey of the Niskanen Center. Here’s one bit on the FDA’s long-history of banning home tests:

Brink Lindsey: …it’s on the rapid testing that we had inexplicable delays. Rapid tests, home tests were ubiquitous in Europe and Asia months before they were in the United States. What was going on?

Alex Tabarrok: So I think it’s not actually inexplicable because the FDA has a long, long history of just hating people testing themselves. So the FDA was against pregnancy tests, they didn’t like that, they said women they need to consult with a doctor, only the physician can do the test because literally women could become hysterical if they were pregnant or if they weren’t pregnant, this was a safety issue. There was no question that the test itself was safe or worked. Instead what the FDA said, “We can regulate this because the user using it, this could create safety issues because they could commit suicide or they could do something crazy.” So they totally expanded the meaning of safety from is the test safe to can somebody be trusted to use a pregnancy test?

Then we had exactly the same thing with AIDS testing. So we delayed personal at-home tests for AIDS for literally 25 years. 25 years these tests were unavailable because the FDA again said, “Well, they’re dangerous.” And why are they dangerous? “Well, we don’t know what people will do with this knowledge about their own bodies.” Now, of course, you can get an HIV test from Amazon and the world hasn’t collapsed. They did the same thing with genetic tests from companies like 23andMe. So I said, “Our bodies ourselves, our DNA ourselves.” That people have a right to know about the functioning of their own bodies. This to me is a very clear violation of the Constitutions on multiple respects. It just stuns me, it just stuns me that anybody could think that you don’t have a right to know, we’re going to prevent you from learning something about the operation of your own body.

Again, the issue here was never does the test work. In fact, the labs which produce these tests, those labs are regulated outside of the FDA. So whether the test actually works, whether yes, it identifies this gene, all issues of that nature, what is the sensitivity and the specificity, are the tests produced in a proper laboratory, I don’t have a lot of problem with that because that’s all something which the consumers themselves would want. What I do have a problem with is then the FDA saying, “No, you can’t have access to this test because we don’t know what you’re going to do about it, what you’re going to think about it.” And that to me is outrageous.

Here’s the full transcript and video.

The post Testing Freedom appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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StatsGuru
34 days ago
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Seems like the FDA thinks people are stupid.

Republicans Defend Texas Social Media Law—and Compelled Speech

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social media box with no love

A blatantly unconstitutional Texas social media law can start being enforced unless the Supreme Court steps in. The law was blocked by a U.S. district court last year after internet advocacy and trade groups challenged it. But a new order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit means Texas can begin enforcement of its social media law—and wreak havoc on the internet as we know it in the process.

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA)—the groups that filed the lawsuit against the Texas social media law—have now submitted an emergency petition to the Supreme Court asking it to intervene. Meanwhile, Texas and a slew of other states with Republican leaders are advocating for the law, which would treat large social media platforms like common carriers (such as railroads and telephone companies) that have a legal obligation to serve everyone.

How we got here: The Texas social media law (H.B. 20) bans large platforms from engaging in many forms of content moderation—including rejecting unwanted content outright, limiting its reach, or attaching disclaimers to it—based on the viewpoint said content conveys. It's similar to legislation passed (and blocked, for now) in Florida.

Borrowing a page from George Orwell, supporters like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott say the law is designed to protect free speech. But in addition to protecting people and private entities from censorship, the First Amendment also protects against them being compelled by the government to speak or host certain messages—which is exactly what H.B. 20 does.

Accordingly, Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held last December that H.B. 20 violated the First Amendment and issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing it.

But Texas appealed, and last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a stay on the lower court's decision—meaning Texas can start immediately enforcing the social media law.

The 5th Circuit did not offer an opinion explaining its reasoning, so it's hard to say what's going on there. In any event, NetChoice and the CCIA are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

Internet groups respond: H.B. 20 "is an unprecedented assault on the editorial discretion of private websites…that would fundamentally transform their business models and services," state NetChoice and the CCIA in their petition to the Supreme Court. Without the ability to moderate based on "viewpoint," all manners of distasteful and offensive content would have to be permitted, the groups suggest:

HB20 prohibits covered social media platformsfrom engaging in any viewpoint-based editorial discretion. Thus, HB20 would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpointssuch as Russia's propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders. HB20 also imposes related burdensome operational and disclosure requirements designed to chill the millions of expressive editorial choices that platforms make each day.

NetChoice and the CCIA want the Supreme Court to vacate the 5th Circuit's stay and allow the district court's order to remain in effect "while an orderly appellate process plays out," they write. "Vacating the stay in this case will maintain the status quo while the Eleventh Circuit also considers a parallel appeal concerning a preliminary injunction against Florida's similar law," they add.

The common carrier conundrum: Texas, of course, does not want a return to the status quo. In a response to the NetChoice and CCIA petition, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that it's OK to violate the First Amendment rights of large internet companies "because Texas law declares the platforms are common carriers. The State may therefore properly limit the platforms' ability to discriminate among their customers."

"It is well established that a common carrier 'can make no discrimination between persons,' and is 'bound to accept all goods offered within the course of his employment,'" states the Texas response, comparing social media platforms to telegraphs and telephones.

The idea that social media must be treated like a common carrier is wrong, points out John Bergmayer at Public Knowledge.

There isn't one single characteristic that demands that a service be treated as a common carrier, or prevents it from being one. The policy question is simply whether common carrier regulation would be socially beneficial with respect to a certain service, or whether there are alternative models of regulation that might work better.

But the idea that social media should be treated like common carriers has become a popular (if incredibly short-sighted and weird) conservative talking point.

Of course, a phone company or a telegraph company—where information is communicated privately between two (or a small number) of people—is nothing like social media, where speech by one user can reach all users. In arguing to treat social media like common carriers, conservatives could make these platforms havens for content that makes other users flee and repositories of things—like frank discussions and depictions of sexuality—that conservatives in other realms are fighting to suppress.

For a detailed and multifaceted case against treating social media platforms like common carriers, see this post from George Mason University law professor and Volokh Conspiracy contributor Ilya Somin.

Alas, Paxton is far from alone in pushing to treat tech platforms like common carriers. Angry at perceived bias against conservative users, Republicans have been embracing any tool within reach to try and bludgeon Big Tech with it.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has also expressed support for treating social media companies like common carriers.

In this case, 12 states have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court supporting Texas' law, reports The Washington Post. Tech companies have an "enormous control over speech" and "the states have a strong interest in seeing that it is not abused," states their brief.

"In its effort to protect conservative speech, Texas Republicans have adopted a historically discredited left-wing legal theory, dispensing with core conservative values in the process," suggested Thomas Berry and Nicole Saad Bembridge in a recent piece for Reason:

In the 1960s, a group of progressive scholars argued that the First Amendment does not merely prohibit the government from censoring private speech and press. In fact, they argued, it granted the government the affirmative power to control the mass media. In a capitalist system, they reasoned, the government must ensure that private media owners do not exclude unwelcome viewpoints, in order to protect the "democratic interest" in free speech. To this end, the scholars championed the Fairness Doctrine, right-of-reply mandates, and expansive applications of "common carriage" doctrine, which enable the government to force the inclusion of certain content.

Borrowing from the same playbook, Texas now argues that First Amendment values require, rather than prohibit, government interference with private speech. H.B. 20 declares that social media platforms are common carriers like telephone companies and thus are subject to onerous restrictions over who and what they may host. According to Texas, H.B. 20 serves the democratic interest in protecting the free exchange of ideas and information. But like the collectivist efforts that preceded it, Texas' misguided attempt to advance "First Amendment rights in the Lone Star State" violates private platforms' First Amendment rights to choose what speech they publish.

A dangerous precedent? In a brief filed with the Supreme Court in opposition to H.B. 20, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Texas suggest that allowing the law to stand could set a dangerous precedent.

H.B. 20 "challenges core pillars of the freedoms of speech and the press" and "while Texas has chosen to target new digital platforms today, its defense of HB 20 offers no limiting principle that would prevent it from turning  its attention to the most traditional of media tomorrow," they suggest.

TechFreedom also portends reverberating effects. "No one—no lawyer, not [sic] judge, no expert in the field; not even the law's own sponsors—knows what compliance with this law looks like," said Corbin K. Barthold, director of appellate litigation at TechFreedom, in a statement.

"Indeed, HB 20 is designed to generate as much litigation as possible. Any social media user in Texas may sue to undo any act of content moderation," notes Barthold. "Each lawsuit will contend that the real basis for the content moderation was the poster's 'viewpoint.' Take a ban on beheading videos. Is that a viewpoint-neutral policy against a certain type of content? Or is it at heart a viewpoint-based anti-ISIS rule? Such questions are infinite, and, under HB 20, they'll be litigated."

Many of the strongest defenders of social media (and the internet more broadly) against attacks like Texas' H.B. 20 have been libertarians. Whereas liberals were once broadly and staunchly protective of free speech, they now have their own problems with the First Amendment and social media, as journalist Jeff Jarvis points out in this thread:


FREE MINDS

A win for online anonymity. "A federal judge has said he's ready to quash a subpoena to Twitter over an anonymous user," reports Law.com. Twitter had moved to quash the subpoena, which "included probing questions" about the plaintiff's "possible connection to hedge fund billionaire Brian Sheth, who was targeted by the Twitter user whom the subpoena seeks to identify." U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria "heartily endors[ed] an amicus brief from the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, saying it 'may be the most helpful brief I've ever read,'" Law.com points out.

"Because an order compelling disclosure of a speaker's identity, if successful, would irreparably destroy the defendant's First Amendment right to remain anonymous, the court must balance the parties' respective interests," said the Public Citizen brief. "Whatever a speaker's reason for choosing anonymity, a rule that makes it too easy to remove the cloak of anonymity will not only harm that speaker's right but, by chilling speech from those who know their vulnerabilities, deprive the marketplace of ideas of valuable contributions."

Law professor and author Jeff Kosseff, author of The United States of Anonymous, notes that "Twitter routinely goes above and beyond to advocate for its users' ability to speak anonymously."

"Of course there is a lot of debate about Twitter and free speech these days," Kosseff added. "As someone who has studied this particular area of free speech for years, I can say that Twitter has been committed even in very challenging cases."


FREE MARKETS

Oklahoma lawmakers approve abortion ban. A measure that passed the Oklahoma House 73–16 on Thursday would ban abortion at "any stage of gestation." The measure—which cleared the Senate in April and is modeled after a bill passed last year in Texas—would allow the ban to be enforced via civil lawsuits. If it becomes law, individuals could sue Oklahoma abortion providers or anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion.

"The bill makes exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but only if those crimes have been reported to law enforcement," notes The New York Times.


QUICK HITS

• U.S. intelligence agencies "prohibit literally millions of former public servants from speaking or writing about government policy without first obtaining the government's approval," notes Just Security. On Thursday, the Supreme Court considered a petition "asking the Court to revisit Snepp v. United States, the forty-year-old case atop which the intelligence agencies' far-reaching system of prior restraint has been built."

• Canada is lifting restrictions on gay men donating blood. Under current Canadian policy, gay men can only donate blood if they haven't had sex in the past 90 days. (This is still the policy in the U.S.)

• The First Amendment protects the right to put a tiny penis on a beer label.

• Emails verified by The Washington Post show Tucker Carlson and his wife asking Hunter Biden—someone Tucker has repeatedly bashed on his Fox News show—to help their son gain admission to Georgetown University. "The interactions reveal the extent to which Carlson was willing to turn on a former associate as he thrives in a hyperpartisan media world" and " how Carlson once sought to benefit from the elite political circles in Washington that he now regularly rails against as the 'ruling class,'" suggests the Post.

• Biden's baby formula airlift stunt should never have been necessary, writes Reason's Eric Boehm.

The post Republicans Defend Texas Social Media Law—and Compelled Speech appeared first on Reason.com.



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Convoy Crackdown

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The convoy has been dispersed. Yet Tyler Cowen was clearly correct that this will be a very important event. The story has barely begun.

[Writer’s Note: This post violates some of the usual lines that I set for myself regarding politics, because I do not know how to communicate the situation without doing so, nor does it seem like a situation one can safely ignore. I did my best to keep it to a minimum. As before, I will be staying out of the comments, and ask that related discussions be confined to related posts and conducted to minimize the political component, but I acknowledge that this may not be fully possible in this case and will use discretion.]

Previously in Convoy and Convoy Continued, the puzzle was what was happening and what might happen next in response. Authorities were uncertain what to do. The situation was somewhat out of control. Violence was a distinct possibility, or at least the fear of such violence was informing decisions and rhetoric. There were big disputes over the essential nature of the protest, the protesters, what they wanted and why they were there. As far as I could tell the protests were unpopular but that too was disputed. Every edit seemed like it reflected more information from more sources, but more often that not that only meant increased uncertainty.

Most of that is now resolved. The convoy has been broken up by police without incident and with zero violence (or at least, zero violence that didn’t involve police acting like police usually act), only minor threats to permanently confiscate people’s dogs, in exactly the most basic and obvious way. A few people are still hanging around, but they no longer threaten public order. The three leaders have been arrested. When one engages in civil disobedience and makes oneself intentionally obstructing traffic for weeks, one eventually gets arrested and faces the consequences of being briefly in jail and having a record, and perhaps more if one committed more serious crimes and the state can convince a jury of that. That’s how it’s supposed to work. There were less than 200 arrests and they towed less than 50 trucks.

There’s just one little problem.

Before breaking up the protest, as I noted last time, Prime Minister Trudeau1 invoked the Emergencies Act.

The Emergencies Act may have been a little bit about the need to commandeer towing capacity, but we can now be very certain what it was centrally about.

It was about money.

In particular, it was about giving the government of Canada the permanent power to freeze, without trial or legal recourse, all the bank accounts and other assets of anyone it decides was ‘directly or indirectly involved’ in an ‘illegal protest.’ In practice this translates to ‘freeze the assets of the families of anyone that power or the government dislikes.’

In particular, this clip makes it very clear that it is intended to include anyone who donated to either of their crowdfunding campaigns. If you give the wrong amount of money to support a protest the Canadian government decides it dislikes, they may well freeze your bank accounts and you will have no recourse even if it was in error. In that clip they also say that they are doing this without the Democratic process in part ‘because an opposition party exists to frustrate any government attempt to pass legislation.’

In pursuit of this, they have tasked not only the banks but a wide variety of payment processors and others who handle money, including those handling cryptocurrency, with spying on their customers to determine which ones participated in activities disapproved of by power or the government, and freezing their accounts.

If one’s accounts are frozen and one is both left without resources and without the ability to transact, it is at best extremely difficult to participate in society. One cannot easily hold a job or raise a family, and buying a tomato may prove tricky.

Family members having trouble living their lives is being treated not as a bug but as a feature. The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children, it seems.

This extends as noted above to those who provide financial assistance to those engaging in disapproved activities, and that such retaliation will continue to happen after the activities in question cease, so not only is one without one’s money and other assets, and without the ability to spend what one does have, others may reasonably fear that helping you not end up on the street might land them in the same situation.

Meanwhile, our systems are moving steadily away from cash or any other way to pay for things if one’s accounts are frozen, including the mortgage or the rent. Ending up losing everything is a real possibility.

Again, this is happening in many cases without anyone ever being charged with any crime. Even when crimes are charged, even if the government gets convictions, the punishment here is orders of magnitude out of line and sets the worst kind of precedent. If such folks are guilty of treason or rebellion or terrorism, then charge them with that and see what a jury has to say.

As for those who vote against this policy, here’s what Justin Trudeau has to say, notice what things he totally does not sound like at all, no sir (video is at the link, 38sec).

Freedom to Transact

Without the freedom to transact there is no freedom.

This is the reality that Canada, and perhaps soon the rest of the world, now faces.

This thread is long (thread unroller version here), but it is important. I have never seen a Twitter thread be retweeted with explicit endorsement by so many accounts that I respect, including many that I would not normally expect to understand how toxic and dangerous the situation threatens to become. Here are some examples of what people said when retweeting.

To make damn sure, I will put it here in its entirety. If you have not yet already, please read the whole thing. I would quibble over some minor details as I of course always would, but they matter little. This is the message everyone needs to hear.

I turn the floor over.

They did indeed issue a court order to freeze users’ Bitcoins in self-custodial wallets, giving one of those great opportunities to note that this is not how any of this works.

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Aftermath

When 6529 wrote that thread, the convoy was still a going concern. It was still plausible that however awful the precedent set by the financial authoritarianism and disregard for the rule of law, that one could be sufficiently terrified of a physical solution to think that such actions were necessary or at least useful.

I was already confident of quite the opposite. Taking these actions galvanized people’s worst fears throughout not only Canada but the world. However much forceful dissent and distrust of the system was present before, it will doubtless be much, much more present going forward. The only way that is in the government’s interest is if it wants this fight in order to further suspend freedom and democracy and destroy the rule of law that much faster.

To the extent these people are capable of having points at all, the suspension of freedom and democracy and the destruction of rule of law is the point. Setting a precedent that the government can cast out your entire family and anyone helping you on a whim is the point.

How can I be confident that we know this?

The protests were broken up only days later by arresting those present and towing trucks. Those invoking these financial penalties and requirements doubtless knew that this was the plan. Given that this was the plan, the financial measures were clearly completely unnecessary - things would have played out on the ground in exactly the same way.

The financial actions doubtless made it harder to hire lawyers for those arrested, but that hardly seems like a motivation that should make us feel better.

The authorities said that they would be imposing these measures retroactively on people who left voluntarily and thus avoided being arrested.

That is the opposite of what you do to break up a protest, because you withdraw the motive to go home. I can’t help but notice the penalty for lateness is death when they intend to actively hunt after the protestors who leave without any need to arrest them.

The authorities said after the protests were broken up that the situation that required the Act was still present. What else in the world could this be referring to? Is this a permanent emergency because people might try something again at some point in the future? Or was the thing that required the act the institution of these financial measures on a permanent basis?

Part of my explanation for this is motive ambiguity. One shows one’s dedication to the cause by intentionally inflicting maximum harm, thus proving one is not going to be distracted by worries about morality or what third parties might come to harm. The more damage one can do, the better the demonstration - the cruelty is the point, not because one values cruelty, but to show one is not against cruelty or not supporting freedom, the best proof of which is to go as far as possible in the other direction.

I say ‘to the extent these people are capable of having points at all’ because they importantly have lost at least some and perhaps all ability to have points. This is important.

Three Sides to Every Story

The counterargument is presumably some form of ‘they know not what they do’ where those involved are so lost they have no ability to think or reason on such levels, and they are doing things of the form ‘convoy bad, people no like convoy, what tools we have to hurt convoy’ without any model of why such actions would accomplish anything or much care about whether they do. Slash perhaps the idea that one must Take Action and this is action, demands by various enforcers for More Power and More Authority to Do Something, with or without the general instinct that fear will keep the local systems in line without thinking that anything will slip through their fingers.

In that model, these dynamics need not involve much agency or intent. The thing ramps up continuously on its own through people following local incentive gradients, resulting in a state that no one especially wanted, but also that they did not concern themselves much with avoiding until it was far too late and the frog was already boiled to death. On my stack is writing the post Policy Debates Should Appear One Sided (the flip side of this), but (and also because) there is still always (at minimum) another side to the story.

I noted last time that the reason Trudeau and the Canadian Government seemed to be so taken by surprise, had so much paralysis in terms of getting together a physical response and ended up flailing around with financial assets was because such people have often lost the ability to reason at all about underlying physical reality.

Thus I frame the heart of the conflict between different simulacra levels. The fight is between those who live primarily in simulacra levels one, where they interact with and attempt to model and alter physical reality, and those at simulacra levels three, where one cares mostly about signaling group memberships and loyalties, and often also level four where they end up using vibes and associations of various level three moves in an instinctual way that they have learned is associated with success, and lose all ability to reason or make plans in a coherent way at all, let alone model the physical world.

An alternative framing of a similar divide by The Upheaval is ‘the Physicals versus the Virtuals.’ In this divide, The Virtuals deal with information and effectively form a ruling class, but because they still depend on physical reality they must continue to rely on the Physicals, and we all know how such science fiction tales usually end.

But have a little sympathy for them: they do this not just because it is cynically convenient (though it is), but because this is literally the only way they know how to navigate and influence the world. The post-modern fish swims in a narrative sea, and their first reaction is always to try to control it (through what the CCP calls “discourse power”) because at heart they well and truly believe in the idea of the “social construction of reality,” as Lasch pointed out in the quote at top. If there is no fixed, objective truth, only power, then the mind’s will rules the world. Facts can be reframed as needed to create the story that best produces the correct results for Progress (this is why you will find journalists are now professionally obsessed with “storytelling” rather than reporting facts).

That Trudeau’s government would choose to jettison any remaining illusion of Canada still being a liberal democracy just to harm their political class enemies isn’t too surprising. It’s their method of doing so that is particularly striking: control over digital financial assets is pretty much the ultimate leverage now available to the Virtuals. We should expect more use of this tool around the world anywhere the Physicals continue to revolt against their masters.

The Physicals must be concerned with non-socially-constructed Truth because otherwise reality will bite them in the ass. The Virtuals have their asses covered, so they are unconcerned.

There is a lot of merit in this framing, but it still seems important that those who are concerned with Truth and who do not wish it to be socially constructed should then side with the Physicals, even if in their world they deal with information. And indeed, the first reply to the person who linked me to this says ‘I am a Virtual yet still side with the protesters.’

Another recent version of the same thing was, yes, wordcels and shape rotators. Shape rotators concern themselves with reality, wordcels only with symbols.

And mysteriously, despite information being what most of Twitter and everyone I know do all day, everyone wants to think of themselves as a shape rotator.

Consider:

Loose Isomorphisms

The rotator ↔ wordcel axis also happens to map to some other common ones. I might expand on these later but I’ll just list them for now.

spacing guild v. bene gesserit

autism v. schizophrenia

san francisco v. new york

intuition v. formalism

empiricist v. rationalist

deep learning v. crypto

capitalists v. socialists

apolitical v. political

geometers v. algebraists

I am confident that the person who wrote that list thinks of the lefthand shape-rotator side as ‘the good side’ and the righthand wordcel side as ‘the bad side.’

Here’s one of them as text, by the author of the piece above:

The list is a broad-based statement of values and world models. It is a claim that empiricists make the important discoveries and build great world-changing capitalist companies using their intuition to work on geometrically-based deep learning algorithms while all having autism and living in San Francisco and staying apolitical. In their spare time they read Dune and root for the spacing guild.

Whereas when Vitalik saw this he said ‘wait crypto is shape rotation,’ the same way I see it and think ‘New York and rationalist (and also empiricist though) are shape rotation and San Francisco is wordcel.’ And if you ask a socialist familiar with the terms, I predict most of them will claim socialism is shape rotation and capitalism is wordcel.

Who is a ‘real American’ versus whatever the other option is? I’ll tell you who isn’t not one, it’s whichever American is speaking. You know who is ‘out of touch’? Not my friends and allies, that’s who. There is a right amount of touch to be in, it isn’t maximal, but that is never what people are debating. Same principle.

The initial dialectic tactic was to take a superficial division between one simulacra-3/4 alliance of wordcels/virtuals/politicians/whatevers and another that is also that, and frame it as your side being spare rotators/physicals/outsiders/whichevers, and that everyone has to pick a side or the awful other side full of wordcels/virtuals/politicians will win.

The new tactic is to deny that there were ever any meaningful physical reality at all.

Framing this as a battle between teams, of course, is playing into the whole idea of socially constructed reality and virtual wordcels operating on Simulacra-3, whereas the whole point of noticing the divide is to do the other thing. Putting more of the right people in your coalition or having the right symbolic associations does not make one right - or if you think it does, then you have already chosen your side.

In this context, we can revisit the Tyler Cowen concept of looking for the strong analytical thinkers.

Look for strong analytical abilities, and if you don’t see it, run the other way.

Now it makes more sense, although it risks continuing to play into the underlying problem by looking at coalitions and choosing sides on that basis.

In that light, it is important to note that this principle has now reversed itself.

When one looks at the original convoy, one indeed struggles to find strong analytical thinkers.

Yet the same can be said for Trudeau and the rest of the government response. In no way does it reflect strong analytical thinking or thinkers.

The Canadian government, not the convoy, is the relevant actor here. It no longer much matters how it started, only how it’s going.

In the early stages, the strong analytical thinkers had a wide variety of reactions to the situation. But you know what all the strong analytical thinkers are doing now, after the freezing of bank accounts?

As far as I can tell, at least in the informational world I have constructed for myself, all of them stand united. I have not seen a single attempt, however weak, to defend the actions taken or even to claim they are of minimal importance.

Including people whose views mostly differ strongly from most others in my orbit. Whatever they think off arresting the protestors and of the original convoy, everyone’s reaction to the freezing of accounts is the same, and looks like some version of these examples.

\

It might be time to run the other way, and perhaps shout it from the rooftops.

What To Do Now?

There are two categories of things to do, the general and the personal, with some amount of overlap.

The general would involve political action, with some combination of education, persuasion, awareness raising, voice raising, lobbying, working with those who set such policies in various capacities, academic work, voting, lawyers and so on to combat the rise of such authoritarian policies and protect the freedom to transact, the rule of law, the right to due process and so forth. Hopefully without getting your accounts frozen. Others can speak better than I can on this, but I will note that I consider this policy debate sufficiently one-sided that I would support it being what the EAs call a ‘cause area.’

The personal involves protecting yourself and those you care about against the threat of such actions coming for you. At some point in the future, this could happen to you. What is acceptable now may not be acceptable in the future, in a ‘first they come’ kind of way, and such winds can change quite fast. Or at a minimum, the need to ensure that this does not happen will constrain your behavior and your freedom and cause you much stress.

It need not be about taking explicit political or other action. Sometimes this will be a pure misunderstanding or other error. People get frozen out because of mistaken identity or an ‘abundance of caution.’ A very good friend of mine had it happen due to a tax dispute in which the government was neither correct nor communicative and it caused tons of trouble, although this has since been cleared up.

Thus, the value of taking actions to minimize one’s vulnerability to such actions was already important, and seems that much more important. Think about what would happen if your assets, and those of your family, were frozen right now. Your bank accounts are gone, your credit cards do not work. You can’t get new ones. What would you do? How would you keep a roof over your head and pay for food?

Ensure that you have answers to those questions. There are a variety of ways to at least partially protect yourself, including self-custodial cryptocurrency and cold hard cash or other physical assets, especially ones that travel.

I’ve seen a bunch of ‘guess it’s time to get into crypto’ sentiment recently, and I am surprised it was not reflected more in prices. For example:

(Nothing here is ever investment advice and that goes double for crypto, but in case anyone was confused about this, such posts are Not The Way. Asking the internet in general is definitely not the way to get good information or advice on such matters. Find someone you trust who knows their stuff and can walk you through it or point to a trustworthy guide.)

One additional important way to deal with this, that is a complement to your own safe assets, is to have people you can trust to come to your aid, despite the situation. Having true friends and family at your side is one of the best defenses.

At Substack the site has expressed a strong commitment to resisting censorship, but they use Stripe as their sole payment processor, and Stripe has made it clear they play ball. Getting cut off from writing income is not the same as having one’s bank accounts frozen, but it is a clear point of vulnerability especially if Stripe was told to cut off the entire site until the disapproved content was taken down. It needs to be fixed.

Is it a pain to have three distinct copies of every post in different places? Yes it is quite the pain especially when I need to edit to fix mistakes. Yet I do not make one or two of them into link posts, because this way provides a robust backup system. In order to take me down, one would need to take down all three copies.

Additional Convoy Links and Thoughts

Same as it ever was, the Canadian Parliament delayed their session evaluating the invoking of the Emergencies Act due to the emergency the act was invoked against.

Rather than decry such moves, instead mainstream media has joined the move against those who donated money.

For example:

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Good to see Representative Ilhan Omar standing up for the obvious even with rolls reversed, which is sadly a rarity these days. Such principle is not by default rewarded. Replies are full of demands that she do things such as ‘stay in her lane.’ Getting praise from Fox News does not exactly make her life better.

The journalist in question moved her tweets to protected before I could write this post, losing us a number of details, which is my fault for not getting the screenshots right away.

There is also the obvious, which is that the word ‘freedom’ has now been associated with the convoy, and has always meant freedom, from the Washington Post editorial page:

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The logic in the post, as far as I can tell is:

  1. Canada (and the USA) restricted the freedom of non-white people.

  2. Thus, freedom is white.

  3. Thus, a claim of entitlement to freedom is white supremacy.

  4. Freedom is slavery, and presumably ignorance is strength.

The response to this was the stage-1-clown-makeup that no one actually believes this, it’s some sort of ingroup virtue signaling cascade causing such words to be written, but somehow that does not bring me comfort. It brings up the question a commenter asked me a while ago about why New York Times is on the banned list but other places like Washington Post are acceptable. I’d like to say it’s a matter of degree and that I’ve found Washington Post’s news reporting to mostly be acceptable, and also editorials mostly don’t count it’s fine to air different points of view, but ‘Scott Alexander was my friend and it is personal’ is doubtless doing a bunch of work.

From January 10, Unheard lets some participants talk. Big ‘and you can’t make me’ energy combined with ‘well actually sure you can, I need my truck.’

Pirate Wires covers the situation before the full ‘freeze all the bank accounts’ plan became clear, is mostly already there anyway.

Common Sense was there a while ago, and is here to remind us.

The Canadian government put this out on February 18, after doing all this and while they were breaking up the protests with arrests.

Straight. Face.

We also have this video with his remarks now versus his remarks regarding the Farmers’ Protests in India. Again, straight face.

I guess the faith in freedom was all in the beard.

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Justin means ‘just, upright or righteous.’ I checked for normative determinism regarding Trudeau and no one knows the origin but to me it seems to be obviously ‘true water’ from the French ‘tru’ and ‘deau’ from which here clearly represents the righteous filtering out of the undesired or impure.



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StatsGuru
124 days ago
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Everyone should read this.
freeAgent
124 days ago
The financial penalties being dealt out seem totally orthogonal to any reasonable way to deal with the protest, and I think to a large extent this makes sense. In today's world almost all money is digital, and people require money in order to do pretty much anything. Going after people's ability to access or transfer their money basically destroys their lives. It's very weird to see the near-glee that certain parties have in exercising this power over people.

HMM: GOP Congresswoman Has an Answer to Trudeau’s Trucker Tyranny. “I am introducing legislation tha…

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HMM: GOP Congresswoman Has an Answer to Trudeau’s Trucker Tyranny. “I am introducing legislation that would temporarily grant asylum to innocent Canadian protesters who are being persecuted by their own government. We cannot be silent as our neighbors to the north are treated so badly.”

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StatsGuru
124 days ago
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This.

HISTORY: My Nigerian Grandfather Sold Slaves. “Nwaubani Ogogo lived in a time when the fittest sur…

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HISTORY: My Nigerian Grandfather Sold Slaves. “Nwaubani Ogogo lived in a time when the fittest survived and the bravest excelled. The concept of ‘all men are created equal’ was completely alien to traditional religion and law in his society. It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles. Assessing the people of Africa’s past by today’s standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains, denying us the right to fully celebrate anyone who was not influenced by Western ideology.”

There’s a mythology that white slave traders ran around the bush kidnapping Africans, but that’s bunk, of course — they’d pretty much all have died. They bought African slaves from Africans. My brother talked to people in Ghana about that some years ago, and they reflected little guilt: Back then if you lost a war, you either died or were enslaved. That’s just how it worked.

One of the reasons Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon couldn’t get published when she wrote it was that the black literary community didn’t like that it portrayed the extent of African complicity in slavery. But history is history, despite efforts to rewrite it.

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StatsGuru
131 days ago
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Someone got the rum.

Bram Stoker, Dracula, and Progress Studies

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The Dracula novel is of course very famous, but it is less well known that it was, among other things, a salvo in the direction of what we now call Progress Studies.  Here are a few points of relevancefor understanding Bram Stoker and his writings and views:

1. Stoker was Anglo-Irish and favored the late 19th century industrialization of Belfast as a model for Ireland more generally.  He also was enamored with the course of progress in the United States, and he wrote a pamphlet about his visit.

2. From Wikipedia:

He was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and took a keen interest in Irish affairs. As a “philosophical home ruler”, he supported Home Rule for Ireland brought about by peaceful means. He remained an ardent monarchist who believed that Ireland should remain within the British Empire, an entity that he saw as a force for good. He was an admirer of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, whom he knew personally, and supported his plans for Ireland.Stoker believed in progress and took a keen interest in science and science-based medicine.

3. The novel Dracula contrasts the backward world of Transylvania with the advanced world of London, and it shows the vampire cannot survive in the latter.  The Count is beaten back by Dr. Van Helsing, who uses science to defeat him and who serves as a stand-in for Stoker and is the de facto hero of the story.

4. One core message of the novel is “Ireland had better develop economically, otherwise we will end up like a bunch of feudal peasants, holding up crosses to fend off evil, rapacious landowners.”  At the time, the prominent uses of crosses was associated with Irish Catholicism.  And is there a more Irish villain than the absentee landlord, namely Dracula?  Dracula is also the kind of warrior nobleman who, coming from England, took over Ireland.

5. In the novel, science and commerce have the potential to defeat underdevelopment.  Stoker’s portrait of Transylvania, most prominent in the opening sections of the novel, also suggests that “underdevelopment is a state of mind.”  And it is correlated with feuding sects and clans, again a reference to the Ireland of his time, at least as he understood Catholic Ireland.  Here is more on Stoker’s views on economic development and modernization for both Ireland and the Balkans.

6. Stoker was obsessed with “rationalizing” (in the Weberian sense) the employment relation and also the bureaucracy  His first non-fiction work was “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions.”  Progress was more generally a recurring theme in his non-fiction writings, for instance “The Necessity of Political Honesty.”  He called for an Ireland of commerce, education, and without “warring feuds.”

7. For Stoker, sexual repression is needed to further societal progress and economic development, and in this regard Stoker anticipates Freud.  Dracula abides by most laws and norms, except the sexual/cannibalistic ones.  Dracula and Lucy, who give in to their individual desires, end up as the big losers.  For the others, societal order is restored, and the lurid sexuality that pervades the book is dampened by the restoration of order.

8. Christ and Dracula are mirror opposites (the stake, the cross, resurrection at dawn rather than sunset, the role of blood drinking reversed, the preaching of immortality in opposite ways, the inversion of who sacrifices for whom, and more).  A proper societal outcome is obtained when these two opposites end up neutralizing each other.  Stoker’s vision of progress is fundamentally secular.  (See Clyde Leatherdale on all this.)

9. From Hollis Robbins: “Britain’s economic prosperity in the nineteenth century was largely dependent on the adoption of international standards such as Greenwich Mean Time and the universal day, which ensured smooth coordination for trade, legal transactions, railroad travel, and mail delivery. Dracula, whose powers are governed by the sun and the moon rather than clocks and calendars, works to destabilize social coordination. His objective is not only literally to “fatten on the blood of the living,”6 but also more broadly to suck the lifeblood of a thriving commercial economy at the dawn of a global age. Under Dracula’s spell, humans forget the time, becoming listless, unproductive, and indifferent to social convention. At heart, the fundamental battle in Stoker’s Dracula is a death struggle between standard time as an institutional basis for world markets and planetary time governing a primitive, superstitious existence.”

10. In an interview Stoker once said: “I suppose that every book of the kind must contain some lesson, but I prefer that readers should find it out for themselves.”  There are numerous ways to take that remark, not just what I am suggesting.

The post Bram Stoker, Dracula, and Progress Studies appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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