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Assorted Links

June 22, 2015

1. On the Reason gag order

Reason on Raisins

FEE on the Raisin case

2. On neural networks at image recognition. Includes an interesting bit on how computers can hallucinate.

3. Chemistry facts.

4. OPMs big data leak.

Assorted Links

June 1, 2015

1. The Science of Scarcity

2. Improving altruism

3. An informative law comic. I may have linked to this in the past.

4. An iron fish to improve health in Cambodia. I really like that stuff like this is invented from time to time. It’s nice that technology is used to help the very poor so even without a lot of economic growth, their lives are improving.

5. the less of something bad we see in the world around us, the more outrage we generate about the remaining bits.

Why do people attack Libertarians?

May 29, 2015

Bryan Caplan writes “Why do high-profile thinkers keep energetically targeting such a marginalized viewpoint?” He posits 6 reasons:

“1. Despite their rarity and absence on the front lines of politics, self-conscious libertarians still strongly shape mainstream conservative politicians’ economic policies.

2. Self-conscious libertarians, though rare, have still managed to sharply shift public opinion in a libertarian direction.

3. Self-conscious libertarians, though politically impotent, are a symbol of what’s wrong with American politics.

And then there are the stories the critics won’t embrace, but perhaps they’re true nonetheless…

4. Libertarians, unlike mainstream conservatives, openly defend many unpopular views. Intellectuals who want to loudly champion popular views have to engage libertarians because there’s hardly anyone else to argue with.

5. Libertarian arguments, though mistaken, are consistently clever enough to get under the critics’ skin. The purpose of the criticism is not shielding the world from bad ideas but giving the critics some intellectual catharsis.

6. Libertarian arguments are good enough to weigh on the critics’ intellectual consciences. They attack libertarians to convince themselves that we’re wrong. And they keep attacking us because they keep failing to fully convince themselves.”

1+2 are somewhat likely. Libertarians are at the forefront of many policy arguments. We frequently advocate radical policies, and I like to think our solutions to problems are often quite effective. I don’t think this is a big reason liberals attack us, because I think the libertarian/liberal social agreements have produced more actual policy/public opinion changes than the libertarian/conservative economic ones have.

3: Eh, maybe.

4: I think this is a big deal. If you want to find someone who is in favor of child labor, abolishing the minimum wage, legalizing cocaine, or increasing immigration, you need a libertarian. Are we the only ones with the courage to stand up to bad, but popular ideas, or are we just crazy? You decide.

5, 6: Seems like libertarian ego boosting to me. In many cases, I think libertarian arguments are downright awful. It’s all deontology, deductively reasoning from unrealistic and unappealing assuptions, and hagiographic appeals to terrible fiction authors. I think its the outcomes from our policies which encourage people to do more of them.

Tim Worstall: Conservatives want to control your life so you’ll do X. Liberals want to control your life so you’ll do Y. They both hate the guy saying “Don’t control people at all”.

This might be the attitude of actual politicians, but I don’t see it as a motive of hate-monging journalists. If you’re going to write an article, you have a specific topic in mind, and you need to find a scapegoat for the problem and barriers that are preventing right-thinking people from fixing said problem. Libertarians play both roles pretty well, but you’re probably not going to see yourself as striving, in general, to control people’s lives.

Chris Dillow argues that libertarians are associated with nut-jobs. I think this is true. We’re more likely to believe and get upset about reports of government wrongdoing. Conspiracy theorists are going to be libertarian because if you believe the government is engaged in horrible mind control experiments or that they are in league with aliens to destroy humanity, etc, you’re not going to be in favor of that. He also brings up UKIPers which bugs me, because I see UKIP as paleo-con/fascist and pretty much the opposite of libertarians. The libertarianest party in the UK is the Liberal Democrats. Dillow also notes libertarians’ defense of unpopular policies

Even as a libertarian, I find many libertarians very hateable people. We tend to flaunt social conventions in ways that rub people the wrong way. Refusing to vote, refusing to recycle, protesting lifestyle control laws that, while are probably bad on the whole, are geared toward smoothing interaction and encouraging conformity, which makes life easier.

My Own Explanations
Intimate vs. Extended Order
There are different norms and values required to support intimate orders vs. extended orders. Libertarians tend to be extended order people, and nearly everyone else are intimate order people. Because we advocate very different norms and interaction styles than others, that makes us seem alien and unfeeling. It’s not that love and compassion aren’t important to us, we just know that those feeling can’t support large societies. Other political groups are far more likely to believe that they can. I think Hayek’s idea of the two orders is far more important than the attention it receives. I doubt that one non-libertarian pundit in a hundred could accurately describe it.

Using Kling’s Three Languages of Politics, liberals support the oppressed against the powerful. I’ve argued that libertarians are actually pretty good in this regard, but a lot of what we say is ripe for misunderstandings, as we use very different language and argumentation styles (far more logical as opposed to emotive). We certainly don’t couch are arguments in terms of helping the poor and oppressed, and this can be interpreted as not caring. And to some degree, many individual libertarians may not care so much about poverty.

Haidt’s Values
Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Alternate name: Proportionality)
Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Alternate name: Ingroup)
Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Alternate name: Respect.)
Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Alternate name: Purity.)

Libertarians are big on Liberty (obviously) and to a lesser degree care/harm and fairness/cheating. I think we actually agree with liberals more on the foundations of vales than we do with conservatives. I do think there’s a meme of libertarians being actively opposed to care/harm as a moral axis. I personally care a lot about that axis, but many libertarians don’t so much. It’s a fair cop, some of the time.

A response to a Progressive article on Libertarianism

May 23, 2015

This post is a response to this article:

I’m going to use “libertarian” to describe “fiscally conservative but socially liberal”, which is a tremendously awkward phrase. It seems like the target audience of the article is progressives who want to make themselves feel better about hating their political enemies, as the author did not think to ask what libertarians actually think about these issues before writing the article.

The author brings up seven issues.
1: Poverty, and the cycle of poverty.
2: Domestic violence, workplace harassment, and other abuse.

These points only make sense if you assume libertarians are pro-poverty. We’re not. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to alleviate it and help the poor. It’s just that our solutions don’t involve regulation and handouts. Disagreement on the solution to a problem is not the same as being in favor of the problem. If you disagree with our solutions, fine, let’s have that discussion. But writing an article saying that is equivalent to being “pro-problem” is unhelpful.

3: Disenfranchisement
Blaming a powerless political group for what the established political system does is idiotic. Electronic voting machines aren’t some libertarian conspiracy, they are created by the mainstream Democrats and Republicans. Who do you think gerrymanders? Some secret libertarian conspiracy? Whoever holds political power decides what the districts are. That means Democrats and Republicans. If you want to solve a problem, step one is figuring out who caused it. The author apparently couldn’t be bothered to spend 5 minutes figuring that out.

4: Racist policing
5: Drug policy and prison policy
I will simply note that libertarians agree with the far left on these issues. Who does the author think run the police? If you want to scale down the prison industrial complex, you are fiscally conservative, because prisons are the government and you want to make them smaller. And does the author really think libertarians are in favor of the drug war? Libertarians have been fighting against the drug war a lot longer and a lot harder than the left, thank you very much.

Ok. We’re finally at some points where there are actual points of disagreement. Let’s take these one at at time.

6. Deregulation
Regulation is not homogenous. It is a list of rules that people have to follow. The rules can be good or bad. In general, if someone either says “we need more/less regulation” without specifying exactly what rules should be added or removed, or even for that matter saying what the goals of the regulation should be, they are saying an empty platitude rather than a meaningful thought.

“Do I need to remind anyone of what happened when the banking and financial industries were deregulated?”
Oh my. You probably should remind me, because based on everything I’ve read on this subject, such an event never occurred. Banking has been either the most regulated or the second most regulated industry (depending on how you measure it) for at least the last hundred years. By my count, there are 11 Federal agencies currently tasked with regulating the banks. Maybe you think there should be 12. Maybe you think there should be 100. But to pretend like banks are unregulated is just absurd.

And who, by the way, do you think writes banking regulation? The banks! Congress doesn’t come up with these 10,000 page behemoths. It’s not about more or less, primarily. It’s about good vs. bad. Regulation should encourage competition, not solidify monopolies and hand out billions of dollars of free money. Small government does not necessarily mean pro-business. Many people are fiscal conservatives because they want to limit the amount of corporate welfare. Lumping people into one big “fiscal conservative” category does not allow you to distinguish between anti-corporate welfare people and anti-poor people welfare types.

7: Free trade
The author is wrong about free trade. Countries that are poor do not have free trade. Rich countries have free trade. Countries which change their policy from closed trade to free trade rapidly become rich. Countries which close off trade rapidly become poor. Economists from the far right to the far left are all in favor of free trade. Why could this be? Perhaps because even a cursory review of the evidence would suggest that freeing trade is the second best way of alleviating poverty. What’s the best? you might ask. Moving from a country without free trade to a country with free trade. That’s right – immigration to a freer trade area.

Sweatshops and poor worker conditions are a symptom of a generally bad economy. You don’t see them in rich nations. Why? Because we can afford not to have them. We can afford to send our kids to school instead of working them in the fields or the factory. To deny free trade to developing countries is to trap them in their poverty.

The author asserts that ” the whole damn point of “free” trade: by reducing labor costs to practically nothing”. Where, might I ask, are labor costs rising the fastest in the whole world. China. Why are they going up so fast? Because China opened up to free trade and they are now reaping the benefits. Labor costs are lowest in poor countries. Opening poor countries up to trade makes them rich, which in turn raises their labor costs. So in fact, the whole point of free trade is precisely the opposite – to raise labor costs, or as we economists like to say, raising the living standards of workers.

The author concludes: “This list is far from complete. But I think you get the idea.”
Yes, I get the idea. The idea is you’re an idiot who didn’t bother to look up a single fact in your whole article. You preferred to stream-of-consciousness spew hate at a group whose members you’ve never met.

World of Tanks Beginner’s Guide

May 21, 2015

I am not a very experienced player, but I wanted to write this so I’d have something to give my friends who are starting. If any readers have tips or tricks to add, please let me know in the comments.

World of Tanks is an arcade tank game. It isn’t realistic, but it has fairly deep meta-strategy and is fun to play.

Basic Combat
Tanks have hit points instead of being internally modeled like War Thunder. Component locations (crew, ammo, engine, etc) are still modeled, but instead of auto-destruction, if you hit the area they are in, there is a percentage chance to disable them. Guns have penetration and damage values, which are subject to a random variation. If the penetration is greater than the armor * angling factor, the shot does the gun’s damage (also subject to some RNG) to the tanks HP.

Guns have an accuracy rating, defined as shot dispersion at 100 m. The smaller, the better, with 0.4 being average. Aim time is the time that the reticle takes to shrink to its smallest size. In World of Tanks, your gunner does the aiming. You don’t need to account for windage, shell drop, or anything like that. The “aim time” reflects the time it takes the gunner to do that for you. The shorter the time, the better, with 2.3 being average.

Camo/View Range
Your effective view range is reduced by your target’s camo rating. If your view range is 300, you might spot a heavy at 250 m, but a light tank at 100 m. Bushes, crew skill, and equipment improve your camo rating.

You can play around with this camo calculator to get a feel for how it works:

Note that light tanks don’t lose camo from moving. An average view range is 300 + 10 x tier.

Here are some tutorial videos. The third one is game play of a good scout tank driver.

Tank Types
Every tank has strengths and weaknesses. If you ignore them, you will die quickly, no matter how much armor or health your tank has.
Heavies: Good health and armor. Usually above average guns, but sometimes their guns have low DPM. Poor view range, poor speed.

Mediums: Jack of all trades tanks. Many mediums have good DPM guns.

Lights: Good speed, view range, and camo, but bad guns, armor, and health. Many lights are primarily scout tanks, but you do find flanking tanks as well.

Tank Destroyers: TDs are all about having a great gun. Some are sneaky, with good camo, and some focus on armor instead.

Artillery: Usually slow, poorly armored, poor health, and poor view range, but artillery have powerful guns which can shoot very long range.

Crews make a big difference on gameplay. Each percent in crew skill improves related stats about half a percent, so 10% loader skill translates to about 5% faster reloading. 50% crew are really terrible. If at all possible, you should save up 20,000 per crew member and retrain them at 75%. Crew lose 10% of their skill when retrained in Regimental School (20k) and 20% when retrained for free. Using a crew in a tank its not trained for results in a 25% penalty to their skill, but their underlying skill level and xp gain is unaffected.

Therefore, for low level tanks, you can just use crew from the previous tank and not bother retraining them at all. That’s much better than free training them and getting a permanent skill drop. Retraining crew for high level tanks is worth it since you spend many more battles in each tank before getting the next one, but by then you should be able to spend 20k per crew member easily.

Crew skill increases at a logarithmic rate, so it’s much easier to increase from 50% to 60% than it is to increase from 95% to 100%. Once you get to 100% however, you can pick a skill that gives your crew member a special ability.

The Economy
Sales are really common on WoT. I would recommend waiting for a 50% off sale for pretty much anything you want to buy. Tier 8 premiums only go on sale for 30% off usually, so if you want to make an investment in such a credit earning behemoth, you have to pay serious money ($50, which gets reduced to $35). If you want to spend in the $20 range, I would recommend getting a tier 5 premium tank, probably a Churchill III or an T-25 and then spending the rest of your gold on vehicle slots and dismounting complex equipment from tanks.

Map Tactics

I’m not even going to pretend I know what to do on various maps, but I’ll outsource that.  I’ve gotten a lot of use out of these guides:

Assorted Links

May 7, 2015

1. Rise and fall of the hotel mini-bar.

2. On Efficiency wages

3. Timothy Lee on patent reform.

4. Blah blah blah politics.

Assorted Links

March 30, 2015

1. The cause of addiction. The article rings fairly true for me.

2. Hiding from scary ideas. If you can’t handle these sorts of ideas, you don’t belong in college.

3. Mass Surveillance can’t stop terrorists. But then again, that was never the point of mass surveillance anyway, right?

4. Housing is an underrated driver of economic trends.

5. Bernanke’s starting a blog


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