The Natural Family

July 16, 2007

Michael Medved had on one of the authors of The Natural Family. That author made clear that he felt  that it was vitally important for  children to be raised with their natual biological parents and that any non-nuclear family does irreparable harm to the child. There are a few problems with this. The first is that this supposed natural family has never existed in history. Even in the past when children weren’t born out of wedlock as frequently (or at least it wasn’t known about, which might be equivalent) you still had a large percentage of children who were raised by a stepmother and not their natural parents. So to claim that our nuclear family is natural is far-fetched given history. (I mean is there any reason to believe that in primitive societies father’s contributed anything towards raising their children aside from protection and food) The other problem is that if he is right you would expect there to be a Golden Age in America approximately 20 years after the families were all so wonderful. In fact the 1970s are considered one of the bad decades yet these children were raised in the glory filled 50s. The children of the 50s were born in 20s and 30s families which lacked the moral fiber and the strong father figure. So in other words until there is some extremely strong evidence I think a natural family is pretty worthless.

Elitist Populists

July 10, 2007

    I was listening to talk radio as I wasted my day today. At around 10:00 I heard an interview with some Fox host. They were discussing the Chinese imports and the host, who has made a living attacking the elites for being out of touch with the common man, said that she thought were tired of trade with China for some cheap t-shirts. This attitude is normally expressed by wealthy people who avoid Chinese imports because of the low enviromental standards, the very people the host (Laura Ingraham) loves to lambaste for their support of anything she disagrees with.

These elitist arguments are typical of populist demagogues and oddly enough it strikes a chord even among the masses. For some reason people who buy large percentages of their goods from Asia agree wholeheartedly with massive tariffs and even patronize those hosts who criticize them as not knowing what’s best for themselves.

Unfortunately those demagogues who make enough to easily live without hypocrisy, are growing in influence. They managed to defeat the immigration bill which, though flawed, was somewhat better than the status quo.

Warrantless Wiretapping?

July 9, 2007

This term is technically correct as the NSA did not have a search warrant, but given the fact that there is such a strong double-entendre wouldn’t you think that the news reports would be more hesitant to use that phrasing, it might seem better to use the phrase “wiretaps without a warrant”, although it lacks snap it is much clearer.

The Most Sickly-Sweet Commercial Ever

July 5, 2007

This is near verbatim

Dramatis Personae

Little Girl (around 3 with fake cute voice set to max)
Authoritative Announcer

LG: Mommy will you love me when I turn 5?
M: Yes honey
LG: Mommy will you love me when I turn 10?
M: Yes honey
LG: Will you love me when I turn 15?
AA: While you can’t engineer a mother’s love you can engineer a car and that is why the Chevy Escalade (or something I can’t remember the brand) is designed with space collision resistance systems
LG: Will you love me when I’m as old as you?
M: I will always love you

Doesn’t that make you throw up inside?

Two incredibly disturbing stories in a Gadol book

July 4, 2007

    I was reading a book which was a biography of the Steipler Gaon and within the first 100 pages there were two stories which although they were presented as evidence of righteousness were what seemed to be signs of extreme dysfunction.

The first story is about R’ David Baharain. In this story he was offered a Rosh Yeshiva position. Apparently the board felt they had to make the offer, but didn’t really want him for the job. When they asked him he asked what the responsibilities were. They answered that one was to decide which kollel families had use of the apartment buildings when they had a reshuffling every three years. Hearing this he immediately took the job. When asked why he said, “Because now I can fulfil the Rambam which says that the first to get charity should be your relatives”. This story was brought to show R’ David’s devotion to halachah, not his corruption, but isn’t that what jumps out at you.

The second story is about the Steipler, apparently his wife was careful not to disturb him while learning, wonderful, however when someone asked him about his son who was sick with a moderately severe illness he had no idea what the person was talking about. Devotion to learning is one thing, but isn’t it a problem when one of the stories to show your greatness is your obliviousness to everything around you?

The dead cat bounce

July 2, 2007

I hopefully will restart posting, but we’ll see about that.

In this post I would like to puncture one of the popular myths about Sanhedrin- that it almost never executed anybody. People draw support by quoting the Mishnah that said that a court which executed 1 person every 7 years was murderous and the other opinion being that the acceptable execution rate was slightly under once every seventy years. This Mishnah is taught as proof positive that Beis Din had extremely high standards for execution. However what we need to look at is the death penalty rate. Israel had approximately 5 million people at the height of its power. We know for sure that there was at least one court per tribe which could try capital cases and there probably were more because it seems that every town with a reasonable amount of people in it had one. So let’s say that we had somewhere between 13 (absolute minimum) and 500 courts (1 court per 10,000 people). If the courts killed one person every 7 years there would be between 1.5 and 72 people killed and if it was once every 70 years it would be between .15 and 7.2 people. This seems much, much less than America, but when you adjust for population size the numbers for ancient Israel becomes 90-5400 executions per year or 9-540 executions a year. By comparison the US has executed a maximum of 100 people in a year since 1976.

When you look at the numbers it becomes clear that unless you think that there was an unreasonably small amount of courts the ancient Beis Din was applying the death penalty at least as often than U.S. courts are even if they only executed a person once every 70 years.

Are we irrationally hardwired

May 10, 2007

All of the econ blogs have been talking about this article by Paul Rubin. He discusses the evolutionary  philosophy behind the lack of free trade support. He ascribes it to an assumption of a zero-sum game combined with distrust of outsiders, but I think he’s missing the boat. Most of the opponents of free trade feel that we are being cheated in our deals and that we should only sign these deals if we get something in return. That is a hard-wired response. We are trained evolutionarilly to reject something offered as a free lunch as a trap. We are conditioned to believe that to get something you must give something up. Therefore people hear that we are removing tariffs and want to know what we are getting in return. When people hear that we are getting nothing they see it as giving something up for nothing and instinctively reject it. People easily understand the benefits of trade, but not one way trade.