Ayn Rand — a perverted psychopath

30 Aug, 2022 at 23:40 | Posted in Politics & Society | 5 Comments

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Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country …

Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights—they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”—they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using …

What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched—to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today—those who condemn America—do not respect individual rights.

Ayn Rand,  Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, 1974

It’s sickening to read this gobsmacking trash. But it’s perhaps even more sickening that people like Alan Greenspan consider Rand some kind of intellectual hero.

Alan Greenspan isn’t just a bad economist. He’s a bad person. What else can one think of a person that considers Ayn Rand — with the ugliest psychopathic philosophy the postwar world has produced — one of the great thinkers of the 20th century? A person that even co-edited a book with her — maintaining that unregulated capitalism is a “superlatively moral system”. A person that in his memoirs tries to reduce his admiration for Rand to a youthful indiscretion — but who actually still today can’t be described as anything else than a loyal Randian disciple.

As shown in Reich’s video, Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy have more disciples than Greenspan. But as Hilary Putnam rightfully noticed in The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Harvard University Press, 2002) it’s doubtful if it even qualifies as a real philosophy:

It cannot be the case that the only universally valid norm refers solely to discourse. It is, after all, possible for someone to recognize truth-telling as a binding norm while otherwise being guided solely by ‘enlightened egoism.’ (This is, indeed, the way of life that was recommended by the influential if amateurish philosophizer – I cannot call her a philosopher – Ayn Rand.) But such a person can violate the spirit if not the letter of the principle of communicative action at every turn. After all, communicative action is contrasted with manipulation, and as such a person can manipulate people without violating the maxims of ‘sincerity, truth-telling, and saying only what one believes to be rationally warranted.’ Ayn Rand’s capitalist heroes manipulated people all the time (even if she didn’t consider it manipulation) via their control of capital, for example. Indeed, the person who says, ‘do what I want or I’ll shoot you,’ need not be violating any maxim concerned solely with discourse. But it would be a mistake to use such examples as objections to Habermasian ‘discourse ethics.’

In her diary from 1928, Ayn Rand approvingly quotes a statement made by William Edward Hickman – “What is good for me is right.” Rand is enthusiastic and writes: “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard.”

Later she models one of her heroes  – Danny Renahan – after Hickman. Renahan is portrayed as

born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.

Who was this  Hickman that so inspired Rand?

Hickman was a notorious bank robber, child kidnapper and mass murderer. One of the most hated and heinous criminals in U. S. history.

How people like Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan — not to mention all modern-day ‘objectivist’ disciples — can consider Ayn Rand “one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century” is beyond comprehension. It’s sickening.

Mill’s methods of causal inference (student stuff)

29 Aug, 2022 at 10:40 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on Mill’s methods of causal inference (student stuff)

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As we all know, R. A. Fisher was not too happy about Mill’s method of difference, since it, according to him, built on the impossible requirement of being able to compare identical units under different circumstances. Fisher instead favoured the experimental method of randomized treatment assignment. But if you cannot assign treatment randomly — as in most observational studies — there is much that supports Mill’s method of difference for making causal inferences.

Svensk inflationsberäkning — rena skämtet!

28 Aug, 2022 at 19:14 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Svensk inflationsberäkning — rena skämtet!

Girig-Sverige - Natur & KulturDen andra saken som framgår tydligt vid en titt på statistiken är vad som saknas i KPI: prisuppgången på bostäder.

Posten boende står visserligen för hela 25 procent av indexet. Kostnaden har sedan mellan 1996 och 2021 stigit med drygt 40 procent.

Vänta nu här, säger alla som tillbringat mer än fem minuter pà sajten Hemnet de senaste 15 åren. Är det inte en alleles for låg siffra?

Visst är det så. Det genomsnittliga kvadratmeterpriset på bostadsrätter i Sverige har enligt Svensk Mäklarstatistik stigit med 800 procent mellan 1996 och 2021. Villapriserna har ökat med 435 procent och i Stockholm med 550 procent, visar statistik från SCB.

Varför har inte detta drivit upp inflationen?

Den enkla förklaringen är att priset på den enskilt största affären i de flesta människors liv, bostaden, inte ingår i KPI. Det som räknas med är hyror, avgifter och räntekostnader för bostadsrätter samt drifts- och räntekostnader för villor …

Samtidigt som stigande bostadspriser ersatt vädret som det kanske vanligaste samtalsämnet svenskar emellan och lett till att hushållen dragit på sig några tusen miljarder i bolån, är det alltså en icke-fràga för SCB vid beräkning av inflationen och därmed för Riksbanken när den sätter sin ränta.

Hegel — wenn der Geist aufs Ganze geht

28 Aug, 2022 at 08:26 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Hegel — wenn der Geist aufs Ganze geht

Verso Books on Twitter: ""no one finishes reading #Hegel"  http://t.co/TYjsmsYa7U" / TwitterGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ist unbestritten einer der wichtigsten philosophischen Denker der Neuzeit. Aber — 250 Jahre nach der Geburt des deutschen Philosophen kann man sich fragen: Was bleibt von Hegel? Wer war er? Was wollte er? Und wie würde er unsere Gegenwart und Zukunft fassen?

History of econometric causality

26 Aug, 2022 at 12:53 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | 2 Comments

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Randomization strategies (student stuff)

26 Aug, 2022 at 12:07 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Randomization strategies (student stuff)

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Brauchen wir eine Übergewinnsteuer?

25 Aug, 2022 at 14:08 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Brauchen wir eine Übergewinnsteuer?
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Economics as ideology

25 Aug, 2022 at 11:26 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Economics as ideology

Study proves trickle-down didn't trickle | PoliticsNCTax cuts for the wealthy were supposed to stimulate growth and make everyone better off. There was dispute about this within the profession, but there were also many economists who provided intellectual support for the claim that tax cuts will create growth and widespread prosperity. The evidence from the Bush and Reagan tax cuts does not support this claim, but it is still made by some economists and this gives those who are serving wealthy interests or who want to force government to shrink by starving it of revenue the cover they need for their arguments …

We do need more humility about what we do and do not know, more willingness to change our minds when the evidence disagrees with our favorite theoretical model, and the willingness to acknowledge disagreement within the profession. But most of all we need to take a strong stand against those inside and outside the profession who misuse economic theory and empirical results for political and ideological purposes.

Mark Thoma

You never hear anyone at our seminars telling the lecturer that the assumptions on which his models are built are only made for ideological reasons. But that does not necessarily mean — whether on the surface or not — that academic analysis is judged on its merits. What it means is that we have a catechism that no one dares to question. And that catechism has become hegemonic for particular reasons, one of which may very well be of an ideological nature. When the neoclassical theory was developed in the late 19th century one of the reasons was that some economists — e.g. Böhm-Bawerk — thought that the Ricardian (labour value) tradition had become too radical and could be used as a dangerous weapon in the class struggle. Marginalism was explicitly seen as a way to counter that.

Even though some economists seem to think that facts are bound to win in the end, yours truly begs to differ.

Take the rational expectations assumption. Rational expectations in the mainstream economists’ world imply that relevant distributions have to be time-independent. This amounts to assuming that an economy is like a closed system with known stochastic probability distributions for all different events. In reality, it is straining one’s beliefs to try to represent economies as outcomes of stochastic processes. An existing economy is a single realization tout court, and hardly conceivable as one realisation out of an ensemble of economy-worlds since an economy can hardly be conceived as being completely replicated over time. It is — to say the least — very difficult to see any similarity between these modelling assumptions and the expectations of real persons. In the world of the rational expectations hypothesis, we are never disappointed in any other way than as when we lose at the roulette wheels. But real life is not an urn or a roulette wheel. And that’s also the reason why allowing for cases where agents make ‘predictable errors’ in DSGE models doesn’t take us any closer to a relevant and realist depiction of actual economic decisions and behaviours.

‘Rigorous’ and ‘precise’ DSGE models cannot be considered anything else than unsubstantiated conjectures as long as they aren’t supported by evidence from outside the theory or model. To my knowledge no in any way decisive empirical evidence has been presented.

So, given this lack of empirical evidence, why do mainstream economists still stick to using these kinds of theories and models building on blatantly ridiculous assumptions? Well, one reason, I would argue, is of an ideological nature. Those models and the assumptions they build on standardly have a neoliberal or market-friendly bias. I guess that is also one of the — ideological — reasons those models and theories are so dear to many Chicago economists and ‘New Keynesian’ macroeconomists …

Synthetic control methods (student stuff)

24 Aug, 2022 at 16:27 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Synthetic control methods (student stuff)

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My first love (personal)

21 Aug, 2022 at 17:21 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on My first love (personal)

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John Miles (1949-2021)

R.I.P.

Causal inference methods

21 Aug, 2022 at 11:24 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Causal inference methods

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Science and crossword solving

20 Aug, 2022 at 16:03 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 1 Comment

Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology by Susan Haack  - Hardcover - Reprint - 1994 - from Common Crow Books (SKU: B54435)The model is not . . . how one determines the soundness or otherwise of a mathematical proof; it is, rather, how one determines the reasonableness or otherwise of entries in a crossword puzzle. . . . The crossword model permits pervasive mutual support, rather than, like the model of a mathematical proof, encouraging an essentially one-directional conception. . . . How reasonable one’s confidence is that a certain entry in a crossword is correct depends on: how much support is given to this entry by the clue and any intersecting entries that have already been filled in; how reasonable, independently of the entry in question, one’s confidence is that those other already filled-in entries are correct; and how many of the intersecting entries have been filled in.

Yours truly — an avid crossword solver himself — can’t but agree.

In inference to the best explanation, we start with a body of (purported) data/facts/evidence and search for explanations that can account for these data/facts/evidence. Having the best explanation means that you, given the context-dependent background assumptions, have a satisfactory explanation that can explain the evidence better than any other competing explanation — and so it is reasonable to consider the hypothesis to be true. Even if we (inevitably) do not have deductive certainty, our reasoning gives us a license to consider our belief in the hypothesis as reasonable.

Accepting a hypothesis means that you believe it does explain the available evidence better than any other competing hypothesis. Knowing that we — after having earnestly considered and analyzed the other available potential explanations — have been able to eliminate the competing potential explanations, warrants and enhances the confidence we have that our preferred explanation is the best explanation, i. e., the explanation that provides us (given it is true) with the greatest understanding.

What is Inference? | Ontotext Fundamentals SeriesThis, of course, does not in any way mean that we cannot be wrong. Of course, we can. Inferences to the best explanation are fallible inferences — since the premises do not logically entail the conclusion — so from a logical point of view, inference to the best explanation is a weak mode of inference. But if the arguments put forward are strong enough, they can be warranted and give us justified true belief, and hence, knowledge, even though they are fallible inferences. As scientists we sometimes — much like crossword solvers and detectives — experience disillusion. We thought that we had reached a strong conclusion by ruling out the alternatives in the set of contrasting explanations. But — what we thought was true turned out to be false.

That does not necessarily mean that we had no good reasons for believing what we believed. If we cannot live with that contingency and uncertainty, well, then we are in the wrong business. If it is deductive certainty you are after — rather than the ampliative and defeasible reasoning in inference to the best explanation — well, then get into math or logic, not science.

Sir. Austin Bradford Hill (1897-1991). | Download Scientific Diagram What I do not believe — and this has been suggested — is that we can usefully lay down some hard-and-fast rules of evidence that must be obeyed before we accept cause and effect. None of my viewpoints can bring indisputable evidence for or against the cause-and-effect hypothesis and none can be required as a sine qua non. What they can do, with greater or less strength, is to help us to make up our minds on the fundamental question — is there any other way of explaining the set of facts before us, is there any other answer equally, or more, likely than cause and effect?

Austin Bradford Hill

Econometrics — the danger of calling your pet cat a dog

19 Aug, 2022 at 13:24 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Econometrics — the danger of calling your pet cat a dog

The assumption of additivity and linearity means that the outcome variable is, in reality, linearly related to any predictors … and that if you have several predictors then their combined effect is best described by adding their effects together …

catdogThis assumption is the most important because if it is not true then even if all other assumptions are met, your model is invalid because you have described it incorrectly. It’s a bit like calling your pet cat a dog: you can try to get it to go in a kennel, or to fetch sticks, or to sit when you tell it to, but don’t be surprised when its behaviour isn’t what you expect because even though you’ve called it a dog, it is in fact a cat. Similarly, if you have described your statistical model inaccurately it won’t behave itself and there’s no point in interpreting its parameter estimates or worrying about significance tests of confidence intervals: the model is wrong.

Andy Field

Econometrics fails miserably over and over again — and not only because of the additivity and linearity assumption

Another reason why it does, is that the error term in the regression models used is thought of as representing the effect of the variables that were omitted from the models. The error term is somehow thought to be a ‘cover-all’ term representing omitted content in the model and necessary to include to ‘save’ the assumed deterministic relation between the other random variables included in the model. Error terms are usually assumed to be orthogonal (uncorrelated) to the explanatory variables. But since they are unobservable, they are also impossible to empirically test. And without justification of the orthogonality assumption, there is, as a rule, nothing to ensure identifiability.

Nowadays it has almost become a self-evident truism among economists that you cannot expect people to take your arguments seriously unless they are based on or backed up by advanced econometric modelling. So legions of mathematical-statistical theorems are proved — and heaps of fiction are being produced, masquerading as science. The rigour​ of the econometric modelling and the far-reaching assumptions they are built on is frequently not supported by data.

In the year 2525

18 Aug, 2022 at 19:47 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on In the year 2525

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But once … we were here

18 Aug, 2022 at 08:21 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on But once … we were here

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One of the greatest movie scenes ever.

In loving memory of my brother, Peter ‘Uncas’ Pålsson.

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