Thursday, January 3, 2008

On Learning

How do we know how to act? Where does society come from? What is the basis for civilization?

Before we can begin this essay we must take one axiom as a given: Man acts with purpose to bring about change which he deems necessary. We will discuss the implications of this axiom as they become necessary. All knowledge must be understood as derived by human action.

All functions of society, thru the division of labor and knowledge, only come about thru learning. Learning is a human action. Learning is the process of understanding the external world and how it functions in relation to acting man. Learning must be understood in its most general sense. It is not merely gaining an education thru an institution such as a school or university. Learning is a ceaseless process. Every signal we receive from the outside world contributes to our individual learning and hence to our understanding of how to act. Learning is a requirement of all action; learning without action is nothing more than theory.

Learning requires the processes of perception, observation, abstraction and application. Taken as a whole these functions are called learning. Each level from perception to application forms its own rational basis in the process of learning.

Process of Learning
Learning Process(es)Rational Basis
Perception, observationSensation
Perception, observation, abstractionGeneralization
Perception, observation, abstraction,

Perception alone is nothing more than that -- perception. Perception paired with observation is called sensation. Observation includes the subcategories of sensory action called: sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing. We must recognize each new level in the process of learning requires the former process to function properly. Without perception observation is impossible. Perception is the process of receiving a signal. Observation is the process of "recording" the signal in the brain. It is possible to perceive a signal without observing it. We are unaware of many received signals. These signals can and do form in the unconscious mind; however, this topic is outside of the scope of this essay.

Abstraction is the next level of learning which must be paired with perception and observation. Abstraction is the ability to analyze, synthesize, or generalize immediate observations to the world around us. All of these rational processes taken together form a rational basis called generalization. The ability to apply these abstractions to specific action is called rationalization. Learning involves committing learning to memory to know how to behave in the future under the exact same circumstances or perhaps under circumstances analogous but not identical to the aforementioned situation. The later situation relies heavily on abstraction.

Discovery is a requirement of all action. Discovery, synonymous with learning, is the highest order of rationalization. Discovery is a necessity of action. How does one act correctly without first discovering how to act? To act and be in control of one's actions implies the notion of every process leading up to discovery. This does not mean, however, that one always acts with precise understanding of how to properly bring about a desired change or effect. It is entirely possible that at any particular level of rationalization something goes awry and leads to improper action. For example, we can imagine such a case where our perception might not be exact because of intoxication or perhaps because of an optical illusion.

Improper theory always implies a breakdown in the process of learning. However, when our actions do not result in a desired outcome this does not necessarily imply improper theory but may be attributed to improper technology or technique -- which required proper knowledge of theory to arrive at in the first place. As individuals our innate abilities differ which necessarily implies that one person may excel at one particular task where another fails. Thus it is not just proper theory that we require to act but also proper technique and technology -- or, taken collectively, skill.

It is the qualities of the individual and our innate abilities that lead us to the division of labor and knowledge. We can imagine that if all individuals had the same skill set and the same ability with this skill set we would still be living as animals. Imagine if all men excelled at scavenging for food but was unable to learn to hunt and kill his own food. It is sharing and exchange of knowledge and labor that allowed certain men to bring themselves out of this state and ultimately drove the advancement of society.

It is merely our ability to learn and pass down our learning from one generation to the next that has allowed civilization to prosper and advance. Technology allows us to record learning for our progeny to better pass down and revise old theory into better and more correct theory. For example, the Aristotelean view of the universe was replaced by Copernicus, which was replaced by Kepler, then Galileo, Newton, and finally Einstein and the modern quantum physicists. Understood this way, all learning is revisionist.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Emotion Verses Rationality

Emotion and rationality are related in that emotion always affects how one rationalizes reality. We receive signals from the world as it exists outside our own body. These signals are received in the form of the senses -- sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell.

Due to differences in our ability to sense stimuli and our conscious awareness of them they are skewed from the reality of how someone else may perceive the exact same signals in the exact same circumstance. It is our perception as well as a chemical reaction to such stimuli that causes emotions. Emotions are nothing more than a conscious value judgment of one's current state. They are the lens through which we perceive reality and hence can and do affect how we behave.

Just because one may or may not have the same reaction to emotion as someone else, however, does not mean he or she acts any more or less rationally. The concept of irrational action is nonsense. Everyone must rationalize in order to act. Rationalization is action of the mind which is taken as a series of lower order actions which results in physical action. This does not mean one who acts in any particular manner is acting correctly or that the actions taken results in the desired effect; it just means that one has made a rational choice to act.

If emotions do affect how we perceive reality then what could be the basis for such judgment of one's actions? Is there a measure for the end result of action?

We can never make assumptions about why people behave they way they do. We cannot assume people are rational or irrational but rather that they act with what they deem to be the best choice for removing some felt uneasiness. To act is to be rational because before one can act one must necessarily rationalize such actions; what one attempts to do by judging such actions is to place a value on individual actions.

This cannot logically be done outside of one's own personal values and hence it holds no relevance to reality outside of the individual doing the action. We cannot place a value judgments on how one acts whether we deem those actions to be clouded by emotion or not because in order to do this we have to understand how those emotions came to be in the first place.

If we can indeed assign value to individual human action then we must necessarily make an assumption that there is such a notion as normative human behavior -- organically speaking, we are too complex to be able to answer such questions definitively and indeed the idea is totally incompatible with subjective value.

If subjective value is not correct then there is no basis for the economic sciences as we know it and this certainly cannot be the case. We know that subjective value is correct because if everyone valued everything the same way under the same circumstances there would be no exchange and no one would participate in the division of labor or knowledge. In other words, society as we know it would not exist.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Case for the Good Doctor

In response to this piece by

Let me first start by saying that I am biased in favor of Ron Paul. I plan on caucusing for him in the state of Minnesota. That said let me try to be as objective as possible in defending my case for the good doctor.

The link posted above is a Ranking of the most hated candidates by Zogby International. The winner of this poll is none other than Fmr. First-Lady-In-Chief, Hillary Clinton with 50% of respondents saying they would definitely not vote for the former first lady.

Forget the fact that not all the information in the poll is correct. This poll lists Ron Paul as a Democrat which is incorrect. This information is irrelevant except for the fact that it is evidence that Ron Paul still isn't entirely understood across the country. Those of us following closely already know this.

The interesting thing about this poll is that Ron Paul is ranked number 4 on this list. What does this mean? Well for starters Paul is the first Republican candidate on the list. Further this is a list of candidates chosen out of the entire list of candidates by both Republicans and Democrats, primary voters and non-primary voters.

I make the case that this poll is more correct than the primary opinion polls as in it is not as limiting in its data set. For example, the primary opinion polls limit the data set by restricting respondents to known registered primary voters. This list of data is heavily skewed on the Republican side by Bush Supporters.

Since Bush ran unopposed it only stands to reason the this list of likely voters would tend to reflect the most Bush-like candidate. Let us assume the vote is split randomly between the three "top-tier" establishment candidates which is what is being reflected, in my own opinion.

I honestly believe that Ron Paul is going to take the primary for the simple fact that he is the only candidate with real grass-roots, boots on the ground support. He has won every post-debate phone in poll, he receives the most Internet traffic and chatter than any candidate. He has won more straw-polls that any of the other candidates with the greatest average of support and the greatest number of head-to-head wins than any candidate -- let us not also forget the fact that people actually show up to his rallies in droves. This data seems more relevant to me because it actually measure the motivation of candidate support which is key to winning primaries. If people aren't motivated to act in their best interest they will not vote.

Let's assume that Ron Paul has enough support to win the GOP nomination which I believe to be the case. Let us also assume, unless the polls are extremely flawed, that Hillary has this nomination locked up. If the choice for the 2008 presidential election comes down to Ron Paul vs. Hillary Clinton, the outcome based on this Zogby poll, is that Ron Paul wins.

This is how it is going to happen. Ron Paul takes the election by a landslide.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Libertarians Rising


Posted at

To oversimplify somewhat less, Democrats aren't always for Big Government, and Republicans aren't always against it. Democrats treasure civil liberties, whereas Republicans are more tolerant of government censorship to protect children from pornography, or of wiretapping to catch a criminal, or of torture in the war against terrorism. War in general and Iraq in particular--certainly Big Government exercises--are projects Republicans tend to be more enthusiastic about. Likewise the criminal process: Republicans tend to want to make more things illegal and to send more people to jail for longer. Republicans also consider themselves more concerned about the moral tone of the country, and they are more disposed toward using the government in trying to improve it. In particular, Republicans think religion needs more help from society, through the government, while Democrats are touchier about the separation of church and state.

Many people feel that neither party offers a coherent set of principles that they can agree with. For them, the choice is whether you believe in Big Government or you don't. And if you don't, you call yourself a libertarian. Libertarians are against government in all its manifestations. Domestically, they are against social-welfare programs. They favor self-reliance (as they see it) over Big Government spending. Internationally, they are isolationists. Like George Washington, they loathe "foreign entanglements," and they think the rest of the world can go to hell without America's help. They don't care--or at least they don't think the government should care--about what people are reading, thinking, drinking, smoking or doing in bed. And what is the opposite of libertarianism? Libertarians would say fascism. But in the American political context, it is something infinitely milder that calls itself communitarianism. The term is not as familiar, and communitarians are far less organized as a movement than libertarians, ironically enough. But in general communitarians emphasize society rather than the individual and believe that group responsibilities (to family, community, nation, the globe) should trump individual rights.

The relationship of these two ways of thinking to the two established parties is peculiar. Republicans are far more likely to identify themselves as libertarians and to vilify the government in the abstract. And yet Republicans have a clearer vision of what constitutes a good society and a well-run planet and are quicker to try to impose this vision on the rest of us. Now that the Republican Party is in trouble, critics are advising it to free itself of the religious right on issues like abortion and gay rights. That is, the party should become less communitarian and more libertarian. With Democrats, it's the other way around.

Very few Democrats self-identify as libertarians, but they are in fact much more likely to have a live-and-let-live attitude toward the lesbian couple next door or the Islamofascist dictator halfway around the world. And every time the Democrats lose an election, critics scold that they must put less emphasis on the sterile rights of individuals and more emphasis on responsibilities to society. That is, they should become less libertarian and more communitarian. Usually this boils down to advocating mandatory so-called voluntary national service by people younger than whoever is doing the advocating.

Libertarians and communitarians (to continue this unjustified generalizing) are different character types. Communitarians tend to be bossy, boring and self-important, if they're not being oversweetened and touchy-feely. Libertarians, by contrast, are not the selfish monsters you might expect. They are earnest and impractical--eager to corner you with their plan for using old refrigerators to reverse global warming or solving the traffic mess by privatizing stoplights. And if you disagree, they're fine with that. It's a free country.

The chance of the two political parties realigning so conveniently is slim. But the party that does well in the future will be the one that makes the better guess about where to place its bets. My money's on the libertarians. People were shocked a couple of weeks ago when Ron Paul--one of those mysterious Republicans who seem to be running for President because everyone needs a hobby--raised $5 million from July through September, mostly on the Internet. Paul is a libertarian. In fact, he was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1988. The computer revolution has bred a generation of smart loners, many of them rich and some of them complacently Darwinian, convinced that they don't need society--nor should anyone else. They are going to be an increasingly powerful force in politics.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Save the Date: November 5, 2007

Apparently there are rumors that on November 5 there will be a drive to get 100,000 Ron Paul supporters to donate $100. This could be a huge turn of events for the Paul campaign if even 10% should pull through. With Paul pulling in $5 million plus for Q3 fund-raising this could be exactly the kind of traction that could see him to the finish line.

For those wishing to donate please go to

Trickle-up Economics?


"Trickle Up economics has just scored its greatest success and it is being covered up. I wonder why. Could it be embarrassment? "

Let's see. Could it be that the "trickle effect" is bi-directional? The fallacy of "Reganomics" is that production alone grows prosperity and that accordingly business leaders should should benefit from less taxes. What this neglects is that production alone cannot create demand. Taxes must be reduced for everyone in order for the trickle effect to work. Supply and demand are affected both by producer and consumer and to leave out one part of the equation leaves one with an incomplete picture.

For anyone who is serious about learning more about economics I recommend reading the following authors:

Ludwig Von Mises, Frederic Bastiat, Murray Rothbard, Frederick A. Hayak

Bye-Bye Brownback (Who?)

Posted on October 18, 2007, 10:10am | Brian Doherty

Sen. Sam Brownback expected to drop out of presidential race tomorrow. Quick: Name which party he belongs to! His next political step: running for governor of Kansas in 2010.

See Dave Weigel back in April begin charting the collapse of everything that was interesting or encouraging about Brownback. And while he puts his campaign to sleep, whispering lovingly in its ear, remember that he opposes your right to make that same choice to check out minus government interference, as Jacob Sullum wrote back in 2006.


One more gone. The bad news is that now the pro-war contingent has been reduced which may hurt our hero, the good doctor.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why Free Markets Can Work

Technology and Life Itself
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

I'm reading about the remarkable push by IBM's Stuart S.P. Parkin to shrink the physical size of data memory to 100th of its present bulk. It's an amazing prospect, and we aren't talking about technological advance for its own sake. "That means," says the New York Times writer who knows how to interest readers in what would otherwise be arcane, "that the iPod that today can hold up to 200 hours of video could store every single TV program broadcast during a week on 120 channels."

Now we care! There is something about the commercial viability of technology that rivets our consumer-minded brains. This is not a bad impulse! The fewer the bumps and snags in life, the more productive we can be, and the more productive we are, the more wealth and time we have to cultivate higher pursuits. Even if we don't pursue the higher things, our well-being goes up with new and better technologies, and society is better off.

We know this with one part of our brains. But there's another part that doesn't consider the broader implications. In truth, those familiar with market logic are accustomed to thinking of big gains in technology as the business of government or government-funded institutions such as universities or major research labs. We picture people in white coats who are somehow insulated from the horrible pressures of commercial society. They think big and long term, and eventually their discoveries trickle down to the rest of us and are snapped up by business, which uses them to make a profit.

Maybe this is a habit leftover from the official story of the atom bomb in World War Two, probably the most famous case ever of government pushing people to innovate in a way that changed our world. Unfortunately, that technology was used to slaughter people in ghastly ways, and only later did it achieve some commercial viability and thereby justification. The same is true of the internet itself. When it was the exclusive province of bureaucrats and their messages, society didn't benefit. Now it is the world's primary means of knowing, sharing, communicating, and, increasingly, exchanging.

And what good is technology unless it has some benefit to people? If you think about it, none whatsoever. A chemical that could increase the world's supply of mosquitoes a trillion fold in one minute would be useless because we don't actually want to do that, no matter how impressive the "technological advance" might be. The rocket shoes that could make us fly would be wonderful, unless making them available cost more than the gross national product.

And how do we discern what is and is not beneficial to mankind? The answer comes down to economics. There is no point to advance for its own sake. Faster and better ways of doing something we don't need to do serve no reasonable purpose. It is people, and the profit and loss test, that end up as the ultimate determinant.

The story of IBM's work to shrink memory reminds us that the market is the primary means for pushing the technological frontiers. It is private enterprise that has the incentive to do it right, and can provide the profit-and-loss infrastructure to know whether the advance is really good for society, and the means to make the advance available for all of humanity. (Now, it's true that IBM gets government grants and to that extent, its R&D department partakes of the waste endemic to fully government-run organizations; but note that the exciting and dynamic part of its research is pointed toward the commercial marketplace.)

As regards to the incentive questions, scientists who make breakthroughs are entrepreneurs of a different sort. They are not risk averse. They are dreamers who imagine things that are unknown and take bold steps forward that others are unwilling to take. These are traits that do not thrive within a large-scale bureaucratic framework, as Rothbard wrote in 1954.

The profit and loss test becomes the key to restraining their dreams, just as in everyday commerce. So we hear that the new push by IBM would "allow every consumer to carry data equivalent to a college library on small portable devices," and it would "unleash the creativity of engineers who would develop totally new entertainment, communication and information products." But within the story itself, we are reminded of reality. As the head of Seagate storage says: "There are a lot of neat technologies, but you have to be able to make them cost-effectively."

Finally, there is the question of marketing the technology. Herein lies most of the battle. Those who can go from the lab to the retail shop are the ones who make the big bucks in the market economy. Anyone can tinker at home. But it takes enterprise and marketing to get the product from here to there, and finally to its intended destination.

Now we come to the perpetual myth that we are experiencing a shortage of scientists. Every few years, this claim is touted by government elites who issue grave warnings that we'd better act, and fast. But the usual way to tell a shortage is to observe a price rise. That rise solicits new entries into the sector. And scientists can tell you that there has been no wage increase relative to other professions, except and insofar as these scientists serve commercial interests. In other words, there might be a shortage of specific kinds of talents, but there is no general shortage of people with merely abstract knowledge.

What does society need to do to make sure that it has enough scientists and the right level of technological advance that is also economically viable? It needs a free market.

September 13, 2007

Ron Paul For President 2008

I need to get on my soapbox. We need more people with Congressman Ron Paul's ideals of liberty and understanding of constitutional government serving us. Love him or hate him at least you can trust him.

Ron Paul 4 Freedom

Ron Paul For the Long Haul

What could cause so many to be inspired? Freedom.