Move to sustainable food systems could bring $10tn benefits a year, study finds?

PXL_20240129_203143816 Sez the Graun; h/t Timmy. With subhead "Existing production destroys more value than it creates due to medical and environmental costs, researchers say". The Graun, being idiots, don't link to the study in question; it is from new bois on the bloc foodsystemeconomics.org but has familiar PIK-type fingerprints on it. And no the Graun are not making up their subheads, the report contains "The costs of current food systems are far larger than their contribution to global prosperity".

But how is it possible for the food system to destroy more value than it creates, given that without it we would all literally starve to death? I'm assuming they're using "value" in the human context here. No humans - or only a few residual hunter-gather-peasant-ag folk - means that value has gone to zero.

The report doesn't actually say. Indeed, as far as I can tell it doesn't count the benefits, only the costs, so I can't see they have any basis for their claim. They assert $15T in costs, of which $11T are from health; and they further say that "A large share of this burden is born by people living with obesity" so this is all bollocks1, because they've failed to event attempt to back up their claim, and because the solution to obesity is to eat less, not to rebuild the world food system.


1. Also I hate the phrase "living with obesity" which is pathetic.


Is the ECS very high? - ATTP on SH. Hint: no.

Where did your genetic ancestors come from?

* You asked me what's my pleasure "A movie or a measure?" I'll have a cup of tea And tell you of my Dreamin'... People stop and stare at me We just walk on by We just keep on dreamin'... Imagine something of your very own Something you can have and hold I'd build a road in gold just to have some Dreamin'


You Don't Hate Polyamory, You Hate People Who Write Books - ACX. "You live in a world choked with ideas, where anything that rises to your consideration has necessarily won a Darwinian battle among hyper-specialized memetic replicators competing for your attention".

Which side believes in more misinformation? - RH.


A Muslim faith leader calls for stronger moral leadership in the Middle East?

IMG_20240126_091739_213 Shamelessly and I think unironically posted in the Economist (arch). It is the usual lazy unthinking tripe that such people can spew out by the yard, largely recycled from other people's tripe.

What is actually needed in the Middle East, and arguably lots of other places as well, is for most people to stop caring so much about other people's problems1. I've kinda said this already so I suppose I should expand a little. Our Writer writes We need moral leadership from religious figures on all sides: a determination to condemn not just the violence against “our own”, but also by those who claim to act on our behalf and this isn't true; what instead all these people should do is Fuck Off and remove the beams from their own eyes. The Middle East is notable for dictatorships and corruption (errm, with at least one obvious exception), expecting it to provide moral leadership is absurd.

In particular the idea that <people of religion X> should care deeply about <other people of religion X> is stupid tribalism that the world would be better without. But alas that kind of idea is not one that a "faith leader" is going to put forward. Even phrasing it as "messages which explicitly seek to acknowledge the “other”" is wrong. He is in favour of "diplomacy of the heart" but this is dumb; it is what leads to the "ambassador recalls, trade suspensions" which he condems; what is actually needed is heads, not hearts.

The poster children for this nonsense are the Houthi clowns, who despite being dirt poor and indeed only propped up by aid, nonetheless use their valuable resources to fire missiles into the sea. The West is, tiredly, knocking them back a bit; eventually we will get bored and knock them back further.

Speaking of corruption, South Africa comes to mind, and the recent ICJ case; wherein I find "The Court considers that, with regard to the situation described above, Israel must, in accordance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention, in particular: (a) killing members of the group;...". This is obvious nonesense too; Isreal, as everyone agrees, will inevitably kill some civilians if operations continue; the only way to satisfy this would be to stop, which the court didn't order. If we read the judgement less literally to only mean "act in accordance with the convention" then that's just meaningless, because that obligation already exists.

Aid to Gaza and beyond at risk of collapse due to funding cuts, says UNRWA

Sez the Graun. And you'll find simimilar elsewhere no doubt. What's entirely missing is a thought that they are trying very hard to avoid thinking, and so blinkered are they that they have succeeded. The thought is "hmm, I wonder, just possibly, are there any other nations other than the West, just possibly some geographically close, who might have large amounts of dosh sloshing around that they could give? Nations that have, nominally at least, expressed great concern for the plight of the Palestinians". Another thought that is not being thought: though much of this goes to buy aid, much of it goes to salaries. But the Gazans receiving those salaries don't have a lot of other career options at the moment, so may as well continue working for nowt, or for promises - the Graun expresses concern about schoolteaching, for example.


1. You may perhaps think that I'm being hypocritical here. Not so! While I'm "happy" to spectate, I don't-if-I'm-honest really care much about these people's problems.


Hamas attack: US pauses UNRWA funding over claims of staff involvement.

"We could seat her on the block," I told the alcalde. I could not resist adding, "It's more suited to that anyway."


Priests and cannibals

PXL_20240106_164326486 Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals / Everybody happy as the dead come home, as Shriekback put it. However once again I am going to disappoint you, because other than some vague flavour that has little to do with the topic of this post.

Which is Why American cities are squalid, a subject on which everyone has an opinion. The piece, while wrong in its conclusions, isn't too bad, given its progressive-type biases (e.g. "A removal of resources for the majority, because of concerns over “misuse” by less than 1% of residents. I’m not saying those concerns aren’t well-founded" but if those concerns are well founded, you shouldn't have reflexively put scare quotes around misuse, you should have been honest enough to simply use the word). So after long revelling in the problems of having the homeless around, he notices that the system has no great trouble enforcing regulations at other times: "My favourite taco place was closed down twice during my short stint in LA, for bureaucratic reasons". And yet he fails to see the answer: the system, the police, are really bad at enforcing the law for people that won't obey, that have nothing to lose. Which in turn is part of the endless need for oversight; the failure to trust people on the spot. Which in turn is part of the awful modern reluctance of people to live with their choices. See-also Ban it harder! An unwelcome new trend in British politics in the Economist.


Good, Bad, and Terrible Options - EconLib

The number one driver of 21st century “populism” in the West is...

How I Learned to Love the American Empire

The Reactionary Case for Democracy - worth a read, but the Nietzschean part is speculative and doesn't seem to be necessary for what follows

Why the Technocapital Machine is Stronger than DEI

The Republican Party is Doomed

Populism Makes Worse People

Making a Difference and Serving the Public

* Some Unintuitive Properties Of Polygenic Disorders - ACX


Sandel: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

PXL_20240103_204600160~2Welcome to 2024. We start with a light post, on the topic of Michael "Meritocratic" Sandel's early work, indeed his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. The book is misnamed; it should be called "A commentary on Rawl's A Theory of Justice". The introduction claims "This is an essay about liberalism" but this is a lie, too. I have the first edition, from 1982. Sandel got his doctorate from Oxford in 1985, so technically we overlapped. 

I wasn't happy with Rawls (see here and following) finding it a mixture of wrong and incoherent. Sandel doesn't make me any happier, though he does illuminate one key incoherence, for which I'm grateful.

There's some initial discussion about the "Primacy of Justice". What it doesn't discuss, and I was expecting at least a nod in this direction, was whether we can a priori know that some system of justice is going to feature as an organising principle of society. It is hard to see how it couldn't, but that doesn't usually stop people from talking about things. So, we start off assuming that some principles of justice are required, and there's some discussion - which I'll skip - about whether justice is "prior" or not.

Chapter 2 hastens to make the same mistake that Sandel repeats in his Tyranny of Merit. We start by quoting Rawls:
Even if it works to perfection in eliminating the influence of social contingencies, it still permits the distribution of wealth and income to be determined by the natural distribution of abilities and talents. Within the limits allowed by the background arrangements, distributive shares are decided by the outcome of the natural lottery; and this outcome is arbitrary from a moral perspective. There is no more reason to permit the distribution of income and wealth to be settled by the distribution of natural assets than by historical and social fortune (73-4).
But this isn't true. There is such a reason, and Sandel knows it full well, since footnote 1 on p 72 is "I leave aside those versions of meritocracy that would allocate distributive share in sake of creating incentives and attracting the relevant talents alone, without referm the moral worthiness of the recipients". Sandel is embarassed by this and follows up on his promise of leaving this aside; but it does make all his discussion, which is based on "desert" or "worth", worthless. But I guess I know now why he did the same, but less honestly, in TToM: having tried this trick early on and found it worked, why not do the same again?

I'm not pretending to a full review, so I don't have much more to say. I should pull out the one item wherein Sandel clarifies Rawls views, which is helpful, but at the cost of making me think much worse of Rawls (the first two paras are quotes from Rawls, with section numbers; the third is Sandel):
The difference principle represents, in effect, an agreement to regard the distribution of natural talents as a common asset and to share in the benefits of this distribution whatever it turns out to be (101).

The two principles are equivalent, as I have remarked, to an undertaking to regard the distribution of natural abilities as a collective asset so that the more fortunate are to benefit only in ways that help those who have lost out (179).

Rawls believes the notion of common assets as embodied in the difference principle expresses the ideal of mutual respect deontological liberalism seeks to affirm.
As Gimli put it, The words of this wizard stand on their heads. In the language of Rawls help means ruin, and saving means slaying, that is plain. But Rawls needs this, to justify his idea that things-shall-be-distributed. "You" don't own your talents; you only "own" yourself, and in the magic realism world Rawls inhabits (it isn't quite clear if Sandel lives there too, he seems uneasy) your talents are separable from you and can be regarded as common assets. Talking about that as "mutual respect" is Orwellian; these ideas would be disastrous if implemented. Note also that bastard Rawls doesn't put this stuff up front where it should be. Instead, he talks us through the veil-of-ignorance without mentioning it. I reiterate my previous criticism of Rawls: that he endlessly reworks stuff, and never tells you when he is finished.

One more point: chapter 3 wurbles about the fairness of contract. It isn't enough for him that contracts should be freely entered into on both sides, they must also be "fair". This, too, is a terrible idea, though one increasingly popular in practice in our debased society. Sandel of course has no clear definition of "fair" to give, and so in practice this means unpicking voluntary agreements if you feel like it. Which is part of the awful modern reluctance of people to live with their choices; to always want to find a way to back out, if their choices turn out to have been poor.


the left wins culture war battles because they care more. Conservatives have their families and religion, centrists are mostly apathetic, but, for leftists, winning these battles is their religion (and often their “family”) - i/o.
Unfettered: Fishback 25 Years Later - Bryan Caplan, 1900's labour markets in the USA.


Year of the Stoat

Caius M2 Per 2022, blogging in general and this blog in particular continue the long slow slide into obsolescence. Following long established convention, I pick the post of each month with the most comments.

* January: Rahmstorf joins the Dork Side (25).

* February: Bad beliefs: Misinformation is factually wrong – but is it ethically wrong, too? (15).

* March: Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the US? (27).

* April: The alternative to Atlas Shrugged (7).

* May: What’s behind the dangerous new notion that democracy should be left to the well-educated? (9).

* June: Bandit Hoekstra (2). A thin month; there were three two's.

* July: Abuse of non-linear (7).

* August: Walkabout.

* September: A summer away (6).

* October: Gray the sinner (8).

* November: Reporting of yer conflict (26).

* December: Introducing Justapedia? (3).

I'm afraid that despite the lack of encouragement, I'm likely to continue into 2024.


Are Men Smarter than Women? - Richard Hanania.

* Bill Ackman on Claudine Gay and Harvard and DEI in general. If you prefer to read an alternative viewpoint, there's "Claudine Gay Had to Resign, But She Was Right About the Big Things", which is wrong.

SMASH Handheld - this is getting very close to "smart guns". It needs to add a "pull the trigger and it will fire when on target" mode, plus perhaps a "jiggle" to allow it to get on target even if the human is hopeless.