Saturday, November 26, 2005

Buy Something Today

Well, yesterday if you're in Canada and the U.S., but today if you're in the U.K. or in Japan.

Technically, it's Buy Nothing Day over there. Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day for us here in the U.S. and in Canada. I bought some organic coffee yesterday at the local vegan/organic/anti-capitalist joint. I did it for the wrong reason, of course, I needed coffee. Today I will go out and buy something for the right reason: Namely, to enjoy some capitalism and make a political statement to boot.

So join me and buy stuff. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't matter what it is, in fact. Purchasing is its own reward. And there's no reason not to enjoy capitalism when you can.

Michael Coren gets the hook

I posted the following on The Shotgun blog today:

Michael Coren, no stranger to Western Standard readers, has resigned from Toronto's CFRB 1010 rather than be fired for politically incorrect comments about fat, err obese, people, LifeSitenews reports.

General Manager Pat Holiday expressed concern about Coren's choice of targets. Coren: "picked on a group of people" (fat people) and "said things you just don't say on the radio," LifeSite quotes Holiday as saying.

LifeSite sees this as another attempt to push social conservative commentators to the margins, citing another politically incorrect WS columnist, David Warren, who called similar voices 'dissident journalists' and lamented the state of conservative commentary outside of Alberta. It isn't just socially conservative voices that get steamrolled in Canada. Indeed, the most famous case is the loss of CHOI-FM's licence due to (really) politically incorrect comments by shock-jock Jeff Fillion during his hugely popular morning show. We covered this story here, interviewed Fillion (you can listen to the recorded conversation here in WAV format), and Pierre Lemieux ripped into the idea of censoring for "Canadian values' " sake here.

What don't you say on the radio? Ever since the CHOI-FM decision, quite a lot. When the Supreme Court sided with the CRTC in yanking their licence, radio programmers' ears must have perked up. The Radio Regulations of 1986 get a broad reading. Those regulations include this gem: "a licensee shall not broadcast... any abusive comment that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability." Since eating a mountain of pork and hohos for breakfast is now considered a 'disability,' you can't fault Holiday for worrying about the sensitivity squad coming down hard on CFRB. In Canada's radio universe, after all, you either say nice things, or you say nothing at all.

LifeSite suggests we send polite notes of concern to Holiday at his email address: WS supporters probably should send a note or two, keeping in mind that Coren says he would love to be back at CFRB, and messages should be geared to helping his plight.

Coren, as an aside, debated Karen Selick on the issue of censoring radio here. Take a look, it's germane.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Go Tasha!

You can listen to Tasha Kheiriddin on CBC Radio's Sunday Edition right here (Real Player). You can follow Adam's and Tasha's media appearances on their website.

Tasha is the co-author, with Adam Daifallah, of Rescuing Canada's Right, a book that seeks to outline a long-term direction and vision for conservatives in Canada. They argue that we need to build a new infrastructure, one that includes a love of liberty through various grassroots organizations (like the Liberty Summer Seminar). You can hear her talk about this issue at the most recent LSS here.

Tasha won't mince words--she says that both of Canada's major parties share a particular problem. Namely: Statism. She gives the Chaoulli decision as a case-in-point. When the decision came down, instead of seeing this as an opportunity, Peter MacKay stood up in the House and accused the Liberals of under-funding health care.

Her insights on environmentalism and fiscal policy are spot on. Instead of bureaucracies, we should look to property rights as a possible solution for the environment. Instead of taking more from Canadians, the government should leave more in our pockets.

Take a listen. She appears with Senator Hugh Segal, and the discussion is exciting.

Can money make you happy?

That's part of the question raised in an article that I wrote for the Fraser Forum this month. Entitled "The Happiness Paradox," I write about the odd fact that we're wealthier, healthier, more educated but, it seems, no happier than we were about 60 years ago. The stagnation in happiness is a paradox, and it has given advocates of statism a new research field to use to buttress their silly claims that capitalism is terrible for people, and that we should prefer some other economic system.

We shouldn't, of course. One thing most commentators don't bother writing about is the fact that capitalist nations are significantly happier than non-capitalist ones. Indeed, isn't it at least somewhat surprising that something like 80 per cent of citizens of Western nations proclaim themselves to be happy? Agreed that there has been little improvement, but isn't the sheer fact of such high happiness, especially compared to any nation you please, a significant boost for defenders of capitalism?

Perhaps not. After all, we don't live in purely capitalist nations, and it is difficult to attribute increases in happiness to liberty in general apart from other things. Like, for instance, it's possible that there is something other than capitalism and civil & political liberties that correlates better with human happiness. Individual liberty might be piggybacking on some other cultural feature that tends to correlate with it, but is ultimately responsible for the happiness.

By way of explanation, think of evolution. The big, fat trouble with evolutionary explanations is that some assume the explanation of any given thing is good enough when we show that it is evolutionarily superior, or improves our survival chances, or is in some other way beneficial. But it needn't be. For instance, it may be that our opposable thumbs are great things, but our standing up might have come about around the same time and, say, could be no good. Or, since standing up seems really important, suppose we got opposable thumbs and extra hair around the same time. The thumb ensured our survival, say, but the hair is of no use (and maybe even a bad thing, by hypothesis). To explain the hair will require a different explanation than the one for the thumb. The latter fits evolutionary stories, the former requires some genetic tale, and the balancing of the benefits (thumb), with the burden (hair) that meant, in sum, our evolutionary chances are better.

Something similar might be going on with liberty and happiness. Supposing some other factor correlates with liberty (democracy, or welfare, or state-run medicine, and so on), it could be that other factor that is responsible for the happiness.

There is reason, however, to suspect otherwise. For one, we now know that the source of income is not irrelevant to our happiness. A few studies have shown that employment leads to greater happiness than any welfare state provision of an identical amount of money. If you're getting a thousand dollars a month from your job, and you could be getting a thousand dollars from the dole, or, interestingly, from your income trust, you would be wiser to choose the job if you care about happiness.

For two, in what I think may be one of the more significant findings in this field, Ruut Veenhoven has found that economic liberty alone boosts happiness, especially in poor countries! Let me be clear here: It isn't the wealth that comes from economic liberty that leads to happiness, it is the economic liberty alone, regardless of wealth-promotion, that has a statistically significant correlation with happiness. In a really cool quote he says (comparing other liberties like civil and political liberties): "economic freedom is most strongly related to happiness." Then concludes by saying that "This is a pleasant surprise for the right-wing free market lobby, but a disappointment for liberals like me." (p. 14)

Finally, there have been studies to suggest that political decentralization and greater individual control over the doings of the government (like through referendums) improves happiness. We can't conclude that the government doing less leads to greater happiness, but having less centralized government is better, in terms of happiness, than more centralized government. That, at least, points in the direction of greater liberty, even if it doesn't secure the case for it.

I think, given sufficient studies and evidence, we'll be able to seal up another reason for the expansion of liberty through happiness measurement. It would be neat to have an economic freedom of the world report take happiness into account. The Fraser Institute says "If it matters, measure it." Happiness matters. We should measure it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Department, or nice place to shop?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Oh, Google Ads, you make me laugh

I've been posting about getting emails from people who want to send me all sorts of money. Some woman wants to give me her inheritance, Kofi Annan wants to send oil for food money my way, with me receiving a 10 per cent "management" fee, and someone in Togo insists that I help her family get money out of there, with me getting proper compensation.

Now Google must have picked this up, since these are the ads that appeared on my site today:

Ads by Google
Email List Marketing
Large or Small Email Campaigns. Targeted Opt In Rental and Software
Email Marketing Software
Create and deliver Email campaigns as well as SMS, Voice and Fax

Yeah. Click through and set yourself up with an account that can send emails offering money to others.

More on punishment

Interesting reponses by Ollivia and Rob in the comment section below. I want to respond to some of the things they've said, but think it warrants a post, rather than a comment.

To take Ollivia's comments, she writes: "you give too much credit to the human spirit, peter. most criminals, i'd submit, don't give a shit if their community is angry with them for committing a crime. if informal strictures worked, we shouldn’t have criminals or at least very few, as those same disincentives that you suggest as punishment would work as deterrents."

This is a good point, and I suspect I may give too much credit to the human spirit. Still, there's a few things that can be said in my defence. For one, I think it matters to the criminal if their community (the group of people they regularly interact with, their friends, family, and so on) is angry with them. The trouble is that, in most cases, you probably have no such anger from this community but, rather, from other communities that may or may not be geographically in the same place. Criminals probably have friends who laud their criminality (in some cases), and if, say, the local Moose Lodge is furious about the crimes, that won't do much to worry the criminal.

Second, the complaint about informal strictures is just as easily applied to formal ones, since we still have crimes. We might rephrase the comment like this: "if formal strictures worked, we shouldn't have criminals or at least very few, as those [formal disincentives in law] would work as deterrents." Neither is perfect but, given the ridiculous opportunities for crime faced by each of us every day (like when I pass by some store that has an outdoor stand with no one watching it), it's a shock that crime doesn't occur much more frequently. I think it is more likely that informal punishments provide the better deterrent to formal punishment. I suspect that most criminals don't think they'll be caught by the police, even if they probably do worry that their friends and neighbours might find out.

I have a paper on gossip that you know about that argues something like this. I guess it might actually fit in neatly with this paper as a second part, or as an expansion on types of informal punishment and enforcement. But this paper is about proportionality, not deterrence or punishment, strictly speaking. I haven't yet decided whether we should abandon proportionality since it might get overwhelmed by concerns like this one.

To move to Rob's points, he writes: "One thing that struck me is that you say, according to the retributivist, there is "some abstract conception of the "right" amount of punishment..." At the same time, isn't informal punishment as much an abstract concept on punishment? It appears that we have a clashing of values between the retributivist and the proportionalist on what is the right amount of punishment."

I may not have been clear enough in my original post. There is a difference between what the standards we look to will be. In the case of the retributivist, she will look to an abstract conception that is a yardstick applicable both to the amount of punishment in this case, and the amount of punishment relative to other crimes. In informal punishment, each of us judge this yardstick ourselves, and the yardstick might differ for you and me and so on. (I suspect that there will be norms or conventions about proportionate informal response, but we needn't refer to that here). The standard, that is, is much, much lower since we don't have to appeal to an external standard, but judge of it ourselves.

This doesn't elide the bit about having some standard, so your point stands. I need, instead, to say that the standard is much weaker in the case of informal punishment, but there is a problem of standards at any rate.

Then Rob writes: "How do we measure remorse and embarrassment? People show remorse and embarrassment differently. You can't measure it. You can't say a person cried x times, went to confession, received fewer phone calls and E-Mail messages by friends, tarnished reputation, etc. and determinately say that the person has shown enough remorse for effective informal punishment. People like measurement. They like definition, even if defining abstract terms is philosophically difficult."

Nice. I'm not as skeptical about the immeasurability of psychological states as you seem to be, Rob, but I doubt the practical ability of juries, judges, and so on, to get this bit right. We may cling to a "good enough" standard, abandoning any hope of getting it exactly right. Which, I think, is fine. For my purposes, we need only say that this is, in fact, a burden the individual imposes on herself, and should be considered, provided it's practicable. You say it isn't. I think that it may be, to some extent. Which just means that I think the standard you imply ("determinately") is too strict, and should be weakened significantly.

Then Rob raises an objection that Ollivia mentioned to me separately, and which, I think, may be the most damning of all for my thesis.

Writes Rob: "Because of this, I think defining punishment, either formal or informal, is a community exercise. By collectively defining formal punishment, the community is saying that this is the punishment we want to inflict. People are more at ease with formal punishment because it is easier to define, and they believe that it is equally applied. This is probably where people's feelings toward the rule of law manifest.

Formal punishment must always be the benchmark and the safeguard. So I disagree with you that we can move more crimes off the formal punishment list. I suppose that should come as no surprise to you."

No, it's no surprise. But, boy, is this a good defence of formal punishments, rule of law, and explicit lists of wrongful acts and the punishments people are to expect. I don't have a very good response to it, I'm afraid, but I do have a few ideas. Here they are: On the former, I think that people have a tendency to exaggerate the capriciousness of their neighbours. We do, in general, follow conventions and norms without formal enforcement, and I have a lurking suspicion that those norms include norms of appropriate punishment. So violators of norms can anticipate informal punishment, but that punishment will be, generally, restricted by norms which rule over that.

Now if we sort of agree with that, then we have reason to say that punishment is collectively defined in both the formal and informal cases. There is no difference here, except for an explicit process with words written on paper. For instance, we don't have written rules of fashion (well, we do, but not everyone looks at those magazines) but notice how quickly trends spread, or how quickly people wear particular things in particular contexts. I think there is a general norm for most of us, and particular norms for subgroups. So the jocks wear something special, so do the goths, and smart kids. There is a standard, even if it goes unsaid and unwritten.

But you're right about this: People do seem to be more at ease with the idea of explicit rules, rather than with the idea of unwritten rules. I wonder, however, whether this is just a fact about reflection on the idea, rather than a fact about in practice being more disconcerted about it. When we stop to think about norms, rules, punishments, and so on, we are probably more inclined to say that we should have these all written down. But, in our daily lives, we probably assent to informal punishment, and participate in it, much more often than we recognize. Parents, for instance, act as informal enforcement mechanisms with respect to their children, and we seem to be all right with this, even though they have the extraordinary power of limiting freedom (grounding), expropriating property (selling your baseball cards), uprooting you (we're moving to Texas because your mother got a job there), prohibiting speech (don't say "dude," that's improper), deciding your dress (wear a tie, we're going to Aunt Betty's), limiting your relationships (you can't play with Jenny anymore), and on and on. If any formal mechanism had that power, we would rightly revolt. But we don't fuss all that much, in general, about this parental power, even if we do sometimes meddle by way of laws against "excessive" corporal punishment, and things of that sort.

Will any other relationships resemble the special case of the dictatorship of the parents? Probably not. This probably means that the example I give is a poor one, since nothing else will be like it. But maybe you think there are more "parent-like" situations out there. If you do think that, then really think about how uncomfortable you are with the power these people yield in determining the appropriate amount of punishment, and in actually punishing people.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Should punishments fit the crime?

At the moment, I'm working on a paper dealing with proportionality. I'm arguing that, if we take proportionality seriously, we should also take informal punishment seriously, including it in the calculus during the sentencing phase.

As it stands, Canadian courts do take informal punishment into account. At least sometimes. In the case of minor crimes, the judge sometimes says something like "she has suffered enough" when deciding that no further penalty should be given. In major crimes, however, informal punishments are not taken seriously all that often. I think that this is probably a mistake.

Informal punishment differs from formal punishment by lacking a standardized processes for deciding on punishment. Informal punishment includes things like lowered reputations, loss of work, frowning, and ostracism--things that the members of the community choose to impose as punishment for what they view as an offence. Similarly, self-punishment is also a form of informal punishment. When the offender feels terrible about what she has done, she can be said to have punished herself for having done the thing in question. I suppose the courts deal with this by way of recognizing penitence and remorse as mitigating factors in deciding on punishment. I think that's right.

Extradition cases also include a proportionality clause as an upper bound. The Marc Emery case is interesting. His supporters are asking Canadians to write to Cotler saying that the penalty he would face in the U.S. "shocks the conscience." The reason for this precise wording is that, in prior extradition cases, the Supreme Court has denied extradition when Canadians would face a penalty that would "shock the conscience" of Canadians. The Court has, thus far, interpreted this clause narrowly, for all cases of torture, and some cases where the offender would face the death penalty. The Emery trial may expand this conception to include life imprisonment for a crime that would receive fines and maybe a minor term in prison in Canada. I hope they do this. But we'll see.

You should take proportionality seriously, too, but that will depend on the kind of penal theorist you are. That is, it will depend on what you see as the purpose of punishment. If you are a retributivist, then you will probably like the penalty to fit the crime on the basis of some abstract conception of what the "right" amount of punishment really is. I think this is a hopeless position, by the way, since in some cases it looks an awful lot like plain old vengeance. Cases where, for instance, we all know that punishment will not serve any further purpose. Why punish them in these cases?

An expressivist will probably take proportionality seriously only if she thinks that we are all aware of the punishment. Since the purpose of punishment is to 'express' our collective distaste for some behaviour, we will only accomplish this end if the punishment is common knowledge. Not all informal punishments will be public like this, so there may be reason to discount some cases of informal punishment if we're going to be thoroughgoing expressivists.

We might also be desert-based theorists about punishment. I guess the former two include a desert-based account as well, but there is some sense in speaking of this separately. Some think that the punishment should be enacted because this is what the offender deserves. What they deserve, exactly, will be a matter of debate. Whatever it is, however, we should probably reconcile it with other punishments, and ensure that we don't think stealing a loaf of bread deserves the rack, and throwing rocks at children gets a slap on the wrist.

Finally, and (almost) best of all, we could be consequentialist about punishment. So we'll punish just in case, and up to the point where, the best consequences arise everything considered. We'll care about proportionality only if it comes with good consequences. I think the most plausible reading of this would include a proportionality clause given the sorts of other things we believe. Like that a lot of us would be horrified by a really big sentence for a minor crime. Unless we can make everyone consequentialists (ain't gonna happen), consequentialists will have to take conventional morality seriously, which would probably include treating crimes proportionately.

We can also take a composite approach, mixing bits of all of the above. This, I think, is the best approach of all. Consequentialism, however, would take up the vast majority of the right theory of punishment for me, with expressivism and, maybe, desert-based theories following along. Retributivism, in my mind, is out altogether.

If we agree that everyone needs to take proportionality seriously, a counter-intuitive outcome might come about. This is when a serious crime is committed, and the community reacts significantly. The offender loses her job, her friends, her family disowns her, and she is generally ostracized by her community. Suppose, also, that she feels deep regret about her behaviour, and daily thinks herself the worst kind of person. Suppose also that the relevant community is well aware of all of these things, including her feelings of remorse and shame. This is a serious punishment that she has faced for her actions. Now supposing the courts do take informal punishment into account, it may turn out that her crime warrants a less severe formal response than some (much smaller) crime that escapes informal punishment.

This outcome might make some people unhappy, and disquieted. I'm trying, at the moment, to think of various reasons why this might be so. I suspect that, for one, some might worry about legitimizing informal punishments encouraging vigilanteeism. If these informal punishments are taken seriously, then maybe the rest of us will take our punishment roles more seriously. That might worry you, although it sounds like a benefit to me. We should take this task more seriously, and more regularly involve ourselves in the lives of our neighbours and fellow community-members. If we did take our roles as (informal) enforcement officers more seriously, I could see a whole slew of crimes coming off of our formally punishable list, since it would be too costly to continue meddling in the affairs of offenders who are (mostly) punished sufficiently by the community. How many times would a judge offer a really lenient sentence before the police stopped arresting people on these grounds?

Ollivia, meanwhile, suggests that we like the division of labour, and like not having to punish people ourselves, leaving that task to the judiciary and police. While that may be, I tend to be fairly communitarian, thinking that this burden, if we took it up more significantly, would lead to better outcomes through more integrated and aware neighbours and friends. If it's a burden, so be it.

That's where things sit at the moment.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Me: Wealthier than Bill Gates

I know I said Nigeria. You can verify by scrolling down to an earlier post. Still, this is awfully close to Nigeria, and I'm just about certain that an email from Nigeria is coming.

Here's my most latest offer:

Mrs. Marie Eyadema Fri, Nov 18, 2005 at 2:39 PM
To: peterjaworski-at-gmail-dot-com
My name is Marie Eyadema the wife of the former president of Togo that just died few months ago. My husband had 3 of us as wives but I was his favorite. Since his death I have been persecuted by the other wives because I was very close to my husband when he was alive. Before the death of my husband he entrusted to me and my children the sum of $21,000,000.00(twenty-one million dollars) because he knew we would not have access to the family wealth because of the problem which the other wives and their children have be causing. Now his son by the eldest wife has now assumed office as the president of Togo which has endangered my life and that of my children. I have been able to leave the
shores of Togo and now I am in Ghana a neighboring country with my remaining son because I sent my first son to Europe few months ago because of the crisis. But before leaving my country I was able to move out the money ($21,000,000.00) that my husband gave us before his death. The funds have been deposited in a secured establishment. Please I need your help in investing this money in a good business I would want you to help us because I know you are capable to help us. I and my son are willing to leave Africa because it is not safe for us as a result of the enemies we have within and outside the family.

Please, send us a reply to ( with your intention to help so as to tell you how the funds can be moved from the company for investment. I'll be very grateful if this letter is said to be considered. My son in Europe has access to this email too, he will be very happy to know you have considered helping us.

God bless you as we look forward to your response.

Best Regards,

Marie Eyadema

More emails offering me money

It turns out that not only Kofi Annan wants to give me a big pile of money, but a certain Jennifer Wilson does too! Kofi, of course, wants me to do some "management" for 10 per cent of some gazillion dollars or something. Ms. Wilson, meanwhile, wants nothing of me except my promise that I spend the money on some charitable/humanitarian stuff, and to pray for her soul. Since I'm not much for prayer, I think maybe this latter bit will be tough. But for 1.5 million dollars, I think I'd join Scientology. Or the Backstreet Boys.

Here is a copy of that email:

Jenny Wilson Thu, Nov 17, 2005 at 4:03 AM
Reply-To: Jenny Wilson
To: peterjaworski-at-gmail-dot-com


This offer might be strange, but is the wish of a dying 68 years old woman who now realizes belatedly that there is more to life than mere acquisition of cash{money} and fame. My name is Mrs. Jennifer Wilson a widow. My late husband and I perhaps due to our aristocratic background and bad influences lived and never cared for nobody or whose ox was gored, our motto was be rich and famous and the world will be at your feet. I am diabetic and recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The report is obviously not good, several chemotherapy treatments have not helped either and the obvious fact is that I have few days/weeks more on planet earth.

Being childless couple, I inherited all my husband wealth and our relations are no good, as they are waiting patiently for my death to use all our money for illicit and obscene business/things. Before my health deteriorated that I am completely dependant on them for basic necessities I have done charitable ventures within our neighborhoods and beyond and this angered them as they wish to reap from where they did not sow.

Having come to the realizations of what life is all about-caring for others. I have given legal consent and full authority to my attorney-Barrister Dean J. Cooper of Springfield Consultants to immediately disbursed all the money to people/charitable homes and the choice of beneficiaries was done by sampling.Your name was luckily picked and I have willed the sum of US$1,500,000.00{One Million, Five Hundred thousand U.S. Dollars}only to you.

This money should be used STRICTLY for humanitarian/charitable cause. Contact my lawyer immediately who will guide you on the modalities for the collection of this money. His e-mail address is Please quote my personal reference number for ease of collection-law/chamber/solicitors/je/ws/WILL/9834520012 when reaching him by mail.

I plead with you never to deviate from this agreement and I beg of you to pray that my soul rest in peace.


Jennifer Wilson.
Now don't any of you try to muscle in on my action by emailing this Dean Cooper guy yourself, citing the personal reference number, and pretending you're me. I'm sure they'll do genetic DNA testing, fingerprint scans, and bio readings to make absolutely certain that it's me, and not some sort of scam artist.

I'm not clear, however, on what "the modalities of collecting the money" might possibly mean, but it sounds like big legal stuff and so must be true.

I'm also not entirely clear on how she could be a childless couple, have inherited all her husbands wealth, but is now concerned about the "illicit and obscene business/things" some other people will do with the money that, I guess, they would have inherited were it not for me. She says that her relations are no good, but it isn't clear whether those bad relations are with her husband, whose wealth she inherited (so has he passed on, or what?), or with her children, who do not exist since she is childless couple (sic), or with, well, whom?

If you can help clear this up, I'll throw a hundred bucks out of that inheritance your way. Oh, I'm feeling generous, I'll throw a couple thousand your way if you help. Maybe ten thousand. Provided, of course, you spend it only on charitable/humanitarian things and not illicit or obscene business/things ("things" here may mean anything, so just be sure that whatever you spend your money on falls squarely within the humanitarian/charitable category).

And if you're an investment banker, can you help me with all this money I'm about to receive? My suspicion is that I'll probably hear from someone in Nigeria offering a special business transaction some time real soon (don't ask me how I could possibly know this, just know that I know, and I'll post the email up here for proof of my abilities just as soon as I get it).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Vegan chicken?

Have some Ranch Chicken! And, while you're here, help us celebrate Vegan Awareness Week. With your, uhm, chicken.

This sign is not photoshopped. It actually appeared in our cafeteria. Of course, upon seeing it, I asked Mike Mateson to capture it on his mobile phone camera. Which he did, and sent my way. Gold.

Email from Annan

Kofi Annan has sent me an email. No, really. Really really. (Well, maybe not really... but I think I'm rich anyways!) Have a look:

Dr.Kofi Annan Tue, Nov 15, 2005 at 2:19 AM
Reply-To: "Dr.Kofi Annan"
To: peterjaworski-at-gmail-dot-com
I Dr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, would like to ask your partnership in reprofilling funds over $250m in excess, the funds would be coming via a string of selected banks in Europe and Asia.

The Funds in question were generated by me during the oil for food programme in Iraq. I have been getting scandals/ controversy in this regards, you can read more on the links below-

You would be paid 10% as your management fee. Please do not write back directly to me via my official email address. All further correspondence should be sent to my private mail box ( ). As soon as you indicate your interest I will give further details.

Remember to treat this mail and transaction as strictly confidential. I will await your urgent correspondence via my private mail box-
Dr.Kofi Annan.

I know what you're thinking. He asked for confidentiality, and here I am posting his email all over my blog. That's not very confidential. I guess I'm the wrong person to ask for this sort of help. Then again, unless the three people reading my blog (hi mom) post it on theirs and then this whole thing rolls up in a snowball and tumbles down a hill increasing mass all along it might turn into something big. Like a big KofiBall of snowiness.

Speaking of snow, it snowed yesterday for the first time. And our whiffleball team beat the opposition. Then I was stuffed in a game of Walleyball by Steve Weimer and that ruined my day. Forget separating teams by gender, there should be height restrictions instead. You may have won this round Weimer, but your reign of terror will end soon enough.

Speaking of a reign of terror, I think Annan's personal email address is interesting: kannan4un. When they were considering candidates for that spot, did he have a campaign and this as his campaign email? I like the oil for food reference too. That's really funny.

And it's also funny that he would link to the oil for food scandals to let me know about them. Hey, check it out, I'm a scandal monkey! And if you don't believe me, read these here stories that make it plain. I especially would like you to look at the one that discredits me personally and makes a mockery of everything I have been doing here at the UN. Oops, gotta go just now, we're having a really important meeting about tsunamis in the other room, and I don't want anyone to catch me fiddling away on email. Lol... :) So just send me an account number, remember to first forward a couple thousand dollars (that's just the way my bank works, you know how it is), and I'll get you that 10 per cent of umpteen billion dollars. Promise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My front porch

I live on the corner of N. Main and Liberty. I see Liberty on my way to school each morning. Nice thing to greet you each morning.

Monday, November 14, 2005

MPSA? Cool!

A few days ago my friend, Terrence Watson, was told that our paper, entitled "Conventional Stability: Spontaneous Order v. Collective Resolution" was accepted at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference to be held in Chicago in April.

I'm pretty excited, since this is about the most "serious" conference I've ever been accepted at. The two of us plan to rent a car and make a nice road trip out of it. That's going to be fun, I bet. I hope to meet at least a few Political Science Journal editors at the conference and convince at least one of them that the paper is worthy of publication in a scholarly journal. Since it hasn't been updated for a really long time, the paper needs some work before it'll be in the right shape for that. But it will be.

Terrence and I argue that norms or conventions that emerge spontaneously (as a consequence of human action but not design) are more likely to be stable than any order "imposed" by collective methods. The most obvious collective method is legislation, or some other governmental edict or diktat. Conventions, reflecting this spontaneity, should be given some kind of prima facie respect, even if we don't like them much. Their stability, and the way they "capture" information that can't be had by any one of us or group of us, are reasons for respecting them. So, too, is a secondary argument we offer in the paper--we think that conventions not only capture additional information and help maintain stability, we also believe that they do something remarkable. Namely, they reflect underlying utility patterns.

This second bit may be more controversial, but the case runs roughly like this. For anything to emerge out of the interactions of various individuals into an overarching pattern, it will have to meet with (at least) the acquiescence of a large-enough set of individuals over the domain in question. While acquiescence is not agreement (and therefore is lower with respect to normative importance), it still recognizes an important element in our interactions. This is given the alternatives actually available we choose to go along with it, rather than try to disrupt or offer an alternative norm/convention. We think this means that there is at least a good reason to suspect that norms/conventions operate by countenancing at least a preferred outcome to those on the table by some relevant group of us, over some significant foreseeable period of time.

This is not to say that alternative equilibria (understood synonymously with norms/conventions) are not preferred, or better than the given norm/convention. Game theory is good at telling us why this or that pattern of behaviour is in equilibrium, but it can't tell us why this equilibrium, as opposed to the countless (infinite?) alternative possible equilibria arose. It can only tell us that some given equilibrium is stable on the grounds that each of the actions are "best responses" to what the others are doing (and this is reciprocal: my action is a best response to yours, and yours is a best response to mine). Some set of those alternative equilibria may be better at maximizing utility, recognizing our preferred moral norms, ensuring liberty, or whatever else may be our most ideal outcome, but, and this is humbling, we can't know that it would be an equilibrium!

We just don't have that kind of information.

What's more, we can't know that each stage toward our most ideal outcome is itself a stable equilibrium. We might do the impossible and see that some alternative arrangement is, in fact, an equilibrium (suppose we knew this, even though I, and I'm betting Terrence agrees, doubt that this is an epistemic possibility), but to move from the status quo to that equilibrium will require intermediate steps. Any one of those steps may be out of equilibrium, exposing it to rational free riders, or to some other process that may turn it all upside down.

This is the neat thing about Ken Binmore's work in political philosophy. He recognizes this limitation in our system-building propensities. He likes Rawls, for instance, but he doesn't abstract away from the process that gets us to the ideal outcome we want after our venture behind the veil of ignorance and then the 'working out' of those conclusions with our intuitions (reflective equilibrium). We can't say, "this is our ideal world, now let's go get it!" Instead, we have to be aware of the limitations both in our information with respect to the outcome (whether or not it will be a stable equilibrium) as well as the information with respect to the processes (whether or not each move toward the ideal is in equilibrium).

Think of it like a game of moral Risk. You see Australia there before you, and you could take it. You think you have enough armies to just barely get it. But you have to calculate the response of the other players. Supposing you could get it, that will motivate some other players, if they are within range, to immediately snatch some portion of Australia away from you. The goal can only be attained with sufficient accounting for the (likely) responses of other players, coupled with the information about the probabilities contained in the role of the dice. We can't just drive for Australia regardless of process, because the outcome may be much worse, even if things would be peachier if we had control of Australia.

The tricky bit is that the actual game of morals (to steal from David Gauthier) includes different players with different conceptions and goals. Similarly, different people may have different tolerances for certain outcomes, some are more risky than others, and still others are willing to pay much more for one outcome rather than another. Conventions, I think we'll end up arguing, do quite well at balancing all of these different spinning plates simultaneously, adjusting here and there as the situations warrant.

If all of this sounds pretty conservative to you, that's because it is. But it's conservative in the Hayekian sense. And the more Hayekian, the better.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lots of cool and good news

What must be a rarity in the news biz, a paper reports on someone using a gun to defend herself! Said the would-be victim who kicked royal ass:
"He was 6 feet tall," she said. "He could have done something horrible my granddaughter and me. That's exactly the reason you need to learn how to handle (a firearm) and keep it with you."
In more good news today, Canadians don't trust their government. Or so says a poll. What's amazing isn't that "only" 27 per cent of Canadians trust their government to do the right thing mostly or always, but that a full 27 per cent do trust the rogues. Have a quarter of my fellow Canadians been hiding under rocks the last little while? Why isn't this number hovering around 10 to 12 per cent (the percentage representing civil servants and politicians)?

In cool news, it turns out that there are about 2,000 Canadian-specific words. You can take a look at a few of them here. Just the other day, for instance, I was talking to my buddy David Faraci about train tickets. I asked him "how much is the fare return?" He was confused. When I told him I meant, 'how much was the ticket to go to your location and come back to where you started from?' he informed me that Americans don't say "return." They say "round-trip." Now, we say "round-trip" too, but we also say "return."

Other Canada-specific turns of phrase or words include: shit disturber (you Americans or Brits say "shit stirrer," which sucks compared to shit disturber.) I guess we say "Chesterfield" to mean couch, but I've never said that. "Double-double" means two cream and two sugar in your coffee. I didn't know that was distinctly Canadian. To "deke" out your opponent is to get past them by way of a trick, or fancy stick- or foot-work. We call a warm hat a "tuque," and they're "serviettes" where I'm from, not always napkins (you backwards, uncivilized, barbarians). Then there's "dick all" to mean nothing, and a two-four to mean a case of beer (this goes out to the moron border guard from many years ago who asked me what alcohol I was bringing across the border. I told him I had a two-four, and he frowned like he was confused and asked in this snarky [that's Canadian too!] voice, "what's that?" I told him twenty four beer. He lectured me that that was a "case of beer." I should have shoved each one up his ass. Instead, I said "yes.")

And in really weird news, a woman is suing her doctor for allowing her to be born. What?, you say. Yup, she says that her doctor was negligent about not figuring out that she was going to have medical problems like blindness and some other things. I wonder what the pro-lifers think of this development...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rescuing Canada's Right

The new book, Rescuing Canada's Right, by my friends Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin is now out. The book identifies problems with the conservative movement in Canada and suggests a number of solutions (the Liberty Summer Seminar gets a positive mention).

Tasha Kheiriddin was at the 2005 Liberty Summer Seminar, and gave a related talk. You can listen to that talk here (MP3).

Early reviews have been very positive, including one from another LSS speaker and friend, Michael Taube, in the Toronto Sun. You can read that review here, and you can listen to Taube's Media Panel commentary from the 2005 LSS here (MP3).

Hopefully, Adam will send me a little excerpt where the book mentions the LSS. I'd like to post that section up here, and read what he and Tasha have to say about movements like the LSS.