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Self in Society Roundup 18

Threads, guns, vetoes, Feynman, EA, Deneen, G. Smith vs. D. Friedman.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
July 7, 2023; ported here on March 17, 2024

Threads: If you're on the new Zuck-controlled Twitter-alternative Threads, give me a follow at ariarmstrongwriter. But I don't think the site will amount to much unless users can create read lists to curate their feeds.

Gun Violence: "[M]ost of the city's [Chicago's] gun violence is caused by a small cluster of people who are usually gang-affiliated."

Wisconsin: The latest line-veto by the Wisconsin governor illustrates how the rules there are profoundly anti-republican. Through a sneaky edit, the governor expanded a school-funding bill from 2024 to 2425. This is not the legitimate exercise of the veto power; it is the governor legislating unilaterally.

Atoms: Here's Richard Feynman talking about his work on the Manhattan Project. Recommended.

Effective Altruism: In the first three minutes of this conversation about effective altruism, Tyler Cowen points out that institutions (as well as technological innovation) matter, that some poor countries could take relatively simple steps to improve people's lives (such as provide clean water), and that EA tends to promote "moral nervousness" among people who worry they're not doing the most good. Cowen asks not what is the most good this person could be doing but "who is the individual, and what is that person good at, and what are their passions." The rest is also great.

Progress: Jonah Goldberg has some nice comments on cultural progress and on Patrick Deneen's weird anti-liberal agenda: "The correct comparison is between the Founding and what came before it. Prior to the Founding, there was no democracy and precious little in the way of inalienable rights for anyone but nobles and monarchs. In short, the American Revolution launched a new chapter in human history . . . . Deneen looks upon the great expanse of progress since the Enlightenment and shudders. . . . Deneen writes like a prosecutor, downplaying inconvenient facts and evidence in his brief—or leaving them out entirely—while pounding the table about damning circumstantial evidence and anecdotes." See also Cowen on Deneen.

Rights: Libertarianism-dot-org has up an old (1981) debate between George H. Smith and David Friedman, on rights versus consequentialism. Wow they're so young! (Sadly, Smith is no longer with us.) Friedman argued that most of what people disagree about comes down to the effects of different policies. Smith argued that ethics is nevertheless the foundation of libertarianism. Of course both are largely right. (These days Michael Huemer blends the two views by saying that rights matter but they are not absolute.) I watched the debate to the end; some of the questions and answers are very interesting, such as Smith's take on the problem of past injustices in property acquisition, and Friedman biting the bullet on racist neighborhoods created by restrictive covenants. The final question is by Wendy McElroy.

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