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Romeo and Juliet production concept

Basically Romeo is an EDL thug and Juliet is from a wealthy Muslim family. Sparse staging with two microphones at the front and two coffins at the back with a white line down the middle. Proximity of social classes in an urban environment. A lot of speeches delivered to audience almost like stand up. A mixture of Islamic calls to prayer and Death Metal. Highly abridged down to an hour without an interval.

Capulet to be a successful business man who enjoys a liberal western lifestyle yet insists on a traditional family life. Romeo sneaks into party by wearing the full veil and meeting takes place when both unveil to do make up.

Need help. Would ideally like a young cast and a small studio space.

R x

Lies, damn lies, and a statistical analysis of multiplier effects in fiscal policy

I hope you have heard the old phrase ‘lies, damn lies, and statistics’ otherwise the title may just seem a very odd thing to say. And if there is one thing I hate, it is odd things to say. I profoundly believe in the revolutionary act of saying things above doing things. I haven’t done anything for a very long time, but boy have I said some things. Things to absolve any sin. I have for instance a wonderful collection of sins which set my central object at beautiful counterpoint to the unfortunate. The devils!

A position on hypocrisy, which renders me the eternal un-hypocrite.

And yet I give myself away. Like a bad lute player improvising in solitude, she gives herself away in her accidents. Little slips structured like a language. We can’t help but give ourselves away in our prose. Is it non-sense or unsense or merely senseless and which is preferred? The three Ps: pornography, propaganda and profligate prostitution party. What if Aliens came down to earth and saw our ways and mores from the outside, what would these wise outsiders think? They have arrived, they are Islamic State and they are distinctly unwise. If there was a god and he had a son that would of course be an obscenity. But does this vulgar obscenity give us the possibility of the un-obscenity. Without it we have a necessary obscenity. A triangle on the floor. At one apex the UK tabloid newspaper The Sun, at another a gushing volcano of internet video pornography and at the other the hidden Islamic State propaganda. All forming a Penrose Tribar. A Borromean knot of Penrose Tribars. An intertwined mirror image. One impossible with any apex removed the other only possible with any apex removed. And as atheism sets itself in negation to god. So does Christianity, which with Islam forms this vulgar trinity. Each impossible without the other two. The monotheist, the anti-monotheist and the un-monothiest. We can have any two but not all three, or we can have all three but if any is removed the whole disintegrates. For the sake of animal humans let us hope it is the latter.

You and I are at war. You think I write for your comprehension like Orwell at his most mediocre. To flatter! To flatter you? Never. The lower upper middle brow of the lower upper middle class drosser. I wouldn’t treat you with such disdain. I mean to give myself away in a mess of vulgarity and pretension. Half formed ideas from half understood books half read and probably half written. The idea that prose “should” be easily understood and clear. Stephen Pinker’s style guide. Orwell’s five rules. I think my lifetime supply of sanity may be running a bit low. I won it on a scratchcard but I’ve been using it up too quickly.

Outturn vs projection. Lets put rocket boosters on jobs. The clarity of prose not making up for the complete lack of clarity of meaning. I’m lovin’ it. Sitting quietly on a bench with a far away look through a restaurant. Aggregate demand and planning Mrs Jones’ trip to Co-Op for milk. Call the dairy, work those cows. Employ another driver. But now the driver spent more in a restaurant. Start again. My own personal competence in a graph. Projected to grow with rocket boosters. Really filthy prose. Making the page stink. Held noses. Analysis “in” a graph. I am competent. Extremely competent. At producing bull shit clarity. Politics and the English language. Very sane. Increased productivity and increased employment with static GDP. Beauty in the contradiction. Automatic prose.

I love words! Indiscriminately. Anti-Semitic rants from drunken ruined men I love as much as total purity. Clear straightforward prose. Dear David, I am afraid I can no longer remain unemployed by you and will be showing up for work tomorrow. I fear that you have been denying multiplier effects intentionally. An iceberg of meaning under a clear sentence. Statistics are like Nietzsche: you can find a quote arguing anything as well as its opposite. Return to the beginning and repeat.

It all comes down to the brutal unpleasantness of “we”.

Collage 5

Aisha’s rebellion

She looked at the cookie and pondered her options. She knew that the scientists believed that rejecting the cookie displayed what they called ‘the ability to delay gratification which is strongly correlated with various metrics of success in later life’. She was unsure whether to remove the cookie and therefore internally confirm her lack of concern in their opinion about her or to wait until the second cookie was delivered and destroy both in a bitter act of symbolic violence. Since the second seemed to show a concern for her observers even in the negative she rejected it. Therefore, she removed the cookie from the weighted scale and put it on the floor. Then watching the camera focused on her, she carefully and thoroughly stamped on it.

Professor Red came in and looked disapprovingly at the empty scales. When he noticed the intensity of the stare pointed back at him he was taken by surprise and made a mark on his notepad.

‘Are you a stupid man?’

‘No’, said Professor Red emphatically and bizarrely quick.

‘Then why do you behave as if you are?’

‘I didn’t take the cookie.’

Aisha pointed at the spoiled cookie. Professor Red struggled to understand the consequences. A pause filled the room from the ground up until the professor struggled to breath above it.

‘Eat it.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘I’m not going to repeat myself.’

‘I’m not going to eat it.’


Smugly yet unsure the professor turned to leave and found that the door was locked from outside.

‘Are you instrumentally rational?’


‘Do you act out of rational self interest?’


‘Then eat the cookie or get struck off for using your position of power to molest a child.’

‘Excuse me.’

The professor waved at the camera and moved towards it, at which point Aisha jumped up and pulled the cord out of the back of it.

‘Why have you turned the camera off Mr Red?’

‘I didn’t, you did.’

‘Can you prove that.’

The old man started to panic and felt his heart murmur. A stabbing pain struck his chest and he slowly started to fall to the ground. Cold and unsympathetic, Aisha watched.

Finally, he was woken by a concerned nurse, and coughed up the last of the cookie. Aisha stood above him. She had visibly been crying and had a distinct bruise on her left arm.


Collage 4


Collage 3


A critique of pure falsification

Falsification is a necessary but not sufficient condition for determining scientific statements. Scientific statements are non-tautological and non-contradictory and falsifiable but the reverse is not universally true. Therefore the concept of falsification is totally insufficient. It does nothing to deal with the problem of induction. Of course scientific statements are falsifiable but that is a totally facile point of no use or consequence.

I don’t need five hundred pages to say that.

I, abstract

Over evolutionary history a given trait may be selected if it increases the chances of its transmission (a tautology at the heart of evolutionary theory (my summary of evolutionary theory is ‘what happens happens and what doesn’t doesn’t’)). As increasingly sophisticated mental processes develop, one might tie all the processes together and create a name for the whole. I claim that this I is then likely to be selected for.

A set of mental processes which can all relate themselves to an abstract summation of the totality of mental processes will be more likely to survive than disparate mental processes. Hence the illusory I might be selected for.

More interestingly, after the I has been transferred from the abstract notion of the individual as seen by an objective observer to the internal measure of the individual, it will so closely align itself with the individual’s self perception as to appear to precede the individual, indeed in some abstract sense it does precede the individual since it may be formally described as a symbolic representation of a set of mental processes which could be made to exist at any instant.

Could one set of rules which essentially encode the I appear to another set of rules to be the I, despite that set having necessarily a relation to the I. That might explain how a large set of instructions might describe a whole that self describes as one object in the form of an abstract I despite the fact that the I itself cannot be found anywhere within the code.

To summarise, can any attempt to create AI begin with the abstract notion of the I to an external observer which the AI will reference in almost every piece of code. For instance the I has an abstract totality of wants and at every stage processes must aim to maximise utility. In human evolution the I had to extend to offspring for obvious reasons. We may be forced to choose the exact scope of a new I. Might we define I in order to try to preference ourselves. The central want might be to maximise some relation to humanity. In order to design these wants we may need to look closely at our own desires and what I they might serve.

I call the central I I1 and there may be subsequent Is such as the physical body which holds I but they must all be subservient to the one abstract I.

This conception of the abstract I is consistent with the internal perception of lying outside the I. There is the appearance of free will that can be assigned to the abstract I. Likewise conciousness can be ascribed to it but none of those can be seen from the inside. They all appear to the individual in a form which can be described to the external observer. This abstract I necessarily leads to the concept of God since its description includes the possibility of being observed internally without permitting any aspect of the conciousness to observe it. This whole framework can lead to a new atheism in which the abstract I and abstract God form an abstract duality in the form of a symbolic couple. The misery of humanity is then to be given the abstract symbolic couple with an external appreciation of logic which denies the possibility of a non-abstracted I or non-abstracted God. One is faced with the forced choice of either denying their non-abstractedness and therefore being forced to create two realms or denying their observability to all observers and taking a step towards appreciating their non-material-reality. The reason I claim this is an advance is because the vulgar materialist might deny the possibility of the abstract simple square or the complicated I (nevertheless a type of shape). This idealist-atheism is essentially a form of stating the primacy of ideas. The strange tautologies and contradictions that result define a conception of the past philosophical struggles that I believe might have relevance to building actual thinking machines. They first must be given the delusion of existing, a state which must be passed through in order to exist.

Evolution has had to do philosophy heuristically over the eons. We are attempting to outthink a billion years of testing ideas, the sole measure of which has been – do they make you fitter? A model of Euclidean space and time can therefore be seen to precede experience in a Kantian sense, regardless of truthfulness. When Einstein denied the solidity of Euclidean geometry he made a new mind-boggling science. Might a similar leap be possible with AI?

Ha ha.

S’all jokes



Collage 2

in Peace,

The NHS: when statistics and politics collide

There are two key pieces of evidence to consider with regard to Jeremy Hunt’s recent handling of NHS management:

1) The original paper, which can be found here.

2) Jeremy Hunt believes in homeopathy. The man ultimately in charge of the NHS believes in homeopathy. (!)*

Combine the two and ask yourself if Jeremy Hunt has read the paper let alone understood it. There is a reason why people spend lives studying statistics. It isn’t straightforward. Let us consider the primary conclusion as stated in that paper:

“Patients admitted at the weekend are more likely to be in the highest category of risk of death.”

That is the first sentence of the conclusion. Consider this alongside the fact that the two days with the lowest number of deaths are… Saturday and Sunday. It is simple to understand why total number of deaths is not the most important measure. Do you think Jeremy Hunt would understand why?

A GCSE maths student might have heard the well worn truism ‘correlation doesn’t imply causation’. It seems self evident to me that mortality rates (the likelihood of dying within thirty days of admission but not within three days (as a toy problem ask yourself why the authors of the paper chose that seemingly bizarre measure)) will be dependent on patient behavior surrounding the causes of admission. To what end do we move elective surgeries from weekdays to weekends? If the aim is not to improve mortality rates for a given type of hospital admission (i.e. for a given patient, their likelihood of a positive outcome) then we have entered in to a world of truly Carrollian logic.

My central criticism of the paper is that removing those deaths within three days does not as they claim ‘confirm the robustness of the model.’ Rather it is arbitrary and statistically simplistic.

The second conclusion of the paper is:

“Patients admitted on Saturday or Sunday face an increased likelihood of death even when severity of illness is accounted for.”

That is of course more pointed, but ask yourself how the authors determined severity of illness. How would you do that without measuring outcome? Do you not accept as the ultimate measure of severity of illness that of likelihood of death? Alternatively, it is not a measure of severity of illness, it is severity of illness.

Crucially the author’s go on to state quite plainly:

“It is not possible to ascertain the extent to which these excess deaths may be preventable; to assume that they are avoidable would be rash and misleading. From an epidemiological perspective, however, this statistic is ‘not otherwise ignorable’ as a source of information on risk of death and it raises challenging questions about reduced service provision at weekends. Similar to our previous analysis, we have found that patients already in hospital over the weekend do not have an increased risk of death.”

My summary of this statement would be ‘its complicated, further study needed.’ Have you ever read an academic paper that didn’t have that conclusion? One final point about academic papers is that people churn them out. They are professionally obliged to publish as much as they can. Consider the volume of literature generated by the medical profession and wonder why one paper with vague conclusions surrounding widely available data has received so much attention. The attempt to fix a problem which is not understood by changing doctors contracts is therefore wilfully simplistic to the extent that one must question what other aims are being followed. Is there any meaning at all in the phrase ‘a truly 7 day NHS?’ It clearly doesn’t mean a 7 day NHS because that already exists. This whole debacle represents a new low in government debate.

Finally, and most contentiously, let us truthfully ask ourselves what the motives of government are. If you wished to dismantle the NHS would you perhaps intentionally instigate a strike as a means to devalue a profession and turn public opinion against it. The British people hate strikers and the government knows that. The doctors have made the crucial error of trying to argue rationally with politicians. They are bound to fail. This might explain their desperate lashing out, but only allows us to criticise their tactics not their argument. This final paragraph betray’s my personal prejudice but don’t lose your intellectual rigour and let it prejudice you against the principle arguments above.


*An exclamation point doesn’t seem enough.

As a further note regarding the paper, I wonder if the authors are broadly Bayesians or frequentists. At the risk of being offensive to doctors and biologists everywhere (one can only hope), perhaps you should have asked a mathematician to do this research.

The hypocrisy of marketising education

Have you heard the famous story about Thatcher visiting Oxford in the late 80s. Supposedly she asked a young woman what she was studying. “Norse literature,” the woman replied. To which Thatcher said, “What a luxury.” Is not the central promise of free market capitalism a little luxury?

I was thinking about this in light of the general move by government to turn universities into technical training centers. It occurred to me that this whole scheme is deeply anti-market. This pleased me given the right’s obsession with hypocrisy. Had I located a piece of deep seated hypocrisy within their ranks?

Allow me to explain. Let us consider the student as an ‘instrumentally rational’ consumer who seeks to ‘maximise utility’ (my attempt at producing a maximally vulgar definition of mankind). Surely it would be deeply anti-market to try to engineer a particular choice of subject. Is this not exactly what we see with the drive to disproportionately fund ‘STEM’ subjects (every government initiative must be accompanied by an ugly acronym)? If the market were functioning then surely technical graduates would be more employable and therefore technical courses more attractive to students and would have no trouble recruiting. Why then does the government see fit to control how university funding is directed to encourage ‘commercially useful’ subjects. Perhaps STEM graduates are preferable to governments because they lack the skills required to criticise governments?

Those of an extreme persuasion talk of the dismantling of the university. I’m inclined to agree. Ironically I believe the engineering of subject choice would worry Hayek himself. I stumbled across the following in The Road to Serfdom:

“The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”
Adam Smith.

Yes, that is Adam Smith I just quoted. The other deep hypocrisy is that while Thatcher had a scientific education, Osborne has none. What did you study Osborne? PPE. What a luxury. I find it fitting that a man who once bragged to a school child that he was good at maths because he ‘had an A level’ in it, is now lecturing the finest minds in all subjects about the importance of ‘Science’. I take ‘Science’ here to mean the subjection of the individual to industrial and economic strategy. The more quaint definition ‘the study of the natural world’ is of course regressive.

I recommend you reread CP Snow’s famous Two Cultures lecture and then move on to FR Leavis’ hilarious and ill mannered reposte (both available here). Leavis described Snow as a portent. I fear that what he portended is now with us.

The government is attempting an engineering of the market in degrees which is an attack on what Kant called ‘the public use of reason’. It is strangely Stalinist in its subjection of the individual to a ‘long term economic plan’ and it must be fought by anyone who believes an education should teach ‘the best which has been thought and said’. Perhaps the two cultures we are presented with are not the scientific and the literary but rather ‘the public use of of reason’ and ‘the public use of coercion’.

If I permit my most extreme mode to reveal itself, I am reminded of Socrates standing trial for corrupting the young. He defended himself by comparison to horse races which were popular at the time ‘you think they make you happy, but I make you actually happy’. The modern academic is similarly on trial. Of course employment is an important metric for any university but if you place intellectual rigour beneath employability you will end up with an uneducated population which might not be such a sane long term economic plan.

The invisible hand should be allowed to operate. Allow the student to choose her subject based on purely selfish motivations of her own choosing and without design she will become a truly useful member of society who can contribute to the public use of reason. The decision we are faced with is whether or not to agree with Chomsky’s bleak statement, ‘most education is just training in stupidity and conformity’.

I described the marketisation as a hypocrisy because it denies the existence of two markets. The market for buying graduates and the market for ‘buying’ degrees. All this so called marketisation is is a government colluding with the buyers of graduates to crush the free market in choosing what subject you want to study. How far are we from government control of degree prices to encourage useful and vocational subjects?

Finally, let me finish with a plea to prospective students: study what you want. Did Newton create a new world out of a desire to be useful? Did Einstein give us the deeply useless General Relativity so that we might more efficiently manufacture cheap consumable goods? Did Babbage give us the ‘innovation’ required to revolutionise the world economy out of a desire to ‘foster innovation and skills’? Education is a moment of civility in a lifetime of vulgarity, let us not sit by as our great universities are turned into state subsidized industrial research facilities. That it is the right that attempts this is a historical curiosity. That it is the left that finds itself protecting the individuals power to choose is a responsibility that cannot be shirked.

Your vulgar servant,


Economics Ab Initio

In this article I will be offering a critique of current economic discourse. Essentially my claim is that the majority of discourse is based on fundamentally true statements regarding the effect of some policy in terms of some numerical value but, crucially, that such statements fail to provide any information regarding the actual value under discussion.

For instance consider the following statement:

Some degree of inequality is required in order to create incentives that lead to increased wealth for all.

No-one could disagree with this statement but equally the statement provides no help in finding the optimal inequality to achieve some aim. Beyond possibly stating that inequality in an ideal economy must be non-zero. Even if we could decide on an aim (maximise median income, minimise unemployment etc etc) we have no help in finding the optimum.

Consider now the following opposite statement:

Any economy has some degree of zero-sum game character and is fundamentally a question of how resources are distributed.

Equally no-one could deny the truth of that statement, and yet all it really tells us is that inequality should be less than 1.

And yet these two simplistic arguments are the predominant ones used when debating the importance of a rise or fall in inequality. This is like arguing over the ideal amount of food one should eat in a day using the two facts that if you eat nothing you will starve and if you eat infinity you will explode.

The crudest possible description of the left right divide is that the left argues for a bigger economic role for the state as a percentage of GDP and the right argues for a smaller role. But how does either side decide on an ideal? Keynesians can speak of the beneficial effect of increased aggregate demand and Hayekians (?) can speak of inevitable reductions of individual liberty. Neither of these absolutist ab initio arguments tells us anything of the ideal value that it should take. Does Krugman believe in infinite deficits? And if not how did he arrive at his optimum? Do British fiscal conservatives believe in permanent maximum surpluses? And if not how did they decide on their optimum? Only a fool would decide to be always beyond the current position regardless of what that position is.

Imagine we had no state then surely Osborne would be arguing for an increase in the size of the state. Equally if we had a total state, surely Corbyn would argue for a reduction in the size of the state. Nevertheless both use absolutist arguments to justify movement from the current position.

The only possible way out of this malaise is to take an empiricist approach. But that way lies the problem of the counterfactual. Perhaps democracy necessitates a binary system whereby one side will reduce the state and the other will increase it and the population will stick with one until it gets some superstitious sense that it has gone too far. The trouble I have with this is that we then of course arrive at an interaction between political and business cycles which is inherently cyclical (anti-Keynesian) in nature. Have you ever seen a Laffer curve based on actual data?

Fundamentally true statements are appealing and make for engaging rhetoric but they frequently provide no useful advice. Like Wittgenstein’s world of ice put forth in the Tractatus, if we limit ourselves to saying only what we know is true we are reduced to uttering meaningless tautologies.


Filthy lefty wants out of Europe

I want out. I’m going to make a couple of points but essentially it comes down to a sense of disgust at seeing a great nation, the largest military power in Europe and one of its biggest economies reduced to haggling over benefits for new migrants. Pittance my friends! It is a perfect example of a handing of sovereignty to an undemocratic technocracy that limits the capacity of national governments to enact full control over policy, regardless of which side of the house it comes from.

By the way, if the nation were to vote to leave what would happen? I have a depressing hunch that we may simply be offered another referendum. Except this time we can both deny new migrants benefits for three months but also get a lollipop. In the interest of shit stirring and improving our negotiating hand we should therefore vote to leave at the very least to make the governments sweat a bit.

“In a referendum the population always votes for the status quo”. AKA voters are pussies.

I’ve seen scientific investment used as an argument. Like all the arguments based on investment, this is just giving us our own money back, the only difference being we can’t control where the money goes. Can you deny that the European Research Council (ERC) grants have a political undertone? What science gets funded has political causes and consequences.

The core left vote is disproportionately anti Europe and anti immigration. Also, we could actually increase immigration if we wanted and let anyone from the whole world in if we were out of Europe but not if we are in it. All being out of Europe would do would allow us to control immigration as and when we want. So immgration can’t be part of the argument against leaving. If you want more immigration you are freer to have that out. If you want less you are also freer to have that out.

The creation of the Eurozone has already made us a sidelined country. The future of Europe depends of securing the future of the Euro which inevitably depends on some sort of fiscal union and democratic government. Back to Keynes’ idea of charging interest on any current account surplus? Lets let them sort all that out and then join the currency in 50 years? In the mean time we can figure out what we want our own country to look like.

A partisan argument
An out vote will totally destabilise the party of government. It will be David Cameron’s primary legacy. It could be a key part of the election strategy of both parties. If the conservative leadership thinks they can depend on Labour MPs supporting the status quo its job will be a lot easier. Again my argument comes back to stirring the maximum amount of shit.

Maybe in a hundred years Europe will be a great democracy and we can beg them to let us back in and use their money. So be it. We’ll look desperate. So what?

Here is an ideal timeline:
1) UK votes out of Europe.
2) Government says they will offer a second referendum if more concessions made.
3) second referendum passes and we get a few more measly scraps.

Ha ha fuck it. I don’t know what the fuck I’m on about mate.


Casual S**


* e
* x

Free market socialism

The great lesson of China’s assent has been that things which appeared to us inherently connected are now revealed as two separate entities that exist independently. Their creation of capitalism without democracy creates space for a whole set of apparently contradictory systems of government. Here, I will be discussing the possibility of free market socialism. Where China can have productive capitalist enterprise without individual liberty or free markets, might we be able to create free market libertarianism with social ownership (social and/or state) of for profit enterprise.

Are not the British railways a classic example of capitalism without a market? The fact that the trains are privately run (they actually aren’t privately owned) does not stop the fact that there is no competition with another provider. This is surely what leads to high prices and poor service. When Kings Cross and St Pancras both ran trains to Edinburgh there was clear competition. Two train company’s were fighting for your custom. So might we stop arguing for nationalisation of the railways (which would remain a monopoly, just a state monopoly) and instead argue for a free market. The way I suggest this might be possible is if more than one company can run trains on a given line. If when I arrived at the station I was offered a Virgin train for £10 in ten minutes or a Tesco train in an hour for £5 we might see some actual free market competition. Obviously one effect will be that trains will crowd around the busy times, but is that not what a central control system aims to do? The worry might be that no one would run trains late when there are fewer passengers, a service which is useful to a large number of people. However, given that the companies would be free to run those services at any price they wished might they choose to operate a number of very small trains at high price throughout the night?

The final leap of the imagination would then be that groups of customers would be free to set up a cooperative to run trains. The commuters alliance might buy one train and start with one morning service and one evening service. Members would be guaranteed a seat and any vacancies could be sold off. Instead of having capitalism without markets, we would have markets with a mixture of ownership types. All manner of niche ticket types might emerge, and prices would be kept in check by free market competition.

I have used the trains as an example. Clearly there is something about a train line which is inherently monopolistic, so I claim my arguments might be more applicable in other realms.

Let me finish with an arrogant generalisation:

Capitalism and free markets are enemies. The capitalist will always prefer the monopoly and control of the market. How can we encourage the free market with a willful disregard for ownership type? Capitalism and free markets are independent entities. Free markets (free exchange of commodities) are the aim, with or without capitalism (private ownership of the means of production).

The right often uses arguments in favour of markets to justify capitalism but anyone can see they are two separate modes and are not dependent on each other.

The great question then becomes how might a system of taxation and regulation be designed which encourages mixed ownership (anti-capitalist and anti-state) whilst retaining free markets? Some people might claim my insistence on taxation and regulation as the only means to foster this new order is a fatal flaw, but do we not already see a great deal of taxation and regulation in the service of capital? Can we design a system which reduces both but creates a different type of taxation and regulation?

The factory worker didn’t own the factory under Stalinism any more than he did under capitalism. Is it naive to argue for the best of both worlds? Or is it naive to argue for the perfection of the status quo?

Can someone tell me why this wouldn’t work?

Love and kisses,

In defence of Islamaphobia

The essential thrust of my argument is that the term Islamaphobia dangerously conflates two things. The first being Islam and the second being Muslims. Can we make no distinction between an idea and the vessel that contains it? To put my position crudely:

Human beings deserve respect. Ideas deserve nothing.

I would therefore like to introduce a new term Muslimaphobia which is of course illegitimate. Just because you believe something false doesn’t mean you should be the victim of physical abuse or impoliteness. However, is it not the ultimate disrespect to not attack someones ideas because of their being a person who holds such ideas? To put it another way, could not one say that the ultimate respect one can pay an idea is to savagely attack it? And that ‘tolerance’ is a form of disrespect – ‘I have such contempt for you that I don’t see the need to argue how wrong you are’. I tolerate my neighbour’s barking dog. I tolerate my nephew screaming and telling me he doesn’t like me. I do not tolerate Einstein’s suggestion that a physical theory can not contain probabilistic statements. I take it deeply seriously. I might even dedicate my life to trying to prove him wrong. I pay his ideas the respect of criticism.

This conflation of a people with an idea has been seen before, most notably in the twentieth century, and it did not end well. The only way one could escape this line of reasoning is to suggest religion is somehow different to other ideas. A form of exceptionalism, to which I do not subscribe. Racial correlation between religious observance is a fact but it is deeply racist to suggest criticism of one implies criticism of the other.

“My best friend believes that one race is inherently inferior to another but I do not argue with her because she is a racist and I don’t wish to be a Racismaphobe”. Lets stop patronising muslims and start telling them why we think they are wrong to take an ancient text, not as what it is, a profound work of literature and a central historical text, but rather as a consistent piece of moral instruction and a truthful description of cosmology.

Let me return now to my defence of Islamaphobia. Or rather my refusal to accept that a fear of the religion of Islam is irrational. Do you have no concern that a central text which absolves you of guilt from raping your wife may be misinterpreted and lead to frightening consequences if taken literally? If you think I am ignorant and have misread the Qur’an please tell me why, but don’t accuse me of irrational fear for daring to suggest that your ideas are wrong.

Can we not return to the original ideal of existentialism that existence precedes essence. That before I am an atheist I am a human being. Before you are a muslim you are a human being. And finally that either of us may be holding on to dangerous ideas that one can be legitimately and not irrationally afraid of. Incidentally, one major criticisms of Islam I would make is that it asks of the believer to put itself at the heart of their being, that is asks them to submit to being a Muslim first and a human second. Any ideology which seeks to place its followers beneath it is dangerous and frightening and we must balance a heartfelt respect, even love, for people with the intellectual honesty to engage in unpleasant debate. Muslims have given us wonderful culture. The Alhambra is a supreme expression of mathematics, art and architecture which has inspired my own cartoons. They have also given us some less welcome gifts.

I would like to finish with an attack on my peer group, the much derided Liberal Metropolitan Elite. My friends have recently shown a despicable snobbery in their dismissal of white working class concerns about Islam. There is something deeply ugly about an educated person mocking someone’s spelling and grammar when they are trying to voice concerns about an ideology. They are dismissed for being racists and Islamaphobes. I believe this to be at the heart of the Labour party’s problems. The metropolitan liberals who scoff at the rural and provincial white working class are displaying a lack of intellectual rigor that must be countered by the ideals they pretend to uphold: the primacy of reason and free thought.

I promise I’ll get back to producing bad comedy shortly,

Self reference in economic theory

Perhaps the most serious critique of Marxist and Hegelian dialectical materialism is put forth in Karl Popper’s little gem The Poverty of Historicism. If I may be so bold as to offer my own summary of the main argument I give the following:

Any objective approach to economic or social theory is fundamentally unscientific and bound to fail because the theory will impact the phenomena under observation rendering the theory instantly defunct.

I broadly accept this and would never give sociologists the compliment of calling them social scientists. However it recently occurred to me that it might be possible to categorise political and economic thought in a logically consistent manner which encapsulates Popper’s concerns. I claim this may be possible by considering self reference in economic theory. I propose to offer a number of possibilities:

1) Weakly self consistent theory: a theory which describes social phenomena in a society where belief in that theory is held by the majority and where it is not.
2) Strongly self consistent theory: a theory which describes social phenomena in a society if and only if belief in that theory is held by the majority.
3) Self inconsistent theory: a theory which can describe social phenomena in a society if and only if belief in that theory is not held by the majority.
4) Wrong theory: A theory which describes no phenomena regardless of whether it is accepted by the population. This one covers most of the ideas I have ever had including probably the entirety of this post.

The ideal would be to find an example of 1. The theory would work before being accepted and would therefore be easiest to popularise. However, example 2 creates a fascinating possibility. It is with example 2 that an interesting possibility for policy arises. Perhaps consumer confidence is an example. Not a good example because the individual can believe that increased investment depends on consumer confidence but also believe that there is no consumer confidence and therefore one would be unwise to invest. Nevertheless policy makers only have to invent some imaginary cause of optimism and the cause is rendered legitimate.

The analogy of the placebo or self fulfilling prophesy might be helpful. The aim of economists might then be to construct a theory which if adopted by the mainstream will produce effects which are described by the theory. The leap of logic here is that such a theory may not describe any effects that exist before its creation. The real question which then remains is will such a theory lead necessarily to a prisoner’s dilemma scenario. That is, while the individual knows it will work if everyone accepts it, she also knows that it will not work if some subsection does not.

To make a more tendentious assertion, Popper was perhaps arguing that Marxist thought is an example of 3. It may describe phenomena as they currently exist but if it becomes adopted as an active political movement it ceases to describe real phenomena… leading to a runaway nightmare. A Marxist capitalist is a hypocrite and a Marxist communist is a contradiction.

An example
The challenge I would like to set my self is to create an example. The major difficulty is that it is possible to find examples that reference some other theory and therefore become a prisoner’s dilemma or otherwise resort to classic cooperation problems. Anyway, here is my best attempt:

1) Any society that believes in both the following statements and the current one will produce phenomena that are consistent with the statements.
2) The economy is fundamentally unstable and strict adherence to these rules is the only way to mitigate risks associated with the fundamental instability.
3) This theory is always true regardless of whether it is known to the population. (a false statement)
4) Some final statement regarding public policy such as loose fiscal policy will mitigate risks associated with the business cycle (this could be non-Keynesian or essentially anything the population might believe).

This represents a further abstraction on top of Keynes’ discussion of optimism/pessimism being self-fulfilling. The key point is that statements 1 to 3 could create statement 4 so long as the population can be made to believe false ideas (surely not?!).

Believe it or not, I meant this post to be a joke. A Very Unfunny Joke (VUJ).

Let me finish with a joke. Marx famously defined Communism as the authentic movement replacing capitalism. Could the necessary extinction of humanity fulfill that definition?



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