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A Swede in Germany

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Radicalizing your victims / Follow-up: Who are the real extremists?

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A particularly scary thought in light of the inexcusable acts of the current U.S. Democrats and the ever present reality distortion of the Left, in general:

What if their inexcusable acts eventually force members of the non-Left to use extreme methods,* which the Democrats then take as an excuse to escalate their inexcusable acts even further? This possibly including “temporary”** suspension of civic rights or the use of military force to ensure compliance?

*Yes, even extreme methods can be justified in extreme situations, especially in self-defense. Note that few would dispute the right of e.g. Nazi-era Germans to resist their government with means that would have been out of bounds in a functioning democracy and Rechtsstaat, or of e.g. the citizens of the “occupied France” to do the same against the occupiers. While the U.S. is not quite there yet, the last few steps of deterioration could happen very fast.

**One of the key insights of politics is that “temporary” usually turns out to be a very long time.

Indeed, there are already a strong tendency (whether more governmental or more Leftist might be debated) to brand those who merely react to a worsening situation as “extremists” or to accuse them of “radicalization”. Consider e.g. various protests against unconscionable, severely harmful, and scientifically unfounded COVID-countermeasures, or the recent farmers’ protests in the Netherlands. Or consider the occasionally used German “Staatsfeind” (“enemy of the state”)—are these enemies* of the state because they are mentally deficient (evil, racists, ignorant, whatnot) or for the very rational, reasonable, and arguably virtuous reason that the state is hostile towards them and other citizens and does them and other citizens harm?

*Assuming that the word actually applies in the first place, which is far from a given.

Similarly, even at current levels, what if those severely provoked and mistreated for sufficiently long ultimately snap, with similar consequences? To this, I point to the U.S. (using the word loosely) game of “not touching”—the one kid keeps waving his hand immediately in front of the face of the other (“Not touching! Can’t get mad!”), and when the other kid inevitably does get mad, the first kid runs to the nearest adult to complain. Much of what the Left does (e.g. in the current U.S.) and has historically done falls into the same category of behavior. Worse, while much of it can be seen as a metaphorical hand in front of someone’s face, other parts are equivalent to punching someone in the nose, again and again. Consider e.g. the behavior of the U.S. Democrats and their lackeys towards Trump. If this someone does not put up a fight, he will eventually find himself lying on the floor, being kicked and stomped, maybe to death. If he does put up a fight, then the aggressor screams a hypocritical “Mommy! He hit me!”, respectively begins a rant about “White Supremacy”, “Right-wing extremism”, or whatnot, demanding that the victim (!) be punished.

The world simply can no longer afford to tolerate the Left and its lies, defamation, hypocrisy, hate, and inexcusable acts.

Excursion on fake or entrapped “extremists”:
The above is not be confused with some utter bullshit that already goes on, as with the current misrepresentation of non-extremists as extremists (cf. [1]), including the gross and inexcusable distortions around J6, or with the deliberate entrapment that repeatedly has taken place, e.g. the FBI-instigated and -driven “plot” to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer. The resulting problems and dangers are similar, but the mechanism is different.


Written by michaeleriksson

August 30, 2022 at 6:51 pm

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Warranted skepticism in science / Follow-up: Who are the science deniers?

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Disclaimer: I wrote a near complete draft of the below two weeks ago, but left a few TODOs in, where I, today, am uncertain exactly what I intended. For reasons of time and the size of my backlog, I have mostly removed them without additional work. For the same reasons, I have not split the text into two, one dealing with the intended core topic and one with the unplanned side-topics around 7DSP (cf. below).

I have already written ([1]) about how accusations of e.g. “science denialism” are more appropriately directed at the Left than the non-Left. However, there is another aspect to the issue, where the non-Left, again, fares better, but which might be a source of much of the Leftist propaganda of alleged non-Leftist “science denialism”: warranted skepticism. This usually hand-in-hand with critical thinking and a wish to think for oneself/to form one’s own opinions. (All of which seem to be far rarer on the Left than on the non-Left.)

The simple truth is that even proper science performed by great minds according to all the rules of the scientific method often gets things wrong or finds something else than was expected. Even physics is inherently something fallible and incremental, which does not reveal absolute and unshakable truths after a five-minute experiment (or, for that matter, five minutes of math). That we now might appear to have a great many absolute and unshakable truths in physics is the result of hundreds of years of accumulated results and vetting of results. Even so, there are occasional discoveries, or even paradigm shifts, that show something to be faulty or just approximately correct.

But how much of science can be described as “proper science performed by great minds according to all the rules of the scientific method”? Very little. Most scientists are not great minds—good, maybe, but not great. Many, especially in the softer sciences, do not have a scientific mindset. Many are driven by secondary concerns, e.g. to publish enough for a good career, to further an ideological agenda, or to stay on the good side of a financier. The scientific method* might be more something developed and proposed by philosophers than scientists, and most good scientists are likely content with a scientific mindset—while bad scientists often do not have even that.

*Whether the scientific method is even that important on the level of the individual scientist might be disputed. It does become very important on the level of the field as a whole, however.

It is also quite common for scientists and/or scientific results to contradict* each other, especially as time goes by and especially where health is concerned. To take just one example, I have heard at least the following claims about alcohol** and health: No matter how much or what type of alcohol you drink, drinking less is better. Moderate amounts of any type of alcohol are beneficial. Moderate amounts of specifically wine are beneficial, but not of other types of alcohol. Moderate amounts of specifically red wine are beneficial, but not of other types of alcohol, including other wines.

*Not to be confused with pseudo-contradictions, e.g. the unexpected-but-not-contradictory claims that (a) coffee is good, (b) caffeine is bad. It might, for instance, be that some non-caffeine component of coffee is good for the human body and more than outweighs any negative effects of caffeine. (Whether either claim is true, I leave unstated, especially with an eye on issues like dosages and the risk of someone mistaking correlation for causation.)

**Strictly speaking, ethanol—that we should stay away from e.g. methanol is indisputable. However, the reporting (and e.g. the labels on wine and gin bottles) is always phrased in terms of “alcohol” and I will remain consistent with this.

Being skeptical of what is claimed by even physicists has some justification—being skeptical of what is claimed in the softer sciences is an outright virtue. This, however, is not “science denialism”—it is, on the contrary, a part of that scientific mindset. Those who blindly claim that “scientist X said Y; ergo, Y”, without own thought, without an awareness that scientist X might be wrong (or misunderstood/misreported), without finding out what other scientists have said on the topic, etc. are the ones being unscientific. Moreover, being skeptical of what journalists and politicians claim that scientists would claim is a virtual necessity to an even remotely scientific mind. Someone who is not, should not be allowed to vote.

I have already (e.g. in [1]) pointed to severe issues in the social sciences/“sciences” and in ideological pseudo-sciences like “gender studies”, around COVID, and (at least as far as journalists and politicians are concerned) environmental science. To this, an interesting recent read—“The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology” (7DSP) by Chris Chambers. This book gives a damning analysis of many issues in psychology, including various forms of publication bias* and failure to perform adequate replication studies (as well as examples of an absurd attitude towards replication studies among some researchers). It is virtually impossible to take modern psychology seriously in light of 7DSP.**

*Including secondary problems like “p-hacking”. All in all, this publication bias goes a long way to explain the infamous “replication crisis”.

**Assuming that it is factually correct. The scientifically minded are, of course, open to the possibility that it gives a misleading picture. However, the contents match what I have heard and seen, if in smaller doses, from other sources.

Excursion on retractions:
(Executive summary: Bad science is legitimate grounds for retraction, merely being wrong is not.)

7DSP brings up the topic of retractions, in particular a reluctance to retract papers within the psychology community. Here the author, in my opinion, severely overshoots the target by suggesting that already published papers should be retracted merely because replication attempts fail. This brings me to a topic that has long annoyed me—the flawed idea that (experimental*) papers should be retracted willy-nilly. Now, if the authors of a paper find out, post-publication, that they have made such a severe mistake that the paper is invalidated, then a retraction is warranted.** Ditto, if the authors know before publication and still go ahead (in which case we usually enter the area of academic fraud).

*When it comes to e.g. math papers the situation might often be different. If a proof contains a previously undetected error of logic, e.g., then the entire paper might collapse or only be worthwhile in an amended form. If there are no such errors of logic, arithmetic, algebra, whatnot, on the other hand, the results of the paper will almost certainly be true. (While an experimental paper can do everything right and still be wrong.)

**Say, in a medical double-blind study, that an inadvertent unblinding took place or that data for the test and control groups were switched.

However, the idea that a properly written paper about a properly performed experiment/study/whatnot should be retracted merely because it later proves not to describe reality* is ludicrous. A good paper in the experimental sciences does not** proclaim what the truth of reality is—it states that “we did this and we did that, and the result was the following”. This will continue to hold true, even if there are a hundred failed replications—and there is no point in a retraction. Indeed, retracting can have negative consequences down the line, e.g. in that a later meta-study chooses not to include the retracted-for-a-spurious-reason paper, which leads to a weakening of the meta-study.

*Which can happen e.g. for statistical reasons, say, in that a survey was given to a random sample and that this random sample happened to have an unfortunate composition, which caused the answers to the survey to be skewed relative a population wide survey.

**If the paper fails here, there are bigger things to worry about than the details of what went wrong.

Worse yet are retractions for entirely spurious reasons, say that a particular paper causes politically or ideologically motivated protests or (when the retractor is a journal) that one of the authors later engages in other research that causes politically or ideologically motivated protests.

Now, if a researcher says “My new pill can cure cancer!”* and this turns out to be incorrect, this claim should be retracted. Generally, explicit claims (going beyond data), explicit advice, endorsements,** and the like can and should be retracted when later experiences prove them wrong—but not papers.

*As opposed to “I performed a trial as described in my paper X and found the results presented there”. (That “My new pill can cure cancer!” has no place in the paper, it self, even should the results point in that direction, is a given.)

**Note that the publication of a paper in a journal does not constitute an endorsement by the journal in a sense involving the correctness or infallibility of the paper. The true implied claim is typically some combination of “we believe that you will want to read this” and “we have performed the usual vetting, peer-review, etc.”, which is not an extent of endorsement that is sensible to retract just because of e.g. a later replication problem. In fact, off the top of my head, I would argue that there are only three scenarios in which a journal can legitimately retract, namely when (a) the authors have already retracted the paper for a valid reason, (b) there is significant proof that the authors should have retracted but refused to do so, (c) the paper has been revealed to contain deliberate fraud. (The two latter often overlap.)

Excursion on 7DSP:
The book is generally worth reading; however, I caution that the author does not strike me as a great thinker and that the reader often needs to reevaluate the text with regard to what is left out, what other perspectives might apply, whether the reasoning holds, etc. For instance, at some point he poses a few ethical questions of the “is this OK or not OK” type, including e.g. removal of data points—but he fails to specify why the data points were removed, which is a central issue when judging their removal. (Did the data points go against the preferred hypothesis while otherwise being valid, or did they also have some notable problem that made them misleading in the evaluation of said hypothesis?)

Written by michaeleriksson

August 28, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Who are the real extremists?

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Preamble: This is another text that risked growing into a long multi-part series. To avoid this, I have decided to cut it artificially short. One or two follow-ups might take place, but I will try to err on the side of self-control.

A while back, I asked who the real science deniers are. In the same vein, who are the real extremists? (See an excursion for some other “same veins”.)

Increasingly, the Left appears to apply the labels “extremism” and “extremist” to a great many groups who are nothing of the kind, while their own extremism is swept under the carpet. Indeed, what is referred to as “extremism” is often just common sense and/or something that was mainstream not that long ago. (In some cases something that might still be mainstream, but which the Left hates: condemn it as extremism now and with sufficient force, and it will leave the mainstream. See excursion.)

Consider e.g. the absurdity that pointing to scientifically well-founded results on the “wrong” topics can lead to accusations of extremism (and, depending on the exact topic, e.g. “racism”, “X denialism”, whatnot). Take e.g. an awareness* of human biological diversity, a position that should be entirely scientifically and politically uncontroversial in a sane society, and the perfectly sane, rational, and obvious suggestion that this might** have an effect on e.g. group outcomes—extremism!

*I originally intended to write “belief”, but this word is misleading, as a considerable amount of such diversity is well beyond reasonable doubt.

**Here “might” is justified, because even the suggestion of “might” is typically cause for immediate condemnation. (Note e.g. the Larry Summers situation—and things have grown much worse since then.) However, that some effect is present is virtually unavoidable, and what I have seen so far seems to imply that they can be quite large on the group level, at least or especially in scenarios where the “tails” of a distribution are important. (What happens on the individual level is a very different question.)

Express anything but whole-hearted approval of the (scientifically, at best, dubious) COVID-countermeasures and the associated propaganda and “official truths”—extremism!

Take any of a quite a few Republican positions—extremism! Consider e.g. abortion: here the Democrats have condemned as extremism the suggestion of even limits on abortions that match the typical European situation.* Ditto e.g. the perfectly sensible abortion-_related_ opinion that there is no right to abortion in the U.S. constitution (note the aftermath of “Dobbs”). This, however, is almost indisputably so: the original “Roe” decision has been criticized as wrongly decided from day one—even by Leftist law experts.**

*Together with a slew of other misrepresentations.

**Indeed, I seem to vaguely recall someone condemning as extremist even a constitutionalist/originalist approach, an approach that should be a perfectly valid option to anyone and borders on being the obvious and obviously correct approach to the reasonable. However, here I might misremember.

Consider as counterpoints how this stacks up against e.g. the COVID-countermeasures;* the drive to put children into sex change programs; immense taxes used to finance a bloated government bureaucracy and to hand out money to the lazy and the stupid;** the BLM riots and the Antifa terrorism; threats against the lives and families of Supreme-Court justices; the recent repeated “swattings” against Marjorie Taylor Greene; the all-out Nazi-level persecutions and prosecutions around J6; the abuse of the justice system to harass Trump and various current or past members of his inner circle; the tearing down of statues, Taliban-style, of persons who, long after their deaths, are deemed insufficiently PC; etc.; etc.; etc.

*While the non-Left has erred here too, the Left has been considerably worse, and, going by circulated quotes from Birx recent autobiography/self-incrimination, she and her ilk were more to blame for what initially went wrong in the U.S. than Trump was. He erred in heeding advisors (while the Left likes to accuse him of the opposite) and was in part circumvented by Birx et al. when he tried to do the right thing.

**Were this truly a matter of merely those who had bad luck in life or saw a temporary down, I might not object. This, however, is not now the case in a typical Western country, and has typically not been so for many decades. This is the more perfidious, as the purpose of these handouts often seem to be more to buy votes than to do good.

Or consider, in general, the use of violence and other extreme methods to further Leftist causes: political violence, political lies, defamation of political opponents, etc. is a predominantly Leftist phenomenon, be it in the current (or e.g. 1960s) U.S., Germany at almost any modern point of time, my native Sweden, … What of all the evils that Leftist dictatorships have caused and how they have clamped down on civic and human rights, like free speech, and how they have sent dissenters to Gulags? (And note the disturbing parallels to the current U.S., where true extremists demand a ban on non-Leftist speech and opinions, and seriously talk of imprisonment or worse for dissenters.)

Indeed, a massive problem with the current political climate in a great many countries is how the Left has engaged in large-scale propaganda to shift the opinion corridors, to make what truly is extreme appear normal and the normal extreme. That we should have equality of outcome instead of opportunity and a government that swallows half the GDP, for instance, are opinions that by any reasonable standard are extremist—they are not compatible with common sense, general fairness, a sound understanding of economics, or with, well, anything sane.

Excursion on other “Who are the real X?”:
As I have long observed, the Leftist accusation that “You are X!” typically implies (a) that the accused is innocent, (b) that the accuser and/or large portions of the Left, themselves, are X.

To take just three examples: Feminism contains more sexism than, maybe, any other movement/ideology/whatnot—and certainly far more so than e.g. any typical grouping of non-Leftist men. (Indeed, a case can be made that even specifically misogyny is more common among Feminists, with common attitudes including e.g. that women are not mature enough to give meaningful sexual consent, and that women should not be given a choice between house-and-children and career-in-the-office—they must pick the career or they are branded as “gender”-traitors.) Still, the Feminists clamor about sexism-this and sexism-that. Various Black and Black-related movements/ideologies/whatnot, e.g. CRT, BLM, or the older ramblings of the likes of Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, are far more racist than any typical grouping of non-Leftist Whites. And still … (Indeed, the Democrats are arguably even the anti-Black party, with common attitudes including that that Blacks are to be grateful for handouts, and that someone who does not vote Democrat is not a “true” Black.*) Then there is the question of tolerance and intolerance: The current Left screams and screeches about the need for tolerance and how intolerant others would be—but if we look at actual acts and opinions, intolerance lives solidly on the Left.

*An upcoming text with some further reading suggestions will give one or two pointers on this topic.

Excursion on perfidious condemnations:
A particular problem, be it with “extremist”, “racist”, “offensive”, and a great many other words, is that the Left appears to follow a strategy of one-sidedly declaring something to be this-or-that, then condemning anyone and everyone who does not adapt to their one-sided preference, and, once the this-or-that has gained enough momentum or become sufficiently established, to condemn even uses that long predate the one-sided declaration. This notably with no regard for the facts of the matter, the actual intents of past and present users, or any other rational criterion.

I first encountered this phenomenon with the Swedish word “neger”—a long established word for someone Black, which had no negative implications beyond what the speaker might have had to the underlying concept. Notably, the only thing that this word had in common with the U.S. “nigger” was its origin in the Spanish (and Latin) word for the color black. Then, at some point in the 1980s, some fringe group began to claim that “neger” was offensive and racist, and that using e.g. “negerboll”* was equally offensive and racist. Most Swedes considered them crazy—at the time. Some ten years later, they had won and “neger” was arbitrarily considered offensive and racist in wide circles, including among most politicians. The “negerboll”? Since renamed to the prosaic “chokladboll” (“ball** of chocolate”)—the odder, as it does not, strictly speaking,*** contain chocolate. As a contrast, I have yet to hear anyone object to the German use of “schwedische Gardinen” (“Swedish curtains”) as slang for the bars on the window of a jail cell. (Note that “negerboll” referred to something widely considered positive to the eaters, while these bars are something highly negative to the prisoners.)

*A type of sweet that is darkly colored.

**I stress that the Swedish “boll” does not have the connotations of testicle of the English “ball”. Otherwise objections might have been more justified, if less for reasons of alleged racism and more for reasons of propriety.

***Cacao, yes; chocolate, no.

Since then, I have encountered a great many cases, especially in U.S. English/on the U.S. Left, be it words ,symbols, or anything imaginable. A particularly interesting case is “Oriental”, which (at least until somewhat recently) was the standard British English word for someone broadly from the “far East”, while the PC crowd in the U.S. had already managed to make it “offensive” with a complete lack of reason. Recently, I encountered an attempted pseudo-justification. It claimed that the word implied a thing, not a person, which falls on the circular reasoning implied, because this drift in use* has been caused by the spuriously claimed offensiveness to begin with. Moreover, that any use of any form of “Orient” would be misguided, because it implied a position relative something absolute, say, Europe and/or referred to an outsider’s** perspective. This, too, is nonsense: uses of “Orient” have always been logically paired with “Occident”. Europe was the West/the Occident/what was westwards of the Orient; while what was eastwards of the Occident was the East/the Orient.***

*If true at all. I am not certain that this difference in use is actually established.

**And note how such outsider’s perspectives cause loud protests when applied to various non-Western, aboriginal, and/or “ethnic” groupings, but go without comment for e.g. Germans, despite the true meaning of the English word referring to a superset (which at least partially includes the English too) and e.g. the French word to a subset (and a subset without a meaningful current existence, at that).

***Here, a legitimate complaint about “Oriental” would have been possible, namely the large area covered, the drift in meaning, and the possibility that different countries could choose incompatible terminologies. (This complaint, however, I have yet to see.) Compare with how the U.S. “Middle East” is (was?) considered the European “Near East”; or consider how someone starting in German would likely travel eastwards to reach Japan, while someone starting in California would almost certainly go westwards.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 27, 2022 at 12:32 am

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Soup from a nail

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There is a family of stories based on the following general idea:

Someone* puts water and an iron nail in a kettle, telling others** that he is making soup. Nail soup is both delicious and nourishing, and all are invited to share it—but, of course, it would be even better if he had some X, some Y, some Z, and various other ingredients.*** The bystanders bring such ingredients, and in the end there is indeed a delicious and nourishing soup.

*Some versions might have more than one “chef”.

**Vice versa, the “others” might be a single person, as in the version I first encountered in Sweden; however, the below discussion will require multiple victims. Of course, the fraud aspect is more obvious with one victim, who then single-handedly contributes everything, while the soup is divided equally between the victim and the fraudster.

***Alternatively, that everyone who contributes will receive a fair share, or some similar variation.

A sensible reader will realize that this is a form of trickery to get a free meal at the cost of others, that the “chef” did not actually contribute anything more than firewood and water—both of which could be gathered for free by anyone. Any and all real contribution came from the “guests”, who are short-changed in return, as the soup is shared between “chef” and “guests”. (I am strongly reminded of a typical politician/government/whatnot, who scopes in tax money, doles it out again minus a loss, and expects the people to be grateful for the “gift”.)

Some time ago, I encountered an almost absurd interpretation of this type of story:* The “chef” had been a catalyst to create a soup that the others would not otherwise have had—and was therefore their benefactor! (I am strongly reminded of some Leftist and/or Big-Government proponents with no clue about Economics.)

*I did not keep a link, as I did not intend to write anything at the time. Much later musings over this story brought a correspondingly later wish.

Let us consider this for a moment. To my recollection, the setting in the version told was a poor village, where there was little to eat. The idea was that the one might have had some meal,* the other some beans, the third a small piece of meat, etc.—and together they had soup.

*I do not recall the exact ingredients used, but they are beside the point.

First, in the short-term, each of the villagers might have had some gain of the “balanced diet” type, as eating a soup made of X, Y, and Z is likely to be more balanced than just eating X. (Maybe, also an improvement in taste, but this is a secondary concern among the hungry.) However, at the same time, there is a loss of quantity, as the share of the “chef” must be subtracted—instead of having, say, a pound of meal, someone might now have a share of soup corresponding to 0.8 pounds of meal. Is that really a good exchange? Then we have complications like uneven contributions, the risk of a tragedy of the commons, whatnot. (Indeed, the presence of secondary cheaters cannot be ruled out, e.g. in that someone contributes half a pound of meal and still expects a full pound’s worth of soup. Especially when different ingredients are compared, there is a great risk of both cheating and genuine differences of opinion—is that quantity of salt worth more or less than that piece of sausage?)

Second, in the mid-term, the no-free-lunch principle comes into play: Yes, there is soup today, but what about tomorrow? That pound of meal might have been intended to bake a loaf of bread to eat tomorrow. Now, when tomorrow comes, there is no pound of meal, there is no loaf of bread, and the day will be hungry indeed. Not only has hunger just been differently distributed, not removed, but there is a fair chance that the situation for the villagers has been worsened, as the self-rationing to get by until the next payday (or whatever might apply) with a fixed store of supplies has been disturbed. (And, again, the store has been implicitly diminished by giving the “chef” a share—not just redistributed in time.)

Third, if there actually was a benefit to this type of soup, the villagers might* well have developed the idea on their own. That they did not (or did, tried it once, and never repeated the attempt) might* be a sign that it was not a good idea, and that they were tricked into a poor decision by the belief that the “chef” made a true contribution that, in turn, would have made their respective investments worthwhile. Moreover, if the soup was not a good idea just between the villagers, then it is a worse idea when they have to gift the “chef” his undeserved share.

*Depending on how bright they were, how much experience they had gained in similar matters, how the relationships within the village worked, etc. When the analogy is moved to nationwide politics and the nationwide economy, chances are that they would be smart enough.

Indeed, this version of the story, the implications of this-and-that, and the original interpreter’s weak reasoning form very interesting parallels to modern politics.

As an interesting contrast, look at a hypothetical free-market version of this story (the above being Socialist): Someone comes to the villagers and says that he is willing to make soup for them. Anyone can get a quantity of soup in exchange for a payment in ingredients; the quantity will be determined by the value of the ingredients.* If this makes sense to the villagers, they will come; if it does not, they will not—but it is all their informed** choice. Notably, if they consider the share taken as profit, in exchange for the convenience of coordination and whatnot, small enough, they will continue to come—if not, they will arrange to cut out the middleman and make the soup cooperatively; alternatively, someone else will propose the same deal at a lower price (i.e. ingredient-to-soup ratio).

*In reality, there might be quite a few more details to resolve, say, a minimum of buyers before the soup can realistically be made and exactly how to value various ingredients vs. each other and the completed product.

**Above, they did have a choice, as anyone could have declined, but that choice was outright disinformed—anyone agreeing would have done so under faulty assumptions and chances are that most of those who did agree would have declined, had they been correctly informed.

Of course, once the government gets wind of this situation, chances are that it will involve it self in the soup production, be it commercial or cooperative, including by measures such as forcing everyone to join, even when they do not consider the soup a good idea, instituting a “from everyone according to ability; to everyone according to need” principle, etc. (And note the side-effects that might follow, e.g. that some reduce the work they put in to gain their meager food stores, because they know that what they do gain will be confiscated and the amount of soup they receive will remain unchanged.)

As an exercise for the reader, please consider what parts of the above would or would not have worked better with money.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 27, 2022 at 12:27 am

Inflation and pay raises / Government intervention

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For some time, various governments have attempted to curb inflation, especially energy-related inflation, by demanding that this-or-that business not raise prices—even in the face of increasing costs, problems with the supply of various inputs, and, at least in the U.S., a lack of willing workers. (Issues largely caused by poor government decisions, notably through poorly chosen and exaggerated COVID-countermeasures, a failed energy policy, and/or anti-Russia sanctions.)

These demands, if followed, would be counterproductive, as they will screw even more with market forces, reduce the number of businesses willing to produce goods and provide services (at now artificially low or even negative profits), whatnot. Indeed, this seems to be part of a consistent pattern: Something happens in the market, e.g. an increase in gas* prices. Normally, this would lead to adaptions in the behavior of actors (e.g. in that households reduce gas use, while gas producers increase production), and the famous “invisible hand” would find some acceptable state for the involved parties. Instead, the government intervenes to defeat the market forces, the adaptions do not happen, and the situation remains unbalanced/problematic/whatnot (e.g. in that there is not enough gas supplied to fulfill demand). It then proceeds to paradoxically and disingenuously blame matters on a “market failure” or on “greedy capitalists”—instead of “government failure” resp. “incompetent politicians”.**

*Example written with an eye on methane and whatnot, but it works well for gasoline too.

**Market failures do happen, but government failures are far more common. Indeed, I am working on a few more book tips, including one with the telling title “Why Government Doesn’t Work”.

There is, however, one area where keeping demands back might be vital to keeping inflation down—salaries and wages. If they increase in lockstep with or in excess of inflation, as e.g. some unions currently demand, a vicious circle is created, even when the original cause for inflation was temporary.* This through at least two effects: Firstly, the increase will raise costs for businesses further. As the cost of work affects businesses not just through own employees, but also through the employees of various other businesses, ranging from makers of needed parts to producers of energy to accounting firms to whatnots, the effect can be quite large. The businesses will then be forced to either increase prices further to compensate, or to take other** measures. Secondly, once the employees have more money, the consumption-adjusting*** effect of higher prices will be diminished or disappear, which will give businesses incentives to raise prices again.

*Price hikes for gas and oil—temporary, likely even reversible. (Barring further government screw-ups, of course—here and elsewhere.) COVID subventions—temporary. Extreme expansion of money supply—temporary. (Or, to be specific, the expansion will remain, but once prices have risen accordingly, it will not further drive inflation.)

**The range can be very wide, but none of them tend to be good. Consider e.g. a whole or partial withdrawal from the markets, layoffs to compensate for the cost, reductions in product quality, …

***Again, the range can be very wide, but the main cases are likely consumers reducing consumption, even foregoing certain types of product entirely, and switching to cheaper replacement products.

We might then have scenarios like in (at least) Sweden in the 1980s, where double-digit inflation causes double-digit pay-raises, which causes another year of double-digit inflation, etc., etc.

If, on the other hand, employees and unions show restraint, say, by taking a 5% raise in a year with 10% inflation, high inflation will not become permanent. (Barring the possibility of further destructive government intervention and other independent factors.) And, no, this would not bring the broad masses to ruin. A small minority would be in trouble, but most would just see a return to the same living standard that they had a few years back—and one much higher than averaged by their respective parents at the same age. Another few years down the line, real wages will have caught up again.

Excursion on unions and market forces:
But why would it be wrong for employees to demand higher wages? Is that not also a part of the market forces? Well, the hitch is that unions are a disturbance in the market forces to begin with, as they create an artificial near-monopoly or oligopoly on labor in at least some areas. If individual workers make up their minds individually as to whether they will individually continue to work for X Euro/hour, or demand 1.1X Euro/hour,* or demand some other number, or go to the competition, or switch fields, or take a sabbatical, or whatnot, then we have working market forces. If a union decides to raise hell for all workers unless they all get 1.1X Euro/hour, that is a different matter. (Especially, if combined with unethical methods, e.g picketing to prevent non-strikers from working.) Now the market forces are disabled or too coarse, while the strikes and whatnots cause additional costs, production losses, and similar in their own right. This applies doubly when the government involves it self, as the Swedish Social-Democrat governments were prone to do, e.g. to put pressure on employers to be “fair” to the employees (or else).

*With the option for the employer to accept or reject this, depending on how valued the individual employee is, how many others are willing and able to the same work for a lower payment, etc.

(Which is not to say that collective bargaining need always be a problem. It does require, however, responsible unions, including unions that work neither for the unions, themselves, nor for their leaders, but for their members, and unions that do not try to e.g. gain advantages for those who have a job on the backs of those currently unemployed. Few unions seem to live up to such criteria.)

Excursion on steady inflation/the government and inflation:
It is sometimes claimed that inflation is not a big problem, provided that it is reasonably stable—and provided that corresponding pay raises do follow more-or-less in lockstep. The idea is that purchasing power is preserved and everything remains the same when we look at real values, instead of nominal values. There are several issues with this, including that it is tricky to keep inflation constant at, hypothetically, 12%—and if one can, one might equally keep it constant at some lower value, to avoid the risks, to preserve existing savings, to make it easier to have a feel for the value of money,* to make comparisons over time easier to understand, etc.

*Would you rather need to keep a feel for what price is low resp. high, proportionate resp. disproportionate to the actual value, etc. at an inflation of 2% per year or at 12% per year? And this not just for a single year, but for five, ten, or twenty years; and not just for everyday products like milk, but for once-every-few-years products like computers.

The main obstacle, if this is to have any chance of working, is that everything needs to be adapted to the same inflation rate, including e.g. interest rates, lest existing money dwindle in real value and lest returns on investments fall short of the inflation rate. (Indeed, in Sweden in the 1980s, interest rates were also in the double digits.) This is not happening today. On the contrary, last year my bank gave me the choice between negative (!) interest rates and withdrawing all money above a certain threshold from my accounts… Notably, governments have a great aversion to high interest rates, as they make keeping up with the (typically gigantic) national debts that much harder. (And governments will likely do their darnedest to keep interest rates well below the inflation rate to avoid this.) Moreover, inflation is popular with at least some governments, especially those with a high national debt in the national currency (real value of the debt shrinks) and those of a Leftist persuasion (All those evil capitalists see their money melt away! Ha! Ha! Ha!). To boot, those like I,* who have worked hard in the past to take some free time in the now, might now be forced to return to regular work prematurely, because inflation kills the long-term budget—and a larger workforce means more taxes to the government.

*Yes, I am pissed: First, the German government steals most of what I earn while I am in the workforce, then it destroys my savings when I leave the workforce.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 22, 2022 at 8:06 pm

My depressing loss of endurance

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During the COVID-countermeasure era, I have lost my habit of walking to stay in reasonable “cardio shape”. Yesterday, I set out to break the trend, by going for a long walk, partially in hilly areas.*

*In my estimate, I ended up somewhere in the range 12–15 km. Due to the hills, which make a major difference, this would have been no triviality even in the past, but the comparison of effects is depressing.

The result was not only ample proof of how much I have lost, but also of how many training effects can play in that do not normally register. (There is also the issue of experiences forgotten—like the benefit of ensuring that toe nails are cut and that hydration is kept up before walking longer distances. I dropped the ball on both.)

The first half (give or take) was OK. I did not have quite the drive in my step of the past, but I felt just fine. The second and hillier half saw me run out of energy to the point that I had to stop repeatedly,* caused cramps in my hip muscles and an unusual amount of leg weakness,** left me with sore feet,*** saw me with some bend in the neck and upper back,**** and this, and that. While I have been more tired in individual peaks before, e.g. after taking a long and steep hill at some tempo, I cannot recall ever being so tired for so long before. In particular, I am used to, to some degree, resting and recuperating on flat stretches (while still walking), which simply did not work this time around—instead, I actually had to stop to rest.*****

*Lack of cardio endurance.

**Muscles not used to prolonged stress. Cramping might or might not have been partially due to dehydration, but definitely not entirely, as I have been dehydrated before during such walks without so severe problems.

***Feet not used to that many steps. Some soreness would likely have been present in the past too, but no to this degree. On the upside, and to my surprise, there was no actual blistering.

****Walking does not just hit the legs. The upper back, relating to posture and arm movements, is another important area—and another one no longer used to the prolonged effort. (I do some minor strength training, but that helps little with this type of endurance.)

*****Recuperation, in at least some regards, takes place when the stress on the body falls below some individual level that depends on personal shape. This change, compared to past long walks, might be the single most telling one.

Once back home, I was very unproductive and had the unexpected problem that one of my upper-back muscles cramped very painfully when I tried to stand up. While this cramp did not resurface when I tried again a minute-or-so later, it was another reminder of how many muscles are involved in walking.

Today, unsurprisingly, I woke up to the sorest muscles I have had in many, many years…

On the upside: A sign that I am still far from lost was the last hundred or so meters to my apartment, where I coincidentally shared my route with someone who appeared to be in truly poor shape (but presumably was much less tired): I walked past him with ease, having a considerably higher natural speed even at this stage of exhaustion. When the road turned from flat to steep, for the last section of the journey, I took a break to catch my breath. He caught up and went past me. I crossed to “‘my” side of the road and began the ascent. As I looked back when opening the door, I found that he had managed half the distance, give or take.

Excursion on COVID-countermeasures:
As I have warned for well over two years, the countermeasures do/did more harm than good, including through indirect effects like this one. It is true that my own lack of self-discipline plays in, but I very, very much doubt that my situation of loss of training through loss of continuity is unique. Even if we look just at health, through such and other effects, the countermeasures are bound to have caused a greater loss, including of years-of-life, than COVID, it self, ever could have.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 21, 2022 at 9:52 am

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Thoughts on how to counter the Leftist takeover

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To continue what I wrote yesterday (and have written about repeatedly before that), it is clear that the modern Left and the U.S. Democrat party pose severe threats to a, in some sense, good society—even civilized society. This includes disastrous economic policies, which reduce the overall wealth; and, generally, a wide range of policies, interventions, whatnot that do more harm than good even to the intended beneficiaries (and ignore the effects on everyone else). Putting a stop to such policies without locking the nation at hand into a fix political direction would be extremely hard, and the result might well be exactly the type of society wanting in intellectual diversity that the Left threatens to create (just with another track for the metaphorical one-track-mind).

There is another wide area of problems, however, where intervention is warranted and might well work—the general attitude towards the people, the government, individual rights, etc. This especially when we look at the infiltration* of e.g. the civil service and the educational system with Leftist activists who abuse their positions to further a pernicious and perfidious agenda. The old “Are you now or have you ever been Communist?” is a far too clumsy criterion, but better criteria can be found. The same applies, with some modifications, to elected politicians, political appointees, etc.:** While a politician must be allowed to follow his political agenda, he must do so within the rules. He must not be derelict with his duty seeing that the dereliction would further his agenda. He must not abuse his power to harass political opponents. Etc. Consider as negative examples how some U.S. states and/or the federal government let crime from the Left, by members of the “right” ethnic group, and/or against existing-but-disliked-by-the-Left laws slide—and clamp down on more trivial crimes or even non-crimes from the non-Left, by members of the “wrong” ethnic group, or against laws-that-the-Left-would-like-to-see.

*Not necessarily with the implication of an organized attempt. The acts of individuals can still go quite far as explanations. Cf. Eriksson’s Razors.

**However, for simplicity, I will leave the elected out below.

Specifically, the Left is deliberately trying to do the opposite, to ensure that only other Leftists, and preferably far Leftists and/or Leftist activists, gain entry into many areas, e.g. by requiring a written commitment to “diversity”* or some such. Turn this around! Demand that, at a minimum, civil servants, teachers, and the like declare in writing, and on penalty of a firing, that they support certain basic (usually anti-Leftist) values/rights, including freedom of speech, the right to due process**, the right of the individual to shape his own life, and equality of opportunity (not outcome);*** that they will refrain from abuse of their positions for personal purposes (including furthering of a political agenda, e.g. by mistreatment of Republicans or Trump supporters) and personal gain; and that certain known “evil” systems of thought are rejected. The latter including e.g. the grossly racist and pseudo-scientific absurdity that is CRT.

*Used in a sense that ignores the most valuable types of diversity, relating to e.g. opinion and (real) experience, in favor of e.g. racial diversity, which often seems more geared at driving Whites out than others in, and to further the Leftist skew, as non-Whites, women, LGBTxxxxxxxxx, whatnot tend to be Leftist more often than straight White men. This usually with the prerequisite that e.g. actual suitability for a job, actual accomplishment in the office or in the college, etc. is ignored.

**Both in court and in more informal settings. The common kangaroo “courts” used in some colleges must disappear, for instance.

***I deliberately do not go into details of the values/rights, as (a) I have not put in the leg-work for such details, (b) the exact list might depend on the country and the circumstances (including the position) at hand. The idea remains the same for e.g. a judge, a DMV worker, and an election helper, but the details might turn out to be different.

Now, how to identify exactly what such “evil” systems of thought to include is a tricky question, and I do not want to nail myself down at this time. I note particularly the danger of including too wide areas of opinions, e.g. Socialism,* of including what might on closer inspection prove to be something too harmless to include (or something innocent of the accusations to begin with), and of the same type of virtual bans being abused by the Left to kill “good” systems of thought.**/*** CRT is a clear-cut case, but few others are. The best approach is likely, again, to apply some set of abstract values (in a wide sense) and to see how they do or do not match. Exactly what these values are to be is a question for later, but strong candidates include resistance/acceptance of proof contrary to preformed opinions, presence/absence of hate, extreme aggression, and systematic mistreatment towards/of members of certain groups based solely on group membership, and the level of rhetoric vs. the level of reasoning. (There will, of course, be a considerable eventual overlap with what basic values/rights, cf. above, should be seen as mandatory.) This with the constraint of “narrow tailoring”, in that preference is given to the inclusion of smaller categories, e.g. in that we do not include a larger ideology when including a smaller subset-ideology would suffice, and, maybe, do not include even the smaller subset-ideology when it would suffice to include a specific organization adhering to this subset-ideology.

*Yes, Socialism is a bad idea, with no place in modern society. No, it is not so bad that I could ethically justify a blanket inclusion of any and all variants of Socialism for the current purposes.

**As, indeed, they currently often try.

***To this might be added the risk of missing a new threat; however, avoiding this without extensive analysis of the individual candidate for inclusion borders on the impossible.

Finally, I note that this is a not a (morally) good solution—it is a necessary evil, something that the behavior of the Left over decades, in country after country, but so strongly over the last few years in the U.S., forces me to suggest. The simple truth is that the Left does not play fair, it does not debate fairly, it does not argue fairly, it does not let democratic matters be settled democratically, etc. Instead, it uses evil tricks, lies, defamation, extra-democratic manipulation to achieve goals contrary to what e.g. the will of the people or the constitution actually says, harassment and cancellation, etc.

The Left does not play fair—and the reason that the Left is still so immensely powerful, despite its lack of reason and lack of actual arguments, is that the non-Left mostly does. In a cartoon, the likes of Dirk Dastardly always fail and meet their comeuppance, even when the other characters play by the rules. In real life, as long as no-one dares fight fire with fire, they win. While it is important to tread carefully, lest the firefighter turns himself into another arsonist, the time to fight fire with fire has come—because if it is not done today, it will be too late by tomorrow.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 15, 2022 at 6:21 pm

Fully reopening this blog

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For the time being, I am fully reopening this blog. This for two reasons:

  1. I have had a long period of continual losses of my Internet connection, which has added an ever-increasing number of three-quarters-or-more-done texts to my backlog.* I want to have the ability to publish these at those times when everything works, instead of (as per previous policy) be limited to one** text per week.

    *Note that the problems are not limited to “cannot post”. More important is “cannot check this-and-that while writing”, which causes each text to have TODOs that I do not necessarily have the time and energy to work on once the Internet connection is back again—especially, knowing that the one-text-per-week policy prevents publishing in the immediate future anyway.

    **Not counting the texts on Nazism, which are exempt from this policy.

  2. The deteriorating situation in (mostly) the U.S., with all kinds of anti-democratic, anti-rechtsstaatliche, and possibly illegal or unconstitutional* behaviors from the paradoxically named Democrats. The latest is the anti-Trump raid, which shows the extent of the abuse of the legal system and the absurd persecution of dissenters that has become the norm. I want to keep the option open of writing about these issues without a limitation on posts.

    *There are many candidates. Specifically the J6 pro- and persecutions are virtually certain to fulfill the claim of being unconstitutional—an absolute and utter disgrace.

    Indeed, the situation is so bad, in the sum of anti-Trump/-Republican persecution, the judicial activism and judicial double standards, the abuse of schools for indoctrination into far-Left hate-ideologies, COVID-insanities, etc., that legal prosecution must be called for—but not against Trump, where there is little or no proof or even true indication of illegal activities, but against the likes of Joe Biden and Merrick Garland. There are norms for what political leaders may and may not do in a functioning democracy, in a Rechtsstaat, in a country claiming to follow the Rule of Law, etc. The current Democrat party, its leaders, and many of its supporters, are so far off the reservation that they must no longer be tolerated by civilized society. They are well past the point where the rest of the world can pretend that their behaviors are within the even remotely acceptable, tolerable, and conscionable. Should the current trends continue, even a ban of the party, it self, might be justified, to prevent the transformation of the U.S. into an outright far-Left totalitarian dictatorship on the level of the Soviet Union or Nazi-Germany. And, yes, unlike Trump the current Democrats have quite a few things in common with the Nazis.

How often I will publish, I leave unstated. The main point is to have the option.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 15, 2022 at 2:31 am

Issues with downloading and publishing books / Follow-up: Problems with books in the public domain

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As I noted a few years ago ([1]):

We live in a world where great amounts of text, including by many great past authors, are in the public domain and also actually available on the Internet.

I still find myself constantly frustrated. Part of the benefit is removed by (often entirely unnecessary or arbitrary) artificial restrictions. Sometimes, all of it is removed.

A few additional words, both as a reader and as an author:

  1. When possible, I strongly prefer to read e-books on my computer—not on e.g. a separate e-book reader or on a smartphone. For these purposes, I prefer PDF, as PDF (when done correctly!) preserves the original formatting of a printed book better than other formats and gives a more pleasant reading experience (less strain on the eyes, better readability, whatnot) than other popular formats.*

    *A secondary reason is that Linux is weak in support of other formats, which can lead to suboptimal display, the need to convert between formats, or, in extreme cases, files that are not readable at all. To avoid such issues, I stick to PDF, ePub, HTML, plain text, and, in rare exceptions, DjVu. (With reservations for the correct capitalization, here and elsewhere.)

    However, ever and ever again, I find that I have downloaded a PDF file that has none of the advantages of PDF through some crude conversion, effectively combining the disadvantages of two formats with the advantages of neither.* This typically in that someone has taken a plain-text file and run it through enscript (or some similar tool) to create something that looks like the original text file, fixed-width font included, or that someone has converted a web page into PDF through a print command (or some similar approach)—often with artificial headers indicating the file name, date of printing, or similar on each and every page.

    *All formats have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, plain text has (among others) the advantages of small files and of extreme flexibility, including that it can be viewed in, investigated with, and/or manipulated by tools such as less, grep, and vim. PDF, in contrast, shines with great formatting and the ability to print a hard-copy in a true-to-the-original manner.

    In both cases, I would have been much better off with the original file, keeping the advantages of the respective formats and foregoing the disadvantages of PDF. If, for some perverse reason, I needed a PDF, I could create it myself from the original file—and typically with a better result.

    To boot, despite a wide variety of free (both senses) software being available for local use, the conversion or editing has often been done with some type of online tool—which promptly adds further disadvantages through branding or advertising messages. In an extreme example, I once downloaded a PDF file where each and every page had a large and intrusive sun-like image in both margins. This rendered the file so unreadable, through the sheer annoyance, that I actually converted the PDF into plain text…

  2. Many books in both PDF and ePub follow “bad practices” that are intended for a strict optimization for standalone e-readers, especially those sold by Amazon—and that, frankly, often are dubious even there. This includes artificial removal of margins, leaving the text immediately adjacent to the “physical” page borders (does not just look ugly, but hurts the eyes); artificial changes to interline distances, font size, or similar (ditto);* artificial removal of page numbers (due to front/back matter and similar, the indicator in the reader is not always enough); artificial removal of an original table of contents in favor of an automatically generated one (especially for non-fiction, the authors or editors have typically put in a lot of thought in the TOCs, which is now wasted—to the detriment of the readers); artificial removal of page numbers/references in TOCs (I often visit the TOC for purposes like finding out how long the current or the following chapter is, which is easy with page numbers, but not without them).

    *The exact manipulations vary, because different manipulators appear to have different goals. Notably, some appear to want to cram as much text as physically possible onto a single page, while some appear to want very large letters. In both cases, this likely reflects their personal habits, eye strength, whatnot on a standalone e-reader (maybe even the single, specific one that the individual manipulator uses)—and this is now forced onto the rest of the world, even on those who use computers.

    Note that, in doubt, content/formatting left in can always be removed later; content/formatting removed is usually gone for good. This is not the difference between, say, drinkers of red and white wine in a restaurant—it is the difference between drinkers of red wine and those who smash all the red-wine bottles to make room for more white wine.

  3. Many books in both PDF and ePub have been shorn of images—without any warning to the prospective downloader. Now, sometimes the removal of images as an option is justifiable through the resulting size reduction; however, especially for non-fiction, the result can be highly detrimental and the choice should be left to the reader/downloader.
  4. Some sites, notably Amazon, outright recommend or even demand “bad practices” like those mentioned above, with no consideration for other reading habits than standalone e-readers—not even with different versions for different formats, e.g. PDF for computers and ePub for standalone e-readers.
  5. Format requirements for sale/upload are often too restrictive. For instance, a reason why my own first books are yet unpublished is that I went through the effort of giving them a nice formatting in LaTeX (from which PDF was generated), even doing some reading on topics like typography and book design in the process—only to find that sites likes Amazon screech like harpies when someone tries to deliver quality. At the time of my research,* Amazon did not even allow the upload of PDF, and instead presumed to take some other uploaded format** and convert that into PDF, should a customer wish to buy in PDF. Not only does the author lose in creative control, but he also has to take the potential hit from a poor conversion…

    *I have honestly lost track, but it was likely more than a year ago. I make no guarantees for the current situation (August 2022).

    **Likely, AZW; maybe, ePub or some other format, too.

    Worse, to my recollection, Amazon even presumes to include data like information about the author automatically and based on data stored with Amazon, reducing the author’s control further.

    Of course, all this fiddling, and the great risk that different sites use different rules, implies that the author will either be stuck on a single platform or be forced to adapt his book repeatedly for different platforms. (And woe to those who use a meta-platform, which distributes the same book, in the same version, to several different sales platforms.)

  6. Of course, some sites have lost all contact with reality and demand, as sole upload, a Word-document… In other words, either the author has to write his books in Word to begin with, or he has to spend a horrendous amount of time (almost necessarily) manually converting from a more sensible format to Word.

    I am* a professional author. Products like Word should not be an option for a professional author.** I have more respect for someone who uses a pen, pencil, or typewriter, than for a Word user—pens and the like have a different set of advantages and disadvantages (a recurring theme) than LaTeX. Word is just bullshit.

    *Or was. Considering how little I have written since last summer, between construction noise, frustration with COVID countermeasures, demotivation from restrictive publishing options, and whatnot, my status might be under dispute.

    **That so many still limit themselves is scary. It is as if a professional carpenter would go to work using a kid’s toolbox. A central part of being a professional is to find and learn how to use a sufficiently powerful set of tools for the profession at hand. Those who do not, even should they earn a living in the field, scarcely deserve the title “professional”.

Excursion on how to do uploads better:
If Amazon was serious about both quality and genericness, it could and should provide a simple LaTeX template and/or LaTeX package (or some equivalent technology) with which the author could set up his book with a known-in-advance set of abilities and limitations. Afterwards, Amazon could simply generate the right formats from the corresponding LaTeX document.

Barring that, the best option would be to allow the authors to upload the formats that they want to support in the form that they want to support them, while the customers may either choose between the formats as uploaded or accept an automatic conversion with the explicit warning that the result might be poor.

Excursion on who-does-what:
A particular annoyance is that authors, both in modern “conventional” publishing* and in self-publishing are increasingly forced to do tasks that are unnatural matches with their likely skill profiles and interests, notably marketing, while those tasks that are more creative, short of the actual writing, are removed, including matters of book design and typography. If (!) the argument was that “authors know writing; we, the publishers, know typography, design, and marketing”, this might be acceptable.** In reality, the argument is “we, the publishers, make the creative decisions; you, the authors, do the boring leg-work”.

*One of several reasons why I ended up not even attempting the conventional route. (Other reasons include an apparently increasing shift in who earns what portion of the money, similar to the record industry, the need to be more “commercial” than I am, and the strong PC angle of the industry.)

**And, in my impression, this is how it used to be.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 6, 2022 at 1:57 pm

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Nazis XVI: Misrepresentations of Nazis

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Preamble: Once upon a time, I set out to write a single, if somewhat longer, text on why the Nazis should correctly be viewed as Leftists. Somehow, this turned into a never ending and ever expanding task, until I (a) was too tired of the topic to continue in force, (b) lost the overview of what I had already written, forgot what more I had intended to write, and otherwise lost track. With hindsight, I might have been better off writing a book on the topic, including through how this would have simplified content control and required more structure from early on. As is, the future of this text series is uncertain, but I do have a few drafts for additional texts lying around, many of them from the early period, which I will review and either reject or patch up into something publishable—but likely incomplete or of lower quality compared to the original intent. (I have already spent too much time on the topic.) The below is the first of these texts.

There are some more specific-than-is-far-Right issues* where the Nazis are regularly misrepresented, often with an eye at discrediting others through guilt by association.

*I will not attempt a complete list, as this would involve additional and likely considerable leg-work.

Consider e.g. the claim that the Nazis were anti-abortion (as are the U.S. Republicans; ergo, …):

It is true that the Nazis strongly opposed abortion of healthy “Aryan” babies, but they did not do this due to convictions about abortion—they did so in order to ensure a growing population of these healthy “Aryans”.

On the contrary, they were very much in favor of abortion when it came to e.g. Jews—in order to keep the unwanted portions of the population down.

Abortion, per se, was neither wrong nor right to the Nazis—it was a tool to be used or not used as suited the Nazi goals.

In stark contrast, a typical position among U.S. “pro-lifers”, even when Republican, is that abortion, in and by it self, is wrong, regardless of whether the baby is White or Black. Indeed, in the wake of “Dobbs”, I saw repeated mentions of how restrictions on abortion could increase the Black population share, as Blacks are more likely to have abortions than Whites, which puts the very allegedly anti-Black Republicans on the side of Black lives and the equally allegedly pro-Black Democrats in opposition to Black lives. Moreover, many Democrats argue strongly in favor of abortion in order to combat e.g. Down’s syndrome. Who, then, is truly closer to the Nazi position?

In other cases, the reason might be more to build a fictitious distance between the Nazis and the (usually) Leftist speaker, as with e.g. an alleged pro-Capitalist or anti-union angle to Nazi politics. This from very early own, if originally to discredit the Nazis (!) through guilt by association, as with the “Agent Theory”.* However, Capitalism and Capitalists, just like abortion, were just tools to the Nazis—tolerated as long as they cooperated with the Cause and with no care for what individual business owners might be crushed by the turning wheels of the Nazi state. As to free markets, the Nazis did their best to obliterate them by e.g. increasingly centralizing and merging various businesses**, setting production targets and prices, and similar.

*A remark in the draft refers to a deeper discussion of Nazis vs. Capitalism for more detail. This discussion has not yet taken place (it might or might not follow later), but some discussion of the anti-Capitalist take of the Nazis’ 25-point plan is present in the entries dealing with said plan. The “Agent Theory” amounts to the idea that the Nazis were shills for Big Business, pretending to be Leftist to fool the working class.

**Incidentally, a recurring issue with Leftism, including e.g. the Soviet Union and China, but also e.g. Sweden (cf. excursion).

Unions, on the other hand, were a potential obstacle to the Cause and the Gleichschaltung and a potential competitor for the support of the people—as the Polish Communists were later to learn at the hands of Solidarity and Lech Walesa. To the degree that Nazis were antagonistic to the unions, it was not a matter of e.g. profit-seeking industrialists vs. struggling minimum-wage laborers—it was a matter of political power, control of the people, and meeting state-set production targets. The concerns of the unions were subjugated to the overall political goals—just like the concerns of the Capitalists—and like with businesses there was a massive consolidation, leaving only one (?), Nazi controlled, union. Besides, who needs unions when you have a Führer to ensure that wages and working conditions are fair? Contrast this with, e.g., Thatcher’s and Reagan’s anti-union positions, which stemmed from issues like union excesses and destructive behavior, distortions of the free markets, and whatnot—the unions as a problem for a free society, not as an obstacle to a totalitarian one.*

*And, yes, there were often objective problems, up to and including massive criminal involvement in some U.S. unions. Or consider “you may not change a light-bulb if you belong to the wrong union” regulations. Or consider physical attacks on non-strikers. Or consider the horrifyingly Luddite British printers’ unions.

Oh, and unions in e.g. the USSR? Transformed into indoctrination vehicles in the service of the Communist party… (Again, a much stronger Nazi–Communist parallel than e.g. any Hitler–Thatcher parallel.)

Excursion on Sweden and centralisation:
Under Social-Democrat rule, Sweden was unusually set on creating or favoring very large businesses. This included a strong drive towards state-owned businesses, artificial monopolies, and selective state support. A particularly perfidious approach was the “solidarisk lönepolitik” (“solidary wage-politics”), which included a state and union driven attempt to keep the wage level constant over different businesses by holding wages back relative their natural level* in more profitable businesses**, while letting them rise above their natural level* in unprofitable businesses. This with the deliberate (!) goal that the latter would go bankrupt faster, after which the former would be able to suck up the newly unemployed.

*I.e. the level that would have resulted from fair negotiations and market forces. Note that problems with this include not just the premature or maybe even avoidable bankruptcies mentioned in the main text, but also issues like misallocation of workers and a lesser differentiation between competent, conscientious, or otherwise high-value workers and their opposites, as a business that merely reduces its scope will try to keep the quality employees, while a business that disappears will indiscriminately put all its employees on the street. (An issue additionally worsened by various other rules, like a mandated “last in; first out” approach to partial lay-offs.)

**Which tend to already be among the largest or the fastest growing. If in doubt, after sufficiently many bankruptcies among the competitors, the survivors were likely to have grown large by expanding in the resulting vacuum.

I am unclear on the exact underlying motives for this push towards very large companies in so many Leftist countries, but I do suspect that it is partially one of facility: Firstly, to influence or outright control a single, or just a few, businesses in any give field is easier than doing so with many businesses. Secondly, once that glorious day for outright nationalization finally is here, it will be so much easier with fewer businesses. Another suspicion of mine is that fewer businesses mean fewer owners and entrepreneurs and more employees, which might make for a population demographic more likely to favor Leftist policies.

(The above is not be confused with the long-term international trend towards bigger business, e.g. through mergers, economies of scale, and growing markets in the wake of globalization.)

Written by michaeleriksson

August 5, 2022 at 1:48 am

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