Keeping up with the FITs, 5/28
Yascha Mounk and Adolph Reed, Jr.; Matt Yglesias on consequentialism; Richard Hanania's resentments; Cactus and Rob Henderson;
In a podcast with Yascha Mounk, Adolph Reed, Jr. says,
If you read back to the late 50s and early 60s—and even the work of people who are sort of my side politically, like Michael Harrington—there's a powerful inclination to provide cultural realist accounts of why people are poor. And insofar as cultural life is understood to lie outside political economy, then you've got another version of an essentialist argument. By the late 60s, with black power and the emergence of the Chicano and the Puerto Rican movements for social justice—as those migrate into discourses that are based on culture and nationality even with the more or less romantic connections to third world, anticolonial insurgencies—they did the same kind of work. By the 80s, or certainly by the end of the Clinton administration, class and political economy have disappeared from American political discourse (or at least policy-oriented discourse) almost entirely. And culture is all that's available for us to understand existing inequalities.
. . .the model there is that the society could be one in which 1% of the population controls 95% of the resources, and it would be just, so long as 12% of the 1% were black and 14% were Hispanic, or half women, and so on.
I don’t know whether all or most of the current EA conventional wisdom will stand the test of time, but I think the ethic of trying to make sure your actions have the desired consequences rather than being merely expressive is incredibly important.
EA refers to Effective Altruism. He praises Sam Bankman-Fried, who made megabillions in the crypto market in order to give it away.
While I give credit to EA for at least trying to go beyond mere virtuous intentions and to think in terms of consequences, it is still only an intention to think about consequences. If you really care about consequences, stick to the market, which enforces consequentialism. Use the heuristic that if your firm makes profits, it made people better off. If it doesn’t, it didn’t.
Now in a complex world there are bound to be exceptions in which this heuristic fails. I think that there is a high probability that it fails in the case of crypto profits. My personal opinion is that the crypto ecosystem is a negative-sum game, like poker in a casino, or like a chain letter. So I find it plausible that SBF’s megabillions are much greater than any social value he created winning them.
It has always frustrated me that the real scholars don’t seem to have much dislike or animus towards the “studies” types. I imagine that if shamans were given medical degrees and allowed to work in hospitals, real doctors would see that as an insult to their profession.
As always when I provide links on these Fantasy Intellectual Teams posts, you should click on the link and read the entire piece. One more excerpt:
It’s possible not to understand that markets are better than central planning because you are lazy or dumb. Lazy and dumb, I can live with. But that’s not why people believe in gender blank slatism. Rather, they are missing some instinct that allows them to use common sense to see through ideas that are fashionable and high status, but clearly false.
Podcast with Cactus and Rob Henderson. This is typical of discussions among politically incorrect polymaths. Picks up a lot about one hour in, but if you have time you might want to listen to the whole thing (sped up 25 percent).
In lodging an EA criticism of Woke shibboleths, it is not enough to point out that misgendering is less bad than war crimes, child abuse, starvation, etc. The Woke could reply that virtually everyone already knows that these things are very seriously bad, so public opinion need not be swayed about them; that what opinion-leaders should do is, rather, to stimulate opposition to things that are often *wrongly downplayed*, like misgendering. So, the critic of wokeness needs a stronger premise: that misgendering is not bad at all (or only very, very slightly bad). From this, it does, indeed, follow that the Woke are misplacing their efforts.
"Rather, they are missing some instinct that allows them to use common sense to see through ideas that are fashionable and high status, but clearly false."
It's the other way around. Conforming to elite fashion is the common instinct. It's the people of that class who can't get with the program who are abnormal.