"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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Saturday, March 26, 2005
  Free Software List
David Veksler has amassed an indispensable, categorized list of free software for Windows. If you're like me, the best kind of software is the free kind, especially when it is as good as the kind you have to pay for.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 5:43 PM
Friday, March 25, 2005
  More Thoughts on Terri Schiavo
Having dominated the television news and the majority of blogs this week, the Terri Schiavo case seems poised to reach its zenith as she grows ever closer to death. There have been a number of great posts on this topic from various bloggers; here are a few that I found original and insightful:Having thought about the issue further, I think there are some positive things to be gleaned from the whole fiasco. The overall positive development is that the "trial balloon" of the religious right appears to be heading in the direction of the Hindenberg. Despite great claims of dispute, polls have consistently shown that the American people have not abandoned the sense of life that makes this country so wonderful. When faced with an open grab for power and a naked appeal to a "life" of misery, they rejected it, in favor of freedom and happiness.

In the first place, every poll I have seen shows enormous disapproval for the federal intervention into the Terri Schiavo case - and even so-called "evangelicals" are roughly split over this issue. In spite of the religious right's attempted coup of America (by "cashing in" on the election), most Americans don't want to live in a theocracy, at least not yet, and certainly not to this extent. We still have time - it isn't too late, there is, in the words of the oft-used cliche, some good left in the country after all. Being as pessimistic as I sometimes am about the state of the world, I personally found this especially heartening.

The other positive, which I rank on nearly the same level, is the majority's rejection of the persistent vegetative state as a tolerable condition. In spite of the religious right's attempt to equate her condition with "life" (in the human sense), many Americans have openly declared that they don't want to be in this debilitated state. They can see perceptually that her condition is anti-value and anti-life, even if they aren't capable of naming the issue intellectually.

What this will bring in the end remains to be seen. What I do see is that we still have a chance to save this country, small though it may be. I won't let it go.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:32 AM
  Honorable Mention
I know this is somewhat late, but I think in light of everything that has transpired, the distinction of being the sole senator to courageously oppose the "emergency" legislation in the Terri Schiavo case, on principled grounds, deserves an honorable mention:
The lone Senate objection, in fact, came from a southern Republican — who quietly inserted his statement into the Congressional Record hours after the measure passed.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people,'" Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said, quoting the 10th Amendment. "This is a principle of federalism which, I believe, is not being followed by Congress in enacting this legislation.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:04 AM
Thursday, March 24, 2005
  Critique of Interventionism
Ludwig von Mises's book A Critique of Interventionism is now available online or for download as a PDF file, from the Mises Institute.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 7:07 PM
  Cox and Forkum - Here's Looking at You
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 6:54 PM
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
  Administrative Notes
I've rewritten my blog's template, from 2-columns to 3-columns. Everything isn't yet flowing 100%; I'm still fixing some of the bugs (an unfortunate consequence of using Cascading Style Sheets [CSS] for style and appearance). Hopefully I will have it all working smoothly by tomorrow morning at the latest.

UPDATE: 3/24/05 1:39 am - Well, I finished tweaking with my blog. Everything appears to be working quite smoothly, with the following exception: due to the inconsistent implementation of the CSS standard by the three major browsers (IE, Netscape/Firefox, and Opera), this blog only appears exactly right in Internet Explorer (preferably version 6.0+).

I had to choose between the three, and since something like 85% or more of my traffic comes via Internet Explorer, I have chosen to cater to the majority. Sorry to all you "rebels" out there; I sympathize, as Firefox is my favorite web browser.

Please let me know if any IE users experience any kind of problems; everything should look and flow quite "fluidly", so if it doesn't I'd like to know, so I can correct the problem. I may make a few more "minor" adjustments, like adding a script to detect what browser the user has, and then trying to taylor the CSS dynamically to fit each individual. We'll see. Hope everyone likes the new look, I know I'm pleased with it.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 9:51 AM
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
  What, You Mean I Actually Have To Work Now?
France's imbecilic 35-hour mandatory work week appears ready to join Lenin in the dust bin of history:
With unemployment at 10 percent, politicians of all stripes acknowledge that the country's unique 35-hour law has failed in its original ambition: to force employers to hire massively. What's more, there are strong signs that it hurt living standards as employers froze salaries to make up for lost labor.

"The intention was to spread work around, but the effect was to spread our salaries around," Thierry Breton, France's new finance minister, said last week.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:14 AM
  A Good Summary
Robert Tracinski gives an incomparable summary of the meaning of Congress's legal maneuvers in the Terri Schiavo case:
In its crazed campaign to keep a brain-dead woman alive against the will of her husband, Congress has now passed a law violating the separation of power between the legislative and judiciary and between federal and state governments by arbitrarily altering the jurisdiction of the Terry Schiavo case—and doing so ad hoc, not as part of any general rule affecting all such cases universally.

If leftists did this sort of thing, conservatives would scream (correctly) that this is a step toward dictatorship. Yet the most committed religious conservatives will not hesitate for a moment to wipe out the entire mechanics of a free society in their lust to use government power to impose religious restriction on the individual. Even worse: not a single Senate Democrat was willing to stand up and stop them.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 12:29 AM
Monday, March 21, 2005
  This might seem a little silly...
but I am quite proud of the following test results:
Billy Idol
You scored 100 lyricpoints!
Billy Idol bows down before you and your God-like knowledge of '80s music. We're not worthy.



My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 99% on lyricpoints
Link: The Kickass '80s Lyrics Test written by alohafromhell on Ok Cupid


I have been a huge 80's fan for years...
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 8:52 PM
  Answers to Menger's Principles of Economics (Ch. 1)

Chapter 1: The General Theory of the Good

Sec. 1 The General Theory of the Good


  1. Why does Menger make the distinction between "useful things" and "goods"? What is an example of something that is a "useful thing" but not a "good"? (pg. 52)

  2. Menger defines "useful things" as "Things that can be placed in a causal connection with the satisfaction
    of human needs." So for Menger a "useful thing" is literally any thing which has some demonstrably beneficial effect upon human life - air, sunlight, water, food, clothing, etc. But a "good" is much more specialized type of "useful thing"; according to Menger, a good differs from a "useful thing" in that "we both recognize this causal connection, and have the power actually to direct the useful things to the satisfaction of our needs".

    So for Menger, classifying something as a "useful thing" is really a metaphysical statement - it applies to things whose nature benefits human life. For a "useful thing" to become a "good", we not only have to be aware of its beneficial properties, we must also be able to control the thing in question, and thereby use it to satisfy our needs.

    An example of something which would be a "useful thing" but not a "good" would be the weather. Depending on one's plans (and hence needs), whether it rains, snows or is overcast can have varying effects upon those needs. For a farmer, too much rain or snow can destroy his crops. But just the right amount of rain and sunshine (depending upon his specific crop) leads to success and the satisfaction of his needs. Since science has not yet progressed to the level of controlling the weather, this qualifies as a "useful thing", but not a "good" since it violates Menger's 2nd attribute of a "good" - "the power to direct the useful things to the satisfaction of our needs".

  3. What four prerequisites does Menger list for a thing to "acquire goods-character"? (pg. 52)

  4. 1. A human need.
    2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
    3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
    4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction of the need.

  5. If you had an automobile, but no gasoline, would that the automobile still be a good, according to Menger? Why not?

  6. No it would not, because it would violate prerequisite 2 (and to some extent prerequisite 4); without gasoline, one is incapable of using the car to satisfy any of one's needs, since it is incapable of running without gasoline.

  7. What makes something an imaginary good? List some examples of imaginary goods. (pg. 53)

  8. Menger gives two causes of the phenomenon of "imaginary goods": "(1) when attributes, and therefore capacities, are erroneously ascribed to things that do not really possess them, or (2) when non-existent human needs are mistakenly assumed to exist." In today's world there are a vast number of imaginary goods - charms, "alternative" medicinal treatments, all religious paraphernalia.

Sec. 2 The Causal Connections Between Goods

  1. What distinguishes a "good of the first order" from a "good of the second order"? Give some examples of both, and of higher "order" goods.

  2. A "good of the first order" is a good which *directly* satisfies a human need - simple examples include food, water, shelter, medicine. "Goods of the second order" are those goods which are used in the *production* of goods of the first order - an oven, fire, a water purifier. Goods of each subsequent order are used in producing still lower level goods - so 4th produces 3rd, 3rd produces 2nd, and 2nd produces 1st; each subsequent "order" acquires its "goods-character" from its relationship with goods of the first order, and thus from its ability *ultimately*
    to satisfy human needs. Examples of "higher order" goods would include factories, research facilities, universities, computer programs, nuclear power plants, etc.

  3. Are some goods inherently "higher" order than others? Why or why not? Can some goods function at multiple levels in the "causal nexus" of goods? Give an example.

  4. No, because the "order" a good has is based upon its ability to satisfy human needs, and this is not inherently fixed but dependent on the nature of the productive process. For example, in one context water is a good of the first order - without drinking it we wouldn't last more than a few days. But in another context, water is a "higher-order" good - for instance, in a hydroelectric power plant, water plays an essential role in generating electricity. The production of electricity does not *directly* satisfy a human need; it does so indirectly, by powering devices which themselves have varying degrees of closeness to our specific needs. So many goods can and do function at multiple levels in the "causal nexus" of goods.

Sec. 3 The Laws Governing Goods-Character

Part A

  1. Menger writes, "it is never in our power to make use of any particular good of higher order for the satisfaction of our needs unless we also have command of the other (complementary) goods of higher order." Why not? (pg. 59)

  2. Higher level goods generally require multiple "ingredients" or complementary goods which when processed will yield goods of successive orders, which eventually will yield goods of the first order which directly satisfy our needs. If a complementary good in a process of production is missing, it destroys the ability to utilize the other complementary goods (assuming of course that there is no alternate use they could be separately put to). A dramatic example would be the loss of electricity in an automobile assembly plant. Without electricity to power the machines which make assembly possible, one is left with a great deal of parts, but no way to make use of them.

  3. If one possesses some higher order goods for the production of an automobile, but not all, do the higher order goods necessarily lose their goods-character? If not, why?

  4. No they would not *necessarily* lose their goods-character, provided they could *suffice* to produce another good instead. But if there were no alternative use for these higher-order goods, then they would become useless.

  5. Menger writes, "The question of the dependence of the goods-character of goods of higher order than the second upon the availability of complementary
    goods is more complex." This would imply that possession of a good of the fifth order, and its complementary goods of the fifth order needed to produce a good of the fourth order, would not by itself establish their goods-character. Why is this so? (pg. 60)

  6. Because in order to have "goods-character", each subsequent level in the order of goods down to the direct satisfaction of our needs must also be accounted for. If the chain is cut anywhere prior to the first order goods which do satisfy our needs, by that fact alone the entire process is incapable of supplying our needs, assuming again that there is no alternative uses for the higher-order goods in question.

Part B

  1. If a human need disappears, a good of the first order which could only satisfy that need would lose its goods-character; is such a loss necessarily applicable to goods of second, third and nth order? Why or why not?

  2. Again, not *necessarily* applicable; this relates precisely to the indefinite nature of many higher-order goods. Most are capable of *multiple* applications to satisfying human needs, and hence do not lose their goods-character simply because *one* such use disappears.

Sec. 4 Time and Error

  1. What three factors does Menger stress in relation to uncertainty (and the possibility of error) in production?

    1. The ineradicable span of time which accompanies the transformation of higher-order goods into first order goods. This span of time means that the user of higher-order goods must attempt to judge the needs not for *present* first-order goods, but for *future* consumption of first order goods - and this is not a given.

    2. The indefiniteness of higher order goods - the fact that higher-order goods do not always produce an absolute or fixed number of other goods. As Menger himself notes, there is always the possibility of yielding less than expected from production, or even nothing at all.

    3. Non-goods - those elements which affect the production of lower-order goods from higher, which are either unknown to man or out of his control, and which can thus harm or help his production. An instance of this, as was mentioned earlier, is the weather.


Sec. 5 The Causes of Progress In Human Welfare

  1. Why does Menger contrast the division of labor in a primitive collecting economy with the division of labor in a more advanced economy? If both economies are arranged around the division of labor, what explains the superior productive powers of the advanced economy?

  2. He contrasts the two because he finds deficiency in Adam Smith's praise of the division of labor *by itself* as the most important factor in the "improvement in the productive powers of labour." As Menger points out, the true benefits from the division of labor are only realized when goods of ever higher orders are employed in production. And this itself is a direct result of the increase of knowledge, and the subsequent control over nature that such knowledge provides. So the superiority of the advanced economy over the primitive one is a result of the continually increasing knowledge of and control over nature that characterize more advanced societies.

Sec. 6 Property

  1. What does Menger mean when he states that, "all the goods an economizing
    individual has at his command are mutually interdependent
    with respect to their goods-character..."? (pg. 75)

  2. I take this to mean that Menger essentially understand that a human being is an integrated entity - he has multiple needs, no one of which alone sustains his life. Life has multiple requirements; as just three simple examples, every man must have food, water and air to breathe. Lacking any *one* of these things would prove fatal, albeit after different lengths of time. So having a healthy stock of food and water couldn't *really* be a "good" for you, without any air to breathe - they would be superfluous qua goods.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 9:13 AM
Sunday, March 20, 2005
  Terri Schiavo
There's quite a bit of incorrect information floating about on the web and on television regarding the facts of this case, and about Terri Schiavo's medical condition. The following blog, which I found online, does a good job of presenting the facts in an objective way: Abstract Appeal.

My own take, based upon everything I've seen and read, is that Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:25 PM
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