A Civil Rights Victory in Canada

The end of Canada’s long gun registry:

Despite spending a whopping $2.7 billion on creating and running a long-gun registry, Canadians never reaped any benefits from the project. The legislation to end the program finally passed the Parliament on Wednesday. Even though the country started registering long guns in 1998, the registry never solved a single murder. Instead it has been an enormous waste of police officers’ time, diverting their efforts from patrolling Canadian streets and doing traditional policing activities.

Keeping and bearing arms is a civil right in a civilized society. Here in the US, our Constiturion recognizes that right in the 2nd Amendment. Cia Death of a Long-Gun Registry – John R. Lott Jr. & Gary Mauser – National Review Online.

Science and Pseudoscience: “Newton Was An Alchemist”

We can all be both [scientist and pseudoscientist]. Newton was an alchemist.

{I]ndeed, the more you know, the more you fall for confirmation bias. Expertise gives you the tools to seek out the confirmations you need to buttress your beliefs.

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts”, said Richard Feynman. Never rely on the consensus of experts about the future. Experts are worth listening to about the past, but not the future. Futurology is pseudoscience.

A theory so flexible it can rationalize any outcome is a pseudoscientific theory.

[S]cience as an institution is and always has been plagued by the temptations of confirmation bias. With alarming ease it morphs into pseudoscience even – perhaps especially – in the hands of elite experts and especially when predicting the future and when there’s lavish funding at stake. It needs heretics.

Via Matt Ridley: Scientific Heresy.

Trials and Errors: Why Science Is Failing Us

This assumption—that understanding a system’s constituent parts means we also understand the causes within the system—is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry or even to biology. It defines modern science.

The problem with this assumption, however, is that causes are a strange kind of knowledge. This was first pointed out by David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher. Hume realized that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts—tangible things that can be discovered—they’re actually not at all factual. Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a “lively conception produced by habit.” When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity. Hume’s skeptical insight was that we don’t see gravity—we see only an object tugged toward the earth. We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between. We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact—it’s a fiction that helps us make sense of facts.

The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental shortcuts. Most of the time, these shortcuts work well enough. They allow us to hit fastballs, discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies. However, when it comes to reasoning about complex systems—say, the human body—these shortcuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.

While correlations help us track the relationship between independent measurements, such as the link between smoking and cancer, they are much less effective at making sense of systems in which the variables cannot be isolated. Such situations require that we understand every interaction before we can reliably understand any of them.

The trouble with science is that people are the ones doing it. Any time anyone tells you “it’s science!” you need to replace that, mentally, with “it’s *scientists*” — especially when political policy is involved. Via Trials and Errors: Why Science Is Failing Us | Wired Magazine | Wired.com.

Return-on-Investment of Lobbying Greater Than Entrepreneurship

Wall Street can do math, and the math looks like this: Wall Street + Washington = Wild Profitability. Free enterprise? Entrepreneurship? Starting a business making and selling stuff behind some grimy little storefront? You’d have to be a fool. Better to invest in political favors.

Wall Street wants an administration and a Congress — and a country — that believes what is good for Wall Street is good for America, whether that is true or isn’t. Wall Street doesn’t want free markets — it wants friends, favors, and fealty.

If you don’t think that the government can just arbitrarily rewrite the bankruptcy rules to suit its political preferences, revisit the General Motors bailout, when it did just that, shortchanging bondholders in favor of the union goons who act as Democratic footsoldiers and dues-collectors.

There’s a work for this; it’s called “rent-seeking.” Also, replace “Wall Street” with “Hollywood” (or big media companies) and you have the same thing. Via Repo Men – National Review Online.

Taxes and Human Weakness

When someone drops out of high school, overeats, or fails to exercise, you tell us that their behavior is only "human."  But if a conservative or libertarian objects to paying taxes to help people who make these choices, you get angry.  Question: Why are you so forgiving of people with irresponsible lifestyles, but so outraged by people who don’t want to pay taxes to help people with irresponsible lifestyles?  This seems morally perverse.

via Krugman, Human Weakness, and Desert, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

Do You Carry? Try “Starbucks Appreciation Day”

I am going to declare February 14th Starbucks Appreciation Day, by encouraging gun owners to head to Starbucks to buy some of their fine coffee and pastry products.

Apparently some anti-gun nuts are boycotting Starbucks today because the company does not post “no guns allowed” signs on their stores. If you carry, go to Starbucks today and tell them you appreciate their pro civil rights stance. (Yes, being able to keep and bear arms is a civil rights issue.) I’m going.

via Starbucks Appreciation Day | Shall Not Be Questioned.