Sunday, August 20, 2017

God is stooping down to pick the wings off his butterflies

Years ago, in The Spectator, Jeffrey Bernard wrote a weekly column, Low Life, described by Jonathan Meades as a "suicide note in weekly installments." Bernard was a wonderful writer of minutiae and had lived the intimate social life of London through the sixties and seventies - knowing everyone of cultural consequence. His emotional and financial life was precarious owing to alcoholism and there were frequent weeks in which his column was missing, noted with an editorial "Jeffrey Bernard is unwell."

Cleaning out some papers, I come across a printed page starting with the tail end of a column from The Spectator, 14 January, 1995. Towards the end of his life, diabetes (he lost a leg to it) and other complications constricted Bernard's horizons. But his mordant commentary continued. While the headline and opening paragraphs are missing, the style is so quintessentially Bernard, I recognized it immediately despite his passing 20 years ago.
. . . laugh and I remember Peter (Cook) being extremely reluctant to buy a round of drinks but they worked so well together and when Dudley Moore opted for Hollywood Peter lost his sounding board. And now, what with John Osborne gone as well, it is as though God is stooping down to pick the wings off his butterflies. Death is not far away in the future, it is as close as your hands are over your eyes. All of which goes to remind me that this is my 16th week without a drink and if anyone calls it living then the phrase 'a matter of life and death' hasn't much meaning. But whatever I feel, sitting here for such long periods as to make my arse and stump ache, I watch forms of life continue.

Parental wealth is not a determinant of children's life outcomes

Hmm. From Shocking Behavior: Random Wealth in Antebellum Georgia and Human Capital Across Generations by Hoyt Bleakley and Joseph Ferrie. Further evidence in the flood of evidence of the overwhelming influence of genes (and possibly culture) in life outcomes. This evidence is from an interesting natural experiment. From the abstract.
Does the lack of wealth constrain parents’ investments in the human capital of their descendants? We conduct a nearly 50-year follow-up of an episode in which such constraints would have been plausibly relaxed by a random allocation of substantial wealth to families. We track descendants of participants in Georgia’s Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, in which nearly every adult white male in the state took part. Winners received close to the median level of wealth—a large financial windfall orthogonal to participants’ underlying characteristics that might have also affected their children’s human capital. Although winners had slightly more children than did nonwinners, they did not send them to school more. Sons of winners have no better adult outcomes (wealth, income, literacy) than the sons of nonwinners, and winners’ grandchildren do not have higher literacy or school attendance than nonwinners’ grandchildren. We can reject effects implied by the cross-sectional gradient of child outcomes by paternal wealth. This suggests only a limited role for family financial resources in the formation of human capital in the next generations in this environment and a potentially more important role for other factors that persist through family lines.
Gregory Clark is smiling.

There's something happening here

A passage from The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, published in 1930. Doctor is speaking to the Vicar.
“We think with horror now of the days when we burnt witches. I believe the day will come when we will shudder to think that we ever hanged criminals.” [Doctor]

“You don’t believe in capital punishment?” [Vicar]

“It’s not so much that.” He paused. “You know,” he said slowly, “I’d rather have my job than yours.”

“Why?”

“Because your job deals very largely with what we call right and wrong—and I’m not at all sure that there’s any such thing. Suppose it’s all a question of glandular secretion. Too much of one gland, too little of another—and you get your murderer, your thief, your habitual criminal. Clement, I believe the time will come when we’ll be horrified to think of the long centuries in which we’ve punished people for disease—which they can’t help, poor devils. You don’t hang a man for having tuberculosis.”

“He isn’t dangerous to the community.”

“In a sense he is. He infects other people. Or take a man who fancies he’s the Emperor of China. You don’t say how wicked of him. I take your point about the community. The community must be protected. Shut up these people where they can’t do any harm—even put them peacefully out of the way—yes, I’d go as far as that. But don’t call it punishment. Don’t bring shame on them and their innocent families.”

I looked at him curiously. “I’ve never heard you speak like this before.”

“I don’t usually air my theories abroad. Today I’m riding my hobby. You’re an intelligent man, Clement, which is more than some parsons are. You won’t admit, I dare say, that there’s no such thing as what is technically termed, ‘Sin,’ but you’re broadminded enough to consider the possibility of such a thing.”

“It strikes at the root of all accepted ideas,” I said.

“Yes, we’re a narrow-minded, self-righteous lot, only too keen to judge matters we know nothing about. I honestly believe crime is a case for the doctor, not the policeman and not the parson. In the future, perhaps, there won’t be any such thing.”

“You’ll have cured it?”

“We’ll have cured it. Rather a wonderful thought…”
That is a clear example of a determinist.

There's an old joke in science circles "There are 10 types of people, those who understand binary and those who don't." We do have an inclination towards binary manichaeism. One of the traditional bifurcations has been between two classes of thinkers - those who view the world deterministically and those who view it tragically.

Painting in broad strokes, determinists believe that every phenomenon has a root cause that is knowable. Plato and Marx are thinkers in the determinist school. There is no such thing as free will for determinists. Everything that happens, happens for a specific, determinable reason. Religion is simply mumbo-jumbo for weak minds.

The tragedians see the world differently. Some things are not knowable. There is free will. People do make choices. Some things happen for unknown reasons. Religion has a more acceptable role among tragedians because it engages with unknowable mysteries.

I suspect everyone starts from one base or the other and as they grow, learn, and experience, they oscillate between the two extremes and end up settling somewhere in the middle; determinists in some realms of thought and tragedians in others. But being human, there are always the outlying fanatics - either those who insist that everything is knowable or those who insist everything is a perpetual mystery.

In recent years I have begun to wonder whether there isn't some third option around complexity, that it is possible that there is no free will in the long run but in the short run, and in realms of uncertainty, actions do in fact replicate what would be considered free will. That's a whole separate conversation.

But even more recently I have been visualizing the model in a different fashion. This concept is informed by a recognition of the limits of legibility (visible and measurable) and knowability (confirmable and predictable). We cannot measure everything to the degree of precision required and all knowledge is contingent. We live in a world where there are boundaries to the nature of our knowledge and that determinism and tragedianism are simply realms within the continuum of legibility and knowability.

If we accept that the world is constituted of innumerable systems (human behavior, economic activity, geological processes, etc.) which evolve at some rate over time and if we accept that all systems have at least four constituent parts (context, inputs, processes and outputs) and if we accept that time frames are relevant to how much we can understand at a given point (a function of the capacity of our brains) and if we accept that all these systems manifest themselves in some fashion of patterns, then I suspect that the following is true.


In the bottom left are systems which have a very high degree of legibility in terms of their context, inputs, processes and outputs and which are very stable in the pertinent time frame. Manufacturing processes are a preeminent example of a complex system where an enterprise controls the manufacturing environment, all the inputs, manages the process in order to produce a six sigma output. In short time frames, the degree of change and uncertainty are low. Within the specified parameters, everything is highly predictable.

All systems are subject to probabilities but in a well managed manufacturing system, the probabilities are reasonably knowable and manageable and redundancies can be constructed so that the output remains unperturbed.

There are other examples much nearer to home than that. Some people habituate their lives. In order to focus their cognitive functions on the matters of greatest moment, they establish habits that are highly legible and stable. They wake in the morning, make the bed, eat breakfast (the same thing every morning), take a shower, dress, exit home, start the car, drive the same route to work in the morning, park in the same place. Again, the system is highly legible and highly stable.

In general, the shorter the time frame, the more systems meet the criteria of high legibility and low dynamism. If I am a plant manager, I can tell you at the beginning of the morning with a high degree of confidence what the output will be at the end of the day because the entire system is highly legible and highly stable (low dynamism). If I am working with a 24 hour frame - the system is highly deterministic.

If I am working with a 365 day frame, the system is less deterministic. Business goals might have changed, market demand might have changed, technology may have changed. There are as many variables as in the 24 hour frame but they are much more dynamic in the 365 day frame. I can know that it is highly probable that things will have changed that would affect my forecast of what the plant will produce 365 days from now but I cannot forecast with confidence the net change implied by the aggregate of all the changes, particularly as some changes affect others. If there is less market demand, I might simply produce less, or I can change the process in order to produce it cheaper, or I can abandon the product, etc.

The net of this is that in very short time frames with highly legible systems subject to very low dynamism, it is very feasible to view the world as nearly entirely deterministic.

But the more you lose legibility (you don't have the data, the data is hard to get, you don't understand the context or the interdependencies, etc.), the longer is the time frame and the more dynamic is the system (rapidity of system evolution), the more uncertain we are about the resultant patterns and the more difficult it is to predict the future. I cannot use a 1930 roadmap to navigate between Chicago and Los Angeles in 2017.

In this model, I would arbitrarily accord three states of knowledge. In State I, there is high legibility and low dynamism and we can characterize that state as Deterministic.

In State II, there is some loss of legibility either in terms of precision or in terms of not being able to specify the context, the inputs, the process, or the outputs. In addition, the rate of change is greater and so we know that the aspects of the systems we can glimpse are likely to have changed between points of time. We may be able to attach probabilities to an a=outcome but we cannot specify the outcome. We can characterize State II as Tragic.

In State III, we simply do not have enough or any information of the state of things. We do not know the context, we don't understand what might be the inputs and/or we don't know the causative process, and/or we don't know what are the outputs. There is no predictability in whatever patterns we think we see. There is sensory perception without cognition. We can characterize State III as Mysterious or Incomprehensible.
There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?


In this model, the degree to which you are a determinist or a tragedian is primarily a function of humility. If you think that we either know everything about all things, or if you think that all things can and will be known at some point, then you are a determinist. If you believe nothing is knowable and cannot be known, then you are a tragedian.

And then there is the pragmatic position which recognizes that the degree of legibility about a particular system can be at different levels and might vary over time. The pragmatist accepts that there are some systems which can be treated as deterministic over specified time frames and under specified conditions and that there are other systems about which our knowledge is vestigial and tragically, we can't even see how we might be able to know the system.

Law Merchant

Interesting information I did not know. From Law Merchant by Bruce Benson.

Law Merchant is not a merchant selling law but rather the body of common law developed among merchants in the late medieval era.
Lex mercatoria, or the “Law Merchant,” refers to the privately produced, privately adjudicated, and privately enforced body of customary law that governed virtually every aspect of commercial transactions by the end of the 11th century. Thus, the Law Merchant provides libertarians with an important example of effective law without coercive state authority.

Rapid expansion in agricultural productivity during the 11th and 12th centuries meant that less labor was needed to produce sufficient food and clothing for Europe’s population. The effect of this increase in production was that individuals were able to specialize in particular crafts and population began to move into towns, many of which rapidly became cities. Specialization effectively functions only with trade and the class of professional merchants expanded to facilitate such trade. These merchants spoke different languages and came from different cultures. However, although geographic distances often prevented direct communication, let alone the building of strong personal bonds that would facilitate trust, the effect of this increased trade across large distances required numerous middlemen to move products from producers to their ultimate consumers. All of this activity generated mistrust among merchants. Internationally recognized commercial law arose as a substitute for personal trust. As one historian has pointed out, it was during this period “that the basic concepts and institutions of … lex mercatoria … were formed, and, even more important, it was then that [this] … law … first came to be viewed as an integrated, developing system, a body of law.”

The Law Merchant developed within the merchant community, rather than through government fiat; the police power was not the source of incentives to recognize its rules. Indeed, the Law Merchant was a voluntarily recognized body of law willingly embraced by its adherents. The reciprocity necessary for voluntary recognition arose, in part, from the mutual gains generated by repeated exchange. Furthermore, each merchant traded with many other merchants, so the spread of information about breaches of commercial conduct would affect a merchant’s reputation for all his subsequent transactions. Indeed, the Law Merchant was ultimately backed by the threat of ostracism by the merchant community at large because individuals known to engage in illegal behavior would not have found trading partners.

Merchants also established their own courts. One crucial reason for doing so was that royal courts often were not prepared to enforce customary merchant practices and usage (e.g., royal courts would not recognize contracts that involved interest charges because these courts regarded all interest as usurious). In addition, merchant court judges were merchants chosen from the relevant trading community (whether from a fair or a market), whereas lawyers and royal judges often had no knowledge of commercial issues. The effect was that the risk of an inefficient ruling was substantially lower in a merchant court, particularly when highly technical commercial issues were involved. Additionally, merchants traditionally had to complete their transactions during a brief period, at one market or fair, and then quickly move on to the next. The need for speed and informality in settling disputes was unmet when confronting judges who had no knowledge of commercial issues.
As the power of the state grew, Law Merchant receded but vestiges remain.
Kings gradually asserted authority over commerce, generally to tax it or to extract other types of revenues by selling monopoly franchises or other special privileges to politically powerful business interests. The Law Merchant became less recognizable as royal courts supplanted merchant courts and as statutes, precedents, and treaties supplanted or supplemented business tradition and practice. Nonetheless, the rules that were initiated in the Law Merchant have survived in varying degrees within nations and particularly in international trade.
A standardized body of law which could and did evolve with circumstances, voluntarily undertaken due to its benefits, speedily delivering consistent verdicts and enforced via ostracism and reputational gain or loss. Interesting. It is easy to think of the law as being a coercive exercise of the state but apparently it does not have to be.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time: But men may construe things after their fashion

The mental disease of postmodernism spreads. The latest afflicted is poor Alice Ristroph, graduate of Harvard Law and in turn an educator, a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. Yet another example of the too prevalent condition of credentialed but not educated. Professor Ristroph has written . . . well, how to describe it? Self-trolling? Stupid seems to crude. Sad? Mind-numbingly foolish? I don't know. Peak SJW Inanity?

Anyway, it is here: American Blackout by Alice Ristroph. Perhaps it should have been subtitled The Transit of Victimhood. Some of the lowlights:
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.

Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system.
If I could do a mocking SJW accent I would (though Siri probably wouldn't understand it). I'll have to suffice with OMG.

Ristroph uses the path of the eclipse to cherish the past injustices of the United States.
Oregon, where this begins, is almost entirely white. The 10 percent or so of state residents who do not identify as white are predominantly Latino, American Indian, Alaskan, or Asian. There are very few black Oregonians, and this is not an accident. The land that is now Oregon was not, of course, always inhabited by white people, but as a U.S. territory and then a state, Oregon sought to get and stay white. Among several formal efforts at racial exclusion was a provision in the original state constitution of 1857 that prohibited any “free Negro or Mulatto” from entering and residing in the state.

[snip]

From Oregon, the Great American Eclipse will travel through Idaho and Wyoming. (It will catch a tiny unpopulated piece of Montana, too.) Percentage-wise, Idaho and Wyoming are even whiter than Oregon. And as in Oregon, but even more so, the few non-white residents of Idaho and Wyoming are not black—they are mostly Latino, American Indian, and Alaskan.

[snip]

The total eclipse will be visible from Lincoln, Nebraska, the state’s capital, which reports a black population of 3.8 percent. The city of Omaha has a greater black population, about 14 percent. It is home to many of the refugees from Africa and elsewhere that Nebraska has welcomed in recent years, many of whom now work in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. But Omaha is about 50 miles northeast of the path of totality.

[snip]

From Kansas, the eclipse goes to Missouri, still mostly bypassing black people, though now much more improbably. About a third of Kansas City, Missouri, is black, but most of the city lies just south of the path of totality. To get the full show, eclipse chasers should go north to St. Joseph, almost 90 percent white and about 6 percent black . . .

[snip]

Moving east, the eclipse will pass part of St. Louis, whose overall population is nearly half black. But the black residents are concentrated in the northern half of the metropolitan area, and the total eclipse crosses only the southern half.

[snip]

Former slave-holding states are still the home to most of America’s black population. In Kentucky, Tennessee, and eventually South Carolina, the eclipse will finally pass over black Americans. Even here, though, the path of totality seems to mark the legacy of slavery and the persistence of segregation more than any form of inclusion.

[snip]

But after Tennessee, the shadow regains some speed and travels over white people only again for a while. It catches the northeast corner of Georgia and the western tip of North Carolina. Though both these states have substantial black populations, both also include overwhelmingly white rural areas, and it is those areas that lie in the path of totality.

[snip]

After Georgia, the eclipse will pass over a small piece of western North Carolina. The black population of these barely populated counties hovers around 1 percent, falling as low as 0.2 percent in Graham. The path of totality will narrowly miss Tryon, the birthplace of Nina Simone.

[snip]

The arc of the eclipse is long, and it bends toward Charleston. In South Carolina in the last 12 or 13 minutes of the Great American Eclipse, it will probably pass over more black Americans than it does throughout all of its earlier journey. After Greenville and Columbia, the eclipse goes out where so many slaves once came in: Charleston was the busiest port for the slave trade, receiving about 40 percent of all the African slaves brought into the country.
Oh, dear. The commenters are having a field day mocking this foolishness but I can't help but feel that the editors of The Atlantic are derelict, commissioning such articles instead of staging an intervention.

Ristroph seems to harken to the primitive mind and superstition of past millennia. From Julius Caesar by Shakespeare.
CASCA

Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds:
But never till to-night, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
Incenses them to send destruction.

CICERO

Why, saw you any thing more wonderful?

CASCA

A common slave--you know him well by sight--
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join'd, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain'd unscorch'd.
Besides--I ha' not since put up my sword--
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
'These are their reasons; they are natural;'
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.
Cicero has the last word. And it is a description for today. A pity that the postmodernists gutted education so that only older people might be aware of it.
CICERO

Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time:
But men may construe things after their fashion,
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
Too bad Ristroph is so mired in the postmodernist fad. Perhaps the madness of King Lear is a more fit model of the mind of the SJW.

Yes, my friends, I say again that you do well to send your children to me with flowers

From Warriors: Portraits from the Battlefield by Max Hastings. Page 3.
The wars of Napoleon produced a flowering of memoirs, both English and French, of extraordinary quality. Each writer’s work reflects in full measure his national characteristics. None but a Frenchman, surely, could have written the following lines about his experience of conflict: “I may, I think, say without boasting that nature has allotted to me a fair share of courage; I will add that there was a time when I enjoyed being in danger, as my thirteen wounds and some distinguished services prove, I think, sufficiently.” Baron Marcellin de Marbot was the model for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional Brigadier Gerard: brave, swashbuckling, incapable of introspection, glorying without inhibition in the experience of campaigning from Portugal to Russia in the service of his emperor. Marbot was the most eager of warriors, who shared with many of his French contemporaries a belief that there could be no higher calling than to follow Bonaparte to glory. Few modern readers could fail to respect the courage of a soldier who so often faced the fire of the enemy, through an active service career spanning more than forty years. And no Anglo-Saxon could withhold laughter at the peacock vanity and chauvinism of the hussar’s account of the experience, rich in anecdotage and comedy, the latter often unintended.
I have read and enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard stories. Excellent entertainment. I had not realized, however, that they were based on a real person. And indeed, Hasting's quote "I may, I think, say without boasting that nature has allotted to me a fair share of courage" seems very like a passage I recall from one of the Gerard books. I think I have commented elsewhere that Gerard is a literary predecessor of the marvelous Flashman books by George MacDonald Frazer.

The self-satisfied nature of Gerard, echoing that of Baron Marcellin de Marbot is given in these opening paragraphs of How the Brigadier Came to the Castle of Gloom.
You do very well, my friends, to treat me with some little reverence, for in honouring me you are honouring both France and yourselves. It is not merely an old, grey-moustached officer whom you see eating his omelette or draining his glass, but it is a fragment of history. In me you see one of the last of those wonderful men, the men who were veterans when they were yet boys, who learned to use a sword earlier than a razor, and who during a hundred battles had never once let the enemy see the colour of their knapsacks. For twenty years we were teaching Europe how to fight, and even when they had learned their lesson it was only the thermometer, and never the bayonet, which could break the Grand Army down. Berlin, Naples, Vienna, Madrid, Lisbon, Moscow—we stabled our horses in them all. Yes, my friends, I say again that you do well to send your children to me with flowers, for these ears have heard the trumpet calls of France, and these eyes have seen her standards in lands where they may never be seen again.

Even now, when I doze in my arm-chair, I can see those great warriors stream before me—the green-jacketed chasseurs, the giant cuirassiers, Poniatowsky's lancers, the white-mantled dragoons, the nodding bearskins of the horse grenadiers. And then there comes the thick, low rattle of the drums, and through wreaths of dust and smoke I see the line of high bonnets, the row of brown faces, the swing and toss of the long, red plumes amid the sloping lines of steel. And there rides Ney with his red head, and Lefebvre with his bulldog jaw, and Lannes with his Gascon swagger; and then amidst the gleam of brass and the flaunting feathers I catch a glimpse of him, the man with the pale smile, the rounded shoulders, and the far-off eyes. There is an end of my sleep, my friends, for up I spring from my chair, with a cracked voice calling and a silly hand outstretched, so that Madame Titaux has one more laugh at the old fellow who lives among the shadows.

Keynes was not as wrong as he is often made out to be

In economic circles it is reasonably well-known that John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist, in a 1930 paper, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren made the forecast that in two generations, with advancing technology, people would be able to get by working only 15 hours a week.

This essay is often held up as an example of the arrogance of the public intellectual and their inaccuracy of predicting the future. And I agree that there is a strong track record of overly confident forecasts from people who are experts in a narrow field, failing to recognize that the factors affecting their field extend far beyond that with which they are familiar.

From Will Robots Steal Human Jobs? by David R. Henderson. Henderson points out that while Keynes was indeed incorrect, there is another way of interpreting his forecast that actually makes him prescient.

If we consider where he was forecasting the possible versus the actual, his forecast is much more accurate.
In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes, reflecting on the progress of technology, predicted that his generation’s grandchildren would have a 15-hour workweek. Assuming that a generation is 30 years, we should have had that 15-hour workweek in 1990. Did we? Not even close. Twenty-seven years after 1990, we still don’t. But why don’t we? Where did Keynes go wrong?

It wasn’t in his assumption about increasing productivity. Rather, Keynes was probably assuming that people would work enough to get the same standard of living they had in 1930. If that was his assumption, then he was quite accurate in predicting our productivity per hour. In the four score and seven years since Keynes made his prediction, our productivity has doubled and doubled again. We could easily have what we had then if we worked 15-hour weeks now.

MIT labor economist David Autor estimated that an average U.S. worker in 2015 could achieve his 1915 counterpart’s real income by “working about 17 weeks per year.” Seventeen weeks per year at 40 work hours per week is 680 hours per year. Spread over a 50-week work year, that’s 13.6 hours per week. And that overstates the workweek required for a 1930 standard of living for two reasons. First, the quality of almost everything we buy that is not produced by government has increased. Second, we can buy things that were simply unavailable then. Cell phones, anyone?

Why don’t we work 14-hour weeks? The answer, briefly, is that we want more. We are acquisitive people. Consider cars. Those few families that had cars in Keynes’s day usually had only one. Even 30 years later, when I was growing up, my father had one old Ford. And we were not poor: Dad’s income was probably just below the median income in Canada. Now, many families have two or three cars. We could do without televisions and smart phones, but we don’t want to. We could settle for being like most Brits or Americans in Keynes’s time, never traveling more than 200 miles from home. But we’ve heard about places called Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Florida—and, we want to go there. Also, antibiotics and other life-saving medicines come in awfully handy—but they cost money to get. The reality is that we want more and we will always want more.
So, if Keynes was forecasting that the same standard of living would be available to his grandchildren by working only 15 hours a week, he was correct. As Henderson points out though, our wants grow with our productivity and the 40 hour work week remains a mainstay.

This observation also answers the question frequently posed. Would you rather the simplicity and community of a hundred years ago or the productivity of today? Everyone could replicate 1917's standards of living if they wished to but vanishingly few choose to do so. Everyone wants the better life.

By the numbers, Keynes is more correct than he is usually given credit for. But from yet another perspective, he is as wrong as ever. Keynes was something of determinist. Without being a Marxist, he falls in that tradition which elevates expertise over the democratic voice, is convinced of the perfectibility of man (blank slatism), considers it appropriate that Plato's philosopher kings decide from the center on behalf of everyone else in the outer circle.

Keynes' paper anticipated the prospect that in the future man's nature would be modified such that people would be happy to work less for the same benefit.
There are changes in other spheres too which we must expect to come. When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession -as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard.

I look forward, therefore, in days not so very remote, to the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings in the aggregate. But, of course, it will all happen gradually, not as a catastrophe. Indeed, it has already begun. The course of affairs will simply be that there will be ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed. The critical difference will be realised when this condition has become so general that the nature of one’s duty to one’s neighbour is changed. For it will remain reasonable to be economically purposive for others after it has ceased to be reasonable for oneself.
We are virtually there. The percentage of the global population who live in absolute poverty keeps falling with globalization and technology and improved governance. Most the world has moved well beyond conditions of economic necessity.

But where Keynes and all totalitarians of the Platonic state have gone wrong is their consistent misestimation of man. Productivity allows people to work less than ever and instead of the Keynes' anticipated ideal, more people work more hours than ever. There appears to be no end to the appetites of man.

Given free people, Plato's utopia will have to wait.

Where line and time and space and distance meet

A Perspective of Mantegna
by Stuart Henson

The sword swings at the soldier's hip and on
his knees the informer begs forgiveness
of the martyr, who needs must stop and bless
the man who broke a trust and brought him down
this road that leads in only one direction.
The crowd presses. They too must bear witness.
Acts they have seen before: the traitor's kiss
absolved on the way to the execution.

They all rest in the frame of the present.
Beyond the city gate, the tenement
whose windows give on the same unbending street:
betrayer and betrayed on one descent
that draws them in towards a vanishing point
where line and time and space and distance meet.

How dangerously easy it was to stir up anti-governmental feelings in the two leading colonies

From The Penguin History of the USA by Hugh Brogan.
What is surprising about these incidents is that they occurred before the end of the Seven Years War (though not before victory was in sight). They show how dangerously easy it was to stir up anti-governmental feelings in the two leading colonies, even without undue provocation. But provocation, of course, was not long in coming. In 1764 Grenville pushed the Sugar Act through Parliament.

No other incident in the making of the Revolution has been more widely misunderstood than this. The Sugar Act made the change in the imperial system, apparent to all. Revenue, not trade regulation, was now to be the purpose of the Navigation Acts. A shout of indignation went up from the colonial merchants. The duty on molasses imported to the mainland colonies from the non-British West Indies was reduced from the notional 6d. to 3d., but Grenville made it plain that from now on the full duty would be collected. In other words, for reasons already given, he was really raising the duty by 2d. a gallon. So in a torrent of pamphlets, newspapers and letters the merchants predicted that they would be utterly ruined; and on the whole historians have taken them at their word. Only Gipson has pointed out that the molasses was required for making rum and that the entire history of taxation imposed on booze shows that, whatever the duty, drinkers will pay it. In other words, it is very easy for brewers and distillers to pass on their costs to their customers. Hence the sang froid with which modern Chancellors of the Exchequer raise the duty on Scotch from time to time. Grenville, in fact, had chosen an almost most painless way of raising revenue; but the distillers of America shrieked as if they had been stabbed.

Orientation towards self-motivated learning is genetic, heritable, and conditional on random chance

Hmm, interesting but concerning. Why children differ in motivation to learn: Insights from over 13,000 twins from 6 countries by Yulia Kovas, et al. Abstract:
Little is known about why people differ in their levels of academic motivation. This study explored the etiology of individual differences in enjoyment and self-perceived ability for several school subjects in nearly 13,000 twins aged 9–16 from 6 countries. The results showed a striking consistency across ages, school subjects, and cultures. Contrary to common belief, enjoyment of learning and children’s perceptions of their competence were no less heritable than cognitive ability. Genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation. Shared environmental factors, such as home or classroom, did not contribute to the twin’s similarity in academic motivation. Environmental influences stemmed entirely from individual specific experiences.
If I am reading this correctly, the degree to which you enjoy and are confident about learning is highly heritable and genes account for 40% of the variance in learning proclivity. The balance of variance was entirely due to unique individual experiences. In other words, you cannot create a school or establish common parenting strategies and expect those to affect the degree to which a child is oriented towards learning.

I really wish this weren't true but it does seem that the preponderance of the evidence is in that direction.