URLs du Jour

2021-10-04

[Taking the Plunge]

  • Following the science until it leads somewhere other than where you want to go… is the FDA, as reported by (who else) Jacob Sullum: The FDA Is Determined To Ignore the Decline in Underage Vaping Because It Weakens the Case for New Restrictions.

    According to the latest results from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 11 percent of high school students qualified as "current" electronic cigarette users this year, meaning they reported vaping in the previous month. That's down from nearly 20 percent in 2020 and nearly 28 percent in 2019—a 60 percent drop over two years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts the survey, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates "electronic nicotine delivery systems," both welcomed this evidence that the "epidemic" of underage vaping is abating.

    Just kidding. Since acknowledging the sharp decline in e-cigarette use by teenagers would undermine the case for new restrictions on vaping products, including a ban on the e-liquid flavors that former smokers overwhelmingly prefer, the CDC and the FDA prefer to ignore that downward trend.

    Usual disclaimer: I don't smoke or vape anything. If federal, state, and local regulations on vaping ever made sense, it must have been very brief, and years ago.


  • Anything ending in 'mania' is probably bad. But Jonathan Haidt is concentrating on only one of them: Monomania Is Illiberal and Stupefying.

    The “prestige economy” is the network of values and meanings within which people compete for status. In monomaniacal groups, the prestige economy rewards those who are most committed to the object of devotion, which has two major illiberal effects. The first is the “expansion imperative”—the pressure to apply the one true lens ever more widely. For example, one can gain points by interpreting glacier research and dog parks as manifestations of power structures. The insistence that the lens applies everywhere means that the preferred remedies must be implemented everywhere. This expansion imperative can explain the otherwise astonishing statement on page 18 of Ibram Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist”:

    There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.

    In other words, if a high school teaches chemistry without discussing race, it is not “nonracist,” it is racist. True believers exert pressure on the leadership of the school to bring race into every part of the curriculum, and anyone who expresses doubt or raises concerns risks being publicly shamed and possibly fired. Monomanics sometimes demand that their focal value be installed as the telos of every organization. 

    For further reading, the University Near Here, via its UNH Today publication, brings us its reporting on Racism In Science, a good example of the kind of thing Haidt is talking about.


  • How debunkery should be done. An excellent example performed by "Patterico" (Patrick Frey) at his substack: David French Cites Weak Evidence to Show Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System.

    It's long, because Frey argues in good faith, with respect, and with meticulous attention to detail.

    I read David French’s missive from The Dispatch this past Sunday and, as often happens when I read his pieces about crime and/or race, I found myself questioning some of his claims—and in particular the evidence he cited to support them.

    I spent some time following some of the links he provided to underpin his assertions about institutional racism in the criminal justice system, and I found much of the supporting evidence to be partisan, lazy, and biased.

    It's difficult to excerpt, I encourage you to RTWT. I repeat: this is how it should be done. It's difficult, but vital.


  • Who is Michael Huemer? In The Randian Critique, he outlines one issue on which Ayn Rand was particularly insightful: her take on socialism.

    The system rewards those who are behaving badly according to the values of the socialists themselves, and punishes those who are behaving rightly according to those same values. That is the core problem that Rand saw with socialism.

    That is partly a consequentialist problem, and partly a problem of justice: One cannot hope to promote some set of values by punishing anyone who acts according to those values and rewarding the opposite behavior. That is just not going to work out. It’s also obviously, paradigmatically unjust, if you think those are the correct values.

    Now, why describe socialism in this way?

    First, what are the values of the socialists? Marx’s famous dictum is a fair summary of a core socialist ideal: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I.e., people should contribute to society in proportion to their ability to produce value for society; and people should receive resources from society in proportion to how much they need.

    This sounds nice. But it contains within it the problem described above. The problem is that people have some degree of control over their own abilities and needs—and, even more so, over the abilities and needs that they appear to others to have. The people who are behaving well according to the socialist ideal are the people who are contributing to society as best they can. They will be developing their productive capacities, and revealing those capacities through their actual contributions.

    These people are not going to be rewarded under the socialist system. They will just be expected to keep contributing, which would not be expected if they hadn’t made the mistake of revealing their ability, and they won’t get any reward for that.

    The people who are behaving badly are those who are creating greater needs for themselves, or making themselves appear to have greater needs. They are behaving badly since they are putting greater burdens on society. But they will be in effect rewarded for this by the system—more resources will go to them because they appear to need more.

    Huemer shows how Rand illustrated. this gotcha in Atlas Shrugged. It's pretty good, but I'd think so, wouldn't I?