Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Butter Ban" Not a Laughing Matter

As has probably been deducted from my readers who have read my first Power of Epistemology piece it is clear that I reject the Standard American Diet. I do so in favor of the "Paleo" diet. I thought it might of interest to incorporate some dietary politics into this blog given my interest, though, to stay relevant to the overall theme of epistemology, ethics, and politics, I will not do such things as examine the merits of nutritional findings or display recipes (I might do the latter for Musing Aloud).

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According to Daily Mail Dr. Shyam Kolvekar is calling for a ban on butter and is suggesting "healthier" substitutes such as margarine for the purpose of reducing incidents of heart disease.

The absurdity here is obvious and does not require lengthy discussion given the context of this blog: this doctor is proposing an impractical, immoral law that would utilize physical force in its enforcement, all on the basis of the evidence-less theory that fat consumption causes heart disease. The cruel irony is that the doctor's suggestions for healthier substitutes would actually increase heart disease rates, as the human body isn't meant to handle such large amounts of vegetable fats as would be present in a tub of margarine, thereby leading to adverse effects (obesity, dense LDL cholesterol, etc.). If such a proposal were enacted it would be promptly contested by a black market and would result in greater heart disease rates in law-abiding citizens.

But as absurd as this proposal may seem -- enacting a law prohibiting a food substance absolutely! -- we must be extremely careful not to brush it away nonchalantly. Here we must keep two sayings in mind to remind us of the danger. The first is by Ayn Rand: The uncontested absurdities of today are the slogans of tomorrow. (Quotation marks omitted in case of inaccuracy.) For number two I do not know the originator, but paraphrased: No idea has ever been so absurd that some philosopher did not take it seriously. The point of these two sayings is that ignoring an absurdity may be all it requires for it to become culturally accepted, and nothing is so ridiculous that at least one person won't seriously entertain it. If we dismiss and laugh at this "butter ban" then we could put ourselves at risk for seeing it come to pass.

And we do have evidence that such a thing could come to pass if uncontested, even in the United States. In the same country where this proposed ban originates, the United Kingdom, there was an incident where an egg company had one of its commercials censored ("Go to Work on an Egg") because the government agents thought it promoted an unhealthy way of living and judged it morally appropriate to silence them. In my very own America the selling of raw milk would be banned almost entirely if it were not for the random states that keep it legal and for the legal loophole that allows a person to drink milk from their own cow (thereby leading to the development of "cow share" programs). Naturally fed meat (e.g. grass-fed beef), although this may be unintentional, has largely been driven into unnecessary scarcity by way of the government subsidizing grains, thereby making it an artificially cheaper stock feed. And so on.

From these we observe that some governments are actively willing to exert force in the name of "public" health, that there are laws already banning some food substances, and that even random bad economic policies (grain subsidies) can have a dramatic impact on diet via unintended consequences (grain-fed beef becomes more common than grass-fed). So it is in all seriousness we must take this proposal, for the laws of the same nature already exist and there are people present to take it seriously.

Most of all, the philosophy is there, the systematic worldview that gives ideological justification for such actions. In today's culture -- worldwide, not just in the United States -- Altruism is the dominant code of morality, and within that code of morality lies the tenant that it is proper to deal with men via physical force in order to uphold morality. Knowing that every law is backed up by physical force, take for evidence when a politician enacts a law and gives it an explicit moral endorsement. It is here we must wage the battle to win not only against this proposal, but against all proposals of this nature.

The reason why I bring this topic up to begin with is to put forth that while on the road to statism some very absurd proposals may pop during the meanwhile, but it does not change the fact that it's a symptom of statism. Aside from this "butter ban," I have also noted other absurdities. Dan Kildee proposed that destroying property would help Flint's economy, but no evidence was given for why this would be. Senator John Kerry proposed giving bail-outs to the newspaper industry, but a shallow examination of basic economic principles reveals that such an idea could never be helpful, thereby indicating Kerry's intention may be to influence the speech of the papers (censorship). And so on. I'm not sure if this is a credible source, but apparently there are laws that go beyond extremes in absurdity, such as it being illegal to peel an orange in a hotel room or to walk on your hands on a crosswalk.

All of these laws may make us smile and laugh when they pop up, causing us to dismiss them as unserious, but if we ignore them for so long and find ourselves without control of our lives -- then we won't laugh.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Enshrine Mediocrity -- and the Shrines are Razed"

Over at my Posterous account -- which is for my college course and exists solely for homework -- I have managed to write a post that may be of interest to the readers here. Most of the posting at that account will more or less be aimed only at fulfilling technical requirements, so I do not recommend actually following that account. If I write something that may be of interest, I will be sure to link to it from here or Musing Aloud, whichever blog theme is appropriate.

I thought about pasting the whole article here, but I think that could get me in trouble since the article may be property of my college, so I'll link to it instead.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Your Faithful Leaders

Myhraf informs us of a political incident that could be used to symbolize politics as they stand today.

I actually feel a sense of disturbance at this. How could he have the audacity to do it so openly in front of so many witnesses and yet have the security that he will likely not get punished for it? Because that's our culture today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Epistemological Exercise for Your Approval

Here's a problem I could really use some input on. Ever since reading Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology I have been concerned with making sure my conceptual equipment is explicitly grounded in reality; that is, that I am fully aware of what the concepts I use mean and that I know how I can be certain that I have inferred the correct meaning.

The means I have established to that end is a rather complex vocabulary exercise that I assign to myself as a part of my grammar studies. I do the assignment in two parts, taking one day to write up the homework and another -- though not days next to each other -- to reread, review, and think about what I have written. It has done well for the trip down the road to certainty, but I think it could still be optimized, so I would like to submit its specifics for your approval. I will explain the exercise step by step and then give two examples from my homework assignments. First, what the process is:

  1. First, look up the word in the dictionary and copy verbatim the appropriate definition.

  2. Second, identify whether or not the concept is perceptual (i.e. whether the concept denotes something that is part of physical reality). If the concept is not directly perceptual then identify what unfamiliar concepts serve as its units, and if one is familiar with the concepts then instead move on to step three.

  3. Third, write what the concept actually denotes. For instance, if the concept were "tree" then one would write "A physical entity," or if the concept were "green" one would write "An attribute."

  4. Fourth, list any extreme contrasting or closely related concepts for comparison purposes. For example, for "rage" one could write "angry" as being a similar concept and "euphoria" as being a direct antonym.

  5. Fifth, write a sentence employing the concept.

  6. Sixth, record whether or not the concept is entirely meaningful. I do this so I know at all times what confuses me and what I'm certain on.

  7. Finally, jot down any notes, concerns, or whatever. This is an optional step that can be incorporated anywhere in the process, multiple times if need be.

Some examples, first starting with a perceptual concept. Notes in square brackets indicate editorial content not in original homework:

  1. Vituperation > /Noun/ Bitter and abusive language. [Concise Oxford American Dictionary.]

  2. Height: Perceptual. Language is an audio-visual format of concepts. [Human language is accessible by the five senses, which is what makes this a perceptual concept.]

  3. Denotes: Language with an emotional attribute and intention to harm [emotionally].

  4. Similar: swearing, cursing.

  5. [Sentence omitted.]

  6. Fully meaningful?: Yes

  7. Note: Duplicate of concepts already existing; differs only in connotation.

And an abstract one:

  1. Addendum > (Plural: -da, -dums) An item of additional material, typically omissions, added at the end of a book or other publication.[Concise Oxford American Dictionary.]

  2. Height: Abstract. Requires understanding of the abstractions involved in the information in the publication. [This concept is abstract because there is no physical existent or phenomenon known as "addendum." One may object by bringing forth a book and tapping the bottom of a page where there is an addendum, but that would be incorrect. What would exist in physical reality is ink and paper, not a physical manifestation of the concept addendum.]

  3. Denotes: Additional information added at the end of a published work. [Simplied definition.]

  4. Similar: Additional

  5. Sentence: How frustrating it is to have sat and read a blog post for an hour only to read in the addendum that the article is factually wrong.

  6. Fully meaningful?: Somewhat.

So are there ways that the reader thinks I can improve this process?