Launch spending

An image from the Economist’s Technology Quarterly. Interesting to me: I’ve been following the Space X (not to be confused with Force X) stuff with great interest. But I hadn’t realised that launch was such a tiny fraction of the overall spend.

As a minor tie into the nominal subject of this blog, notice that meteorology is 3% of the satellites. That probably folds in climatology too.

Hayek vs Hobbes and the theory of law

There is, of course, a theory of law. As soon as you ponder the question, you realise there must be. But it had never occurred to me (in my faint defence I find, now I look, that whilst wiki has a category for theories of law, it doesn’t seem to have an overall article on the concept of theory of law). Nor, when I mention it to various friends, did the question strike any kind of “oh yeah, I know that stuff” answer. My children, who have done some “philosophy” in school, hadn’t heard of the idea either.

So this post is likely to be naive. But my dumb opinions are just as good as anyone else’s. Enough excuses. Let’s go:

Where does law come from or, if you prefer, where should1 law come from? If you are Hobbes, then the answer is clear (one delight, but also fatal flaw, of all Hobbes’s work is that every question has a clear answer. Naturally, this means that many of the answers are wrong because it simply isn’t possible to answer all questions clearly. Never mind). Let’s read some Hobbes.

Civill Law what

Isn’t that a gorgeous heading? Straight to the point no wasted words.

And first it is manifest, that Law in generall, is not Counsell, but Command; nor a Command of any man to any man; but only of him, whose Command is addressed to one formerly obliged to obey him. And as for Civill Law, it addeth only the name of the person Commanding, which is Persona Civitatis, the Person of the Common-wealth.
Which considered, I define Civill Law in this Manner. “CIVILL LAW, Is to every Subject, those Rules, which the Common-wealth hath Commanded him, by Word, Writing, or other sufficient Sign of the Will, to make use of, for the Distinction of Right, and Wrong; that is to say, of what is contrary, and what is not contrary to the Rule.”

No messing about. Law is command.

…some Lawes are addressed to all the Subjects in generall; some to particular Provinces; some to particular Vocations; and some to particular Men; and are therefore Lawes, to every of those to whom the Command is directed; and to none else. As also, that Lawes are the Rules of Just, and Unjust; nothing being reputed Unjust, that is not contrary to some Law. Likewise, that none can make Lawes but the Common-wealth; because our Subjection is to the Common-wealth only…

I’m getting somewhat ahead of myself here, but notice how Hobbes does not distinguish between law-in-general (“thou shalt not kill” for example) and law-as-regulation (“go build a bridge over this ravine”), even though it is hard to think of the latter sort as having much to do with justice. To him it is all law, all command.

Notice if you’re new to Hobbes: the statement that it is “command” does not imply an individual doing the commanding; Hobbes uses “sovereign” indiscriminately for monarchy, aristocracy or democracy; the only three possible forms of government.

Because law is command,

and a Command consisteth in declaration, or manifestation of the will of him that commandeth, by voyce, writing, or some other sufficient argument of the same, we may understand, that the Command of the Common-wealth, is Law onely to those, that have means to take notice of it. Over naturall fooles, children, or mad-men there is no Law.

More interesting things also follow from this, and if you please you may read them for yourself. There’s also a not-very-inspiring wiki article on legal positivism. But it is time to turn to Hayek.

Law is older than legislation

Having rather liked Hobbes (had you guessed?) I was interested to read Hayek casually demolish his theory of law. Perhaps the casualness is assumed; Hayek is inscrutable. He’s also harder to quote, because I can’t find his stuff as easily online… or is that true? Maybe I just didn’t look. Here is “the road to serfdom”. And here’s the one I want, Law, Legislation and Liberty.

The idea that law is older than legislation strikes obliquely at Hobbes’s core concept of the founding of the social contract; though it was never really clear if the historicity of same was of any particular importance. But enough of Hobbes for the moment, we need to hear from Hayek:

Unlike law itself, which has never been ‘invented’ in the same sense, the invention of legislation came relatively late in the history of mankind. It gave into the hands of men an instrument of great power which they needed to achieve some good, but which they have not yet learned so to control that it may not produce great evil. It opened to man wholly new possibilities and gave him a new sense of power over his fate. The discussion about who should possess this power has, however, unduly overshadowed the much more fundamental question of how far this power should extend. It will certainly remain an exceedingly dangerous power so long as we believe that it will do harm only if wielded by bad men.

Law is old, legislation is young, and of course we see this segue into his main interest, the conduct of society. Hayek isn’t so pithy as Hobbes, so is harder to quote:

Law in the sense of enforced rules of conduct is undoubtedly coeval with society; only the observance of common rules makes the peaceful existence of individuals in society possible. Long before man had developed language to the point where it enabled him to issue general commands, an individual would be accepted as a member of a group only so long as he conformed to its rules. Such rules might in a sense not be known and still have to be discovered, because from ‘knowing how’ to act, or from being able to recognize that the acts of another did or did not conform to accepted practices, it is still a long way to being able to state such rules in words… all the famous early ‘law-givers’, from Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi to Solon, Lykurgus and the authors of the Roman Twelve Tables, did not intend to create new law but merely to state what law was and had always been.

The sources for these assertions are spread out over succeeding pages and so are hard to pin down. Perhaps you should read then as things-you-are-invited-to-realise-are-obvious-when-you-see-them. In that, they resemble the economic history in Wealth of Nations. Personally, I find them plausible. Hayek realises that many people will find them surprising:

To modern man, on the other hand, the belief that all law governing human action is the product of legislation appears so obvious that the contention that law is older than law-making has almost the character of a paradox.

Unlike Hobbes, Hayek clearly distinguishes “law” from “regulation”:

the chief or ruler will use his authority for two quite different purposes: he will do so to teach or enforce rules of conduct which he regards as established, though he may have little idea why they are important or what depends on their observance; he will also give commands for actions which seem to him necessary for the achievement of particular purposes.

And ties this to the English Common Law:

The freedom of the British which in the eighteenth century the rest of Europe came so much to admire was thus not, as the British themselves ,vere among the first to believe and as Montesquieu later taught the world, originally a product of the separation of powers between legislature and executive, but rather a result of the fact that the law that governed the decisions of the courts was the common law, a law existing independently of anyone’s will and at the same time binding upon and developed by the independent courts; a law with which parliament only rarely interfered and, when it did, mainly only to clear up doubtful points within a given body of law.

All of this is linked to the way Hayek views “spontaneous order” which I don’t want to touch on yet; this blogpost talks of it

Notes

1. [Added 2018/02] If you start asking where law should come from, or if you accept the law-as-command theory, then you will naturally start wondering what should be done with law, how should law be designed? But if you think of law-as-custom then this will seem like a generally bad idea; see for example here.

Refs

* Timmy quotes Hayek for Apple against the EU
* Quotation of the Day… from Cafe Hayek, quoting Mario Rizzo’s superb Winter 1985 Cato Journal article “Rules versus Cost-Benefit Analysis in the Common Law”.
* Freeman Essay #24: “What is the American Constitution?” – CH.
* Freeman Essay #75: “An Economist Reflects on Law”

Feyerabend?

Andy Skuce, in On and against method and process is (to me) bizarrely keen on Paul Feyerabend (though presumably he discards the numerous cites to Lenin, denigration of modern medicine, and all the really wacko stuff). I kinda tend to mix F up with the other out-of-their-depth French folk like Latour that Sokal and Bricmont shredded but that’s probably unfair; either way my suspicion is that if you’re interested in a criticism and analysis of F, you’d be better off with Sokal and Bricmont. But that’s rather long; who has the patience nowadays to carefully read reasoned expert critiques when you can read a short non-expert rant?

Anyway, F says stuff like

In this chapter I shall present more detailed arguments for the ‘counterrule’ that urges us to introduce hypotheses which are inconsistent with well-established theories. The arguments will be indirect. They will start with a criticism of the demand that new hypotheses must be consistent with such theories. This demand will be called the consistency condition.1

Which makes me go “WTF?” This appears to be a strawman. Note 1 is The consistency condition goes back to Aristotle at least. It plays an important part in Newton’s philosophy (though Newton himself constantly violated it). It is taken for granted by many 20th-century scientists and philosophers of science. Which also makes me go “WTF?”. Aristotle wrote any amount of bollox, since when has he been an arbiter of physics of philosophy – I thought they gave up that kind of hero-worship in the middle ages. Or perhaps the end thereof – Copernicus, perhaps. But who cares exactly when, its long gone, so why is F digging him up?

It appears especially stupid when laid against the great modern theories like relativity or QM. The founding hypotheses of relativity are inconsistent with Newtonian mechanics (by which I mean, in case I’m not clear, accepting the constancy of the speed of light and discarding One True Time), which is after all much of the point. Pretty well any “paradigm breaking” science is bound to do this. Only the “normative” infilling type science is consistent with what went before. Perhaps F should read Kuhn. The wiki article on F faithfully parrots One of the criteria for evaluating scientific theories that Feyerabend attacks is the consistency criterion but again makes no attempt to establish that this criterion exists.

Then we get

…Newton’s mechanics is inconsistent with Galileo’s law of free fall… Galileo’s law asserts that the acceleration of free fall is a constant, whereas application of Newton’s theory to the surface of the earth gives an acceleration that is not constant but decreases (although imperceptibly) with the distance from the centre of the earth.

Firstly, I think this is uninteresting nit-picking. But secondly, it is even true? One of the top google hits for G’s law tells me it is , in the absence of air resistance, all bodies fall with the same acceleration, independent of their mass. Which I would regard as a correct statement of G’s law, and which doesn’t suffer from the (nit-picking) flaw that F mentions (though it does suffer from another nit-picking flaw which the article does mention, but which F is too stupid to know, that if you measure the acceleration from the sfc of the Earth, since the Earth imperceptibly moves, the acceleration does slightly depend on the mass of the object falling).

Anyway, skipping over more stuff we come to

No theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain

I’m not sure that’s true. GR is consistent with everything in its domain; not with QM, but that’s not in its domain. Or conversely, QM with everything in its domain. I might be wrong about that; if I am, do leave a comment.

But quickly we discover that F doesn’t mean facts when he says facts. No, he means “facts”. I don’t think he ever clarifies this point (there are lots and lots of words in F’s text; you can’t expect me to have read all of them), but what he says makes no sense without it. For we have Thus the Copernican view at the time of Galileo was inconsistent with facts so plain and obvious…; but of course it wasn’t. F doesn’t provide any examples of the “facts”, so its quite hard to guess what he’s going on about. Instead he skips on to Newton’s theory of gravitation was beset, from the very beginning, by difficulties serious enough to provide material for refutation. Notice how “facts” have silently become “difficulties”; the difficulty here alluded to was the possible instability of the solar system under the theory; but that’s different. And the stuff he then writes about (special) relativity in support of his thesis is silly.

There are then pages and pages of stuff I largely skipped about Galileo and rocks-fall-downwards-even-though-the-Earth moves. There must be something in there but its very thin; not worth the number of words spent on it. He seems overly obsessed by G; but other people have more interesting things to say about G.

The idea that there will be individual observations that contradict established theories certainly doesn’t appear interesting now.. Ditto the idea that people (most clearly Einstein) will wave away contradictory “facts” that “contradict” their beautiful theories. Perhaps these ideas were more exciting when this stuff was first written.

Refs

* More pointless “philosophy” is avilable if you want it; “Must science be testable? String wars among physicists have highlighted just how much science needs philosophy – and not just the amateur version”; Massimo Pigliucci. Pharyngula seems to like some of his earlier stuff, though.

Who is the farting three-legged dog in this scenario, you ask?

evil A delightful phrase that I’ve just discovered. And the answer is, it is John Vidal; and so Peter Wadhams is the wind. Perhaps that’s just a bit closer to the knuckle than even I tend to sail but its late on a Friday night. Thanks to VV on twitter for the first link and a variety of folks for the second.

This is the familiar “Time to listen to the ice scientists about the Arctic death spiral” type nonsense, only in this case – as pointed out on twitter – we’re being urged not to listen to the opinions of scientists in general, but only to the extreme fringe of opinion. Or in JV’s words:

In a new book, published just as July 2016 is confirmed by Nasa as the hottest month ever recorded, this most experienced and rational scientist states what so many other researchers privately fear but cannot publicly say – that the Arctic is approaching a death spiral which may see the entire remaining summer ice cover collapse in the near future.

This is the same drivel as all right-thinking people have previously agreed was drivel, so why is the Graun re-publishing it? The answer of course is that little phrase “a new book”. Need I say more? No? Good, because I’m sick of this nonsense.

Meanwhile, back at reality:

Refs

* Analysis of Robin McKie’s “Next year or the year after, the Arctic will be free of ice” – at Climate Feedback
* You vant more Vadhams? Ve got it! On da Beeb! Radio 4 no less; try 2:46. Presenter Dude pushes him a bit with getting previous predictions wrong and Ed Hawkins; Wadhams waffles in reply and Presenter Dude of course folds, because this is science, so she didn’t understand Wadhams reply.

Antarctica's sea ice said to be vulnerable to sudden retreat?

Or so says the Fail. If you don’t want your mind poisoned, you can read much the same press release from Reuters. If you’d prefer it described in more moderate language (you weirdo!) you can read the BAS PR directly: New Antarctic ice discovery aids future climate predictions:

A team of British climate scientists comparing today’s environment with the warm period before the last ice age has discovered a 65% reduction of Antarctic sea ice around 128,000 years ago. The finding is an important contribution towards the challenge of making robust predictions about the Earth’s future climate.

Or you could actually read the paper itself, Antarctic last interglacial isotope peak in response to sea ice retreat not ice-sheet collapse, Max D. Holloway (who?), Louise C. Sime (yay!), Joy S. Singarayer, Julia C. Tindall, Pete Bunch & Paul J. Valdes; doi:10.1038/ncomms12293:

Several studies have suggested that sea-level rise during the last interglacial implies retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The prevalent hypothesis is that the retreat coincided with the peak Antarctic temperature and stable water isotope values from 128,000 years ago (128 ka); very early in the last interglacial. Here, by analysing climate model simulations of last interglacial WAIS loss featuring water isotopes, we show instead that the isotopic response to WAIS loss is in opposition to the isotopic evidence at 128 ka. Instead, a reduction in winter sea ice area of 65±7% fully explains the 128 ka ice core evidence. Our finding of a marked retreat of the sea ice at 128 ka demonstrates the sensitivity of Antarctic sea ice extent to climate warming.

That’s all very well but a bit kinda science-y and hard to understand, so Louise tell be she far prefers the Express with “CLIMATE CHANGE SHOCK: Global warming happened LONG before man started burning fossil fuels”.

I’m a busy man trying to make 2 and 3 EDR DEVM look plausible with a new modem, so I don’t have time for trivia like actually reading the paper, but I’ll throw

at you, from which I deduce that they are using as observations four ice cores, and trying to make their simulations fit what they see. So the credibility of the results depends very strongly on how much you trust the GCM in general, and how much you trust its sea ice and in particular its delta-O-18. Indeed, I don’t even know what GCM they’re using until I read to the end… oh, its HadCM3. Excellent, a model you can trust, far better than that crummy HadGEMx.

Oh, I’ve missed the punchline haven’t I? Can you trust this? Well it is, like so much science, indicative. It is a direction that might prove fruitful. Re read facts and theories if you find yourself confused by that.

Stop press: there’s a delightfully garbled version in the Indescribably hopeless.

The US Libertarian party

Every now and again I say something, and someone replies with stuff about wild-eyed Libertarians, and I don’t care because I don’t know any of them. But anyway, via RS I ended up at lp.org and this seemed a reasonable chance to find out what they thought; so I ended up reading their platform. I urge you to; it is short, succinct, and quite readable; as well as being rather wild-eyed. As I know nothing about flavours of Libertarianism in the US of A, I’m going to assume they are typical or mainstream, for libertarians that is.

I pick out a couple of things: schools, taxes and the environment.

I’ll do schools first, because Timmy did just recently. And we all know how wild-eyed he is. He says

But perhaps there is some other public good that is created by education? Adam Smith certainly thought so about primary schooling. Being part of a generally literate and numerate nation is perhaps a public good. But does college meet that standard? Opinions can differ here but I would say no. Certainly not at the level that 30 to 50% of the age cohort go to college.

Well, you can disagree on that last part if you like, since it’s not relevant. The LP version is:

Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.

When I first read that, I thought they meant no govt funding of schools. And that might be what they mean. But they could also mean no govt running of schools – you could square that with the govt providing funding via vouchers, and the free market running the schools; and you could square that with Adam Smith. Though it would be an awkward match; the more natural reading is no govt in schooling in any form. Since that’s further out than Adam Smith or Timmy, it is waay out there maan.

[Update: re-reading, I’ve noticed that their platform is a rather political “is best provided”, implying a choice amongst many permissible options. What they’re not stating is that, stating from principles, they can deduce this policy. So it can’t be part of the libertarian core. Its a choice; its in tune with other things they like; but its not necessary.]

Taxes

They’re pretty blunt about taxes, as you’d expect:

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.

So, fine, no income tax. And they say that again in the “issues” section. However they do believe in basic functions of government – running a justice system, for example; a military, albeit reduced – so they don’t believe in no government spending; so they’re not allowed to be so coy on exactly what taxes they would levy.

Environment

And of course, the environment. As expected, they’re strong on property rights, but have nothing to say about “commons” types issues; so they can do nothing about global warming except ignore the topic entirely, which they then do. They say While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production so they’re definitely against subsidy, which is good. But would they be forced to oppose a carbon tax? Possibly; and as before, the natural reading would be to assume so. Anyway, they lose points for refusing to be clear and probably for refusing to be sensible.

Conclusion

I agree with lots of what they say, of course; but I didn’t bother quote those bits. This is the manifesto of a party like the Green party – a party that doesn’t expect to get elected. It is an indication of general intent, not an actual programme for government, which is fine by them as they won’t be in government. So they’re free to take a hard pure line, which keeps things simple, which is how you can tell it isn’t realistic. What I think they mean by all this is that if they were in a coalition, or if in some circumstance they were given the chance to tilt the govt in a certain direction, then you know which direction they’d move in. The idea of having the freedom to put all their policies in place is so far from their minds that they don’t have to bother work out what the real end goal is. And at this stage of the game, that’s not too unreasonable.

[Update: in recent days their – or perhaps GJ’s, it isn’t clear – postion on GW and/or carbon taxes hit the spotlight. And like all parties not really ready for prime time, they wilted under the glare of scrutiny, flipping from carbon “fee” to no carbon taxes.]

Refs

* A definition of Libertarianism: “The basic premise of this philosophy is that it is illegitimate to engage in aggression against nonaggressors… The uniqueness of Libertarianism is found not in the statement of its basic principle but in the rigorously consistent, even maniacal manner with which the principle is applied. For example, most people do not see any contradiction between this principle and our system of taxation. Libertarians do.”