Big Fat “Truths”

I’ve blogged about this before, but I thought I should link to Radley Balko on the obesity issue again. This time he responds to a post by Mark Kleiman with some “Simple Truths” about obesity (many of which are neither simple nor true). [To be fair: it was Balko, not Kleiman, who called them “Simple”.]

Radley has been doing a great job debunking many nanny-state policy prescriptions in general, and obesity-related ones in particular.

Here’s his concluding paragraph:

Kleiman also neglects the most important point in this debate: What we eat is just about the most intimate, private decision we make. If that becomes cause for government meddling, it’s difficult to conceive of what’s left that wouldn’t be. I’d also guess that most people know by now that a greasy cheeseburger or gooey donut is bad for them. Yet they still eat them. Perhaps they’ve concluded that the enjoyment they get from good-tasting food is worth the added risk to their health, or a few extra months in the nursing home. I guess the fundamental question, then, is does a free society let people make that decision on their own, or does it implement tax, regulatory, and other punitive measures aimed at making that decision for them?

Happy Earth Day

Read this article about the MTV Trippin’ show.

I think it would be “inspiring” and “awesome” and “cool” if Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and other celebrities who spew these things actually spent about ten years living without all of those nasty conveniences that help to keep us alive and healthy and comfortable and productive.

I suspect that keeping them away from any modern communications equipment will go a long way toward saving the planet.

(Hat Tip: Ronald Bailey at Reason Hit & Run)

In Harmony With Nature

Go read Don Boudreaux’s great post over at Cafe Hayek about living in harmony with nature. Excerpt:

Pre-Columbian peoples lived simply, to be sure, but let’s stop mistaking ignorance and poverty with harmony. It’s an utter myth – we might say an urban myth – that primitive peoples lived with nature harmoniously. Nature devastated them. Nature battered them into early graves. Their ignorance of nature prevented them from achieving much material wealth. To dance to imaginary rain gods or to chant and pray for a child dying of bacterial infection is not to live harmoniously with nature; it is to live most inharmoniously. Nature is doing its thing – failing to water the crops, growing bacteria within a child’s lungs – while human beings who are as ignorant of nature as nature is of human beings, moan, chant, pray, dance, build totems, burn leaves and twigs, all in fruitless, inharmonious efforts to solve the problems.

It is science – rational thought, skepticism, critical inquiry – that furthers greater harmony with nature.

UPDATE: Boudreaux clarifies a few points in this follow-up post, and concludes with:

It’s time we stop defining living harmoniously as having no effect on nature. Nothing intrinsic to the concept ‘living harmoniously with nature’ requires that humans live in such a way as to leave the environment as close as possible to what it would be like if we didn’t exist.

Andrea Dworkin: Good Riddance!

I know it’s not considered polite to speak ill of the dead, but some people deserved it!

I think Cathy Young gets things exactly right in her Reason Hit & Run post.

Dworkin was a crazed fanatic who was spectacularly wrong in most of her generalized conclusions. I think she and others who see women as perpetual victims, and men as perpetual criminals, have done much more harm than good for women.

I don’t mind so much that she was wrong. I mind that she wanted to impose her vision on the rest of us.

Ironically, I suspect that if her policy prescriptions were ever enacted widely much of her own work would have been banned or censored. The law cannot distinguish between good and bad art and speculation; and without broad liberties we risk being deprived of the freedom to share interesting, but controversial, ideas.

Book Meme

Mark Alexander at WitNit has passed a “Book Meme” along to me. I guess it’s like a blogosphere chain letter. I would refuse to cooperate on principle, but I didn’t have anything better to write about. So…here goes:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Anthem by Ayn Rand. It’s short and sweet and illustrates the supremacy of individualism over collectivism; which is probably the most important meme to spread in such an environment.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes. (stupid question! They should probably have added, “and if so, who?”)

The last book you bought is:

Sock by Penn Jillette. I blogged a little about it here.

The last book you read:

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. I thought it was a pretty interesting read. I liked the anecdotes. I don’t think it helps one to know when to trust his first instincts, and I’ll probably continue to look for good explanations before making important decisions, but it’s good to remember how much of what we know is based on inexplicit knowledge.

What are you currently reading?

How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by William Poundstone. Not because I’m very interested in the value of these questions when interviewing, but because I like logic puzzles, and I’m curious about what kind of answers to impossible questions are desired.

MCAD/MCSD Visual C# .NET Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Marj Rempel, Kenneth Lind. Just in case I decide to take more certification exams.

Freedom Evolves by Daniel C. Dennett. I actually haven’t picked this up in a while, but I consider myself to still be reading it.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter.

The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes-And Its Implications by David Deutsch

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Extreme Survival Almanac: Everything You Need to Know to Live Through a Shipwreck, Plane Crash, or Any Outdoor Crisis Imaginable by Reid Kincaid. I can’t believe everybody didn’t pick this one!

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

I’m going to cheat here (even more than above) and not name anybody, because I don’t think it’s fair if the invitation isn’t wanted.

But, I encourage anybody who reads this, and has a blog, and wants to answer the questions to do so and let us all know about it in the comments.

April Fools

I’m not going to try to pull an April Fool’s Day stunt this year.

But, many other web-based April Fool’s Day pranks are accumulating at this wikipedia web page.

Check them out.

The Romantic Government Meme

Russell Roberts has a nice post today about the perplexing romantic ideas of government provision of services that imagine that things are better that way than they would be if private people did them (coerced collective action = Good, private cooperative action = Bad or Unimaginable).

I often express my gratitude that the government didn’t decide early on that it must be the major provider of food, because food is so important (especially to the poor!). If they had, we’d probably be stuck with very few choices of mostly crappy food that would be incredibly expensive to produce and distribute. We’re all very lucky that this didn’t happen; especially the poor.

Now, if we could just get the government out of the education, health care, retirement, transportation, scientific research, art (and many other) businesses we’d be much better off.

Especially the poor.