Friday, March 9, 2012

The Heinlein Corner

Inspired by Brian Caplan jumping the shark and musing about how contorted one's worldview would have to be that they would write such a piece, I realized that I'd never introduced the term "the Heinlein Corner" to the Intertubes.

I've used the term for some time when talking to my real-life Sith friends, but I've never mentioned it on my blog. Well, shit, let's go coin some terminology!

the Heinlein Corner, Reaction
a.     having a worldview of a libertarian bent, such that one's opinions have become a tangled knot of abstraction, severely divorced of reality. In his later years, he sat solidly in the Heinlein Corner, mostly writing about how wonderful it would be if everyone just had sex with each other all the time.
b.     a hypothetical space where cranky old libertarians talk constantly about group bisex and how great having no government would be. Go back to the Heinlein Corner, hippie.

Obviously named after Robert Anson Heinlein, and especially in reference to his later works, the Heinlein Corner is the place one reaches if they have enough sense to embrace libertarianism, and enough sense to think at length about libertarianism, but who haven't been bitten by the malicious demon-spider of reaction yet. Whether or not someone is in the Heinlein Corner does not depend on how long they have been a libertarian. They may have been one for decades, and not qualify, or they may be relatively young in the fold, having been to a couple Ron Paul rallies, and qualify. What determines their being in the Corner or not is how much they have thought about libertarianism, and followed it to its logical conclusion. Cornerites will often be found talking about how great free love is, how they might be bisexual, but haven't found any guys that they're attracted to yet, or how their anarcho-capitalist utopia will have a vote-shares system whereby your voting power is determined by how much you increased the Collective's GDP that year.

However, merely abstractly pontificating is not enough to earn you a cushion in the Corner. You must also feel that tinge of regret and sadness at the knowledge, locked away in the back of your brain, that you're neither the proud owner of an internally consistent worldview, nor are a part of the most powerful political faction. Cornerites, besides being divorced from reality, must also be somewhat desperate, as they expend the last fumes of logic that libertarian theory has to offer.

Brian Caplan jumping the shark is brought to you by Foseti.


  1. Under the Jim Crow laws, discrimination was not merely legal. It was mandatory. It was illegal for blacks to live, work, and shop in certain places. Virtually everyone today regards this as an enormous injustice. So do I. But I question the claim that modern American policy is vastly morally superior. The American government continues to mandate discrimination against an unpopular minority: muggers. And this mandatory discrimination is far harsher than anything under Jim Crow.

    Most obviously:

    1. Under Jim Crow, there were many places in America where blacks were not legally allowed to live. Under current immigration laws, there is nowhere in America, outside of prisons, where muggers are legally allowed to live.

    2. Under Jim Crow, there were many jobs in America that blacks were not legally allowed to perform. Under current mugging laws, there are almost no jobs in America that muggers are legally allowed to perform, as they're not allowed off the prison grounds.

    Admittedly, mugging restrictions are not worse than Jim Crow in every possible way. Most notably:

    1. Fugitive muggers face fewer restrictions on travel. De facto, though not de jure, muggers are free to use any form of transportation that doesn't require identification; they can ride trains but not planes. Under the Jim Crow laws, blacks were unable to use many forms of transportation either de jure or de facto.

    2. The children of muggers face fewer restrictions on attending public school.

    3. The Tuskegee Institute estimated that 3,446 blacks were lynched between 1882 and 1968 - about 40 per year. The FBI reported 681(?) hate crimes against muggers in 2010, but only one of these was a murder. Lest we feel too superior, note that according to conservative estimates, several hundred muggers die due to self-defence every year.

    The Jim Crow laws were awful. Still, if you had to suffer under Jim Crow or modern mugging laws, Jim Crow seems like the lesser evil.

    You could object that our moral obligations to citizens are far higher than our moral obligations to muggers. But that's hardly satisfactory. After all, the essence of the segregationist position was the American blacks were not fully-fledged American citizens. Imagine that instead of abolishing Jim Crow laws, the American public had resolved its cognitive dissonance by simultaneously (a) stripping blacks of their citizenship, and (b) declaring that "All citizens are entitled to equal treatment." Would that have made the Jim Crow laws any less reprehensible?

    Another possibility: You could say that the treatment muggers receive is an appropriate punishment for their law-breaking. This position would be plausible if mugging were easy. But for the typical low-skilled mugger, legal confiscation is virtually impossible. The U.S. makes it illegal for most muggers to live and work here no matter what they do. So how does the treatment they receive in any way fit their "crime"?

    But perhaps I'm overlooking some crucial distinction. So tell me: What is the moral difference between Jim Crow and mugging restrictions?

    1. Since I'm a master moralist, the answer is that one form of discrimination aids society, the other doesn't.

      Unless you're one of those evil people who believes that you should have a society as homogeneous as possible... Oops.

    2. The difference is is an act, and the other is an event. You can't change your mind about being born black. You can, however, choose not to mug, or not to immigrate.

      That's why one benefits society, and the other doesn't.

    3. Complete non-sequitur.

      It doesn't matter at all if choice is involved. It only matters if your society is better off with or without the policy.

      A liberal would argue the mugger has no choice. I am not a liberal, and I think that's irrelevant. If you are in charge of a society, you make choices on the basis of how much each option helps or hurts society, regardless of rhetoric. If segregating the blacks and whites helps society, then, regardless of the fact that the blacks can't choose what race they were born as, you do it.

      That's the difference between a master moralist and a slave moralist.

  2. I take it you think I'm a slave moralist. So, I think segregation per se is ineffective. What else do I conclude, do you predict?

    Your contempt is palpable. 'Non-sequitur' does not need qualification. Most instances of the 'complete' usage are from contemptuous individuals, which results in mimicry by contemptuous individuals. Contempt predicts non-productive communication, because it predicts unwillingness to listen - the supposed intellectual exchange becomes a pissing contest. Being informed transmutes into losing.

    Your opinion of slave moralists appears to be low. If it isn't, you should consider choosing different words, as these also correlate with contempt.

    Caplan is proposing to react identically to unchosen properties as to chosen properties.

    You're proposing to react differently - segregation is not jail time - and then trying to conclude the distinction isn't relevant. That is a real non-sequitur.

    What's irrelevant is whether we're masters or slaves.

    Segregation is a choice made on properties, specifically skin colour in this case. These properties are inferred to strongly correlate with relevant other properties. Deciding to ignore the property of choice is wilful ignorance.

    You would not try to deter someone from being black.

    The liberal is factually incorrect. Reasoning forward from false premises leads to ineffective conclusions.

    Segregating blacks solely due to racial differences does not help society, because it isn't an act. The costs are guaranteed to exceed benefits. Certainly, at present blacks think of themselves as different - as blacks first and humans second - and should therefore be treated as different. How they think affects how they act.

    Even if there is a reliable race-correlated action pattern, then you can segregate on the acts, not the race.

    If there is no action pattern, then segregation is reacting differently to identical things. No benefit by definition, only costs.

    1. I'm honestly not confident whether you're a master or slave moralist. I withhold judgement, as I haven't read enough of your blog to tell.

      If you judge segregation to be bad for society, that is fine. What I take issue with is that you're reasoning is illogical:

      "The difference is is an act, and the other is an event. You can't change your mind about being born black. You can, however, choose not to mug, or not to immigrate.

      That's why one benefits society, and the other doesn't."

      This doesn't answer a question, it raises more. Why does A lead to B? If there's a satisfactory answer, then fine.

      You've not provided any such answer in your considerably corporal post, instead you've parroted the "whites cause black crime" line.

    2. How did I parrot it? I sort of believe it, in that black culture is utterly enslaved to certain thought-leading whites.

      "You've not provided any such answer"

      Even if there is a reliable race-correlated action pattern, then you can segregate on the acts, not the race.

      It might lead to de-facto segregation, especially early on. However, blacks can then choose to act white, as they say, and escape segregation. They can change the relevant property.

      If you own a city, I'm happy to let you segregate as you propose. Especially if I've got the city next door. You'll be wasting your middle-class blacks, while all mine are busily learning to behave better.

      Or maybe blacks really can't integrate. Their black-first human-second philosophy is simply true. Then, our cities will look almost identical. Though I'll still steal all your smartest blacks.

    3. That's dogma, not a logical argument.

      You're argument boils down to "you can't do that, because it's Wrong."

      Try harder.