On Human Rights (a rant)

Posted July 3, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: Civil Rights, General, Misc Debris, Political Philosophy

I don’t believe in men’s, women’s, gay’s, hetero’s, or whatever rights you’ll arbitrarily put upon the table. I only agree with the rights of human beings themselves, as body-owners of their selves, and as the first appropriators of unowned property, or property transferred by way of legitimate title-transfer (contract).

So yeah, my sense of rights is entirely universal no matter who you are; there is no ambiguousness on the matter! I can care less about collectivist battles about “muh rights”, because at the end of the day, whenever a group is screaming about their ‘collective’ rights, you need only to hold tight to your wallet in order to put them all into a petulant frenzy.

And it is this that is quite instructive of the world of which we live in today … to quote Bastiat, “the state is the great fiction whereby everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.

If there is not a more instructive and objective case in order to prove such a thing–other than the world in which we live today–then I will never endeavor to find another case.

The preponderance of folks that argue over who will pay for their own expenses, ad infinitum? It grows tiresome.

However, I would tend to think that in my current years, that I’ve identified an understanding that precedes my time by many years and ages, one that was just as true as before, and one that has permeated the essence of human liberty … We are all social beings, but we must also understand [that] our individual natures are the essence of our cooperation. It is not our equality that makes us whole, but rather it is our cooperation in the truths of our inequalities–that which one can do that the other cannot, but where cooperation ensues–that brings us all that single step forward from where we were before.

To disregard that is to disregard the actuality of one’s being in this world that we call humanity.

My Appearance on ‘Live All Your Life’ with Cody Limbaugh (Part 3)

Posted July 2, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: Common Sense, Economics, Fun Corner, General, Government, Media, Misc Debris, Political Philosophy

The 97% Consensus is Bollocks

Posted July 1, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: Common Sense, Propaganda, Science, Uncategorized

I am sure that you have all heard the word consensus used many times with regard to what is often called Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), or more recently, Global Climate Change (GCC). However, over the past year or so there has been another phrase bandied about to support this so-called consensus, that “97% of climate scientists agree with the consensus view that humans are the primary cause of global warming” (or something to that effect).

The source of this second claim (that attempts to reinforce the first) is from a 2013 paper by lead author John Cook, a solar physicist who operates the website Skeptical Science. The paper in question, Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature, or simply Cook et. al. (2013), concludes, “Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW”.

That statement looks fine and dandy at first glance and it seems to support the data as shown in the Cook et. al. paper. However, there is far more to this statement than meets the eye.

Methodology is Everything

In order to undertake their study, Cook and his co-authors searched the ISI Web of Science looking for papers published from 1991-2011 using the search terms “global warming” and “global climate change”, and they further restricted their search to articles only (which excluded books, discussions, proceeding papers, and other types). This yielded a total of 12,465 papers, which were then rated into types according to Table 1 below, the result of which was the elimination of papers that were not peer-reviewed, not climate related, or without an abstract; this resulted in a total of 11,944 papers from 29,083 authors in 1980 journals.

Table 1

 

The resulting 11,944 papers where then sorted into seven levels according to their level of endorsement of AGW as shown in Table 2 below. We can see that amongst the seven levels in Table 2, that they can further be reduced to 3 primary categories, two of which (endorse/reject) have their own three levels of relative endorsement/rejection. The primary categories are: Endorse AGW, No Position/Uncertain, and Reject AGW.

Table 2

 

Cook et. al. also performed a self-rating analysis, whereby they emailed 8547 authors with an invitation to rate their own papers. They received 1200 responses (a 14% response rate), and a total of 2142 papers received a self-rating from 1189 authors.

While the self-rating section of this study is quite interesting, I’ll be limiting my analysis of the claim that “97% of climate scientists agree with the consensus” (paraphrase) to only the first part of the study, that which deals with the papers themselves. The reason for this decision of mine is two-fold: first, due to the very small number of respondents who self-rated, there could be the inclusion of bias toward a particular position; and two, I do not have access to the data file for the self-rating portion of the study (I only have the data file for the abstract analysis portion of the study).

What Consensus?

It must be asked, “what exactly is the consensus in this study?”. Cook et. al. (2013) doesn’t define this term for us, so we have no choice but to infer its definition from our own opinions, right? Well, not exactly.

You see, there was another paper, Legates et. al. (2013), that served as a critical response to Cook et. al. (2013). While this paper is behind a pay wall and thus cannot be fully accessed by myself, it is fortuitous that Cook responded to it in another paper, Bedford and Cook (2013). In this particular paper co-authored by Cook we see the sentence, “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause”.

So while in the first Cook paper we only get the statement, “Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW”, we get a followup paper from Cook stating that “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause” (emphasis mine).

It appears that we now have Cook’s definition of what the consensus is that he referred to in his first paper, and it is entirely consistent with the IPCC’s claims as laid out in their 2007 statement, as well. The consensus is apparently that humans are the main cause of global warming.

The only problem is that Cook is full of it. He’s being entirely dishonest!

A Little Look at the Numbers

As mentioned above, the methodology employed by Cook et. al. (2013) was to take the 11,944 papers and separate them into seven distinct levels of endorsement, and that these seven levels could further be separated into three primary categories as outlined in Table 2 above. The results were then compiled and shown as percentages in Table 3 below, though one can clearly see that level 4 was further divided between “uncertain on AGW” and “no AGW position” in the table.

Table 3

 

As can be clearly seen, 32.6% of all abstracts endorse the AGW position, a majority of 66.4% having no position on AGW, and the other categories represent less than 3% of the total. However, we also see the 97.1% figure that is the topic of our inquiry, which represents the percentage of abstracts with a position on AGW who actually endorse (rather than reject) the AGW position.

This all seems consistent with Cook’s claims, right? No, not exactly.

If you’ll remember, the primary category of endorsement for AGW was divided between three distinct levels of relative endorsement (levels 1, 2, and 3 in Table 2). The first is level 1, “explicitly states that humans are the primary cause of recent global warming”. The next level 2 says, “explicitly states humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change as a known fact”. The last level 3 states, “implies humans are causing global warming”. So only level 1 states that humans are the primary or main cause of global warming, while level 2 merely states that humans “are causing” global warming (which doesn’t tell us how much they are causing it), and level 3 merely implies that humans are causing global warming (which again doesn’t tell us how much they are causing it).

So the 97.1% figure that is the topic of our enquiry is actually the sum of levels 1, 2, and 3. If this is the case, then it certainly cannot be said that the statement from Bedford and Cook (2013) that, “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97% endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause”, is at all accurate. After all, some of those papers representing that 97.1% in Cook et. al. (2013) must have fallen into both levels 2 and 3, and not just level 1 (which is the only level that states that humans are the primary or main cause of global warming). Nor can it be said that the statement in Cook et. al (2013) that, “among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW”, is accurate, because the subsequent paper by Cook defines the consensus in this statement as being the position that humans are the main cause of global warming.

And how do I know that not all of the papers that represent that 97.1% figure fall into only category 1? Because logic would dictate as much, but also because I have the data file for Cook et. al. (2013). Here’s what the breakdown of each level looks like:

Level 1 = 64
Level 2 = 922
Level 3 = 2910
Level 4 = 7970
Level 5 = 54
Level 6 = 15
Level 7 = 9

Clearly, we can see that there were more papers that rejected AGW than there were that supported the notion that humans are the primary or main cause of global warming (i.e. level 1). Further, when we break down the three levels that represent the category of endorsement of AGW, this is what they look like as a percentage:

Level 1 = 1.6%
Level 2 = 23%
Level 3 = 72%

Conclusion

I’m not a climate scientist, but the simple fact is that based upon the evidence in his own papers, John Cook is misrepresenting his own study and is fabricating the idea–based upon his own definition and that of others–that 97% of climate scientists endorse the consensus that humans are the primary or main cause of global warming. What is worse is that I’ve heard this statement “97% support the consensus” from all sorts of sources. From the ignorant masses on the internet, the talking heads on television, in news articles, and even from the President of the United States himself. While it could quite probably be the case that they’re simply repeating what they’ve heard others say, it is still entirely irresponsible to make such a claim as fact without checking it out for yourself.

I’ve done the homework for you. The next time that you hear somebody make claims about a consensus, you’d be entirely correct to point out to them that 1.6% does not represent a consensus.

My Appearance on ‘Live All You Life’ with Cody Limbaugh (Part 2)

Posted June 26, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: General, Media, Misc Debris

My Appearance on ‘Live All Your Life’ with Cody Limbaugh (Part 1)

Posted June 19, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: Economics, Fun Corner, General, Government, Media, Political Philosophy

My Appearance on the Voluntary Virtues Round Table

Posted June 3, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: Media

On Government and the State

Posted April 28, 2014 by Joseph Fetz
Categories: General, Government, Political Philosophy, Random Musings

In political philosophy circles it is often said that it is very important to define your terms so that confusion can be minimized. One instance where I think that this is of the utmost importance–which also happens to be a certain pet peeve of mine– is in the case that presents itself when speaking about government and the state. It is often the case that these two terms are used as synonyms, but I believe this to be incorrect.

The terms themselves have very important conceptual implications, and conflating the terms ignores their grammatical nature and can lead to faulty conclusions. That the state has served the role of government in society for much of human history is no implication upon the term government with regard to the term’s meaning. Since many continue to use the terms state and government synonymously, I must address this error.

While almost everybody in political philosophy circles knows that the state is an entity that serves as the monopoly of governance in a particular region, most do not take notice of the fact that governance occurs in many other areas of human thought beyond that of the state, as well as the fact that in referring to the state we can also separately refer to the concept of governance.

Please, let me give just a few examples …

*  *  *

If you have any sort of normative order that is under discussion, say, that of property rights itself (or more specifically, that of libertarian property rights), then that is a governing order, it’s a system of government that prevails in a society. The only difference is that these norms (or ought statements) are generally apodictic rather than simply dictated statements in their justification (though this is not always the case, it is the goal in the theorizing about such things). Obviously, in the case of the state, this is entirely reversed, the laws that are dictated are merely statements–more specifically they are dictates (statutes) by the monopoly on governance; the state–but they are certainly not apodictically true, nor is that even the goal, thus they do not meet the criteria of laws at all; they are arbitrary dictates.

The same dynamic also finds itself present in the realm of positive statements, such as those of economic theory. Economics itself relies upon certain laws and understandings, that of which are always grounded in positive or is statements. Certainly the laws of economics govern (steer/guide) the actions of men in a world of scarce resources, this is necessarily the case because such laws are apodictically true. Economics is nothing other than the study of the government of humans acting in a world of scarcity, and indeed, one cannot violate the laws of economics: It’s literally impossible to do so. One could certainly say that the laws of economics comprise a government of human affairs (that these laws govern the reality of man vs nature, that they are apodictically true laws, one cannot contradict them in action). In contrast, it makes little sense to, say, propose the statement that the law of scarcity has no economic impact, or that something is scarce merely because it has been made so by policy functions (e.g. a shortage due to such a policy).

The difference between dictates and policies on the one hand, should never be confused with laws and governance on the other. This distinction between root concepts and foundational ideals cannot be overstated, because it is often the case that in one realm of human thought where these things are entirely understood, that in another realm of thought the understandings of the prior gets tossed to the wayside in favor of very bad ideas. 

*  *  *

One must ultimately understand the etymology of words, as well as the evolution of language, in order to find meaning in the same. In the case of the term govern, it is a verb that simply means to steer or guide people or things. At its root, it is formed from the idea that certain laws prevail or are true in reality. For instance, it would not be too bold to say that the law of supply and demand governs prices, or that the law of gravity governs the attractive relationship of bodies. This is obviously true. However, for some reason, the verb govern takes a twisted turn in many people’s mind once you modify it with the suffix -ment to become a noun.

It is this noun-character (as well as the reality of the state) that often leads people to conflate government with the state as synonyms. They are both nouns, after all, and certainly the state has undertaken the government of society throughout a great part of human history. But it takes one of more astute care and attention to realize what is going on here.

The state is an actual entity (at least it is linguistically referred to as an entity), so it is a concrete noun, whereas government is an abstract noun, which is a concept. So right here we can see can see a pretty large difference between the two grammatically, but the real interesting part is in the root word to suffix transition that occurs (from govern to government).

Probably the best words to use as analogues to the word govern are those of the words excite and entice. These are transitive verbs, just like that of the word govern, and they require a certain object (or objects) in order for reference to them. One simply cannot use a transitive verb without referring to some thing. So let’s modify them into abstract nouns!

In order to stay consistent, I will modify all of these transitive verbs into abstract nouns by the usage of the modifying suffix -ment (which is defined as, “forming nouns expressing the result or means of action”). Since English grammar is the governing structure that gives meaning to the words of English, the point should be quite clear.

The transitive verbs excite and entice are modified into the abstract nouns excitement and enticement. Clearly, we could not conflate these abstract nouns with concrete nouns, such that we could call the state “the excitement” or “the enticement”, rather we are left with resorting to using the preposition of to combine the two. So it is perfectly acceptable to say something like “the excitement/enticement of the state”, but it is not acceptable to refer to the state as “the excitement/enticement”. The same is true of the word government, it cannot be used as a synonym for an entity because of its grammatical nature (i.e. abstract nouns vs concrete nouns).

*  *  *

Anarcho-libertarians often run into problems when discussing their chosen political philosophy with statists, and this is often due to this very dynamic of conflating the terms state and government. This leads one to believe that what the anarchist is saying is that they do not believe in law or order, when it is exactly the opposite that is true. Certainly anarcho-libertarians do believe in laws, they just do not believe in arbitrary laws (such as legislated statutes, or mere dictates); and just as much, they also believe in governance, they just do not believe in monopoly governance, such as the state. The anarcho-libertarian’s system of laws is based upon libertarian property rights in conjunction with the non-aggression principle, which together form a rather robust system of government.

For the anarcho-libertarian to deny government, this only plays into the claims by statists that anarchy is chaotic and lawless (a Hobbesian state of nature of all against all, thus justifying the need for Leviathan; the state) when this is very clearly far from being the actual case. As I am often fond of saying: “I’m all for big government, but I have zero tolerance for the state”. Let a statist try that one on for size.


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