28 February 2011

What Is The Fed Smoking?

The gall of some people:

The economy is unlikely to mount strong enough growth to change the path of monetary policy over coming months, although rising commodity prices argue for increased inflation vigilance, a top Federal Reserve official said Monday.
 “The economic outlook has improved considerably,” and “a wide range of indicators show a broadening and strengthening of demand and production,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley said.

Right.  Unemployment is at 9%, production numbers are still down, shipping numbers are down, and inflation is going up.  Just how is this a precursor to sustained growth?

The simple fact of the matter is that America is going to be feeling pain for a while.  There is no point in denying this reality, especially since doing so will only to foolish and counterproductive policies.

IP in a Nutshell

This story tells you everything you need to know about IP:

The Senate is taking up the Patent Reform Act, which would significantly overhaul a 1952 law and, supporters say, bring the patent system in line with 21st century technology of biogenetics and artificial intelligence. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch hails it as "an important step toward maintaining our global competitive edge."
Congress has been trying for well over a decade to rewrite patent law, only to be thwarted by the many interested parties — multinational corporations and small-scale inventors, pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley companies — pulling in different directions. Prospects for passing a bill now, however, are promising.

Fundamentally, IP is simply a monopoly privilege, which is why businesses spend millions of dollars in lobbying fees whenever the status is challenged.  The argument, when is all is said and done, is never about property rights; it’s about money.  In fact, IP serves as a sort of soft corporate welfare.

So don’t be fooled about arguments about how IP is a fundamental part of property law.  It isn’t.  IP is all about money.  In fact, if you read the constitution, you will find that the case for IP is utilitarian in nature.  None of the founding fathers believed that IP was a legitimate extension of property rights.  They simply saw IP as way to encourage invention and innovation.

So, when people start to wax eloquent on the subject of intellectual property, and the changes that must be made to the system, simply ask yourself this one question:  How much money do they stand to make from the changes?  Their answer will tell you everything you need to know.

This is Not Rocket Science

Unbelievable.  The other day I quoted OneSTDV, who correctly claimed capitalism will inevitably result in a race to the bottom, as it will eventually market to man's most base desires.  In this case, those base desires are a woman's base desire to throw out her beta male husband and seek hypergamous self-actualization as a sexual free agent, freshly loosed from the somewhat restricting tethers of marital fidelity, rationalization hamster spinning into ludicrous speed along the way. Such an enticement for women to engage in frivolous divorce just so they can get their freak on is but one example of how our culture can stop subsidizing misbehavior such as this.

I’ve addressed the claim that capitalism is a race to the bottom, and demonstrated that it is false.  (NB- I assume that Elusive Wapiti and OneSTDV both use the word “capitalism” as an equivalent to “free market.”  The two terms are not similar, let alone synonymous, but that’s for another post).  To recap:

First, social failure is nearly always the result of rampant immorality.  Only loony atheists with no grasp of reality or morality argue otherwise, and their arguments are always wrong.  When enough people start behaving immorally, society is toast.

Second, most immorality stems from government subsidy.  To state it another way, it is not the free market that encouraged the rise in illegitimate births, nor is the free market responsible for the subsidy of non-workers.  The state subsidizes these things, which is why they have increased in the last several decades.

Third, if anything, the free market tends to encourageconservative behavior.  In a perfectly free market that is anchored on property rights, all participants bear the moral hazard of their behavior.  Once you remove direct and indirect government subsidies of counterproductive behavior, you will see a lot less of it because it will literally become unaffordable.

Fourth, the state is not an argument.  It can distort reality, but it cannot change it.  Any moral failures that occur will not be fixed by the state.  They can only be fixed by other people who take the time to change other people’s minds through rhetoric in light of reality.  When the government stops distorting reality, people become more inclined to listen to people that already have a good grasp of how best to handle reality.

Finally, the implicit assumption that the free market will lead to or not discourage immorality (“a race to the bottom”) is ludicrous on its head.  Does EW really think that the rampant immorality of the last few decades is tied to the free market?

If one were to take an historical perspective of government scope and size and compare it to relative social decay, one will find that as government increases in size and scope, so, too, does immorality.  As we all know, correlation is not causation.  However, it is clear that immorality is not correlated to the free market, let alone caused by it.  Why then would anyone think that free market will be the cause of any problems that later arise?

In sum, the free market will not lead to social decay.  It may not eliminate it in its entirety, but it will not cause it, either.  To combat social decay it is necessary to eliminate the government subsidization thereof, which forces people to bear responsibility for their actions.  If that cannot save society, nothing will.

27 February 2011

If You Say So

I hope no one stakes their professional reputation on this:

More broadly, Lacker said higher oil prices are a “manageable risk” for the U.S. economy. “I think that the oil-price increase we’ve seen so far doesn’t pose a risk to the recovery,” Lacker said, although he added “oil-price changes could have the potential, if they were very large, for slowing the economy.”

And how, exactly, are higher oil prices a “manageable risk”?  Manageable how?  And by whom?  It isn’t like America gets the bulk of its oil within its own borders.  And it isn’t like the local market isn’t susceptible to international demand anyway.  And given how the federal government has instituted a wide variety of restrictions and regulations on oil production, and energy production in general, it is patently ludicrous to suggest the risk we have is “manageable.”

And remember that old saying?  “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”?  That’s exactly what’s going to happen with oil and energy prices.  In fact, it’s happening now.  Gas over $3/gallon in every state, and in California the price is over $4/gallon.  Given production instability in the middle east and QE2, there is simply no reason to think that oil-price changes will be anything other than large in the coming months.

In short, this analysis relies on optimism that borders on the absurd in order to reach a conclusion of wishful thinking.  The reality is that we’re screwed, and will be for a while.  The high energy costs will be a reminder of that.

25 February 2011

Help a Brother Out

Dalrock has a request:

Lastly, my original post is now mid way down at the bottom of the first page of google results for Single in the Suburbs.  I’m hoping as more visitors see that page it will keep moving higher up.  Perhaps some of my fellow bloggers will be willing to assist by linking to my original post with the text “Single in the Suburbs.”  Together we may even prevent at least a few kids from growing up in broken homes due to frivolous divorce.

This seems like a really good cause, so here’s my plug:  Go read Single in the Suburbs at Dalrocks blog.  Do it now.


One of the more common themes of my college business classes has been on the topic of encouraging and explaining entrepreneurship.  While I am of the opinion that entrepreneurs are more “born” than “made,” I tend to agree with the general sentiment that the world needs more entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, what most of my professors have meant by entrepreneurship is little more than running a small business.  There is nothing inherently wrong with running a small business, but telling people that starting a specific, government-defined vehicle of wealth is the same as being an entrepreneur, and that this is a desirable thing seems somewhat misguided to me.

In addition, this seems to be a silly status game.  (Note: status-boosting is the social inverse of shaming, in that it is using language to override most a person’s beliefs/desires.)   Calling people entrepreneurs in order to get them to engage in activities that are detrimental to them is unsustainable in the long-term, and downright cruel in spite of proponents’ intentions.

I say that encouraging a false form of entrepreneurship is cruel because it encourages people to embark on business ventures that are high-tax (like sole proprietorship) and high risk in general.  Not everyone is going to succeed at small business ventures, yet most of my professors ignore this and present said ventures as, to borrow a phrase, “doing God’s work.”

In all of this, there is an implicit recognition that entrepreneurs have gone away, and that they are vital to the long-term economic success of not just one’s country, but the entire world.  This is true, albeit slightly hyperbolic, and deserves some consideration.  The best place to start is with the meaning of the word “entrepreneur.”

What is an entrepreneur?

There is no simple way to define “entrepreneur.”  It is like pornography, in that one knows it when one sees it.  However, there are some general characteristics of entrepreneurs that are useful in setting them apart from others, and providing a workable definition.

In the first place, entrepreneurs are very independent-minded.  Some might refer to this as “thinking outside the box,” but that term is nonsensical and misleading, which is why I choose to avoid it.  Instead, entrepreneurs are people who think within different paradigms.  They do not need others to tell them how or what to think, because they can think for themselves.  This does not mean that they invent their own facts; rather, they draw their own conclusions from them.

Secondly, entrepreneurs are creative.  They see the same problems everyone else sees, but they are able to come up with different solutions.  The solutions are not needlessly complex.  In fact, most are dead simple, almost insanely so.  Sometimes, the entrepreneurial will look to replace while most look to reform, and this requires a special kind of creativity.

Third, the entrepreneur has a special relationship with risk.  Entrepreneurs are not afraid of risk, in part because they are better able to understand it.  There have been many successful ventures that others would consider risky.  The ventures were considered risky because so much was unknown.  The iPod, for example, and the personal computer were at one time considered risky bets because most of the experts were unable to correctly identify risk. The entrepreneurs who brought these products to market understood better than the so-called experts that these risks, though unknown, were likely overstated because people wanted these things even if they didn’t know it beforehand.  The entrepreneur, since he is able to see solutions that no one else sees, also knows that presenting these solutions is not as risky as experts think, because people want these solutions even though they themselves cannot envision them.

In the fourth place, the entrepreneur is active.  He is not content to sit back and let life happen to him. As cliché as this sounds, he makes his own luck.  He does whatever he can to ensure his success.  Does chance play a part in his eventual success or failure? Definitely.  But the entrepreneur does what he can to ensure that chance plays the smallest role possible in the outcome of his venture.

In the fifth place, the entrepreneur is industrious.  He is not lazy.  This doesn’t mean that he does unnecessary work, but it does mean that he gets work done.  He works intelligently, and tries to accomplish as much as he can in the most efficient way possible.  He also more intelligent than average.

Obviously, then, these are the sort of people that bring about the process of “creative destruction,” which is why they are so necessary.  But it seems that these sort of people have dropped out of the economy, which begs the obvious question:

Where have the entrepreneurs gone?

Where indeed.  Entrepreneurs have seemingly disappeared from the market, and no one seems to know where they are.  Fortunately, Captain Capitalism can give us some insight:
Bill is my buddy and my realtor. I've known him a long time as I've been in real estate a long time. And ever since I've known him he's been an entrepreneur. He's been in real estate, works hard and has always been on the look out for what we call "Cunning Plans" as a reference to the Black Adder Comedy Troupe.
His "cunning plans" included grandiose things like boosting some of the poorer communities by bulldozing the worst neighborhoods and putting a golf course right in the middle while building around the periphery of the course condos to house those displaced.
Another was to analyze and identify key houses in the richest of neighborhoods, purchasing them and housing ex-cons and loud youth in them to drive prices in the neighborhood down, only to repurchase the land, kick the criminals out and resell the properties at a markup.
Whatever the case, he was always thinking, planning and scheming coming up with new ideas.
No longer.
Now he's gone into complete defense mode. His purchases and "investments" are not really investments at all, but food supplies, survival gear and potentially finding a safe house. Admittedly he's gone a little further down the "society collapsing" route than I have, but be it him, me or any other young entrepreneur, there is a HUGE ramification that just dawned on me.
The entrepreneurs are no longer entrepreneuring. They've stopped.
The Captain is somewhat mistaken here.  Entrepreneurs haven’t stopped being themselves; they’ve merely redirected their energies.  Bill didn’t stop planning and executing, he changed his plans.  Instead of making a profit in real estate, he has decided to prepare for the coming collapse.  Entrepreneurs, first and foremost, look out for themselves.  Many products have been invented, and many innovations have occurred because someone simply wanted to solve a problem that was bothering them.  Since marketing this product is no longer as profitable as it once was, Bill simply decided to use his talents differently.

And so, the entrepreneurs are still among us, but they are no longer concerned with solving “our” problems, which begs the next question:

Why have they dropped out?

The Adam Smith Institute recognizes the problem exists, and, in proposing a solution, hints at the reason why they’ve dropped out:
We'd all like to have more entrepreneurs in the economy, of course. Those lighting rods of the business world who are able to see new ways of putting together extant resources to produce new, better, even cheaper, products for the rest of us to enjoy.
But it turns out that "encouraging entrepreneurship" is more difficult that it seems. Telling people to go and do something new doesn't inspire all that many to do so…
For example, reducing the regulation which winds around all too many industries would mean that skill and talent stops being used to deploy such regulations to strangle competitors and is instead turned to creating new ones.
To put it another way: create that level playing field and entrepreneurs won't spend their time trying to game the system, they'll get on with making life better for us all.

The reason why entrepreneurs have stopped producing is because there is little or no profit in it, pure and simple.  The government has made it costly to do business, especially if that business is production.  There a thousands of costly regulations that must be adhered to in order for any business venture to be allowed to exist and operate.  Entrepreneurs don’t want any part of this.  In fact, no one, outside of lawyers, wants anything to do with the mess of the regulatory system, for too often it gets in the way of doing actual work.  Filling out forms is not productive, it is wasteful.

It is also expensive.  One must either spend their own time filling out forms, limiting personal productivity and the profits associated with it, or one must hire someone else to fill out the forms, which also cuts into profits.

Compliance to regulations also cost money, particularly where production facilities are concerned.  These days, coming up with a new idea is the easy part.  The hard part is producing it.  Production in America is costly, in part because of building codes and in part because of pollution control.  And producing overseas is no picnic either.  There are shipping costs and extra personnel costs associated with overseas productions.

And who can forget taxes?  There are corporate taxes and personal taxes to be paid, all compounding upon one another.  When you think about it, it is indeed a wonder that entrepreneurs are able to make a profit at all.  And when you consider it further, it is no surprise that they are dropping out of the system in droves.

But it need not be like this, which begs the next question:

How can we bring them back?

This question is a very broad one, and has thousands of contributory answers.  However, there are four major policies that, if enacted, should help to restore the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the first place, I recommend ending all business subsidies, at both the state and federal level.  This is necessary because this will enable deregulation, and because this levels the playing field.  Big businesses do not need subsidies.  If they can make it on their own, the subsidies are superfluous.  If they cannot, the subsidies keep a bad system from failing.  Either way, businesses are better able to undercut the inventions and innovations of entrepreneurs.

In the second place, and only after all subsidies have been removed, it is time to deregulate.  Regulatory compliance is often a fixed cost, which is not easily distributed when dealing with niche productions.  Large industries have little problem with laws like this because they can deal with them relatively cheaply.  For the entrepreneur that is just starting out, these sort of costs can cripple or prevent them or prevent their venture from going anywhere.  And if we except small-time entrepreneurs from compliance, it is only fair to except everyone else as well.

In the third place, I would recommend eliminating corporate taxes.  This recommendation stems primarily from the belief that individual citizens should bear the cost of taxation.  It is a truism that only individuals can pay taxes anyway, so the tax code should directly reflect this reality.  In addition, the only thing corporate taxes really do is increase the break-even point, which can be the difference between success and failure for many entrepreneurs.

Finally, I would eliminate Intellectual Property law.  This sounds counter-intuitive to most, but between patent jumpers and the massive amount of IP lawsuits, entrepreneurs are better off without IP.  In fact, large corporations often patent things they have no intention of bringing to market just so they can sue or charge licensing fees to those who end bringing those ideas to market.  This benefits no one except mega-corporations, and is itself a form of corporate welfare.

Summary and implications

The entrepreneur is a poorly understood creature who has gone into hiding.  He has dropped out of the market because it is no longer profitable for him to remain in it. Instead, he has now focused his attention on doing what is best for himself in light of the coming collapse.  He should not be blamed or derided for this choice.

In fact, if anyone deserves blame in this matter, it is those of us who have demanded that the entrepreneur forego his self-interest in order to serve our needs while simultaneously support politicians and policies that have turned the entrepreneur’s game  into a no-win situation for him.

If we want the entrepreneurs to come back, we must reverse the policies that have caused them to leave.  We must once again level the playing field for them.  Maybe, just maybe, they’ll come back.

More Momentum

The former treasurer of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corporation, once one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country, admitted to helping run a $1.9 billion fraud scheme that was directed at the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program and contributed to the failure of Colonial Bank.
The former treasurer, Desiree Brown, 45, pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiring to commit bank fraud. She also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the trial of Lee Farkas, former chairman of Taylor, Bean, on April 4. Ms. Brown also settled civil charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the S.E.C. said. [HT: Market Ticker]

It sure is nice to see that the government is continuing to take housing fraud seriously.  Now, this isn’t the end of things by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a continuation of what needs to be done to address the massive amount of fraud that has been perpetrated by the banks, and which helped to create the housing bubble and its eventual collapse. I hope the government continues to address these crimes, and that all those who committed them are punished appropriately.

It Cuts Both Ways

One of the more amusing aspects of neo-conservative political commentary, as typified by commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and most FoxNews contributors, is the tendency to point out the unintended consequences of state interference in markets.  One example of this that I recall was how Rush, a couple of years ago, pointed out how CAFE standards were responsible for the existence of the SUV.  What I find amusing about this sort of thing is how neo-cons are good at determining the negative unintended consequences of leftist governmental interference yet are otherwise incapable of applying the same sort of analysis towards conservative-sponsored governmental interference.  It apparently never occurs to conservatives that some of the obtrusive policies they support have had negative consequences.  Specifically, I refer to the war on drugs:

The crackdown on cocaine created the meth crisis, argues Mark Thornton, and now the crackdown on meth is producing more ill effects. New designer drugs are pouring in from the UK under the label bath salts, drugs so new that the state hasn’t even made them illegal. Meanwhile the potency gets higher and higher and each new drug deadlier and more wicked than the last, just as during Prohibition times.

One of the books in my reading queue makes a similar case about alcohol and pot.  From reading the dust jacket, it appears that the ban on marijuana has led people to use alcohol as a legal alternative to altering one’s mind.  This has apparently had the unfortunate consequence of sending death and injury rates higher than they need to be, for alcohol is more dangerous than pot in many ways.  Neo-conservatives seem to ignore this, as well as the analysis mentioned above, for they do not want to face the fact that their policy recommendations have done more harm than good even though the policy is based on traditional morals.

Like the environmentalists that sought to impose CAFE standards, they ignore two simple facts that doom them to failure every time.  First, they attempt to curb supply for drugs without ever realizing that the underlying problem is demand.  By this, I mean that it is futile to ban drugs because that simply doesn’t change people’s demand for them.  Demand for drugs exists irrespective supply, and will continue to exist even if all the current drug dealers are arrested and thrown in jail.  And there will always be enterprising citizens who find a way to profitably deliver the products demanded to the people who want them.

The second thing that conservatives tend to overlook is that the state is not an argument.  Banning drugs, as noted before, does not change people’s desire for them.  What little empirical evidence that exists on this subject indicates that it fuels people’s desire for them.  Simply saying “you can’t have drugs because lots of people who aren’t directly affected by your choice don’t like the idea that you have them, even though you don’t infringe upon their property rights when you use drugs” is simply an unconvincing argument for those who wish to do drugs.  And in this democratic society, this is exactly what the government is, in practice, saying to those who wish to do drugs.  Small wonder, then, that this method fails to curb demand.

And so, my advice to all conservatives that oppose the use and consumption of drugs is simple:  chill, man.  Banning drugs will not eliminate them; it will simply encourage users to find loopholes and other outlets.  Just follow the advice you give to liberals:  beware of unintended consequences.

24 February 2011

A World Without IP

A tiny glimpse is seen here:

The site is the Internet Music Score Library Project, founded only five years ago but now providing scores to every soloist, chamber group, choral group, ensemble, and symphony on the planet. Because of this resource, the fate of classical music has made a turn around in the culture for the first time in several generations. One is more likely to hear live music at the museum, and the great scores of the past are being given new life with amateur groups acquiring sheet music that would have been unaffordable in the past. Listeners are discovering new and forgotten pieces rather than being treated to an endless litany of warhorses. New vibrancy in this genre is everywhere to behold, not only in live performances but also in digital recordings.
The founder of IMSLP is a Chinese immigrant who remembers what it was like in the old days, and how music was just so inaccessible. He changed all that with his scans and uploads. And the site has managed to survive some serious legal challenges by the state-protected publisher monopolies that try to charge ghastly prices for music. It is a glorious thing to behold, and I’m so pleased to see that classical music is systematically developing a larger role in society and culture than it has had before. The site and the development model has even inspired modern composers to seek out other models for financing their work and then putting their creations into the commons – which represents a recreation of the distribution method from the golden age.

So, how is this bad for anyone?  Who is harmed by this?  So why are there still those who support IP?

23 February 2011

Good News

Last week MERS announced a major policy change conceding that assignments should be recorded in the various Registries across the country and “assignments out of MERS’s name should be recorded in the county land records, even if the state law does not require such a recording.” In addition MERS instructed its members to “not foreclose in MERS name”. O’Brien further states “MERS has now finally acknowledged that their business model was flawed, and they didn’t adhere to the legal requirement that all assignments of a mortgage must be recorded at the local Registry of Deeds.”  “If they had followed the law the public would know who was buying and selling their mortgage, and it would have been an open, honest and transparent process.  The fact that they deliberately chose to create a for-profit private cyber Registry of Deeds whose only purpose was to avoid paying the same fees as everyone else and keeping the public in the dark as to who was the rightful owner of the mortgage clearly demonstrates to me that this was a scheme of epic proportions.”  “When Wall Street and these major lenders joined together in creating MERS, they plunged us into a housing nightmare with little or no regard for their actions.  It’s obvious that their only motivation was to manufacture huge profits off the backs of homeowners and taxpayers. They should all be ashamed of themselves and step up to the plate and do the honorable thing and make the taxpayers’ whole,” O’Brien said. [Emphasis added.]  [HT: Vox Day]

While this obviously won’t solve all the problems regarding the mortgage foreclosure mess, it is a step in the right direction and should be lauded as such.  Here’s hoping that state and local governments continue down this path of respecting  and enforcing property rights, and putting an end to the fraud.

Pandora's Box

In my previous post, I described what I thought was the best way to reverse the cultural decline, and I noted that the attempt to restore American culture may be for naught:

First, we may be dealing with a Pandora’s Box situation.  It may be that it is impossible to reverse the cultural decline.  I hope that this isn’t the case, but we must be prepared for this outcome.

The problem with anyone’s attempt to fix the culture, as it were, is that there is no way to account for all the variables that have led to problem.  Ex post analysis is insufficient for this task and the same is even truer for ex ante analysis.  What this means is that there is no way anyone, myself included, can devise a plan that will completely solve all the problems facing this country, for every one of us lacks perfect knowledge.

Thus, fixing the problem should be presented in terms of probability.  There is a greater chance of x if we do y.  This is certainly the case for my proposal, and for EW’s proposal.  They are worth a shot, but there is no guarantee of success.

However, there are some other considerations that must be made before committing to anyone’s proposal on fixing the culture.  First, what is the probability of success?  No one can know for sure, but relative estimates can be made based on how the weighting and relevance of the variables changed.  Anyone who thinks a totalitarian government is the solution has no knowledge of history, which means that any plan involving more government has a very low probability of success.

Second, what sort of things can go wrong?  In my plan, the biggest thing that can go wrong is the government.  Even though I specifically called for limiting government in very extreme ways, it is possible that the government will refuse to give up its power when the time comes.  Given the tendencies of the state, and the nature of politicians, this seems like a very likely scenario.

One can understand, then, why I favor a free market approach:  I believe the probabilities of success are very small, and the risk of totalitarianism, if my solution is attempted, is very high. To be sure, the free market approach won’t necessarily fix the culture, but it will stop making things worse, and it does not have a very high probability of lapsing into totalitarianism.

The Old College Try

I myself used to be very right-liberal, just like Ron Paul, but as time goes on, I have come to conclude that until civic society can be re-established, being right-liberal is merely acquiescing to being east-facing passenger on a westward-bound ferry. Reversing the course of our culture may even require, as OneSTDV suggested in his above-linked post, for the Right to temporarily shift Left and use the machinery of government in order to re-establish the civic institutions and restore the para-governmental organs that maintain order in a free society.

In my previous post, I explained why EW was largely wrong, but since I am very sympathetic to this view point, I’d like to share my ideas on how to make this plan work.

At the start, I’m going to recommend a largely libertarian approach at the federal level, where liberal propagation mechanisms are completely and utterly defunded.  This means no more federal money for welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or any other programs that foster dependency.  This means no more federal money for the “Arts,” Planned Parenthood, or other leftist nonsense.  And this means no more regulatory agencies at the federal level.  Some, like the SEC, have been asleep at the wheel for the last several years which makes them worthless; others are, like the EPA and DEA, are better administered at the state level.

At this point, the federal government would institute restorative programs that had specific time limits, mandates, and budget caps.  There would be no way to renew the programs once they expire.  If certain types of laws were necessary to encourage desired behaviors, these laws would also have strict expiration dates as well.  I think a twenty-five year time frame for whatever proposals OneSTDV and EW have in mind should be sufficient, for that is one generation’s length of time.

During this time, it is essential that the more conservative denominations, such as Mormonism and Fundamentalist Christianity, go out and preach.  Religion was and is the greatest force for good in this world, and conservative Christianity tends to be the greatest proponent of personal morality and good behavior.  Furthermore, religion is the best way to change the hearts and minds of others, which is essential for lasting culture change.  We have been trying humanist secularism for years, and it does not work.

Personally applied religious conservatism is the way out.  People will be more inclined towards this path if, as heretofore proposed, governmental distortions are removed and temporary governmental support for conservative values is erected in its place.  These things, in tandem, offer us the best chance at reversing decline.

However, in doing these things, conservatives must understand two things:

First, we may be dealing with a Pandora’s Box situation.  It may be that it is impossible to reverse the cultural decline.  I hope that this isn’t the case, but we must be prepared for this outcome.

Second, we must remember that perfect is the enemy of good.  By this I mean that the general goal should be improvement, not perfection.  Utopia does not exist, at least in this world, and never will.  As such, perfection is unattainable, and should not be pursued.

This framework should provide the greatest chance of success.  However, as with all things in life, there are no guarantees.

The State is Not an Argument

There are some who think that the state can reverse the course of leftism:

The amoral nature of capitalism undermines the sort of right liberalism that Ron Paul espouses (disclaimer: I am a big fan of Paul, but this is a blind spot of his).  Right-liberalism is by definition a variant of liberalism--it assumes that man is in his essence good or at least neutral, instead of incorrigibly evil. This fundamental assumption entices right-liberals (and libertarians) to discount the role that culture plays in maintaining a free society, apparently thinking that by being culturally laissez-faire, the capitalist marketplace is the best arbiter of socially productive and unproductive moral habits. All will work out in the end, magic-like, if only governments would get out of the way and let the markets decide for us. Or so the story goes.

So, to summarize the rest of the post, left-liberalism has completely undermined the culture (agreed), libertarianism can’t fix it (most likely true), and thus we need conservatism to take the reins and restore the culture.

But it simply doesn’t work like that.

As an example, consider the norm of income tax.  Every April 15th, people are expected to have a tax return submitted to the federal government, or else they will face very severe penalties.  Does anyone think that people will continue to voluntarily pay income taxes if they were to be abolished?  Of course not.  And here the government has imposed a top-down cultural norm (April 15th is a sort of anti-holiday in its own right), but unless the government continues to impose this norm, it will not remain.

The same can be noted of, say, traffic laws.  Do people obey the speed limit because they believe that the speed limit is optimal under the conditions?  Of course not.  Most speed limits and traffic laws are ignored by most people at some in their life.  People only obey the law when it corresponds with their desires, or when there is a serious threat of a ticket.  Again, people only follow the transportation norms because they are imposed by the government.  Were the government to stop imposing them, people would largely abandon them.

Furthermore, some social norms existed long before the state existed (prohibitions of murder, theft, e.g.), and these norms would have still existed outside of the state.  That the state recognizes these norms is utterly irrelevant, for the state is not needed to impose them because cultural norms are organic and widely held, by definition.

The reason why the state fails to permanently shift cultural norms is because the state is not an argument.  It cannot, in and of itself, convince people of the morality of the norms it wants to impose.  It can only state the norms and force them upon people.

In order for norms to take place, people must believe in them.  If the state repealed all laws against murder, it is unlikely that most people will start committing mass murder.  The murder rate may increase, but not everyone will be murderer, because most people will still believe that murder is wrong.  The same is true of any type of law:  There will always be those who will comply with a law even after it is repealed, and they will do so because they believe in the morality of that law, regardless of whether it is codified.

Ultimately, the way to restore cultural norms lies not in politicians, but in preachers.

The Shattering of a Myth

Further reading: The Real Lincoln (for Kindle), Lincoln Umasked.

Well That’s Weird

In spite of breaking all the rules, Japan is doing quite well:

Ultimately, the reason that Japan gets such bad press here is that the Japanese don't do any of the Chicago School/Washington Consensus stuff - they are still essentially mercantilist, strictly limit immigration, are paternalistically concerned about equitable distributions of wealth, and are not about to let their country to become a turnip squeezed for blood by Wall Street.  And despite rejecting the whole package, they have some of the best outcomes in the world in terms, again, of life expectancy, economy/wealth, education, crime, and so forth.

To translate this for free-traders and the more obtuse anarcho-libertarians, Japan has succeeded, in practical metrics, because the government protects domestic production, doesn’t allow foreigners to come in and destroy the culture, and doesn’t allow corporations to blatantly rip off taxpayers.  I wonder how they ever managed to succeed in spite of these handicaps.

Putting Money Where One’s Mouth Is

Sam Bowman makes a modest proposal:

The orangutan’s habitat is very small and limited, as Boyfield explains. If environmentalist groups are serious about preserving the orangutan, they would do well to use the institutions of private property to fundraise and buy the land on which these apes live to create nature reserves. The palm oil industry may not be a threat to the creature, but it is certainly worth protecting against other threats. 

If the threats to orangutans or any other supposedly endangered species are valid, there is no need for environmentalist groups to clamor for government intervention.  Instead, environmentalists should take their case to the public in order to generate funding to protect whatever animal needs helping.

This method does not necessarily guarantee that all endangered species will be helped or saved, but it does ensure that the most efficient outcomes occur.  Not all species are in danger, nor are all species useful.  The market mechanism is the best at determining these sorts of things.

Furthermore, the market does a good job at determining how much “society” truly values environmental concerns.  While most environmentalists like to argue that environmental concerns are of utmost importance, the simple fact of the matter is that reality is often far different.  The free market does a good job of revealing reality, often brutally so, which is why environmentalists hate it so much:  the market often reveals them and their goals to be near worthless.

22 February 2011

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This

The WSJ reports some disheartening news:

Young women are outpacing men in educational attainment and there’s little sign males will make up ground any time soon.
Nearly one in four women had earned a bachelor’s degree by the time they reached age 23, compared to just one in seven men, the Labor Department said Wednesday. And while a growing share of professions are expected to require a college education in the future, men don’t appear poised to make up the education gap.

So, women are going to be the primary breadwinners in the future.  That’s not going to be a good thing at all.

First, as women begin to earn even more than men, they will have greater and greater power.  “Grass huts” is the best way to describe what happens when women get power.  As can be imagined, this will not end well.

Second, most men will largely drop out of the labor market, except to earn that which is necessary for food, porn, and entertainment.  The niceties of life, upon which so many of us seem dependent, will largely go away, and everyone’s standard of living will decline.  This will not end well either.

At least we all will have plenty of grrl power, which will undoubtedly help us make it through the dystopic future.

Where Do You Think?

Kay S. Hymowitz asks where all the good men have gone:

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.

And yet her answer is largely unsatisfactory.  Consider the following:
"We are sick of hooking up with guys," writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book, "I Don't Care About Your Band."

Really?  Women are now getting sick of hooking up?  The evidence suggests otherwise.  (In case you’re stupid or a feminist (but I repeat myself) statistical evidence trumps anecdote every time, in terms of proof.) 

And since women who are inclined to hook up reward this sort of behavior, it should come as no surprise that this sort of behavior not only exists, but has become more prevalent.

But for all its familiarity, pre-adulthood represents a momentous sociological development. It's no exaggeration to say that having large numbers of single young men and women living independently, while also having enough disposable income to avoid ever messing up their kitchens, is something entirely new in human experience. Yes, at other points in Western history young people have waited well into their 20s to marry, and yes, office girls and bachelor lawyers have been working and finding amusement in cities for more than a century. But their numbers and their money supply were always relatively small. Today's pre-adults are a different matter. They are a major demographic event.

The one problem with this analogy is that the “office girl,” as popularly envisaged, does not exist anymore.  Women are now holding jobs that were once generally reserved for men.  Instead of being support staff or having largely clerical duties, today’s women are now in management, in engineering (though not to an overwhelming extent), and other jobs that require college degrees.  As such, they are now on largely equal, and in many cases superior footing with men. In fact, what’s left of the wage gap can be entirely explained by self-imposed labor factors, a few minor exceptions notwithstanding.   

Women, in general, do not like being with men they consider their inferiors.   At the same time, women have done what they could to attain equality with men.  How, then, is it a surprise that women now have higher standards that fewer men meet?  One of the reasons why there are fewer good men is simply due to the fact that fewer men meet women’s standards, and this is a direct result of women trying to become equal to men.
What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It's been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.

Actually, nihilism explains the puerile shallowness rather well.  Most men simply do not see much purpose in life, other than to eat, drink, be entertained, and get laid.  Some might argue that this is a reflection of a broader rejection of religion, but this explanation is unsatisfactory because women are still deeply religious.

A better explanation for male nihilism is better summed up in Gloria Steinem’s incomparable aphorism:  “women need men like a fish needs a bicycle.”  Perhaps the reason why men today exhibit generally worthless behavioral traits is due to the fact that men have been called worthless for around forty years.  Maybe, just maybe, that message is beginning to sink in.  And if that message has sunk in, can anyone really be surprised that there are behavioral consequences to it?  To ask the question is to answer it.

It is truly astonishing that there some people who think that calling men worthless will not have any effect on how men behave.  Even more astonishing is how they are unable to still grasp this lesson in spite of ten+ years of consequences.

Today's pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn't say. He has to compete in a fierce job market, but he can't act too bossy or self-confident. He should be sensitive but not paternalistic, smart but not cocky. To deepen his predicament, because he is single, his advisers and confidants are generally undomesticated guys just like him.

So, feminists have done their damnedest to stamp out all traces of masculinity in society and are surprised that men don’t want to be a part of it.  Why would that be, I wonder?  Men can’t lead, can’t take risks, can’t be men, and so they go away.  How is this not easily predicted?
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.  [Emphasis added.]

So, Ms. Hymowitz finally answers her own question.  The good men have gone away because feminism has called them worthless and made it clear they’re unwanted.  Women will still shag the bad boys, so the good men see no need to return.  Feminists have told men that they are worthless, and they have responded rationally.

Where have all the good men gone?  They’ve gone to where they’re wanted.

I’m So Appalled

While watching Hulu the other day, I saw this commercial:

Ordinarily, the “dumb dad” stereotype doesn’t get to me that much.  I can laugh at Family Guy, even though Peter, the family patriarch, is portrayed as boorish and somewhat stupid.  I understand that men, to a greater extent than women have a tendency to do really dumb and dangerous things (for example, my sister never felt compelled to join me and my brothers in jumping off the roof of the shed; nor has mother felt compelled to join my dad in checking to see if the timing belt was alright while the engine was on.)  I view it as a natural result of higher testosterone as shown by the wider behavioral distribution for men (someone once observed that if you go to a party, you will that both the funniest person and the biggest jerk there are male).

However, this commercial is simply appalling.  I’m not sure if it’s the little kid so casually disrespecting his dad or the commercial glossing over the fact that the dad is the reason they have food on the table in the first place that angers me more.  I simply do not understand why the Kraft feels compelled to mock the very people who make the purchase of the product possible in the first place.

There are two other things I don’t understand.

First, why is the dad in trouble when the commercial explicitly states that he’s the one who purchased the product that saves day?  It seems to me that this demonstrates foresight, since he would undoubtedly anticipate that he might occasionally need to bring clients home for dinner.  Furthermore, why is someone who is gainfully employed, to the extent that he appears to be a fairly high-level sales associate of some sort, being treated like garbage?  Also, how does the ability to boil water and follow simplistic directions make mom the hero?

Second, why is having a surprise guest such a huge deal?  I know that it’s incredibly rude to not give one’s wife a heads-up about having a last-minute guest, but is it really the end of the world?  Does it really merit a small meltdown?  Or is today’s housewife simply unable to cope with the stress of minor changes?  Maybe I’m being sexist, or maybe I’m being biased by the example of my mother and grandmother, but having an extra person to feed for one meal shouldn’t be such a big deal.

And is it just me, or does the dad seem really beta?

20 February 2011

Price Discrimination and Music

I’ve finished reading The Price of Everything (review to come later) and it has a rather interesting chapter called “the price of free.”  It touched on the issue of copyright and music, and caused me to think about the some of the problems facing the music industry.

The biggest problem facing the music industry is, in my mind, laws against price discrimination.  Price discrimination, simply put, is when a seller charges different prices to different customers for identical products.

The reason I believe that anti-price-discrimination laws are so problematic is because it doesn’t allow consumers to pay at different prices along the demand curve.  For any artist, there are going to be varying levels of demand.  There are rabid fans, which will be willing shell out $20 for a special edition CD. There are casual fans that pirate a couple of songs, and maybe sing along when the song comes on the radio.  And then there are plenty of fans in between.

The problem is that sellers can’t charge different prices for the same song, and so consumers decide purchases on a binary system.  There are a large number of songs for which I wouldn’t pay more than a nickel each.  And then there are other songs for which I’d be willing to pay three dollars.  The failure, then, is that I song prices are pretty much fixed.  I can’t buy songs at five cents apiece nor am I willing to pay more than that.  If companies were allowed to sell songs at various prices, they could sell more to consumers.

Unfortunately, the government has seen fit to interfere in the market, and so music sellers are not able to properly tap into the market.  Thus, part of the market failure in the music industry is due to government interference.

One possible solution to this problem is to allow consumers to name their price for singles and albums, with a minimum threshold (maybe five or ten cents per single and a dollar per album, for example).  This would better approximate the market value for music, and superfans will still have the ability to show an artist how much they value them.

Throwing it All Away

You can pretty much always count on Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Republicans take the opposite approach from that of Rocky Marciano-- and often with opposite results. That may be why they managed to lose both houses of Congress and the White House in recent years, in a country where there are millions more people who call themselves conservatives than there are who call themselves liberals.
Knowing that they are going to get hit more often in the media, you might think that Republicans would put extra time and effort into developing a knockout message. In reality, however, Republicans seem to invest much less time and thought into getting their political message across than is done by the Democrats.

While I am no fan of Republicans, I don’t hate them as much as I hate Democrats.  Plus, there are some Republicans that seem principled and worthy of support.  Unfortunately, this point is rendered moot, because Republicans are politically incompetent.

It may not seem this way in light of the recent election, but it is obvious that Republicans often seem behind the curve on virtually every issue.  Even worse, they accept the Democrats terms of debate (the most notable exceptions being Ron Paul and Chris Christie).  And once you accept your opponents’ terms, you are pretty much destined to lose.

Instead, what the Republicans need to do is learn game.  They need to learn how to reframe, and they need to learn how to stay aloof.  Knowing how to reframe is crucial, for once they set the terms of the debate, they can pretty much assure victory.  All they have to do is make the Democrats focus on scrambling to keep up.

Staying aloof is also helpful, for they will essentially be able to shrug off the inane hysteria of the news media, enabling them to focus on the more important aspects of politics.  (Really, does any major organization personify the angry feminist type as effectively as the news media?)  The mindset of aloofness will enable them to shrug off their detractors and pursue the truth as they see it.  The importance of this quality cannot be overstated, for Republicans have the nasty tendency of trying to prove that they aren’t “racist,” “sexist,” “xenophobic,” or any other slur their opponents try to attach to them.  And when they do so, they look guilty.  What they should do is simply ignore the taunts and press on with their agenda.

If they can manage to do this, they will quickly find that there are plenty of people willing to follow them.

Why the License?

In case you were wondering why I have a licensing page for my blog, here’s why:

Another problem is that the current system is not only not opt-in, it is not even opt-out. This is because there is no easy way to get rid of copyright; I am even suspicious of the legal validity of creative commons licenses, and none of these would make the work truly public domain; CC0 comes close but its validity and global applicability is much more doubtful (see my post Copyright is very sticky!). So given the difficulties in making copyright opt-in, one big improvement in the law would be to at least permit people to opt out of it (or partially opt out, whatever)–basically, the copyright law could be amended to recognize the ability of a copyright holder to partially or completely give up copyright protection, by means of creative commons licenses or other manifestations of intent. I am not aware that permitting people to voluntarily get rid of automatically generated copyright law would violate any of the copyright treaties.

Even though I’m opposed to the concept and practice of IP, the simple fact of the matter is that I am literally unable to escape it, at least within the framework of the modern American legal system.  Anything I create and share is considered my property, and I can’t escape this.  In fact, that’s the worst part:  I can’t opt out of the system.

However, I can make it clear that, insofar as I have any say in the matter, I have no desire to retain control over my ideas.  I would prefer that people take my ideas, take what they find insightful, inspiring, or intelligent, and spread those ideas far and wide.  I do not want people worrying about “getting caught” or not properly citing my work, or any form of retribution.  Thus, I have placed a CC0 license on my work and have waived attribution rights.

All I want is for my work to be free, open, and shared.

19 February 2011

A Word on Conservatism

I adamantly disagree with this naivety; as I believe capitalism without a moderating constraint in social conservatism, as typified by the booming porn industry, will push forward subversive, base products because they tend to sell.

There are a couple of concerns I have with this statement.  First, Ron Paul isn’t a capitalist; he is a free-market apologist.  Yes, there is a difference between the two.  However, those two words are used interchangeably by some, and I’m open to this being the case here.

Second, even if an unrestrained free market isn’t perfect or even optimal, it is certainly better than the system we have now.  Thus, while Ron Paul may not be the perfect candidate right now, he is likely the best one.

Third, there are millions of market variables to account for when making this type of pronouncement.  By this I mean that the government runs interference in the market in thousands of ways, which in turn has a massive impact on consumer behavior, in ways that simply cannot be thoroughly accounted for.  From what I read in this post, OneSTDV did not make a convincing case that the free market is the reason why pornography is so widespread today.

It seems conceivable, although I have no proof, that the federal government could have instituted policies that could have unintentionally led to the widespread acceptance of pornography.  I say that it is conceivable for two reasons.  First, pornography was not particularly widespread when the federal government was relatively small, and relatively powerless.  Second, the increase in sub-optimal societal behavior (teen pregnancy, e.g.) has been linked to market distortions from the federal government.  Thus, it is possible, even probable, that cultural distortions are largely a result of government interference.

As such, it is probable that a Ron Paul presidency would result in a more conservative society, if for no other reason than the fact that he would likely stop subsidizing immorality.

Color Me Shocked

It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.
“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

Two words describe this situation:  self-selection bias.  Dr. Haidt is wrong, for he is not dealing with a random sample at all, and therefore there should be no expectation of randomness.  In fact, the expectation of randomness in any and all professions is patently ludicrous, for all profession suffer from self-selection bias.  Therefore, there is no reason to get upset if, say, blacks only comprise 3% of registered OB/GYN nurses.  The sample is not random to begin with, so expecting it to be random is simply asinine.

Of course, it’s not surprising that liberals are so attracted to psychology.  It’s a discipline where you can literally make p nonsense and present it as serious research.  And as we all know, liberals are incredibly talented at making up serious-sounding nonsense.

All kidding aside, when one looks at the political affiliation of various professions, the more intellectually or physically strenuous the job is (like being a fire fighter or mathematician, for example), the more conservative one likely is.  This suggests, then, that liberals are lazier than conservatives.  (Given the general ideological differences between the two groups, this conclusion should make sense.)  As such, it should be no surprise that liberals dominate the pseudo-science of psychology.

And yes, psychology is a pseudo-science.  The closest it ever gets to real science is when it delves into neurology, which is an entirely different discipline altogether.  That aside, one can easily tell that psychology isn’t a real science because its analytics are tautological in nature and it is not falsifiable.  There is simply no way to prove psychological hypotheses wrong because there is nothing to measure or quantify.  And that is not science.

But, since liberals are incredibly pretentious, it would make sense that they would become part of a profession that allows them to pose as scientists without actually requiring them to do work.

18 February 2011

A Self-Caused Problem

I wonder if this scenario will eventually pose a problem:
Youth unemployment in the UK is at a record high, with nearly a million 16 to 24-year olds out of work – 20.5% of that age group. Around 600,000 of them have never worked at all.
Youth unemployment is particularly worrying. If young people cannot get a job and learn work skills, and the basic habits of work, it blights their whole lives. Sadly, too few youngsters are not getting into the work stream but instead are getting drawn into the welfare stream. Instead of learning about life in work, they are learning about life on benefits.
Britain will find that this scenario is going to come back to haunt them once Britain is no longer able to afford its redistributionist welfare state. I say this because young people will no longer have “legitimate” access to resources. And since they are youth, they will be more predisposed to taking risks, have more energy and strength, and will thus be in the perfect position to become an imposing criminal class.

But, as Eamonn Butler rightly points out, it doesn’t have to be this way. The government could step aside and allow British youth to negotiate their wages, allowing more teens to work. But since when has the government ever voluntarily conceded power?

Instead, the state will continue to exert its power and authority until the youth are on the street, destroying everything in sight. And the leaders, fools that they are, will wonder why things ever turned out that way.

Still Spinning

Aunt Haley has an update:

All of those with any investment in Reader’s boy problems will be happy to know that said email did not destroy NCEG and that he seems to have gotten the message.  Reader wrote me:
I saw the “NCEG” with a few people last night, and he did not appear hurt, but nor did he mention hot chocolate again or really speak to me one-on-one (as he has in the past)!  I feel like he may have still been looking at me admiringly though–I can’t be sure!  And he offered to drive me home, which is in the opposite direction of where he lives.  At first I said no, but then someone else decided to get a ride with him, so I went along. Hm.  I’m hoping the right message has been sent! [Emphasis added.]

Gentlemen, pay careful attention to that last sentence, for it reveals just how heartless and thoughtless women can be.  You see, this woman had the opportunity to give the NCEG an unequivocally clear message about her intentions and desire.  She did not take advantage of it.  At this point, I’m beginning to think that Matthew 5:37 was intended to be a point of emphasis specifically for women.

She had a chance to end the matter pretty clearly, but instead chose to pursue a path that undermines what she has already stated.  Remember, at first he made a rather clear, albeit tepid, attempt at going out with her.  She wasn’t interested in dating him, per se, although she undoubtedly enjoys the ego boost of his attention.  From what Haley writes here, it seems clear that Reader has clearly written to NCEG to tell him that she wasn’t interested.

Now NCEG offers Reader a ride home.  I could wrong, but since the guy is pretty beta, I would bet that this is an attempt to make a low key approach. He’ll present it as doing her a favor as a friend, but I’m willing to bet that he’s thinking if he just had a chance to talk to her, she would realize that he’s an awesome guy and that she would be lucky to be with him.  It appears that she recognizes this is a potential line of thinking, and so she wisely declined.  But, when a friend decides to ride along with NCEG (the friend riding along is likely some social proof in the works), Reader decides to take a ride, reversing a decision she made just minutes earlier.

This will be a mixed signal for NCEG.  Remember, he’s a beta, so he is likely thinking that he needs to be nicer/make her feel more comfortable.  As such, he’s likely going to read her reversal as an indicator of two things:  first, he’s going to think that he needs to propose a date that’s more comfortable for Reader (although I don’t see how he can find anything more comfortable than going out for cocoa sometime).  Second, he’s likely going to see her reversal as a sign that she may eventually reverse her initial decision to go out with him.  Needless to say, this is the opposite direction in which Reader claims to want to go.

Finally, then, notice just how flippant she is about the whole ordeal:  she hopes that she sends the right message.  If she simply stuck with her initial decision to not accept the ride, she would know that she sent the right message.  And that, gentlemen, is how the female mind functions.  It is cruel in its methods and uncaring in its consequences.  Consider yourself warned.