Re: poly: polymath digest for 13 Feb 98

From: Damien R. Sullivan <>
Date: Fri Feb 13 1998 - 15:15:46 PST

On Feb 13, 1:07pm, d.brin wrote:

> Quick note: The first part of David Freedman's explanation of Fisher,
> about the reason for an equal sex birth equilibrium, is correct. Whether
> species are monogamous or feature big harems. All result in equal numbers
> of males and females conceived. The female pups are 'sure bets for a few

>From what I remember of Fisher (or Dawkins' translation) I thought the
actual proof was that males and females would receive equal amounts of
investment. This is what would lead to an inequal number of male and
female seals if males required more parental investment.

But I did think, from nature programs, that such species typically had
equal births; then the males get driven away to grow up; then they come
back and fight. The sight of two mostly aquatic animals frantically
dragging each other across the sand to collide with each other sticks
with me.

> I agree. Conspiratorial cliques routinely step in, whenever the state is
> weak. A weak/blind state was the perfect petri dish for despots to arise

As Perry notes, this took a while for Iceland. But what I'm finding
fascinating is that Iceland is beginning to seem far less unique. I'll
try to write up a more detailed summary in the next few days, but Posner
analyzed Homeric Greece as being pretty much stateless, saying that
translating 'basileus' as 'king' is really giving them too much credit.
And Athens, in the book I'm reading, is sounding a lot like Iceland.
Public courts, but offenders were brought to court by the offended party
or by other private parties, not by the state. Being declared 'outlaw'
meant that you were put outside of the law, outside of the protection of
the law, so you'd better run before someone killed you with impunity.
Lots of lawsuits. Also, apparently, rules and customs to preserve the
existing distribution of property, and preferably to avoid it being

Not that Athens could be called stateless; they were running a nice
empire for much of this time. But the legal similarities are striking.

> The tragedy of Libertarianism in America is that the movement has been
> utterly dominated by Platonist purists who believe passionately in their

I think what Brin is saying here is that he has little respect for the
natural law school of libertarianism, based on an arguably Platonic
ideal of a right to not be coerced. Last I heard, this did sum up much
of the Libertarian Party fairly well, although not all libertarians.

> This is tragic, because Libertarianism COULD be a great social movement if
> only it was willing to see that people are generally pretty wise, and that

And the economic justifications of libertarianism present a problem: as
they assume that people behave as if they are rational, the presumption
is that long term social structures have a rational purpose and basis.
This is challengeable, by public choice theory among other things, but I
haven't seen a convincing argument yet. Seductive ones, yes.

> the present state is doing a fairly good job of creating transitional
> conditions toward its own eventual withering away.
When the war on drugs withers away, this will be much more convincing,

As for Perry's statement that the State is increasing by all metrics
(here, perhaps; Europe's in a funny state): which parts are increasing?
Looking at the CBO's web site[1] the growth seems to be largely in
redistribution to the sick elderly, a function which is hardly new to our
society. Arguably the State is here just absorbing functions which were
enforced by the family and community before... exacerbated by the
unusual size of the elderly population. Sure, the state is increasing,
but not in the same way that the Nazi state grew, or Stalin's state, or


Actually the projections show discretionary spending falling as a
percentage of GDP; the increases are in SS, Medicare/aid, and 'Other'
mandatory outlays. They also project income and expenditure falling as
part of GDP, but that's assuming continued growth and adherence to
spending caps.

-xx- GSV Polypedant X-)

Jeane L. Dixon, world renowned psychic, died Saturday (1/25) at age 79.
There was almost universal sadness and lament throughout the world of
celebrity psychics. Contacted at her home, Dionne Warwick's spokeswoman
said that "[Miss] Warwick is beside herself -- none of us expected this
to happen."
Received on Fri Feb 13 23:18:49 1998

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