February 19th, 2005


A Key Point About Social Security

The biggest problem with Social Security? Like most government programs that "help people", it's a total ripoff. Here's the quote:

Will someone please explain to me how this is an effective system? The average salary in the country is around $44,000 a year; at a 12.4% tax rate, that's about $5,000 a year that goes into the program. Assuming that rate of contribution for 40 years, how is it possible that someone could think that the average recipient getting less than $1,000 a month is an acceptable return?

In answer: you think that's a problem? Wait till you notice that it goes away if you earn any other money, in taxes. So you've saved for it, and you don't get it at all. The most pathetic return ever offered.

Upper Class and Lower Class

A fairly mundane application of sociology, but brilliant as seen:

Somehow the lower class cares deeply what the upper class thinks about them: while the upper class does not care what the lower class thinks about them.

He's right as well in noting it as a religious divide: we have said before that Sweden is the least churchgoing country in the world, and India the most: and the US is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes.

The Trouble with Culture

A good short summary:

What is the trouble with culture?

APPIAH: The trouble that most worries me is that people make appeals to cultural difference to justify resisting just the sort of moral demands that I think everybody ought to recognize. Appeals to culture are often appeals that aim to squash individuals, to say to the Saudi woman who wants to participate in the management of her society as a citizen, ''No, it's not our tradition, it's not our culture.'' That's just something that stops her exercising what I take to be her individual right. We can have an argument about whether that's OK, but it's not an adequate defense to say, ''Well, it's our culture.''

Two posts out of one interview with this guy. I think that means he's worth reading, so look up Appiah's "Ethics of Identity" and "The Trouble with Culture" at your next bookstore visit. It's worth ordering, for you Amazons.
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Pascal's Wager? Tabarrok's Wager? Which Would You Choose?

Tabarrok both restates a form of Pascal's Wager and adds his own addendum.

My only difficulty with his wager is that the existence of a God is not really the subject of Pascal's wager, and his wager makes it clear: it is the existence of a specific God, who has laid down certain laws applicable to his worship.

That specific God is the one I believe in: and Pascal's wager is not what convinced me that he existed. On the other hand, I've never doubted that my grandfather existed, either, despite my inability to demonstrate his presence to those who now want to know about him. I can invite them to consider things that I describe as evidence, knowing that, given current technology, all of those could be faked.

The particular touchspring, for Tabarrok, is the famous "infinite" -- and I suppose that's what is hard for me to understand. I can just as easily say that the benefits of heaven will be enjoyed by me, a finite creature, to the limit of my ability to enjoy such things (which is far from infinite), and still have made the same choice, with its attendant qualifications for those who would speak on behalf of God (the which Mr. Tabarrok fails to meet, and therefore the probability that he is a charlatan is so close to one that I can't tell the difference). He notes that however small the probability that he is telling the truth, multiply it by infinity and you get an infinite number. I would only respond that the likelihood he is correct in light of the other things that I know is too low.
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