Sunday, May 27, 2007


The fantastic GrimReader expatiates tongue-in-cheek:
"Well, I don't like all that Trust and rebate business, so I tell my representative to regulate the hell out of those railroad guys. And I started supporting my local Wheelmen's Association. We are trying to get my representative to support public road building. In fact, this is great: let's build roads everywhere so it makes it cheap and easy to drive my new car. You have to have government build roads - a private road would have to charge fees, and everyone knows there's no way to feasibly operate a road that way!"
Actually, in the internet age its not difficult to imagine what private roads could possibly resemble. Popular websites such as and the NY Times have long offered both subscriber and ad-sponsored models to price-ration their articles. Many national broadcasters routinely offer costly bandwidth-saturating TV programs free of charge to end-users, sponsored with only regular commercial breaks.

With that model, its not far-fetched to envision the provision of private roads sponsored by roadside billboard advertisers. Private road builders would then compete to capture the eyeball and vehicle traffic and would be incentivized to be focused on providing the most satisfying experience to the commuter to ensure his repeat visit to this particular soap-freeway.

The mind boggles at what might evolve from this--
  • vehicle transponders which communicate with road identification systems to announce your presence, perhaps relate some personal preferences and vehicle info
  • "Google" roads with minimal, relevant text-only advertisements based on your prefs
  • Greasemonkey extensions which free-loading Firefox junkies would use to screen out obnoxious, "PUNCH THE MONKEY AND WIN!!!" -type advertisements by overlaying the windshield with blank spaces along the drivers line of sight
  • freeways operators offering discount coupons enticing you to choose their road over a competitors
  • express lanes exclusively offered to purchasers of advertisers products
  • advertisement rates fluctuating based on traffic volume and speed conditions
This can even be realized today with the de-socialization and genuine privatization of government roads, both toll and the nominally "free" variants, although I'm sure that most people would be horrified of the prospect of having "our" roads being "commercialized".

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

government for children, by children

We all heard the terms before--
  • "have your cake and eat it too"
  • TANSTAAFL ("there ain't no such thing as a free lunch")
  • "putting the cart before the horse" (the ability to consume without having to first produce)
In Human Action, Mises aptly describes this child-like behaviour of blindly holding an irrational belief that the wholism of government is godlike in the aspect that it can produce goods ex nihilo.
At the bottom of the interventionist argument there is always the idea that the government or the state is an entity outside and above the social process of production, that it owns something which is not derived from taxing its subjects, and that it can spend this mythical something for definite purposes. This is the Santa Claus fable raised by Lord Keynes to the dignity of an economic doctrine and enthusiastically endorsed by all those who expect personal advantage from government spending. As against these popular fallacies there is need to emphasize the truism that a government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens' spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

practical etymology

Just over this past weekend, I checked into the biblical etymology for the words k'fitzat haderech to try to understand the essence of the concept of underlying these miraculous trips. I now believe that I have come up with a biblical proof supporting the notion that teleportation requires no miracle and perhaps may be be thus reproducible to us, non-divine hominids.

Unlike modern Hebrew, in the biblical Lashon Hakodesh, "the holy tongue", KaFaTZ, which is the root for the words k'fitza/k'fitzat does not actually mean "to jump" as I first thought it did-- it very precisely translates to "to shut quickly" or "to collapse". Both KaFaZ and KiFaTZ mean to leap, but that meaning stems from the etymological root literally describing the compression of ones' legs prior to springing forward.

Furthermore, the phonetic cognates of KaFaTZ express related concepts:

KaVeTZ - to gather
KaMaTZ - to close one's hand
GaVaSH - to condense

Let's move on to the second word: HaDerech, the root for this is DeReCH, both a verb meaning "to lead the way", and a noun meaning "path."

Now, going back to the main subject, try to imagine for a moment, a sheet of paper with two dots spaced far apart. According to the rules of Euclidean geometry, the shortest distance between those two points is a straight line.

But if we now look at the expression k'fitzat haderech, we can begin to understand the mechanism of the teleportation feat-- it involved the kefitza, or collapse of the space-time fabric of the derech, or path delineated between Points A and B. This would be analogous to taking the sheet of paper and folding it along the symmetrical axis, so that the two dots are now touching and adjoined in the space-time continuum.

There are a few other instances in which the Lord admits to messing around with the non-euclidean geometric model. The very first implication is in Noah's ark, 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high, if I remember correctly. The biblical commentators (and detractors too) point out that if two of each animal from every single specie (excluding sea life) were to be loaded in the ark, they could never physically fit into something of that size, and they conclude that the rules of space-time were bent in this instance to accommodate the entire terrestrial zoo.

The next instance occurs when Jacob goes to sleep one evening during his travel from home to Charan. Unknowingly, he sleeps on the location of the future temple mount, Har Habayit. When he lays down to sleep, the commentators mention that the Lord took the entire land of Israel, and compressed it into the space underneath him, whatever that means.

Much later on, during the time of temples, all Jews who could physically make the pilgrimage, would do so three times a year to the temple to celebrate the holidays of Pesach, Shevu'ot, and Succot. It was said that all the Jews gathered into the temple courtyard, and somehow they all fit. Furthermore, when they bowed down during prayers, each person was somehow accorded a clearance of a four-pace radius.

And for my final example, according to the lore, when the Messiah arrives, the Lord will unfold the land of Israel so that it becomes much larger than it is today.

So why did I get excited?

Its because of a well-known rule that the Lord does not operate outright miracles of the supernatural sort once he finished the creation, although this doesn't preclude cases where his direct influence can be plausibly explained away as a coincidence of natural contrivances.

Yet there is a Mishna in Pirke Avot (Chapter 5, Mishna 8) which reads:
"Ten things were created on the eve of Shabbat, at twilight. They are: The mouth of the earth; the mouth of the well; the mouth of the donkey; the rainbow; the Manna; the staff; the Shamir; the alphabet; the inscription; and the Tablets."

Those are the ten exceptions to the rule, and they were set aside from the time of creation until the later time they would be needed for supernatural divine intervention, the biblical deus ex machina.

Now since k'fizat haderech is not listed above as one of the supernatural miracles, we can thus assume that it is not a supernatural device, but one subject to a common natural mechanism, one that hopefully be realized with the help of the etymological insight into its workings.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

pulp peeves

Lo and behold, a local politico wants to ban unwanted circulars from being littered unto homeowners properties.

"A Brooklyn councilman has proposed legislation that would make it illegal to distribute menus, fliers and other circulars to homes and apartment buildings that display a sign indicating promotional material is unwanted. The councilman, Simcha Felder, a Democrat, has proposed a fine of at least $50 for distributors who leave the materials anyway. Mr. Felder said his constituents had complained about the number of fliers left at their doors. His mother, he said, received a $100 fine from the Sanitation Department for circulars left on her stoop. “You shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up someone else’s garbage,” he said."

I've long despised those advertisement companies which make it their business to defecate on your front lawn/stoop, and their hapless bottom-of-the-economic ladder stooges who in an effort to finish their route sooner, often throw multiple copies of the unwanted newspaper circulars or other assorted crap.

The best part is when precipitation melts it into a runny pulp that comes apart in your hands as you reach for them to toss them in the trash.

But I heartily disagree with Felder.

Its not my responsibility to post a sign instructing others not to litter, or to otherwise disturb my quiet enjoyment of my home. Those who want to invoke an appeal to "implied consent" in this case must show both:
a) a reasonable expectation that the advertisers truly believe that I, Joe Individual, am really interested and delighted to be a recipient of your crap
b) a viable framework which allows me to withdraw from and opt-out of your indiscriminate neighborhood blanketing

But this is certainly not the case. I cannot recall ever sharing a drink or even a dirty joke with an advertisement publisher insider, who then might have some reasonable expectation that I would like my home to be inundated with his marketing assault. There goes the case for "A".

The worse part is the lack of feedback mechanism to legitimately opt-out. You see, I tried the nice way. I followed some of the litterers back to their distribution van, and spoke to the drivers. I got the names and phone numbers of their bosses who handle distribution in our neighborhood. I begged them time and time again to skip my house, my street. But there is no master list for opt-outees. The driver who covers a neighborhood brings along no such list to instruct his poor, oft-time illiterate underlings where not to litter. And so on it goes. Irresponsible, criminal erosion of private property enjoyment with no way to withdraw your "implied consent".

And as BK Marcus once taught me about appeals to implied consent --
"But notice that in all of these cases [of genuine implied consent], there's a way to withdraw consent. In fact, the very existence of consent depends on the possibility of its absence!"