Libertarian confusions

Since I gave up on libertarianism, I have struggled to explain concisely why it doesn't work to people who still buy into it. This is an attempt to do so.

Incompatibility with desirable outcomes

Bluntly – libertarianism is a delusion that unconditional property rights can be had at the same time as some non-dystopian social outcome.

More specifically – we cannot have all three of the following:
  1. Unconditional property rights.
  2. Freedom of reproduction.
  3. Equality of opportunity. (Not of outcome!)
You can have any two of those, but not all three. The combinations that work are:
  • Unconditional property rights + freedom of reproduction: poor people give birth to more poor people, who do not have equality of opportunity and live and die in squalor.
  • Unconditional property rights + equality of opportunity: this combination has not been seriously attempted, but it means sterilizing poor people so they can't have children who would have unequal opportunity.
  • Freedom of reproduction + equality of opportunity: if you want to achieve this, you have to sacrifice unconditional property rights.
Not only that – but the following two are also not compatible:
  1. Unconditional property rights.
  2. Not letting people die in front of hospitals.
Here, you have only two options:
  • Choose unconditional property rights: this means you can't force hospitals to use their resources for poor people who lack insurance and can't pay for treatment.
  • Choose not letting people die in front of hospitals: this means you have to force hospitals to provide treatment; or force people to pay so that they provide it.
You can't insist on absolute, unconditional property rights, without basically being some type of Hitler.

But if you accept that property rights are conditional, then taxation is not stealing. It's how we work together toward agreed-upon common goals.

Applying business intuition to macroeconomy

Libertarian beliefs are often held by people with business intuitions. But business intuition does not account for that you can't do things as a country that you could do as a business, because they cause reallocations in the economy.

If you are a business, and you need more engineers or copper or doctors, you can spend more money, and get more engineers or copper or doctors. What you aren't seeing is that you're driving up the market price a tiny bit, and causing that resource to be less available to other business.

If you try to do the same thing as a country, it just falls completely flat. You can't increase the supply of engineers or copper or doctors in the short term. If you want to just "get more", all that happens is that you drive up the price, and end up paying more for about the same amount of the resource.

Another example is savings. Libertarians frequently rant against social security, as if it was some kind of scam. What is not being understood is that a country, as a whole, cannot save.

If a country attempts to save, what happens is what's going on in China. They have a centuries-old ethic of saving, rather than consumption. This causes an accumulation of bank deposits, which the banks then attempt to put to some use. But because everyone is saving, there is little consumption. Because there is little consumption, there is nowhere to invest the money that would pay off.

So what has happened is, they have built literal empty cities – whole new cities emulating Western places like Paris, with apartment buildings, factories, and stores. The only problem is, there is just no demand for these buildings and factories and stores. It's all overbuilt infrastructure that cannot be put to use because everyone is trying to save instead of consuming.

The only way for large-scale savings to work in a society is the way social security works. Any other way of saving that would actually work, would have to have the same practical effects. The people who are trying to save money have to somehow give it to people who are going to consume it, so the economy continues to function while you wait for your turn to collect social security from the next generation.

Your real investment is the next generation. Without it, your cash, stocks and bonds are useless, no matter how much you have.

For similar reasons, supply-side economics does not work. You can't just build things and expect people to buy them, when you haven't given them the bargaining power to buy your gadgets with.

You have to give people bargaining power. Then you can have an economy based on selling them things.


The Louis Vuitton theory of happy marriage

Consider this:
  • Louis Vuitton bags are correlated with being rich.
  • Therefore, to become rich, purchase Louis Vuitton bags.
Does this seem silly?

Yet, people propose that we should aim to be monogamous, and stick with one partner; not because we want to be monogamous, and have found someone we want to commit to; but because monogamy is correlated with happiness.

Imagine three couples:
  • Couple A are both mentally healthy, and are a good match. Because they are a good match, they do not seek other partners. They live together happily, and for a long time.
  • Couple B are both mentally healthy, but are not a good match. Because they are not a good match, they divorce. They each find new partners, and become happy.
  • In couple C, one is mentally healthy, the other isn't. Because of this, the relationship suffers. Eventually, they divorce. The mentally healthy partner finds a good match, and becomes happy. The other goes through several relationships before getting help, and then finds happiness.
Consider the statistics this creates. Simply because of couple C, happiness is correlated with monogamy. But this does not mean couples B and C would be better off not divorcing.

In order to find happiness as part of a couple, you must first be a person who can have a relationship. Then, you have to find a partner who is a good match.

Once you have become this person, and found a right partner – it doesn't matter if you're monogamous. You probably will be monogamous, because neither of you will need other people. But if you want to explore non-monogamy with this partner, that is also just as fine.


CamelCase vs. underscore_case

If the STL could be designed again, I wish it would have chosen CamelCase instead of underscore_case.

Since STL uses underscore_case, we're stuck with two unattractive stylistic choices:
  • Use underscore_case in our programs, and suffer its drawbacks.
  • Use CamelCase in our programs, and suffer the inconsistency with STL.
A couple years ago, I tried to get over my distaste for underscore_case, and wrote a small library of 6,500 lines in that style. I thought I'd convert. Instead, I now want to burn underscore_case with fire.

Which person in their right mind decides to sacrifice 26 out of 63 perfectly useful symbols, and pretend they don't exist? Did this person spill Coke on the Shift key of their keyboard, or something?

If you allow uppercase – like normal people who aren't shooting themselves in the foot – you can do this:
    struct Thing { int thing; };
    Thing thing;
How do you do this with underscore_case? You don't. Both things have to be named differently.

You're constantly tripping over yourself due to the lack of orthogonality. With no uppercase, there is a strict reduction in expressiveness: it brings no benefit, and reduces flexibility. It requires using longer and uglier names, and you can't express in a name whether it's a type, or a method, or a member.

But this study...

Someone replied with this eye-tracking study, which claimed finding that CamelCase identifiers take 20% longer to read. Yet the paper disclaims: "One main difference is that subjects were trained mainly in the underscore style and were all programmers."

They even summarize another study, which used more participants trained in CamelCase: "Their findings show that camel-cased identifiers lead to higher accuracy among all subjects, and those trained in the camel-case style, were able to recognize camel-cased identifiers faster."

What both studies appear to confirm is that people do better in the style they are used to. No way. :)

For me, underscore_case requires effort to use. I can't easily tell where an identifier begins and ends, because underscores look like punctuation. But I understand this is due to training. I could get used to underscore_case, and use it equally well, if I thought it was the preferable style.

Type and variable names in underscore_case are not orthogonal. Given that we can get used to either style, it seems peculiar to make the less powerful choice knowingly.


Against signed integer types

It is often mentioned that Google's guidelines call to always use signed integers, and avoid unsigned.

One could argue, if I were as smart as Sergey Brin or Larry Page, I'd be as rich as they are. This may be true. But we tend to succeed for the few things we get very right, and despite the many things we don't. I'm pretty sure this one is the latter.

The preference for signed integers opens opportunities for a whole panoply of unnecessary bugs. It's a mistake of the same order as nullable pointers. You almost never need negative values, but now you need to check for them always. Signed overflow is even undefined behavior, when unsigned overflow is not.

I have gone the opposite route, and always use unsigned types. I find a signed type is not needed 99% of the time. I would further argue that most uses of negative values are hacks, and potential containment and security issues. It overloads a variable with potential meanings that the variable should not have.

There's a distinct difference between MoveForward and MoveBackward, for example. A design that expresses reversion as MoveForward(-15) is both unsafe and unsound.

But but but...

A counter-argument is that it's dangerous to mix signed and unsigned types, so using only signed types helps. But this is not the only solution, or the best one. An example:
int main() {
    int i = -1;
    unsigned int j = 1;
    if (i > j) return 1;
    return 0;
If allowed to compile, this program returns 1. -1 is represented as 0xFFFFFFFF, which is more than 1.

But it should not compile. You should be enabling signed / unsigned comparison and conversion warnings. With MSVC, these are C4018 and C4365. With GCC, they are -Wsign-compare and -Wsign-conversion.

In addition, it's good practice to treat warnings as errors: -WX with MSVC, and -Werror with GCC.

Note that with GCC, -Wall does not actually enable all warnings. You have to go the extra step to enable -Wsign-conversion manually.

Serious projects should use -WX -Wall, enabling as many warnings as possible, treating them as errors, and manually disabling only selected, individually weighed warnings.


"Unreachable" beauty standards

Half the time, I post because I'm slightly peeved. Today, it's because of censorship on Reddit. The following was a "Shower thought" post that got deleted:
I've never seen a man complain about a lack of plus sized male models.
This was removed by a moderator when it reached the front page of Showerthoughts, with 1104 upvotes. The post had a number of popular comments which were also deleted, apparently due to wrong-think. The following was one of them:
We claim women in magazines are "unobtainable beauty standards". Nobody cares that men have airbrushed abs in the same magazine. Nobody cares about the young men who are doing steroids to obtain these standards. They don't consider the whimpy kid with a healthy weight who feels inadequate because he's not ripped with a stone jaw. (Not to mention a 8 inch wang.) Because in our culture, a weak female ego is expected, but a weak male ego is pathetic. (/u/Snoozetrain)
Guess the reason moderators gave for these deletions.

Come on, guess.

"Removed for quality."

The comment I quoted is right. Here is some stereotypical female beauty – as curated by yours truly:

If anyone cares, the models are:
  • Saoli Sabatini;
  • Anjelica Ebbi (aka Krystal Boyd, and other names);
  • Scarlett Johansson;
  • Jana Bider.
I may only hope my wife will forgive me. ;) I include her to make a point. (Edit: She did. See below)

You don't need to be a professional to look like this. You don't even need Photoshop, or a decent photographer. (As it is plain to see, I'm not one.)

What you need is:
  1. Long flowing locks (optional).
  2. Botox.
  3. Do not stuff your mouth.
  4. Shave.
I cannot overstate item 3. Do not stuff your mouth. That's the most crucial.

If you're lucky like Jana, the "not stuffing your mouth" is easy. You just never have the urge to eat beyond what it takes to keep weight.

If you're less lucky – like me – you have to maintain a spreadsheet. I've kept a spreadsheet like this for 10 years. It's the best way I know to maintain muscle mass, and not get chubby.

If you're female, you don't need to focus on muscle mass. You don't need a spreadsheet. All you need is an app like MyFitnessPal. Possibly not even that. Possibly, all you need is to get used to the idea that most of the time, you need to be halfway hungry.

Now, that may seem cruel. Such harshness! Imposed on you by unfair cultural beauty standards! Who wants to be halfway hungry?

But this is not imposed by society. It is imposed by nature. If you're not halfway hungry, you're going to grow just slightly larger each year. In 10 years, you're going to start failing society's "cruel and unfair" beauty standards. In 20 years, you're going to be obese. In 30 years, you're going to have diabetes.

I almost got diabetes, from zero-calorie drinks. I can tell you, it's so much fun when you can't sit through a movie, because your bladder is too full and you need to pee. It gets so much more fun when you have to constantly prick your finger, and poke yourself with insulin. Despite your best efforts, you slowly go blind, and develop neuropathy, until one day your toes fall away.

So, let's recap. If you're a woman, society's beauty standards motivate you to not stuff your face. The payoff is that you look great, and you avoid diabetes.

Now, let us consider society's standards for men. From age six or so, these are the ideals of masculinity that I grew up with:

I think you recognize these men.

The last one is He-Man. It was a cartoon. For children. In case anyone wants to compare to Barbie.

Now, compare these übermensch to my following, paltry physique:

That's from 2013. It's the best pic I could make after seven years of moderate exercise and diet.

Then, there's Dan Bilzerian. Here's what I would have to do, in order to look like him:
  1. Awesome beard. Mine is just average.
  2. Every day, all day long – weight exercises and meat.
  3. Steroids.
  4. More exercises and meat.
  5. Cocaine.
  6. More steroids.
  7. Do you even lift?! Have more meat.
Beard and cocaine optional. None of the rest is.

My points are:
  • The male beauty ideal is at least as difficult to achieve as the female.
  • Stereotypes of male physiques are near-literal freaks, dedicating their lives to it.
  • Meeting the masculine stereotype requires enormous sacrifices in time, health, and effort.
There's no way you're going to meet the male stereotype unless you work out all day, eat meat all day, and let steroids kill your fertility and shrink your testes. Ironically – the male stereotype is impotent.

You meet the female stereotype by maintaining long hair; getting Botox twice a year; not stuffing your mouth; and treating yourself to manicures. Boob job is entirely optional – many men don't like it.

I appreciate everything my wife does to look good. However, it's not Schwarzenegger effort. She has time to do other things. She doesn't train all day. In fact – she does not train at all, other than chasing Aaron. She cooks; she's a wonderful mom; and plays WoW at a world-class level. Most women can look like this.

Most men cannot look like Schwarzenegger. That requires dedicating an entire life to it.

And not least – if we don't have one, there's no way to obtain an 8-inch dong. I wish!


Q. Did you actually not ask Jana before posting that pic? I can't wrap my mind around this!

I posted while she was asleep. So no – I didn't decide to wake her up for this. That's because I think I have a reasonable idea of what might be okay with my partner of 12 years. It seems that I wasn't far off. She appreciated I find her hot enough to brag, and was amused by the surprised responses.

You see – among other things; Jana and I are swingers. Sending naked photos to strangers is the first thing one gets used to, when participating in this. We have been naked online for – oh, about 11 years. After a decade of being "careful" – consider us tired of it.

The above is an example of our artful and more reserved pics. It's lingerie from Victoria's Secret. She even wears gloves! Every part of her body is dressed. It's more revealing when girls post snaps from the beach.

We have photos both hotter and more recent that would be unsuitable here. My mom also reads this. She's going to bitch as it is. :)

So, yeah. Deal with it. ;)


Socialism and libertarianism: The two idiots

Following up to my previous post, here is what socialism and libertarianism get wrong. This post is harsh because responses to content in my previous post were harsh. Not on this blog – but elsewhere.


"Socialism" refers to at least two different things.

Adherents of true socialism use the word to refer to an economic arrangement where all of the means of production are socially owned, and large-scale private property is abolished. These people scoff aloofly at others, who use the word to refer to a charitable state; often accusing such folks of ignorance.

The reason we use "socialism" loosely is not because we lack your clues. It's because the idea of "true" socialism is so stupid, we would prefer to ignore that people take it seriously.

The central failure of true socialism is that it takes an effective leadership promotion system, and replaces it with nothing. At best – it suggests to replace it with democracy.

Democracy does not select good leaders. Examples are frequent and many, at all levels. If George W. wasn't proof enough, Trump is going to be next. There's a mathematical model of democratic elections which shows that, if Dunning-Kruger is correct, democracy selects for mediocre leaders at best.

Those of us who grew up in socialist societies have personal experience how economies with social ownership failed because they selected for mediocre leadership, not just in politics but in business, everywhere and at every step.

Capitalism is bloody in its fangs and teeth, but there is one thing it does very well. It takes power away from people who invest it poorly. This is the single most important reason why capitalist economies have been so successful. The rules of capitalism are cruel and indiscriminate. But as long as they are respected, people with bad economic judgment don't get to waste a whole lot of resources. Unless appointed or elected, they're simply not put in charge of big heaps of money. The two exceptions are inheritance and lottery. In both cases, people usually tend to waste the money – but it's a one-time opportunity.

True socialism proposes no way to deal with these problems. Until it does, it's as good as a pie in the sky. Without a mechanism for leadership selection that's immune to Dunning-Kruger, socialist economies elect mediocre leaders, who appoint mediocre managers, who drive whole economies into the ground. Routinely. This has happened with literally every country that has attempted to adopt 100% social ownership.

Then there are those who think a true socialist economy doesn't even need leaders. That the economy is just going to coordinate itself: as if problems of coordination are not in fact very difficult, and lacking even theoretically efficient solutions that do not rely on central parties. Such people may think that businesses are just going to run themselves democratically; ignoring the vulnerability of committees to Parkinson's law of triviality (bike-shedding), or ruin via Dunning-Kruger (people not knowing the degree of their incompetence – e.g. when it comes to business planning).

This is why a lot of people, when referring to socialism, actually refer to a charitable capitalist state. The alternative is too absurd to contemplate.


In contrast, libertarianism is a whole bunch of man-children – indeed, mostly men – in pursuit of a Fata Morgana of liberty.

Absolute liberty is not achievable. Not while we are humans, at least. As humans, we are dependent on work and resources. Our very existence is slavery. We need resources to live.

Libertarianism is the attempt to free ourselves of coercion via ideology. It is the pretense that property rights aren't coercive in themselves – practiced by those who can't imagine not having property.

If the entire Earth had been appropriated, and all the resources we need were private – there would be nothing for a newly born person to do, except to whore themselves out, in exchange for what they need to live. The price would be dictated by those who actually have property.

It seems to be no accident that most libertarians are technologically competent males. Being competent, we are in high demand. Being self-centered, we try to pretend that everyone has the same opportunity. Why don't the other people just learn programming? Oh, they could be hampered by a disability? Either physical or mental? They might lack the IQ? Hey – maybe our talents are actually rare; and that's why we're in demand, to begin with?

Well, that's inconvenient. It's much more pleasant to pretend that everyone could be in demand like us. If only they wanted, damnit.

And then, for the other part. Males. Why is libertarianism not as popular with women?

Here is my suggestion why. Women have periods. As a woman, you benefit from a monthly reminder that there are aspects of your body over which you have no control. Aspects which cause you real pain and disability. With a reminder like that, it's hard to forget how we're slaves to nature.

Competent young men have no reminder like that. We're healthy and free of hindrance. So we imagine taxes as oppression – because it's the only oppression we have.