Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Make Money

In "Francisco's Money Speech" from Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand claimed that the phrase "to make money" was invented in America.  We changed money from a static quantity to be looted to the product of the free and active mind.  That etymology is not correct but the claim is compelling. 

In the New York Times "Freakonomics" blog for January 20, 2011, Fred Shapiro cited the Oxford English Dictionary: "the fact is that the Oxford English Dictionary documents the expression “to make money” back to 1457."   Later that day, reader Claude posted a citation from Cicero.
 Cicero, de Divinatione, 1. 111 (written 44 BC): Milesium Thalem, qui, ut obiurgatores suos convinceret ostenderetque etiam philosophum, si ei commodum esset, pecuniam facere posse, omnem oleam, ante quam florere coepisset, in agro Milesio coemisse dicitur. (“Thales of Miletus, who, in order to confound his critics and show that even a philosopher could make money, if there is an advantage, is said to have bought up an entire olive crop before it began to flower.”)  — Claude
That same passage was cited a few years ago when the subject appeared in Mark Liberman's blog, "Language Log" (March 15, 2006) .  Liberman quoted from a source in 1472:  
"R. CALLE in Paston Lett. (1976) II. 356, I truste be Ester to make of the leeste l marke.  (I believe that in modern orthography this would be "I trust by Easter to make of the least one mark".) The letter's context makes it clear that Richard Calle was not writing to Margery Paston about a counterfeiting scheme. The quantity expression "1 marke of money" is antique, but the sense in which Paston anticipated "making" that amount seems contemporary enough." 
(That blog is worth reading through as the discussion ranges deeply.  Apparently, the transliteration is not "1 marke" but "L marke" i.e., 50 marks.  But all of that at your leisure...)

The origin of "to make money" came up on David Veksler's "Objectivism Online" message board.  So, I ran it through Babelfish.  Even among Europeans, different cultures express differently the creation of profits and the making of money.

English: A business creates profits when it makes money.
German Ein Geschäft verursacht Profite, wenn es Geld verdient.

Dutch: Zaken leiden tot winsten wanneer het geld maakt.
Italian: Un commercio genera i profitti quando fa i soldi.
Spanish: Un negocio crea beneficios cuando hace el dinero.
Portuguese: Um negócio cria lucros quando faz o dinheiro.
French: Des affaires créent des bénéfices quand elles gagnent l'argent.

In French you win silver when you create blessings - Cyrano de Bergerac was Catholic, of course.  Germans deserve the profits that are brought into ultimate objectivity - strict morality and academic metaphysics. While the Dutch do make money, being good Calvinists, they bear the burden of their winnings. 

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1
Reflections on Atlas Shrugged, Part 1
John Aglialoro Does not Shrug
Anthem as a Graphic Novel

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Money as Speech and Peacemaking

Athens c. 450 BCE
“Francisco’s Money Speech” is a monologue from Atlas Shrugged.  If you do not know the soliloquy you can find it online at Capitalism Magazine courtesy of the Ayn Rand Institute.  As dramatic as it is, the essay is as negative as positive, a denial that money (or the love of it) is the root of all evil.  The broad and deep anti-capitalist prejudices in education and arts leave us with few investigations into the benefits of money.  Pink Floyd’s hedonist plaint, Gordon Gecko’s short “Greed” speech, and Larry the Liquidator’s “Amen” are about the top of the heap in common culture.  

Oddly enough, Ludwig von Mises agreed with Karl Marx that money derived from trade and that by natural selection, gold and silver became the best forms of commodity money.  (Compare Mises, Human Action, Chapter XVII “Indirect Exchange” with Marx, Capital Volume One; Chapter Two: “Exchange and Volume,” One Chapter Three: “Money, or the Circulation of Commodities.”)  In our time the across the political right wing, it is perhaps impossible to find anyone who describes themselves as conservative, libertarian or objectivist, who does not believe this.  

Summary of Traditional Moneys
In fact, money did not begin with trade, trade did not begin economic calculation, and the true power of money is not what you can get for it – though that is, indeed, powerful – but what it says to you and for you. ("The Technology of Ritual Exchange is now on the new Washtenaw Justice here)  Historically, in human and perhaps proto-human development, friendship came from the exchange of gifts.  When strangers met, giving and receiving almost anything at all avoided conflict. 

In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs posited that the cities derived from permanent hunting camps, not from agricultural settlements.  Successful hunters exchanged their bounty, more for novelty than for need.  According to Jacobs, grains that were not eaten before the next gathering were tossed aside.  When they grew, agriculture was discovered within the city walls.  The need for space took agriculture outside.  According to her theory, where today we find pastoral people, somewhere near the center of their range, we can find a lost city.  

If gold and silver as money derived from trade as economic calculation, then tin and copper (and bronze) would be the basis for money.  And there is support for this.  We know bronze blocks the shape and size cowhides.  The first Roman metal money was in blocks of the stuff, weighing one pound, cast with the images of pigs and elephants. The value in silver and gold is that they can be exchanged for bronze.  At the same time, however, there is no doubting the beauty of precious metals.  That, too, is valid.  Durable, uniform and malleable, they excel over other pretty stones and attractive feathers.  But as such, they have no utility except exchange.  Fundamentally, the value in money is that it allows us to make peace.  Economic calculation then becomes possible, but that is not the origin of money.

Once coinage was invented, money took on a new dimension: it carried images, and eventually words.  For pre-literate and proto-literate people, coins spoke in symbolic images.  Ancient coins were read in a depth of meaning that even numismatists too often glide past.  But no one mistakes what Junius Brutus meant when he issued coins celebrating the Ides of March.  Roman imperial coins announced military victories and the subsequent enslavement of peoples, as well as the emperor's tours of the provinces, the liberality of his gifts to the people, and the renewal of his appointment to office by the senate.

Even in the Dark Ages, coins carried so many words that they had to be abbreviated.  Historically, in obedience to the Commandments, coins from Muslim nations displayed no images, but announced, “There is no god but God; and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”  In China, from ancient times to the 19th century, the common cash coins carried four characters, at least two of which were the political message of the emperor, just as our presidents announced a “New Deal” or a “Great Society.”  In the 18th centuries, privately struck coins in England and America carried explicit political messages threatening revolution and touting our rights – and celebrating hard work and free trade with beehives and handshakes.  In America of the 1830s, one series of tokens lampooned Andrew Jackson as a jackass with a law degree; another showed the general, sword in hand, taking responsibility for an empty treasure chest.  Today, we use paper money and the typical Federal Reserve Note carries twenty different messages from the letter seal of the bank to the printing plate position, from the Eye over the Great Pyramid to “In God We Trust.”   

Pan American Airways

Stock certificates from the great age of capitalism carried vignettes.  Generic deities posed with wonderful machines.  Some of those demi-gods sported slide rules and calipers.  Goddesses of agriculture delivered bounties via railroad. The goddess of Gulf States Electric delighted her child with sparks from a generator.  

As the Internet eclipses print, we no longer purchase bank checks dressed up with icons and messages.  Electronic money is anonymous, surrendering its powers of speech and peacemaking.  But the foundation remains.  On the Internet, that overt trust is too easily exploited, but it could not be stolen by the dishonest if it did not exist.  Each exchange minimizes conflict and allows an opportunity for friendship. 


Monday, January 17, 2011

Unlimited Constitutional Government

Begin with that ideal state limited by a constitution with strict language that is narrowly understood and big government is just a matter of time.

Most Americans agree that we have too much government. The general theory along the right wing among conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists is that we need to adhere to strict construction, not loose interpretation, of the Constitution.  Specifically, the “minarchists” (versus anarchists) claim that the only proper functions of government are those that protect rights; and that government should be limited to defense (armies, police) and adjudication (civil and criminal courts).  Ayn Rand was not alone in saying this, but of all the advocates for individualism and the market she did most clearly state the hypothesis.   

One classroom in the FBI's 10-acred Hogan's Alley
urban simulation training site at Quantico, Virginia.
Government is an agency of law.  Where do laws come from?  We are comfortable with legislatures and executives.  Even a part-time parliament and a temporary president need buildings.  Certainly, the courts cannot meet in open fields.  Even if the police and army lived in tents, they would need at least those, though, hopefully, we could shelter them in better facilities.  How are these to be built and maintained?  What prevents the government from constructing them, using government- trained skilled trades workers from government craft programs? Military academies train military engineers. Why would the government not have other schools for training civil, mechanical, electrical, etc., engineers and scientists for government service?

Libertarians would like to privatize the post office, but does the government have no right to transmit its own messages? If the government can publish legislative minutes and proposed laws and notes of enforcement and judicial proceedings, then can the government not own its printing presses, television and radio stations, websites and other communications media? What mandate is there that the government must pay private contractors to provide any or all of its services?

U.S. Treasury Building being restored.
Today, the federal government operates military academies and police academies. Should the government not operate its own law schools, legislative seminaries, and bureau or agency colleges? If government buildings are not to be insults, they must be decorative, and thus we can imagine government schools of art and design. What prevents the existence of government craft manufacturers to make the things created by the designers and artists for use in government facilities?  Who maintains government facilities? Who paints the walls; and who trims the grass; and who clears the snow and ice? 

We accept that courts need support, of course, from recorders, bailiffs, and clerks. The police need dispatchers, clerks, receptionists.  These people need equipment.  Who makes it?  Napoleon Bonaparte was not the first general to realize that an army moves on its stomach.  What prevents the police and courts from having their own internal departments for food production and preparation? Who produces the pots and pans and stoves and refrigerators?  If the legislature decided that its work could be better engaged listening to music, could there not be a government orchestra? After all, the military has its bands and orchestras, why not the courts and police, and why not the engineers and gardeners? 

Products of the Springfield Armory.
(Where does the steel come from?)
Today’s news contains complaints about the wages paid to government employees (see close), but the open market in labor determines those payments.  More to the point, every business wants the best employees and, certainly, we, the people deserve the best in government services.  Why not have this work done by government employees, trained at government schools, clothed from government factories, fed from government farms?  What mandate is there that government employees cannot be given homes as part of their compensation? 

This is the “arsenal theory” of government.  In order to assure that it can carry out its strictly defined and narrowly interpreted functions, the government must be able to produce the goods and services it needs.

There is another theory: COTS – commercial off the shelf technology.  Patriotic innovators and greedy charlatans have always wanted to sell things to the state, but the modern system of procurement originates in the industrial revolution which made interchangeable parts possible.  (See close.)  Would the only allowable alternative be that government be supplied via competitive bid contracts?  It may be a sound theory.  Today, those contracts are the source of the “military industrial complex” and the “revolving door” between agencies and their suppliers. 

Over the years, I have interviewed many business people for magazine articles that I write.  A sales manager for IBM once told me that if the first he heard of a government agency placing an open bid for a printer was reading about it in a bid list, he would fire the salesman assigned to the account.  It is the job of the technical marketing representative to help the client understand their needs.  Ideally for them, the provider crafts the language of the bid.  How fast should a printer be?  How often should you need to replace the ribbons?  Those are technical questions.  The same principle applies to new jet fighter craft.  Competing providers will vie against each other for the opportunity to inform and influence the specifications.  Today, both the arsenal and COTS modes are in operation.  Nothing in republican, libertarian, or objectivist political theory provides a standard to know which should be what. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The easy truth is that fingerprints are not reliable. The deeper facts are necessarily more complicated. Whether and to what extent fingerprints - or, ultimately DNA, retinal scans, and other biometric identifications - may be putatively "infallible" there remains an underlying desire to segregate good people from bad, to control the latter for the benefit of the former. 

Suspect Identies: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification  
by Simon Cole (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

However, an admittedly unscientific poll by CNN Money in 2004 found that 21% of Americans cheat on their federal income  tax.     A story in the New York Times for May 1, 2010, claimed that 20% to 30% of the wealth in Greece is off the books in undisclosed transactions.   That number might reflect American realities as well.  (Prof. Liqun Cao told our criminology classes that perhaps 20% of the goods on the market have no clear title.)  Furthermore, according to the social taxonomy for "anomie" presented by Robert King Merton, "innovators" are those who seek socially-approved goals in unapproved ways.  You might think that defines robbery (and it does), but it also defines the "pirates of Silicon Valley" who created new computer resources otherwise denied to them: they were hackers before they became inventors.  Even if we could tag everyone, do we want to?  What is achieved by criminalizing young people for thinking outside the box?

The basic problem here, of course, is that such tagging is not reliable.  It does not work.  Experts who study fingerprints know the problems.  Worst of all, they deny, minimize, and obfuscate their different interpretations of the facts in order to present a united front to the world, claming that fingerprints are certain, not probabilistic. Simon Cole's work has a few weak points.  He presents the same information twice, in the absence of giving new data to substantiate a new claim.  With that caveat, it remains that this book is an excellent history of the attempts to measure and identify criminals. 

Though with several other roots as well - India under British rule in 1858, for instance - "Anthropometry" began in the 1870s with Cesare Lombrosco. Again, both motives were active.  First, criminologists thought that law-breakers were physically different from normal people.  The criminal could be detected by the geometry of his skull and the ratio of his legs to this torso. Calling themselves scientists, they developed complex taxonomies for ear shape.  In theory, if they could measure everyone, they could cull the criminals from society and prevent if not eradicate crime.  Second, the police and courts (and the military) had a large body of repeat offenders. Identifying them would facilitate processing -- and prevent wrongful pleas for mercy from self-defined "first time offenders."  Similarly, the U.S. Army needed to keep out those it threw out but who came back via another recruiter. 

Anthropometry was hard work. Special calipers applied to the unclothed body provided raw numbers for the calculation of ratios and proportions.  And it only worked with males.  In the 19th century, despite hand-wringing over the evils of prostitution, few were willing to measure a woman in the same manner.  And the numerical models were lacking.  Anthropometry had limitations, of course; and Coles tells (pp. 140-142) the famous case of the two William Wests carefully measured and then confused by Leavenworth Prison.  That hallmark case is a classic justification for the reliability of fingerprinting.  It appears in college textbooks for criminal investigations.

Fingerprinting solved a lot of problems, not the least of which was differentiating the two Misters West. Fingerprints are easy to get -- from men or women, living or dead. 

Meticulous cataloguing suggested that no two people had the same set of prints.  That may well be true.  We do not know for sure.  This is an empirical truth only.  Like primitives for whom the sun has always come up in the east, but who have no knowledge of astronomy, we can take all the measurements we want, but we do not know the genomes and alleles for fingerprints; we know the what, but not the why.

We could live with that.  But in a few decades from the 1920s to the 1940s, fingerprinting devolved to the point where trained examiners claimed under oath that a partial print unabiguously identified a perpetrator.  Comparing good "native" prints from each of ten fingers was reduced to accepting claims about partial latent (secondary) prints.

Fingerprint examiners never disagree with each other in court.  They only agree that the prints identify or are "inconclusive."  Coles tells the story (pp. 264-266; 272-274; 282) of experts in disagreement all of whose certifications were revoked because that was the only way for the International Association for Indentification to maintain the fiction that experts do not disagree about fingerprints.  Today, fingerprints are unassailable.

The fact remains that fingerprints have been forged by several methods by police and by criminals.  (The FBI first found a forgery by a law enforcement officer in 1925.)  And of course there is politics.  J. Edgar Hoover and New York City Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright both had strong claims that their agency was best suited to be the central clearning house and repository.  Suspect Identities is a dense book that covers a lot of ground in 350 pages, but the index is an exemplary epistemological map to this complex presentation.

The epistemological and methodological problems in fingerprinting are not taught to law enforcement professionals.  After completing a BSc in criminology in 2008, I was watching a rerun of NUMB3RS, the CBS drama series (2005-2010) about mathematician Charlie Eppes and his brother, FBI Special Agent Don.  The first season show Identity Crisis centered on fingerprinting.  Prof. Eppes identified the key difference between DNA and fingerprinting, asking rhetorically, "But prints don't have odds?" A fuller treatment of the problem can be found in The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS by Keith Devlin and Gary Lorden.  (Dr. Devlin teaches at Stanford and is NPR's "Math Guy."  Dr. Lorden teaches at CalTech and was the technical advisor for the series.) 
The case of Brandon Mayfield may become paradigmatic.  You can google him and find the Wikipedia article.  As Mayfield is an attorney, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has an insightful summary on their website.  Mayfield was wrongfully accused of being an Al Qaeda operative, in large part because FBI fingerprint examiners refused to disagree with their boss.  The evidence - such as it was - began with a single latent fingerprint.

Employee Theft
Junk Science in the Courtroom
Eyewitness Testimony: Popper, Wittgenstein, and the Innocence Project
Forgery and Fraud in Numismatics
William Sheldon: Psychologist, Numismatist, Thief
Is Physics a Science?

Monday, January 10, 2011

More on Necessary Factual Truths

Greg Browne writes:

The big question is:
How can we know the truth of universal generalizations (All S is P) about kinds (such as "All triangles have angles that had add up to 180 degrees" and "All water is H20") with certainty?
To know them with certainty, or even with probability, requires that they be necessary.

Some, such as Hume, deny that any factual truths are necessary, but they are wrong.
Some who admit that they factual truths can be necessary will still say that we need innate ideas or other a priori aides to know them, that experience is not enough, but they are wrong, too.
So how can we know necessary factual truths empirically (through experience)?

I saw that it is my discovering and analyzing patterns.   For example, we encounter several things with triangular surfaces and realize that there is a pattern here, the pattern of being a triangle, or we encounter several cases of water and realize that there is a pattern here, the patter of being water.

Now of course the process is different in these 2 cases.   In the case of triangles, we can do it in our armchair (more geometrico).   In the case of water, it is much more complex and difficult--and so many don't even think it is possible.   Indeed, while we can deduce from the basic concept of a triangle many truths, such as having angles add up to 180 degrees, in the case of water we cannot easily, if it all, deduce the superficial qualities from any one of those superficial qualities: rather, the quality that we can deduce the superficial qualities from--namely, the atomic structure--required a lot of effort and time to discover.   Nonetheless, once we have this fundamental quality, we can deduce the other qualities from them.

So in both cases we deduce from concepts, though in the case of water the concepts require a lot more work to discover.

So forming the concept, by discovering the pattern, is key.

And it Aristotle would agree, and call the process by which we discover it "induction".   It sounds like Harriman is going to say the same thing.

Note: I do believe that this process can take place by analyzing just one example.  For example, if you know that a key does not fit in a lock, then you know that all keys of that shape and size will not fit in that lock--indeed, that they will not fit in any lock of that size and shape.   As to the example you gave of Galileo (I am going only by what you said, since I am that familiar with methodology), you said that he tried many tests of hypothesis--but you also added that he tried them in many variations--many different substances and/or many different sizes of ball, etc.

In general, I give the "Continental Rationalists" such as Descartes more credit than do most Randians (or most Aristotelians).

Note: though I think that this demonstrative method works in a much wider range of fields than most do, I admit that sometimes we can only have probabilistic knowledge.   For example, we may say that a correlation is so strong that there is probably a necessary causal connection even though we do not yet know what the causal connection is (e.g. aspirin use and pain relief for a century, until recent decades.)

Also, I got the Harriman book today, but I have just started reading it, and these thoughts are from before I got it.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Gregory M Browne's Necessary Factual Truths

This blog is named for Dr. Gregory M. Browne's work bridging metaphysics and epistemology.  In the Introduction to Necessary Factual Truths, Browne explains that his work was inspired by Leonard Peikoff's essay, "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy."  This book goes further to uniting inductive and deductive truths.  Inductive truths are factual (empirical; evidentiary), while deductive truths are necessary (logical, rational).  As an Objectivist, Browne expects that there is no dichotomy between the factual and the necessary, the empirical and the rational. 

According to Browne, the historical difficulty derives from the fact that not everything essential to identification and definition is immediately perceptible.  He delineates "shallow" truths from "deep" truths.  Mathematics and logic are "shallow" because everything you need to know is immediately provided.  On the other hand, the internal structures of atoms and stars, the mechanisms of life, and the panorama of human history are "deep" because they are less tractable.  They do have natures. Existence is identity: to be is to be something.  However, we just have not always known -- and may not yet know -- much about these more complicated entities.  When such things are first discovered, we know that they are, but we do not know what they are.  Eventually, we learn more.  According to Dr. Browne, historically, Aristotle followed a unified inductive-deductive methodology.  Over the centuries, philosophers narrowed their certainties, eventually abandoning the empirical, evidentiary, experimental, realistic aspects of knowledge for those that could be argued like geometry.
"...I say that some kinds are such that a description that is logically equivalent to the name - which would be a definition by necessary and sufficient conditions - is not always available. ... This is because some some kinds have attributes which are unknown when they are first discovered, as we shall see, and so it takes work to discover the attributes, and thus come up with a definition by necessary and sufficient attributes, and at any given time we may not have discovered them all." (168-169) 
Browne opens his treatise by discussing why philosophers denied necessary factual truths and created dichotomies.  He then goes on to define categories, classes and kinds, necessity and causality, explaining extension (breadth and narrowness of definition) and intension (depth and shallowness of meaning).  The book argues for three broad claims. First, "some admittedly factual truths - including truths in chemistry and biology - are indeed necessary..."  He achieves this by his explanation of Deep Kinds, entities whose nature is complex and not entirely known.  He ties this to other side of the equation by investigating Narrow Classes and the necessary truths about individuals.  His second claim is that certain factual truths - such as Newton's Three Laws of Motion - are necessary.  Finally, Browne demonstrates why the necessary truths are more than conventions, but factual: they are true because of how the world is.

Gregory M. Browne completed a dual major in political philosophy and political science at Michigan State University's James Madison College in 1979.  Continuing his studies at the University of Michigan in history and philosophy, he returned to MSU, completing a master's degree in political science in 1984 and another in philosophy in 1988 before earning a doctorate in philosophy in 1994.  He taught at Yorktown University in Denver and at community colleges in Michigan before coming to Eastern Michigan University.  In the fall semester 2007, waiting for a class in police operations, I was walking the halls and heard him lecturing about Ayn Rand. His essay on reference and neccesity (in reply to Roderick Long) appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies Vol 8, No 1.

More on Necessary Factual Truth
Ground Truth
The Sokal Affair

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Employee Theft

Here in Ann Arbor, the Cafe Luwak of Ypsilanti closed its doors after nearly six years, finally driven out of business by internal fraud and larceny.  The full story is on their blog.  The demise of a cool coffee shop that served a nice array of ice cream and a terrific offering of outstanding deli was a loss to the community. 

 Restaurants are a challenge even when the economy is expanding.  The economy was never good since they first opened in February 2005.  Yet they survived.  Ypsilanti's Depot Town is a good location. Cafe Luwak had popular bars and retailers for neighbors, a short drive or a summer walk from the campus of Eastern Michigan University.  In entrepreurship seminars, they teach that most new businesses fail within five years, most of those in three.  Cafe Luwak survived the critical curve, but were taken down by employee theft.

Retailers know that shoplifters are less damaging than employees. University of Florida criminology professor Richard Hollinger specializes in retail crime.  His 2009 survey of one hundred shops found that 43% of losses come from employee theft and 35% from shoplifting.  In restaurants and bars customers have no easy access to storage or the till, so employee theft is even more of a problem.  Luwak's losses came to $40,000 last year in inventory and cash combined. 

Crime has many explanations.  In the past two generations, criminologists offered over fifty separate hypotheses.  Among the weakest are the "critical" theories of Marxist conflict which remain popular with many academic criminologists and sociologists.
Now in a 9th Edition from Prentiss-Hall

In economics text books, Karl Marx has been relegated to the margins, to balance the laissez faire theories of Hayek and Mises. In economics, the commanding heights belong to Milton Friedman and the Chicagoists.  But in sociology and criminology, Marx is still taken seriously.  For the critical criminologist, crime is a response to oppression.  People steal out of need or vengeance, retaliating against exploitation. 

The facts tell a different story.  Consistent statistics across decades from the Uniform Crime Report show no correlation between the general economy and crime generally. 

Admittedly, the UCR has some structural problems. It is only a summary of crimes as reported by local authorites. When police departments want more funding, they can make crime go up.  When they need to look successful, they can make crime go down. 

For example, burglary is a felony because by definition it is two crimes: (1) breaking and entering (2) with intent to commit a felony.  But the easy solutions is for the burglar to admit to the B&E, and the prosecutor will drop the felony.  The perp gets jail, not prison; and the wheels of justice grind on.  

The National Crime Victimization Survey is a random sampling report about harms and wrongs, about half of which never come to the attention of police. Bearing in mind the limitations, it is still interesting that as the economy worsened, the UCR showed a general decrease in all crimes (except rape and sexual assualt in some cities), and especially so, regarding burglary, larceny, theft, and other property crimes.  Even though we are in the worst depression in three generations, property crime is decreasing.  

People do not steal out of need or vengeance.  They steal from greed and opportunity.

Hacking Computer Security: BSides Austin 2013
Shifting the Paradigm of Private Security
Misconduct in Science and Research

Some theories to explain crime:
The Classical School, The Positive School, The Chicago School, Rational Choice, Routine Activities, Lifestyle Theory, Cognitive Theory, XYZ Chromosome, Sociobiology, Differential Conditionality, Social Learning Theories, Modeling/Imitation, Differential Association, Differential Identification, Differential Reinforcement, Social Learning Theory, Psychoanalytic Theories, Moral Development Theories, Criminal Personality Theory, Social Strain Theories, Strain Theory, General Strain Theory, Social Disorganization, Anomie Theory, Subculture Theories, Culture Conflict Theory, Subculture of Delinquency, Cloward & Ohlin's Differential Opportunity, Focal Concerns, High Delinquency Areas, Subculture of Violence, Labeling Theories, Tagging, Primary & Secondary Deviance, Developmental Career Model, Radical Non-Intervention, Social Control, Containment Theory, Social Bond Theory, Techniques of Neutralization, Low Self-Control Theory, Peacemaking , Reintegrative Shaming, Radical, Feminist, Conflict Theories:, Crime, Sex, Inequality & Power, Marxist Theories, Social Reality, Liberation Theory, Opportunity Theory, Power-Control Theory, Instrumental Theory.

For essays in objective (rational-empirical) criminology, follow the links on my criminology and sociology website, Washtenaw Justice.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

David Harriman's Logical Leap

The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics  by David Harriman, with an introduction by Leonard Peikoff. New American Library, July 2010. Paperback, 279 pages + vi, illustrations. $16.00. Reviewed by Michael E. Marotta

As a card-carrying criminologist, I recommend this book highly to any practitioner who values the scientific method.  Originally born in the Enlightenment academic criminology adopted what we call "positivism." Today, criminologists identify positivism as the scientific method, but "postivism" was coined by Auguste Comte and the flaws of Comte's theories prevented criminology from becoming a truly scientific rational-empirical study. The next generation floundered in pseudo-scientific "anthropometrics."  From merely useful physical descriptions of actual suspects, theoretical criminologists invented unsubstantiable claims about potential criminals. Only the military defeat of national socialism discredited that bankrupt philosophy. 

In the following two generations, over fifty distinct theories of crime have been tendered by academic criminologists.  Like medieval astronomers adding epicycles, they lack a truly objective understanding of the necessary facts. Today's criminology classrooms, careening ever farther from useful science, offer post modernism to the next generation of professionals. 

Despite some flaws in the presentation, David Harriman’s proposal for a new method of scientific methodology is interesting, valuable, and important.  Harriman’s thesis is that induction is actually the integration of a new experience with the totality of all previous experience for the purpose of creating a new generalization.  One example is enough for a generalization, if it is validly composed.  According to Harriman, to be valid, an induction must be derived from a first-level generalization.  To demonstrate the truth of his claim, Harriman provides examples from the works of Galileo, Newton, and Dalton, among others.  Harriman’s thesis deserves more than mere consideration.  Properly taught, it would be a revolution in science. 

Perhaps the primary barrier that Harriman faces is that the word "induction" is already taken.  For everyone else practicing a science, induction is the accumulation of facts that can be generalized, eventually into a theory.  Rather than trying to replace the accepted meaning of the inductive method, Harriman should simply call his the objective (or Objectivist) method. 

The other significant problem for this work is Harriman's proposal to displace the "hypothetico-deductive" method, i.e,, the scientific method of observation, theory, and test.  At first, this seems like abandoning science itself.  However, for the criminal investigator, security professional, or attorney at law, Harriman's "logical leap" is exactly how we practice science. 

[edited Aug. 29, '12]You know that a crime was committed at a certain time and place. [A person with motive, means, and opportunity is known to have been present. That is enough to create a suspect. Additional clues add nothing substantial, though they can be supportive.]  Once accused, the same process can liberate the suspect.  [Known to] have been at a different place at that time, we do not need to control the variables in the suspect's wardrobe while testing for his shoe size.  One significant fact is enough to validate a logical leap to [the] claim that this suspect is not guilty.

Objectivism (with or without the capital-O) is rational-empiricism and both sides of that equation are required.  Existence exists. Reality is real. To be is to be something.  Therefore, contradictions do not exist.  Truth is rational and empirical, logical and evidentiary, analytic and synthetic, theoretical and experimental, ideal and practical, deductive and inductive, and even imaginary and experiential.  Harriman’s book rests on those truths.  In that, its value cannot be overestimated.

Find a full review with my identification of some problems on my website.

Money as a Crusoe Concept

Alone on an island Robinson Crusoe would need money.

Money is (1) a store of value and (2) a unit of account and (3) a medium of exchange.

Money has social uses. So does language. We learn language socially, but the primary purpose of language is to enable personal thinking. Language is an individual skill. Alone on an island, Crusoe still needed language. Similarly, we learn to use money socially. Alone on an island, Robinson Crusoe would need money. 

Money's first attribute is its being a store of value. That is what allows money to be a unit of account and a medium of exchange.   Crusoe's primary money was food. If he could store food, his labor could be invested. When he discovered that he had accidentally sowed wheat which “took” he was overjoyed.

Robinson Crusoe might put most of his calculations in terms of wheat and thereby quantifiably value progress toward the completion of a boat. Building the boat was his most important long-term goal. It was to enable this that he engaged in indirect barter with himself.  

The division of labor (Adam Smith) necessarily creates a law of association (David Ricardo) which means that if you are going to undertake any complex task, then it is more efficient to break that down into repetitive actions, rather than carrying out the entire process in sequence. To build a raft, Crusoe must sawing boards, drill holes, braid twine, etc.  Each should be done as a distinct task rather than sawing a board, drilling a hole, braiding a rope, and then drilling the next hole, and after four, going back and sawing the next board, and so on.  Thus, each task becomes an economic value to be traded with any other task.

It is always possible to exchange goods and services with yourself across time. Should you plant? Build a fire and tend it? Catch fish? Look for coconuts? What you do on an island is determined by how you value your time and the return value that you expect for it.

In your world today, you choose to work at one or more jobs, take on one or more hobbies, perform a changing set of household tasks.  You need bookkeeping of some sort and that means that you must have a unit of account. The more focused and rational your accounting, the better for you.

Rather than being a social convention, money is an artifact of individual effort, thought and reward. 

Both the socialist Karl Marx and the capitalist Ludwig von Mises found the origin of money in social exchange.  Marx, after all, was writing social history. However, von Mises sought a priori foundations for economic theory. Yet, for von Mises the prolbem to be solved was the choice of gold (and silver) over other commodities. However,  Marx also said fifty years before von Mises that gold evolved as the best form of money, as the preferred commodity of indirect exchange.  And it is true that money began in a social encounters, not in a Crusoe context.  But money did not begin as indirect barter in convenient commodities.  That came later.  The origin of money is in ritual gift exchange, in peace-making, amelioration, and friendship.

(To be continued.)
Numismatics: the Standard of Proof in Economics
Objectivism and the Gold Standard
Electronic Money: Coins without Realms