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Comment Re:Will this be like patent trolling? (Score 1) 221

Many past historical claim systems require active *working* of the staked claim within some time period after initial filing --- e.g. you actually have to be digging some amount of gold out of the ground and bringing it to the government refiner/inspector to maintain the claim. The same type of mechanism could work here to prevent claim trolls --- if you don't return the material to earth, or move the asteroid into a designated earth-centered parking orbit, within 6 months of the claim, it's up for grabs again to whoever does so first.

Comment Write idiot-proof directions, or educate idiots? (Score 1) 115

Focusing resources on improving the clarity of *each individual* recipe for beginners throws away the benefits that society can gain from real *education* that develops general thinking ability rather than task-specific expertise. Perhaps a more productive focus for improving cooking overall is not figuring out how to make each individual recipe work out best for a beginner, but discovering what more general introduction of cooking principles best enables beginners to produce great results from less-well-written recipes (i.e. moves people past the permanent-beginner stage, where they remain dependent on the quality of each recipe). Once a person starts to understand *how to cook* (instead of just how to re-create particular recipes), they'll be able to get great results even from great-grandma's terse and ambiguous recipe cards (which assumed a competent reader who didn't need to be coddled at every step). Overall, it should be much more productive to optimize a single source of cooking pedagogy to ease the beginner-to-expert transition than re-write every single recipe (in ways that maximize first-time results, but probably not the general educational potential of the recipe).

Comment Re: But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

If companies can produce a binding contract and convince customers to sign it that limits liability to the assets of the company, then why wouldn't they bamboozle customers into limiting liability to $9.99 instead? Companies certainly try this all the time (how many things that you buy come with long disclaimers saying they have no liability for anything?) --- but now, their government defined "limited liability" status *still* means that they actually can be held liable for everything the company has when taken to court. Any private contract that would stand up in court to limit liability to one amount (the assets of the company) could just as well limit liability to any smaller amount.

And the "every third party sues for pollution" is one of the biggest bucket-of-fail "solutions" that libertarians toss around. Some of the most insidious types of pollution are spread very thin, far and wide. Cause 10 cents of "damage" to a hundred million people ($10M total damage). Do you expect each one to show up in court to prove and collect 10 cents damages? On the other hand, maybe you expect huge groups of people to band together to represent themselves as a class. For 10 cents... still not worth the effort to contact, organize, mobilize (and a class-action lawyer couldn't send out letters to that many people for such a small return on each). So, maybe all these people will band together with the expectation of suing *many* polluter corporations, each of which has caused them small amounts of harm, in high enough bulk to cover costs of a centralized administration that could go after all polluters. Congratulations, you've re-invented big government (in a highly clunky form)! People could just band together in the first place to set and administer society wide policies that average out to the common good, such as regulating pollution and slamming polluters with big fines.

Comment Re:Not a problem (Score 1) 421

I didn't mean necessarily mean specific memories, but at least a more vague continuity of "sense of self," the "I" that is being reincarnated. Without the present "I" sensing a bit about having been the past "I," in what sense would they be the same, i.e. why would the new "I" be a reincarnation of the old, instead of a whole new thing? Something like whatever sense we have when, waking up each morning, we "know" we were the same person who went to sleep the last night. Having concrete, verifiable memories would certainly help prove the reincarnation.

If this continuity "fades away" after the first few years of an infants life, then this is an awfully weak sense of the word "reincarnation" --- at most, one would say that the life of the previous person is extended a couple years past their previous bodily death, to flail around in a barely-self-aware infant for a bit longer before permanently vanishing into the void ("replaced" by a new "I" that, lacking the self-identified continuity with the old, can hardly be said to be the same thing). Anyway, in this scenario, reincarnation would not provide a "chain" of mind that extends into the far past and indefinite future, because this would be broken (basically the same as an entirely non-reincarnational system) at every generation, only with a bit more time as an infant (perhaps returning the "lost" time from the previous infancy occupied by another, now lost and disconnected, mind).

So, what part of the "persona" do you think survives --- and why does this part deserve to be called the "same" persona reincarnated, rather than simply a "similar personality" (which is hardly a controversial claim, that younger people will grow up with the same distribution of general personalities as the preceding generation).

Comment Re: But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

For a concrete example of a very similar government-created institution, consider corporations. I don't know whether this helps or hurts the case for you... I'm personally slightly unhappy to use this as an example, since I feel that many of the characteristics granted to corporations are terrible societal choices (and marriage, while imperfect, is less prone to destroying the fabric of society). Nonetheless, if you're not someone who wants to eliminate all corporations, then support for marriage might follow the same logic.

Corporations come in a limited variety of government-defined and regulated types, which present a legally uniform interface to owners/investors/customers/employees/creditors/plaintiffs even as the specifics of their internal arrangement can greatly vary. Corporate charters grant special privileges that cannot be produced by contracts between the participants in the corporation, such as limited personal liability for claims against the company and treatment as an individual "person" in other contracts. Society has (often wrong-headedly, IMO) decided that such special governmentally-produced arrangements provide helpful "infrastructure" for operating the economy.

Marriage follows in the same mold --- a dual-proprietorship corporation with potential minor dependents legally structured to address the specific concerns of domestic organization (joint home and property ownership, raising children, etc.), with well-defined exit clauses that hopefully protect all involved parties. The couple are effectively granted the legal characteristics of a single corporate "person" for many external interactions, which would not exist under a two-party contract. Ideally, supporting the functioning of these two-person legal entities produces societal benefits, just like the chartering of other corporate entities.

Comment Re: But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

An improved condition over expecting everyone to roll their own, but you've got an odd idea about what "standard" means.

I'd still need a squadron of contract lawyers to help me and my spouse-to-be to sort through the dozens (hundreds?) of candidate contracts to make sure I wasn't getting a nicely-presented disaster that would ruin our, and our children's, lives a couple decades later. Not that the existing state and Federal marriage code doesn't contain some nasty landmines that folks sometimes land on, but at least there are many eyes scrutinizing, reporting on, and even pushing out live patches for that version. Then, once we'd settled on our favorite flavor of contract, we'd need to keep our legal staff retained to make sure all our other arrangements (joint bank accounts? sending kids to daycare? etc.) conformed to our particular marriage arrangements.

The "easiest" case would be if the wedding contract market coalesced into a single monopolistic offering that, if not necessarily superior to all others, was at least most convenient because "everybody" knew how to work with it, and the legal ramifications were well-trammeled out... in which case you might as well have a governmentally-offered pre-packaged deal (like we already have!) with the option of specific contractual modifications (like we already have!).

And, this is still under the (libertarian doctrine, but extremely doubtful to me) assumption that there are no benefits to arrangements irreproducible by two-party contracts, but instead by society-wide policies.

Comment Re: But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

I don't disagree that marriage "bundles together" a big pack of rights/obligations/choices including stuff that couples might not want along with what they do. To some extent, this already can be modified by additional contracts (e.g. pre-nuptual agreements) tacked onto marriage, or by forming more limited specific contractual partnerships for isolated desired components (I can sign over a lot of trust by granting a "durable power of attorney" to someone else, possibly already married).

One big question is whether the two-person-unit should be granted any additional special rights beyond those obtainable by two contracted individuals. For example, where employers are required to provide health coverage to employees, should they need to extend special coverage offers for spouses? I know in a strict libertarian answer, employers would never have any such requirements in the first place; but how society should be restructured under such a radical overhaul is a different set of questions from how best to tweak small components --- I've got my own utopian visions for complete societal overhauls, but they're off-topic for this particular discussion. As an unmarried person, my immediate selfish response would be "no extraordinary considerations for couples." On the other hand, societally protecting and encouraging various family structures has loads of beneficial externalities --- like spending money on public infrastructure, education, etc., pooling resources to shore up families builds part of the "infrastructure" for a thriving society (I acknowledge that strict libertarian doctrine disagrees here).

Consider also one of the major (and oft entirely ignored by libertarians) difficulties of the "individual contracts for everything!" approach: forging good contracts is *hard,* and takes a huge amount of meticulous lawyerly effort to not end up with bad unintended consequences for all parties down the road. The pre-defined marriage "bundle" gives a well-tested, solidly founded starting point for all those folks who can't spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers to hammer out a life-pervasive compromise. Furthermore, it immensely simplifies contractual dealings by third parties with the married "unit": imagine how hard opening a joint bank account would be if the bank had to bring in their own lawyers to figure out an arrangement compatible with your custom-made contract marriage, instead of relying on a common legal framework for all couples. Contracts carry a lot of overhead, so consolidating "common" contractual operations into nationally-recognized standards, even if imperfect, is critical for the functioning of a contract-based society (imaging having to re-negotiate the basic terms of sale in every store you visited, instead of knowing that grocery store commerce was regulated by the same implied contracts everywhere unless *very explicitly* notified otherwise!).

Comment Re:Not a problem (Score 1) 421

Another component required is for some meaningful sense/memory of the previous incarnation to persist through the non-physical re-attachment stage. If re-incarnated minds are devoid of reminiscence of their previous self, then there is no meaningful sense in which they are the "same" mind rather than a whole new thing. At least in my personal experience (also, apparently, of many other people), there is no hint of having been previously incarnated --- any prior chain of reincarnation was broken before my own consciousness developed. Through participation in reincarnation-believing religious practices, some people gain a sense (real? imagined? to what level could one distinguish?) of membership in a reincarnational sequence. However, does this mean the probability (and even existence of) reincarnation depends on the population of, e.g., practicing Buddhists --- and that the whole cycle of reincarnation is terminated if enough people stop believing in it?

Comment Re: But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

OK; expurgation of all mention of marriage from legal codes would indeed be an equitable solution --- but perhaps a stupid one.

Such a solution removes the societal *benefits* of (not necessarily opposite-gender) marriage, including elements of third-party recognition that could not be produced by interpersonal contract. It's handy for a variety of situations to have a single, unambiguous, legally binding "I trust this person with my life" second party, along with economic benefits of avoiding un-necessary duplication of resources where two people would be happier to share.

Perhaps you are a Libertarian with a fundamental belief that government can have no positive role. So be it. Nonetheless, within the framework of our existing legal system (where the government does have a role in regulating interpersonal interactions outside of private contracts), it's preferable to have a gender-equitable definition of marriage over a discriminatory one.

Comment Re:But I've been told the opposite. (Score 1) 758

Yes: every situation where the contract would need to be magically binding on third parties.

Do you get to visit your critically injured loved one in the hospital, and be there to advise on important medical decisions? Not when the hospital staff has a legally defined policy of "family only."

Do you get to jointly file taxes with a combined household income? Not when the IRS says "only for married couples."

Does your employer health coverage include your partner? Not if they only cover your legal spouse.

A large and important component of the legally defined implications of marriage cannot be reduced to a binding contract between the two parties --- it defines how third parties behave towards the married two-person "unit."

Comment Make your own economic theories! (Score 2) 235

You too can use the rigorous methods of this paper to prove your own theories explaining why European culture is the best!

Ingredients:
(A) a measure of economic/social/cultural development that puts Europe on top, 1500-2013CE (plenty to choose from; Europe was really good at conquering/enslaving/looting over this period)
(B) a second characteristic correlated with "Europeanism" (in the paper's case, genetic diversity based on migratory distance from Africa --- pick another to support your own pet theory).

Method:
Plot (A) vs. (B). Note the graph peaks around the maximally-European value of (B).
Conclude that having just the right value for (B) was a cause for Europe's maximal (A).

Yay! Now you too can "prove" why nice-sounding attributes (like "optimal genetic diversity for cultural cooperation") put Europe (deservingly!) on top, instead of bothering with the distasteful details of actual history (genocide, colonialism, neo-colonism, ...).

Comment Re:Er, I Think You Misread That ... (Score 4, Interesting) 235

Just looked at the actual paper... wow, that's a load of rubbish.

The figures showing the data that they use to prove the "hump shaped" correlation of economic status against an optimal "middle ground" genetic diversity are just big sprays of uncorrelated points, through which you could draw basically any curve you want with equal statistical probability. The parabolic-shaped curves that they've chosen are basically entirely determined by a couple outliers in South America. No statistically reasonable interpretation of their results would give them anything publishable to say --- at least outside the especially low standards of Economics.

Comment Re:Er, I Think You Misread That ... (Score 4, Informative) 235

In that case, though, similar historical arguments hold just as as well --- highly economically advanced civilizations also formed far from the original "cradle of civilization." From the Inca and Aztec empires in South America, to continent-wide trade relations and the mound-building cultures in North America (basically "re-discovered" only after the invention of aerial photography, when people started realizing that some big oddly-placed hills were actually man-made structures), highly sophisticated and economically advanced civilizations have sprung up all over the place, from all sorts of "genetic stock." Tying genetic characteristics to economic advancement is an extremely iffy proposition, since there are far stronger fluctuations from historically contingent accidents. At best, you'll end up confusing cause and effect from correlating powerful, aggressive societies (conquering, assimilating, and intermarrying other surrounding populations) with the resultant genetic diversity of expansionist conquest.

Comment Re:That backwards African continent... (Score 3, Insightful) 235

For arguments based on racial/genetic makeup, a couple thousand years don't matter (significant genetic changes and the timescale for the initial "out-of-Africa" spread of humanity are over tens of thousands of years). Over the time scale of just a couple millennia, accidents of history unrelated to underlying racial makeup will be the dominant source of fluctuations in where the centers of geopolitical power (and corresponding economic advancement) lie. If Africans a couple thousand years ago were producing world-leading centers of technology and culture, that is a strong indication that the present-day underdevelopment of the African continent is due to factors besides racial/genetic disability (such as centuries of colonial exploitation following the shift of the regional center of power from Egypt to Rome, and eventually Northwestern Europe).

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