Archive for December, 2008

Positively normative

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I try to avoid being normative when I can help it. I forget when I started implementing Positivity Over Normativity, though it may have been upon reading Milton Friedman’s Methodology of Positive Economics. (Side note: positive = “the way things are”, normative = “the way things ought to be”).

There is a difference between describing something (“The man is wearing a blue shirt”) and valuing that something (“The man’s blue shirt is hideous”). Sometimes the line between the two may blur as a would-be observer convolves description and prescription. The essence, I think, is in stating or implying that a certain something is “good” or “bad”. For example, “It’s bad to drive around with underinflated tires” pales in comparison to “You can improve your gas mileage by up to 20% by fully inflating your tires”. In this case, you’re still implicating something in a value judgment, but by being specific you shift it onto improved gas mileage and away from the person’s poor automobile maintenance abilities.

I can think of two benefits from separating the positive from the normative. First, for those of us who try to think like scientists, it makes it much easier to reason about the world objectively, without having emotion cloud your judgment. Second, in going about your daily life, you will be less likely to needlessly offend others because of a clash of beliefs.

When you do your best to describe what is, you don’t get your emotions tied up in your perception of the world. When someone challenges your world view, you can adapt to it more easily. After all, an observation is much less a reflection of who you are than a value judgement is.

On arbitrary minima

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

How soon we forget the annoyances of being “under age”. At the time of this writing, I’m old enough that the only legal restrictions coming to my mind are renting a car and serving in various branches of government. But that doesn’t mean I am precluded from other arbitrary minima inconveniencing me.

This past flu season, I made a cough syrup run to the grocery store, for an ailing friend. At the checkout counter I was surprised to find that there is another legal arbitrary minimum that I hadn’t even counted upon. There is an age in the state of New York below which a cashier cannot sell cough medicine. Apparently my cashier was under age and thus was considered unfit to vend potentially psychoactive agents without a manager present.

It’s probably for the best. You never know what kind of miscreants they have working a cash register. Sure, my cashier seemed like the upstanding citizen type. But what about the myriad illicit schemes of high schoolers, like selling dozens of bottles of Robitussin to their friends so they can have a drug-induced orgy of law breaking? If even one such awesome rocking robotripping party was foiled, then that law did its job.


Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Constrained Bliss Point is my first attempt at joining the blagosphere. It’s an esoteric term from Walrasian economics that seemed like it would make a fabulous name.

Where businesses exist to maximize profits, and governments exist to keep the peace or oppress the people (depending on your world view), this blog shall exist to preserve, protect, and defend the interests of awesome wherever they lie. Awesome needs a forum, and I hope this is it. And, you know, joining in the great intellectual discourse of our age will be fun too.

And regarding the post title: that’s right, I’ve jumped straight to trans-reality (blog) trolling.

i has a blag!

Friday, December 19th, 2008

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.