[Product] [Screencast] Elliot Reads Critical Fallibilism Forum, 2023-03-08

I recorded myself catching up on CF forum posts and put it up for sale. Find details on the product page: https://curi.gumroad.com/l/oywpl

I wanted to let everyone know: Future small products might only be announced on my forum, not here. I'm also not going to add this to https://www.elliottemple.com/store but you can find it on my gumroad store page https://curi.gumroad.com and follow me there for notifications.

Big products will be announced as a CF post and/or here, in addition to on my forum. (I'm not planning any big products soon. I want to make better free essays explaining CF first.)

I recommend anyone interested in my stuff sign up to receive emails at the CF site. If you want more than that, here's a page with forum posts by me that you can bookmark. My posts include topics linking to all my CF and curi blog posts and YouTube videos, which is done with an automated system, so it's a way to find everything in one place if you aren't using an RSS reader. Creating a forum topic for each thing also gives people a space to comment on it and discuss it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Visible and Hidden Problems

Some problems are easier to see than others. If you look for problems, there are some that are pretty easy to find, and some that are hard to find. Some problems are so easy to find that you’ll find them without even looking for problems. Other problems are so hard to find that you could fail to find them after a lifetime of searching.

There are often many related problems. Having no money is a problem that’s easy to notice. But it’s not the whole story. What’s the cause or underlying issue? Maybe it’s because you disliked the jobs you tried and spend most of your time intentionally unemployed. That’s not very hidden either. Why do you dislike those jobs? Maybe you didn’t like being bossed around to do things that you consider unwise. Maybe you didn’t like being bossed around because you’d rather boss others around. Maybe you’re lazy. There are lots of potential problems here.

There can be many, many layers of problems, and the deeper layers are often harder to analyze, so the problems there are more hidden.

Hard to find problems can be impactful. People often see negative consequences in their lives but don’t understand enough about what is causing those consequences.

Like maybe you don’t have many friends and you want more. But you keep not really getting along with people. But you don’t know much about what’s going wrong. Or you might think you know what the problems are, but be wrong – it’s actually mainly something else you never thought of. People often try to solve the wrong problem.

One problem solving strategy people have is to find all the most visible, easy-to-find problems they can and solve them.

This is like going around and cutting off the tips of icebergs. You have these problem-icebergs and you get rid of the visible part and leave the hidden part as a trap. That actually makes things worse and will lead to more boats crashing because now the icebergs are still there but are harder to see. (Actually I’m guessing if you cut the tip of the iceberg then off the rest would float up a little higher and become visible. But pretend it wouldn’t.)

Your visible problems are your guide to where your hidden problems are. They’re not a perfect, reliable or complete guide. But they give pretty good hints. Lots of your invisible problems are related to your visible problems. If you get rid of the visible problems and then start looking for more problems, it’ll be hard to find anything. You basically went around and destroyed most of your evidence about what invisible problems you have.

What should you do instead?

Don’t rush to make changes. Do investigations and post mortems when you identify problems. Look for related problems. Take your time and try to understand root causes more deeply.

Once you have a deeper understanding of the situation, you can try to come up with the right high-power solutions that will solve many related problems at once.

If you target a solution at one problem, you’re likely to fix it in a parochial, unprincipled way – put a band-aid on it.

If you figure out ten problems including some that were harder to see, and you come up with ten solutions, then each of the solutions is likely to be superficial.

But if you figure out ten problems and come up with one solution to address all ten at once, then that solution has high leverage. There’s some conceptual reasoning for how it works. It involves a good explanation. It has wider reach or applicability. It’s more principled or general purpose.

So, not only will this solution solve ten problems at once, it will probably solve twenty more you didn’t know about. It works on some whole categories of problems, not just one or a few specific problems. So it’ll also solve many similar problems that you didn’t even realize you had.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Nonfinite Verbs

I’m going to explain nonfinite verbs because I’ve been unable to find a good conceptual explanation for them that I could refer people to. They’re very common in English and they come up frequently when analyzing text in detail (as philosophers sometimes do).

This is an intermediate level article. You should already be familiar with gerunds, participles and infinitives, and have done some grammar practice involving them. Otherwise start with English Language, Analysis & Grammar and my Text Analysis video playlist.

My main goal here is to explain some concepts that will help people who already have a learning process underway. I skip some steps like giving examples of typical non-finite verbs.

A complete, independent thought in English requires a verb, subject and tense. The verb is the action of the sentence. The subject is the actor. The tense tells us about the timing of the action. There’s often an object, which is the thing acted on. And there are often modifiers which provide additional details.

Conjunctions allow us to put multiple thoughts in one sentence. Without something to combine thoughts together, we express one complete thought per sentence.

Besides action verbs, there are linking verbs. They link two things together. For example, in “The ball is red.” the linking verb “is” links “ball” with “red”. Linking verbs can be thought of like a “being” action. For the rest of this article, I’ll talk about verbs as involving action, without differentiating links. (English has lots of special cases. The rules aren’t 100% consistent. Anything in this article may have exceptions.)

When a verb is used for a complete thought, it’s called a “finite” verb because its possibilities are limited to that specific thought. It’s a regular, normal verb.

We can also use verbs for incomplete thoughts. These are called “nonfinite” verbs. In terms of the roles words have in a sentence, nonfinite verbs function as a noun or modifier. Although they have some characteristics of verbs, they don’t perform the verb role and can’t be used to replace a (finite) verb.

Nonfinite verbs let us reuse the concepts from verbs for other speech. They let us get more use of the words we have instead of having to invent more words.

Being Specific

Verbs are the starting points of sentences and thoughts. They play a leading, governing role. So let’s look at a verb by itself.

“throw” isn’t a complete thought. (Unless it’s a command that’s telling you to throw in the present, so there’s an implied subject.)

We can make “throw” more specific and complete by adding details.

“throw the ball” tells us what should be thrown.

“throw over there” tells us where to throw.

“throw quickly” tells us in what manner to throw.

“throw well” tells us the quality of the throwing.

“threw” tells us the throwing happened in the past.

These examples are incomplete thoughts.

“John throw” tells us who does the throwing, but it’s still incomplete. The base form of the verb, “throw”, hasn’t been conjugated to tell us the tense and agree with the subject. (Besides being the base form, “throw” is also the present tense that agrees with the first and second person subjects “I” and “you”. English often uses the same word for multiple purposes which can be confusing.)

“John threw great pitches in the baseball game.” is a complete thought. It’s a valid sentence. It tells us that throwing happened in the past and was performed by John. It also provides additional, optional detail about what was thrown (pitches) and the context (the baseball game).

“John throws.” and “John threw.” are valid, complete sentences too, but they’re somewhat confusing with no context because we don’t know what was thrown, why or how. They don’t leave out mandatory grammatical information, but they’re poor communication in isolation. They do provide the information of an action, time and actor, which are required by English for completeness. (We don’t usually specify exact times, but some information about time is required. At minimum, a complete thought specifies present or past.)

You can think of the process of building a (simple) sentence as starting with a verb. Then you add details until your thought is complete. But a nonfinite verb is inherently incomplete, so you can’t form a sentence around it.

Complete things are finite. Nothing is left unbounded or unspecified. Incomplete things have details left blank which could be completed in an unlimited number of ways. They’re infinitely variable based on all the possibilities for how they could be completed.

Complete things are also independent. They stand alone, by themselves. If something doesn’t work by itself, then it’s incomplete in some way. When a verb is used for a noun or modifier meaning, it doesn’t form a complete, independent thought, just as nouns or modifiers depend on other words.

Actions and Concepts

The word “running” is a nonfinite verb based on the verb “run”. It’s often a noun which refers to the concept of running rather than saying that a running action happened at some time. The concept of running can be considered in the abstract with no runner. “Running” can also be a modifier, e.g. in “I saw running water.”.

When a thought is incomplete, that makes it ambiguous. There are multiple possibilities for what it could mean. For example, when a verb has no subject, then anyone or anything could be the subject. There are infinitely many possibilities. That’s why the incomplete verbs are called “nonfinite”.

Finite verbs tell us that some action actually happened or is happening (though we can use finite verbs to speak hypothetically, fictionally or abstractly). And they tell us the subject: who or what acted or is acting. The core ideas of a finite verb are an action at a time by an actor.

Nonfinite verbs are used to refer to actions without them actually happening. In “I want to leave.”, the nonfinite verb “to leave” talks about an action without anyone doing it. The action here is wanting. Leaving is a concept.

In “I want him to leave.”, leaving is still a concept. The sentence expresses that I want something, and what I want is the concept of him leaving. By contrast, “I requested that he leave.” uses “leave” as a finite verb (“requested” is also a finite verb). I requested an action not a concept.

In “I saw running water.”, “running” tells us a trait of the water rather than telling us an action. In “I like running.”, “running” is a concept not an action. “Running is fun.” uses running as a thing (a concept), and the action of the sentence is the link between running and the trait “fun”. “I ran yesterday.” tells us an action while “I was running yesterday.” uses “running” as a trait and the action of the sentence is to link “I” to a trait.

Nonfinite verbs use a word that’s based on a verb to communicate an idea, concept, trait or thing instead of communicating a complete thought about an action that happened or is happening.

Grammar Details

Nonfinite verbs usually don’t have a subject, but they sometimes do. They can be incomplete in other ways too, for example by having no tense. Tense tells you when a verb’s action happened, like in the past or present. They’re also incomplete by functioning as a noun or modifier, not a complete, independent idea.

In English, there are three types of nonfinite verbs. Gerunds and infinitives never have tense. Participles do have past and present tense, though it may not be identical to the way finite verbs have tense.

Gerunds are nouns which end in “ing”. Participles are modifiers which normally end in “ing” (present tense) or “ed” (past tense). Infinitives are nouns or modifiers. Infinitives sometimes have “to” in front, and always use the base form of the verb which sounds correct with “to” in front (e.g. “to clean” or “to paint”). Infinitives don’t use the verb forms ending with “s” or “ed” (like “cleans” or “cleaned”).

Tips: Words ending with “ing” are always nonfinite verbs. Words with “to” in front aren’t finite verbs.

In what ways can a nonfinite verb be incomplete? Common missing things include tense, subject, object, mood and case.

New Oxford Dictionary explains verb mood:

Grammar a category or form which indicates whether a verb expresses fact (indicative mood), command (imperative mood), question (interrogative mood), wish (optative mood), or conditionality (subjunctive mood)

English has three main cases which are primarily used with pronouns. For example, “I” is the case indicating a subject, “me” indicates an object, and “my” indicates possessive. I/me/my are different forms of the same word which indicate different cases. When we aren’t using pronouns, the subject and object case are the same, e.g. “John” or “ball” can be a subject or object. The possessive case (“John’s” or “ball’s”) is different though.

Finite verbs use subject case for their subject and object case for their object. E.g. “He saw him.” shows different cases of the same word for the subject (“he”) and object (“him”).

Nonfinite verbs don’t specify case. They use object case for both subjects and objects. For example, consider “I regretted him leaving the company.” or “Him leaving the company was really hard for us.”. In both examples, the subject of the gerund “leaving” is “him” not “he”, even though “he” is the subject form of the word. Similarly, in “I wanted him to sing”, the subject of the infinitive “to sing” is “him” not “he”. Note, in the first example, “leaving” is the object of “regretted”. In the second example, “leaving” is the subject of “was” and “to sing” is the object of “wanted”. “Leaving” and “to sing” both play a noun role. The finite verbs are “regretted” and “was”.

If you want to read more about nonfinite verbs, Wikipedia is actually one of the best online sources of detailed grammar information. Links: nonfinite verbs, participles, gerunds, infinitives, the -ing suffix, using nonfinite verbs.

Another Explanation

Finite verbs lead clauses. They, along with the rest of their clause, provide some reasonably specific information. Because they’re specific, there are limited (“finite”) possibilities for the meaning.

Non-finite verbs don’t lead clauses. They’re instead involved in a grammatical construction (group of words) that is smaller than a clause and is nested within a clause. Because their group doesn’t have all the information of a clause, something is left out, missing, unspecified. In some sense, the unspecified part could be anything. In other words, in some sense, there are unlimited (infinite) possibilities for how to fill in the blank.

A finite verb and its clause don’t have a blank spot like that, thus limiting the possibilities. A non-finite verb always does – it’s word grouping is always incomplete in some way compared to a clause.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch’s Gossip and Harassment Leadership

One of my new forum members expressed doubt that the harassment campaign against me is “led by Deutsch” as I claim. He said:

I’d definitely agree with his [Deutsch’s] actions being tacit endorsement [of the harassment campaign] (i.e. being publicly silent on the matter) and instigation (e.g. the lie about no contact requests). But I don’t understand him to have an ongoing active involvement which I infer from “led”.

I’ve written a lot about this, but not recently, and it’s quite long. So I’ll try explaining again by focusing on two lists of key points. Be aware that this explanation leaves a lot out. If you want additional details or evidence, check out my previous writing, or contact me at my forum or by email.

Also, this post is about DD’s leadership role and gossip. It’s not about explaining the more direct harassment. Incidents have included hundreds of harassing comments from many false identities, ban evasion, DDoSing, doxxing, plagiarism, no contact request violation, spam, fraud, threats, and lying to people that I threatened violence. Because DD’s fans have been so unwilling to leave me alone, year after year, I’m now using a paywalled forum to minimize the direct harassment.

DD’s Responsibility

If DD started and caused the harassment but then stopped doing anything and just watched it actively continue by itself, then I’d hold him responsible until he stopped it. It’s like if you turn a machine on, then you’re responsible for it running until you press the off button.

If DD made vigorous efforts to stop the harassment but found that he couldn’t, that would remove lots of his responsibility, but instead he has publicly tacitly endorsed it and defamed me.

Also, TV mob bosses often don’t give direct orders but still communicate what they want and are responsible for the murders that other people carry out.

But DD isn’t just passively watching while giving a few public hints that he wants me to be harassed. He actively gossips and lies about me, but only where you can’t observe it. His actions are the root cause of most of the harassment.

How do I know that DD privately says bad things about me? I’ll give six points. Then I’ll give seven more points elaborating on one case of his gossip.

DD Gossips

First, like many people, DD is a two-faced, mean gossip. That is his personality, as he revealed to me on a regular basis for a decade. (I didn’t participate but was somewhat oblivious at the time. I saw it a lot more when reviewing chat logs and emails after being harassed.) DD even treats people that way when he’s publicly friendly with them, like with Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. I shared some examples towards the bottom here.

Second, a decade ago, DD personally tried to turn two of my current forum members against me. Due to the severe, direct harassment, they forwarded those emails to me. One case was blatant and one was subtle enough that the person didn’t recognize it, at the time, as an action against me. I’ve also received reports of DD’s close associates trying to turn people against me. My information sources don’t offer any kind of completeness, so there’s probably a lot more that I don’t know. I presume everything I’m sharing to be representative examples.

Third, the behavior of multiple people towards me has been really unusual, but this only happens with people interested in Critical Rationalism. This includes people speaking to me in a friendly way but then abruptly refusing to speak to me at all with no explanation. It has also included some people never speaking to me in scenarios where that’d normally be unlikely. My best explanation for this phenomenon is that these people were told some gossip about me. I’d guess that was mostly done by DD’s associates rather than DD personally. I think some people wouldn’t speak to me because they’d already heard the gossip, and others were told gossip after they were seen publicly speaking with me which is why they abruptly stopped (I have lots of evidence that multiple DD fans closely watch my public discussions). I know some specific false claims that are likely being spread by gossip which are nasty enough to get results like this.

Fourth, Lulie Tanett (LT) repeatedly observed DD gossiping about me and shared examples. She observed this in person as a frequent visitor in DD’s home, and he also sends her copies of tons of his emails and often tells her about his recent activities by instant messages, in person or on the phone. LT recruited many of the Popper-interested young people that DD talks with in person, so she’s often present when he talks with someone she brought to him, and she can also talk with them about him afterwards. LT also shared her opinions with me and summarized some trends outside the specific examples she shared, e.g. that DD disliked me and was repeatedly speaking negatively about me.

In one example, DD told someone that an anonymous post might be written by me because it had some ideas similar to mine (it actually wasn’t by me). This undermines me by suggesting my community is small and that few people agree with me (so if someone has ideas like mine, there’s a good chance it’s my sockpuppet). On multiple occasions that I know of, DD relied on information from our personal friendship to help him speculate more effectively about which anonymous posters were me, so he was violating my privacy, which mistreated me. Mistreating me himself is a way of leading by example that encourages others to mistreat me too. DD also came up with the idea that my fans should be treated like my sockpuppets, even if they aren’t, because if someone talks like me they count as a copy of me instead of an independent person (meanwhile he denies responsibility for the actions of his fans that he won’t say anything against). I think this contributed to my fans also being harassed during the harassment campaign, not just me.

Fifth, DD’s negative ideas about me have repeatedly been said later by harassers. That shows that he shares his hateful ideas and then the gossip spreads, including to people who do direct harassment actions. For example, Andy B brought up the idea that many anonymous posters in my community are my sockpuppets.

Sixth, DD spent around 5 years turning LT against me. As context, he’s a father figure to her. I know DD did this because LT told me about it. DD often made negative comments about me to LT that she disliked and found coercive. She told me that he scared her that, unless she turned against me and otherwise believed and behaved as he wanted, he would cut her off from further help with her career and money (she has had severe financial problems). She found that extremely pressuring and coercive. DD has pushed her into being a philosopher since she was a young child even though she’s never been very good at it (she tried to pursue art and photography but DD preferred she do philosophy instead). She has no other career prospects and relies on DD’s social status and influence to get followers and career opportunities, as well as relying on his help in order for her to try to learn philosophy and to have philosophical ideas to say (besides teaching her, he lets her take credit for some of his ideas that he tells her privately). The majority of the pressure took place before she had even started her Twitter account, which now has 12,350 followers thanks to DD’s help. Later, after she turned against me, DD let her move into his house.

There have been no signs that DD has changed his behavior to stop thinking and gossiping about me. It’s been over ten years since DD stopped being friends with me, six years since he turned LT against me, and two years since I wrote most of my complaints about the harassment campaign. But DD hasn’t gotten over his grievances (that he won’t tell me); he remains very hostile.

The Impact of DD’s Gossip to LT

DD’s gossip to LT was his most impactful gossiping. It’s both an example of the kind of gossiping he does and, out of all his actions that I’m aware of, it did the most harm. Let’s examine the impacts and what we can learn from this evidence.

First, LT very likely could have stopped the harassment campaign after I caught Andy B’s sockpuppets, if she wanted to. (I contacted both DD and LT privately before publicly complaining, so almost all the public drama could have been avoided if either of them had wanted to avoid it.) LT had the social contacts, community reputation and influence to do that. Previously, for example, someone in her social network anonymously pointed an automatic spam bot at my blog and she quickly identified the person and got them to stop. She could have spoken to Andy B directly (he admires her) and also influenced DD fan community leaders.

Second, I was good friends with only two people now in the DD’s community: DD and LT. They’re the two people who personally betrayed me. One consequence is they can spread false personal information about me and be believed, because they’re actually in a realistic position to know those kinds of things about me. This makes their gossip more effective than anyone else’s and enables lies about me personally to circulate (other people can spread false personal information too given the understanding that DD or LT was the original source who could have actually known it).

Third, DD is fairly distant from most of his fans. He only gossips to a limited number of people. He needs people like LT to spread his messages to the broader community. When he wants to say something publicly he can just tweet it and his fans will see it, but when he wants to spread gossip without taking responsibility for it then he needs helpers to signal boost it. DD might only tell a dozen people but they can spread it to a hundred additional people for him. I also know that LT is a gossip who would spread this stuff (in the past, she shared many examples of her gossiping with me).

Fourth, turning LT against me took a huge amount of effort sustained for years. Why? Because she was a huge fan of mine and a friend and she vigorously resisted the pressure to turn against me. DD intentionally took a thing she liked (my philosophy) and ruined it for her, and ruined the friendship, which was mean. And it shows the huge level of effort DD is willing to put into harming me and controlling people. He has written nothing of note about philosophy for over a decade now, and he’s willing to spend a lot of energy working against me instead of doing philosophy.

Fifth, DD encouraged me to become friends with LT in the first place, and also encouraged LT to become friends with me in the first place. He knew us both, wanted us to be friends, and influenced both of us. That didn’t work initially, but he kept encouraging it for years until we eventually became friends. That makes it especially awful for him to later destroy that friendship that he had pushed both of us into. He also told LT basically that her philosophical success and rationality depended on learning from me (she was pretty stuck and having trouble learning philosophy or being good at it). After years of persuading her that she needed me or else she was doomed to be an irrational failure, he then decided that he didn’t like me anymore and therefore decided to deny that resource (my ideas) to LT. DD may have actually done even more harm to her than he’s done to me.

Sixth, after turning against me, LT spent the next couple years frequently tweeting negative things about me without using my name. She no longer does that very much. But, for years, she posted lots of stuff to undermine CF. She was getting her followers to preemptively dislike ideas related to me so that if they ever found me and read my essays, they’d quickly find something that they already “knew” was bad and stop listening. She used lots of straw men and distortions to do this. This wasn’t all an intentional plan. A lot of it was her coming up with rationalizations for disliking me in order to feel better, but publicly tweeting about those rationalizations primed other people to use the same rationalizations to dislike me.

LT also frequently attacked Ayn Rand (sometimes openly, sometimes not) who she used as a proxy for me. This is DD’s strategy: he couldn’t call me a non-Popperian but needed to differentiate me and himself philosophically, so he turned against Rand (after previously being her fan and recommending her books to me) and started basically saying that I’m bad because of a few mistakes I got from Rand. DD and LT both specifically attack some of Rand’s ideas that they think have something to do with me, and apart from that they generally don’t mention Rand. I believe they explain the connection between Rand’s alleged errors, and me personally, in private gossip.

Seventh, Andy B (the worst direct harasser) admired LT and brought her up multiple times, when he was trying to learn from me, before he harassed me. That was after she had turned against me, so I didn’t want to talk about her much. Andy B was bothered by the conflict between my community and DD’s community. (Similar things happened with multiple other DD fans who talked with me but also liked LT and DD, and were bothered by the schism, before they turned against me.) Andy B wanted to be friends with both groups, especially me and LT.

As explained in the sixth point, many of LT’s ideas (or DD’s ideas she was spreading) were designed to subtly or indirectly undermine me. (They keep it subtle in public, while their private gossip is sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle.) So discussing her tweets basically meant trying to explain first how it’s actually a poisonous attack on me followed by then trying to neutralize the poison (that I’d just made worse by clarifying it) by explaining how it’s false. It wasn’t good faith philosophy. I wanted Andy B and others to stop reading and bringing up LT’s veiled attacks on me, which I was trying to ignore. Especially because they didn’t actually understand her points (which she didn’t explain much), so they wanted me to explain her criticisms for them. I would have been happy to debate the matter if DD, LT or someone who could speak accurately to their perspective was willing to debate, but they weren’t. So the undermining tweets (in addition to private gossip) worked to stir up conflict in my community.


DD is a gossip who has been working to make people hostile to me for over ten years. That makes him the active leader of the harassment campaign even though he’s only taken a few direct, public actions against me. Eventually, the hostility he intentionally caused spread to a big enough group that some of them started taking more direct actions against me, like leaving hundreds of harassing comments on my blog from many false identities.

DD’s five-year gossip campaign to LT is the largest and most impactful example of his gossiping. He presumably also does some ongoing maintenance – keeps saying some negative things about me to remind her never to change her mind. He’s done similar types of gossiping with other people. Many of them, like LT, have then repeated his messages to others.

DD socializes with a limited number of people, but LT and some of DD’s other friends socialize with a ton of people which is how his gossip reaches his wider fan community. The direct harassment activities are downstream of this gossip campaign that he’s still doing today.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch Harassment Campaign Update for Feb 2023

I wrote a new article which attempts to better explain why I blame Deutsch: David Deutsch’s Gossip and Harassment Leadership.

Here are some updates on David Deutsch’s (DD’s) ongoing harassment campaign against me.

A DD fan repeatedly broke my no contact request and e.g. emailed me about their support of DD.

Someone who appears to be a DD fan has been editing subtle attacks against me onto Wikipedia.

A while ago a different DD fan harassed me a bit and I directly asked him to stop contacting me. He said he agreed then later purposefully broke that no contact request to harass me again, but then went back to leaving me alone. Now he has subscribed to my curi YouTube channel. These people are so obsessed with me and won’t go away and just forget I exist. If you hate me so much and are unwilling to speak with me at all or do any problem solving about this conflict, stop following my stuff and keeping me active in your minds. Their refusal to keep their distance from me leads to more harassment. (I do not actively follow/read/watch any of them.)

A CritRat leader did something so bad that I don’t want to repeat it or draw attention to it. DD has pretty direct responsibility in this case.

A CritRat community leader tried to promote CritRats (including multiple harassers) on one of my old forums. I never interacted with that person before, so I wrote an explanation of the situation in case it was an innocent mistake. They were unwilling to speak to me at all or attempt any kind of problem solving, so now I doubt it was innocent. Dear CritRats: As I’ve said before, if you aren’t willing to engage in any problem solving regarding the harassment issue, you’re not welcome on my forums; leave me alone.

I’m pretty confident those were five different people. I don’t think Andy B was involved. He may not have done anything bad for over a year, and I heard a rumor a while back that he’s not an active CritRat anymore. He has come back after taking a break before so who knows; I haven’t investigated. The situation with DD, on the other hand, hasn’t improved.

Overall, my strategy of closing all my forums (and largely staying off social media and other forums) except my paywalled CF forum has reduced the direct harassment incidents to a more tolerable, manageable amount. But it really sucks to have my conversations with the world significantly reduced due to the harassment campaign. And they’re still spreading lies to harm my reputation.

Help with solving this problem would be highly appreciated.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Subconscious Reading; Conscious Learning; Getting Advanced Skills

Yesterday I wrote about practicing when you find any hard parts while reading. I have more to say.

First, noticing it was hard is a visible problem. What you noticed is usually under 10% of the actual problem(s). The problem is probably at least 10x larger than you initially think. So don’t ignore it. When you find visible problems you should be really glad they weren’t hidden problems, and assume they might be the visible tip of an iceberg of problems, and investigate to see if there are more hard-to-find problems near the visible problem. A visible problem is a warning something is wrong that lets you know where to investigate. That’s really useful. Sometimes things go badly wrong and you get no warning and have no idea what’s going on. Lots of people react to visible problems by trying to get rid of them, which is shooting the messenger and making any other related problems harder to find. If you have a habit of “solving” problems just enough that you no longer see the problem, then you’re hiding all the evidence of your other less visible problems and entrenching them, and you’ll have chronic problems in your life without any idea about the causes because you got rid of all the visible clues that you could.

Second, if people practiced hard reading once a day (or once per reading session) regardless of how many hard parts they ran into, they would make progress. That would be good enough in some sense even though they ignored a bunch of problems. But why would you want to do that? What is the motivation there? What part of you wants to ignore a problem, keep going, and never analyze it? What do you think you’re getting out of getting more reading done and less problem solving done?

Are you reading a book that you believe will help you with other urgent problems even if you understand it poorly? Is finishing the book faster going to be more beneficial than understanding it well due to an urgent situation? Possible but uncommon. And if you’re in that situation where you urgently need to read a book and also your reading skill is inadequate to understand the book well, you have other problems. How did you get in that situation? Why didn’t you improve at reading sooner? Or avoid taking on challenges you wouldn’t be able to do with your current skills?

Do you think your current reading, when you find stuff hard to read, is actually adequate and fine? You just think struggling while reading – enough to notice it – is part of successful reading and the solution is extra work and/or a “nobody’s perfect” attitude? Your knowledge can never be perfect so what does it matter if there were visible flaws? It could be better! You could have higher standards.

If you notice reading being hard, your subconscious doesn’t fully know how to read it. Your reading-related habits and automatizations are not good enough. There are three basic ways to deal with that:

  1. Ignore the problem.
  2. Read in a more conscious way. Try to use extra effort to succeed at reading.
  3. Improve your automatizations so your subconscious can get better at reading.

I think a ton of people believe if they can consciously read it, with a big effort, then they do know how to read it, and they have nothing more to learn. They interpret it being hard as meaning they have to try harder, not as indicating they need better skills.

What are the problems with using conscious effort to read?

First, your subconscious isn’t learning what you read well in that case. So you won’t be able to implement it in your life. People have so many problems with reading something then not using it. There are two basic ways to use something in your life:

  1. You can use it by conscious effort. You can try extra hard every time you use it.
  2. You can learn it subconsciously and then use it in a natural, intuitive, normal way. This is how we use ideas the vast majority of the time.

We don’t have the energy and conscious attention to use most of our ideas consciously. Our subconscious has 99% of our mental resources. If you try to learn something in a conscious-effort-only way, you’re unlikely to get around to ever using it, because your conscious attention is already overloaded. It’s already a bottleneck. You’re already using it around maximum capacity. Your subconscious attention is a non-bottleneck. Teaching your subconscious to do things is the only way to get more done. If you learn something so you can only do/use it by conscious effort, then you will never do/use it unless you stop doing/using some other idea. You will have to cut something out to make room for it. But if you learn something subconsciously, then you can use it without cutting anything out. Your subconscious has excess capacity.

So if reading takes conscious effort, you’ll do way less of that reading. And then every idea and skill you learn from that conscious reading will require conscious effort to use, so the reading won’t change your life much. The combination of reading not improving your life, plus taking a lot of precious conscious effort, will discourage you from reading.

It’s possible to read with conscious effort, then do separate practice activities to teach your subconscious. Even if your subconscious doesn’t learn something by reading, it can still learn it in other ways. But people usually don’t do that. And it’s better if your subconscious can learn as much as possible while you read, so less practice is needed later. That’s more efficient. It saves time and effort.

Also you can’t read in a fully conscious way. You always use your subconscious some. If your subconscious is making lots of mistakes, you’re going to make more conscious mistakes. Your conscious reading will be lower quality than when your subconscious is supporting you better. You’ll have more misunderstandings. You can try to counter that by even more conscious effort, but ultimately your conscious mind is too limited and you need to use your subconscious as an effective ally. There is an upper limit on what you can do using only your conscious mental resources plus a little of your subconscious. If your add in effective use of your subconscious, the ceiling of your capabilities rises dramatically.

Also, if you’re reading by conscious effort, you might as well use it as practice and teach your subconscious. The right way to read by conscious effort involves things like making tree diagrams. If you do that a bunch, your subconscious can learn a lot of what you’re doing so that in the future you’ll sometimes intuitively know answers before you make the diagrams.

What people do with high-effort conscious reading often involves avoiding tree diagrams, outlines, or even notes. It’s like saying “I find this math problem hard, so I’m going to try really hard … but only using mental math.” Why!? I think they often just don’t know how to explicitly and consciously break it down into parts, organize the information, process it, etc. If you can’t write down what’s going on in a clear way – if you can’t get the information out of your head onto paper or computer – then the real problem is you don’t know how to read it consciously either. If you could correctly read it in a conscious way, you could write it down. If you had a proper explicit understanding of what you read, what would stop you from putting it into words and speaking them out loud, writing them down, communicating with others, etc? It’s primarily when we’re relying on our subconscious – or just failing – that we struggle to communicate.

People don’t do tree diagrams and other higher-effort conscious analysis mostly because they don’t know how. When they try to do higher effort conscious reading, they don’t actually know what they’re doing. They just muddle through and ignore lots of problems. They weren’t just having and ignoring subconscious reading problems. They were also having and ignoring conscious reading problems. Their conscious understanding is also visibly flawed.

What should be done? You need to figure out how to get it right consciously as step one of learning a skill. Then once you’re satisfied with how you do it consciously, you practice that and form good habits/automatizations in your subconscious. This is the general, standard pattern of how learning works.

If you just keep reading a bunch while being consciously confused, you’re forming bad subconscious habits and failing to make progress. You’re missing out on the opportunity to improve your reading skills. You’re a victim of your own low standards or pessimism. If you want to be a very good, rational thinker you need to get good at reading, both consciously and subconsciously. If you don’t do that, you’ll get stuck regarding fields like critical thinking and you’ll run into chronic problems with learning, with not using and acting on what you read and “learn” (because you can’t act on what you never learned properly – or even if you managed to learn it consciously that won’t work because your conscious is already too busy – to actually do something you have to either stop doing something else or else use your more plentiful subconscious resources).

If you want to get better at reading beyond whatever habits you picked up from our culture, school, childhood, etc., you have two basic options.

Option 1: Read a huge amount and you might very gradually get better. That works for some people but not everyone. It often has diminishing returns. If you’re bad at reading and rarely read, then reading 50 novels has a decent chance to help significantly. If you’re already experienced at reading novels, then you might see little to no improvements after reading more of them. This strategy is basically hoping your subconscious will figure out how to improve if you give it lots of opportunities.

Option 2: Consciously try to improve your reading. This means explicitly figuring out how reading works, breaking it down into parts, and treating it as something that you can analyze. This is where things like outlines, grammar, sentence trees, paragraph trees, and section trees come in. Those are ways of looking at text and ideas in a more conscious, intentional, organized, explicit way.

I think people resist working on conscious reading because it’s a hassle. They read mostly in a subconscious, automatic way. Their conscious mind is actually bad at reading and unable to help much. So when they first start trying to do conscious reading, they actually get worse at reading. They have to catch their conscious reading abilities up to their subconscious reading level before they can actually take the lead with their conscious reading and then start teaching their subconscious some improvements. I suspect people don’t like getting temporarily worse at reading when trying to do it more consciously so they avoid that approach and give up fast. They don’t consciously know what the problem is but they intuitively didn’t like an approach where they’re less able to read and actually quite bad at it. Their conscious reading is a mess so they’d rather stick with their current subconscious reading automatizations – but then it’s very hard to improve much.

The only realistic way to make a lot of progress and intentionally get really good at this stuff is to figure out how to approach reading and textual analysis consciously, gain conscious competence, then gain conscious higher skill level, then teach that higher skill level to your subconscious. If you just stick with your subconscious competence, it works better in the short term but isn’t a path to making much progress. If you’re willing to face your lack of conscious reading skills and you see the value in creating those skills, then you can improve. It’s very hard to learn and improve without doing it consciously. When you originally learned to read, your conscious reading ability was at least as good as your subconscious reading ability. But then you forgot a lot of your conscious reading skill after many years of reading mostly subconsciously. You don’t remember how you thought about reading when you were first learning it and were making a big conscious effort.

You do remember some things. You could probably consciously sound out the letters in a word if you wanted to. But you don’t need to. Your reading problems are more related to reading comprehension, not about reading individual words or letters. Doing elementary school reading comprehension homework is a perfectly reasonable place to start working on your conscious reading skills again. Maybe you’d quickly move up to harder stuff and maybe not and it’s OK either way. I’ve seen adults make errors when trying to read a short story aimed at third graders and then correctly answer some questions about what happened in the story. It’s good to test yourself in some objective ways. You need an answer key or some other people who can catch errors you miss. They don’t necessarily have to be better than reading at you. If you have a group of ten people who are similarly smart and skilled to you, you can all correct each other’s work. That will work reasonably well because you have different strengths and weaknesses. You’ll make some mistakes that other people don’t, and vice versa, even though on average your skill levels are similar. There will also be some systemic mistakes everyone in your group makes, but you can improve a lot even if you don’t address that.

Doing grammar and trees is a way to try to get better at reading than most people. It’s part of the path to being an advanced reader who knows stuff that most people don’t. But a lot of people should do some more standard reading comprehension work too, which is aimed at reducing reading errors you make and getting more used to practicing reading skills, but which isn’t aimed at being an especially advanced reader. I think a lot of people don’t want to do that because of their ego, their desire to appear and/or already be clever, and their focus on advanced skills. But you’re never going to be great at advanced skills unless you go back through all your beginner and intermediate skills and fix errors. You need a much higher level of mastery than is normal at the beginner and intermediate stuff in order to be able to build advanced skills on top of them. The higher you want to build skills above a level, the lower error rate you need at that level. The bigger your aspirations for advanced stuff, the more perfect you need your foundational knowledge to be to support a bunch of advanced knowledge built on top of it.

You can think of it in terms of software functions which call other functions (sub-functions) which call other functions (sub-sub-functions). The lower level functions, like sub-sub-sub-functions, are called more times. For every high level function you call, many many lower level functions are called. So the error rate of the lower level functions needs to be very very low or else you’ll get many, many errors because they’re used so much. This is approximate in some ways but the basic concept is the more you build on something – the more you’re relying on it and repeatedly reusing it – the more error-free it needs to be. If something gets used once a month, maybe it’s OK if it screws up 1% of the time and then you have to do problem solving. If something is used 10,000 times a day, and it’s a basic thing you never want to be distracted by, then it better have a very low error rate – less than a 1 in 100,000 chance of an error is needed for it to cause a problem less than every 10 days on average.

So don’t lose self-esteem over needing to improve your basic or intermediate skills, knowledge and ideas. If you’re improving them to higher standards (lower error rates) than normal, then you aren’t just going back to school like a child due to incompetence. You’re trying to do something that most people can’t do. You’re trying to be better in a way that is relevant to gaining advanced skills that most people lack. You’re not just relearning what you should have learned in school. School teaches those ideas to kinda low standards. School teaches the ideas with error rates like 5%, and if you’re a smart person reading my stuff you’re probably already doing better than that at say a 1% error rate but now you need to revisit that stuff to get the error rate down to 0.0001% so it can support 10+ more levels of advanced knowledge above it.

For more information, see Practice and Mastery.

And I recorded a podcast: Reading, Learning and the Subconscious | Philosophy Podcast

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Problem Solving While Reading

I'd urge anyone who has trouble reading something to stop and do problem solving instead of ignoring the problem or giving up. This kind of thing is an opportunity to practice and improve.

You could e.g. take a paragraph you have trouble with and analyze it, possibly with a paragraph tree.

If you do that kind of activity many times, you will get better at reading that type of material and reading in general. You can automatize some of the analysis steps so, in the future, you automatically know some of the results without having to go through all the steps. A way to look at it is if you do those activities enough, you'll get faster at it, and also some of the conclusions will become predictable to you before you've consciously/explicitly done all the steps.

When stuff is hard, slow down and figure out the correct answer – the way you ideally want to do it – so you end up forming good habits (a habit of doing what you think is best when you go slowly and put in more effort) instead of bad habits.

This is the same as improving at other kinds of things, e.g. typing. If you’re typing incorrectly (e.g. hitting a key with the wrong finger, or looking at the keyboard while typing), you should slow down, fix the problems, then speed up only when you’re doing it the way you want to. It’s hard to fix errors while going fast. And you should avoid habit-forming amounts of repetition of the activity until you’re satisfied with the way you’re doing it.

You can never be perfect. It’s also important to sometimes change your habits after they’re formed. Sometimes you’ll learn something new and realize a habit or subconscious automatization should be changed. But forming habits/automatizations and then changing them soon after is inefficient; it’s more efficient to make a serious effort to get them right in the first place so you can reduce the need to change habits. You don’t want to form a habit than is worse than your current knowledge.

If you do this text analysis stuff consistently whenever there are hard parts, it will be disruptive to reading the book. It'll slow you way down and spread your reading out due to taking many breaks to practice. You won’t get much reading flow due to all the interruptions. Here are some options for dealing with that problem:

  1. It doesn't matter. Improving skills is the priority, not understanding the book. You can read the book later including rereading the sections you had many stops during.
  2. Read something else where you run into harder parts infrequently so stopping for every hard part isn't very disruptive.
  3. Make trees, outlines or other notes covering everything so you get an understanding of the book that way rather than from direct reading. E.g. do paragraph trees for every paragraph and then make section trees that put the paragraphs together, and then do trees that put the sections together, and keep doing higher level trees until you cover the whole book.
  4. Read a section at a time then go back and do the analysis and practice after finishing the section but before reading the next section, rather than stopping in the middle of a section. That'll let you read and understand a whole chunk at once (to your current standards). Analyzing/practicing/etc. in between sections shouldn't be very disruptive.

With option 4, it’s very important not to cheat and read multiple sections in a row while planning to go back to stuff eventually. Even if you try to go back later, the hard stuff won’t be fresh enough in your mind anymore. If you’re procrastinating on doing any analysis, it’s because you don’t actually want to do it. In that case you need to do problem solving about that. Why are you conflicted? Why does part of you want to improve intellectually and do learning activities, etc., while part of you doesn’t? What part doesn’t and what is its motivation?

Also how big a section should you use? It depends on the book (does it have natural break points often?) and your memory (if a section is too big you’ll forget stuff from the earlier parts) and your skill level. If a section is too big, you’ll also have too many hard parts you need to do (e.g. 20) which may be overwhelming or seem like too much work. Also by the time you analyze the first 19 hard parts, you won’t remember the 20th one because it’s been so long since you read the end of the section. And if you’re trying to analyze and revise how you understood 20 parts at once, it’s hard to take those all into account at once to update your understanding of what the book said. Doing it closer to “read something, analyze it right away to understand it correctly, keep reading” has clear advantages like letting you actually use your analysis to help your reading instead of the analysis being tacked on later and not actually being used. So you might need to use sections that are pretty short, like 2 or 3 pages long, which could give you more uninterrupted reading flow without being too much to deal with at once. You could do it based on reading time too, like maybe 5 or 10 minutes would be a reasonable chunk to read at once before you stop to analyze (depending on how many problems you’re having). Also if you have a big problem, like you’re really extra confused about a sentence, paragraph or argument, you may want to stop early.

Also, it’s important to analyze and practice regarding small problems and slightly hard parts, not just major problems. Some people only want to focus on the really visible problems, but optimizing smaller stuff will help you get really good at what you’re doing. Also if something is actually a small difficulty then working on it should go fast. If it takes a long time and seems like a hassle, then you needed the practice and it wasn’t that small for you after all. Though if it feels like a hassle, that means you’re conflicted and should investigate that conflict.

If you’re conflicted, here are relevant articles by me:

And I wrote a part 2 for this post:

Subconscious Reading; Conscious Learning; Getting Advanced Skills

And recorded a podcast:

Reading, Learning and the Subconscious | Philosophy Podcast

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Better Economics Introduction

The Mises Institute put out a bad Economics for Beginners resource. Rather than focusing on criticizing it, I decided to make something better. I wrote my own alternative answers for their prompts. You might find it interesting to compare my answers with theirs. Note that theirs took a long time and received a bunch of editing and polishing, and had a budget from a donor, while mine didn’t. I also share a few criticisms at the end.

What Is Economics?

Economics is a field of study. Topics include prices, money, wealth, production, trade, markets, division of labor, scarcity, supply, demand, profit, cost and capital. Economists use rationality and math to do calculation and planning.

Economics is primarily about how multiple people can cooperate for mutual benefit. Some concepts would be useful to a man alone on an island, but most economic study is oriented towards groups of people or whole societies. Typical economics topics include buying and selling goods and hiring people for jobs, which involve multiple people.

A good economic system is good at creating wealth – material prosperity for society. Economists study big picture issues like which policies increase or decrease wealth. They also study detail issues like the nature of a single trade and they try to connect the big and little issues into a unified understanding.

What Is Cost?

A cost is something you give up. Costs are most commonly stated in terms of money, e.g. $3 for a loaf of bread. But costs can be stated in terms of any resource, e.g. reading a book could cost you 5 hours. The cost of an action should be compared to the benefit, and you should avoid it if you consider the benefit lower than the cost.

What Is Money?

Money is the standard means of exchange (trade).

It’s inconvenient to trade shoes for bread or accounting services for massages. The person selling bread might not currently want shoes. So I trade shoes for money then trade money for bread. Money is the most generically desirable and easily tradable good. It makes trading more convenient.

Trading something for money is called “selling”. Trading money for something else is called “buying”. Trades that don’t involve money are called “barter”.

A good money can be saved for later. A perishable good like milk wouldn’t work well as money. It’s also beneficial for money to be small, light, divisible and hard to counterfeit. Gold and silver worked well as money before the switch to paper money.

What Is Profit?

Profit is the amount of benefit you get minus the cost. If profit is negative, it’s a loss rather than a profit.

Profits are most commonly calculated in dollars. For example, a business buys (or rents) raw materials, tools, land and buildings, and hires workers. All of those are costs in money. It produces and sells some goods. The income from those sales is called revenue, which is also in money. The revenue minus the costs is the profit (or loss).

What Is Capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system in which individuals are free to choose what economic activities to do. Each person does his own planning and decision making, although he’s welcome to listen to the advice of others. It’s called a free market because each individual can freely make his own choices. Other people may be involved in your business only by their voluntary consent. If you want business partners or workers, you must offer good enough deals that they choose to deal with you instead of others.

According to capitalism, the government’s job is to protect men from force. That includes policing violence, theft, fraud and breach of contract. Put another way, the government’s job is to make sure that producing a lot of wealth is the only way to become wealthy (or receiving wealth as a gift).

The more people invest their wealth in increasing future production, the wealthier society as a whole can become. This is called capital accumulation. Under capitalism, individuals are incentivized to reduce consumption, and contribute to capital accumulation, because the more they do that the wealthier they can become.

Capitalism also incentivizes specialization. If I focus on making shoes, and you do computer programming, we can get way better at our jobs than if we each had to do every job ourselves. If I can skip learning some things, and trade, then I can benefit from other people’s knowledge and focus on being great at only a few things. If many people do this, then the average skill that people use to do things is a lot higher, so we all end up better off. Capitalism doesn’t force anyone to specialize, but it enables the division of labor. Most people voluntarily participate because the more skillfully you do things, the more money you can make, so specializing is a way to increase your income.

What is Cronyism?

Cronyism is when people get special privileges from the government, instead of the government treating everyone equally and fairly. Cronyism is a way to get rich without producing a corresponding amount of wealth.

If someone gets rich by being especially productive, there’s no harm to society. He made our total wealth bigger and kept a significant chunk of what he created. Society is more wealthy than before, not less.

But a cronyist becomes rich without producing enough. He becomes rich at the expense of others, not in a way that offers some positive benefit to others. He has the government use taxpayer money to pay too much for his products, or to give him subsidies. Or he uses laws and police to suppress competition or otherwise unfairly benefit himself, e.g. by charging extra taxes on competing products or making regulations which fit what he’s already doing and prevent competitors from using different approaches. Instead of just trading on a free market, he gets some kind of special privilege from the government.

Price controls (government-dictated minimum or maximum prices for some good or services) are a type of government policy which benefits or privileges some people while harming others.

The cronyism problem involves the government having powers it shouldn’t and anti-social men exploiting the situation for personal gain at the cost of harming society.

What Is Socialism?

Socialism is collective ownership of the means of production. The means of production include factories, tools and natural resources. They exclude consumption or consumer goods, like food and clothes, which we use in our homes. The distinction is approximate, not exact.

Socialism often involves government central planners who try to run the economy instead of letting individuals make their own decisions. It could also involve voting on policies.

If people were allowed to buy and sell ownership of the means of production, that would just be capitalism with a stock market. Then some workers might sell off all their ownership of the means of production, and someone else might buy full, individual ownership of a whole factory. To ensure collective ownership, the means of production can’t be traded.

What Is Progressivism?

“Progressive” is a vague political term often used by socialists or other left-of-center people who at least partially oppose free market capitalism. They generally want government power to be used to solve economic problems. They tend to favor a less limited government. This enables cronyism.

Why Experts Can't Predict the Future

Reality and our civilization are really, really, really complicated.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with experts. The problem is using expertise as a justification for power over the lives of others. If an expert is mistaken, but he has no power over me, then I can ignore him. But if he can make laws or tell the police what to do, then his mistakes can ruin my life. If I have the freedom to control my own life, then experts aren’t a threat to me even when they’re wrong.

Why Economics Matters

We want to know what individual actions and economic systems will lead to material prosperity and better satisfaction of people’s wants. We need ways of deciding which goods and services to produce and which not to. We need ways of deciding what manufacturing processes are efficient. We often face tradeoffs. Is it better to use up this or that raw material? Is a more labor intensive process better or worse than putting a bunch of resources into automation? Economics helps us make good decisions.

Money, buying, selling, jobs, business, property, consumption and government economic policies are important parts of our lives. It’s good to have some understanding of how these things work. Mistakes can lead to debt, being able to afford fewer things you want, or to national or global problems like recessions, inflation and mass unemployment.

Learn More

I wrote an essay called Liberalism: Reason, Peace and Property. For more, I recommend the books of Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt and George Reisman. They all have free ebooks which are easy to find online.

Elliot’s Criticisms

The prompts weren’t very good. They seemed oriented towards political debates against socialists and advocates of government power, rather than focusing on teaching economics concepts like how money and trade work or what freedom, force and voluntary interaction are. The Mises Institute seems more interested in fighting against rival tribes than educating people about useful economics ideas.

I also noticed that the answers kept failing to answer the questions. For example:

What Is Money?

It is common to hear that “money is the root of all evil.”

We are told that money is synonymous with greed, and that desiring it is somehow inherently bad.

This is not true. Money is perhaps the single most important creation in the history of mankind. Just take a moment to consider a world without it.

This is more interested in praising money than defining it. It’s about a political agenda, not teaching economics.

What Is Profit?

It is common to hear profit attacked as exploitation and greed. How many supervillains have appeared in TV shows, books, or movies with the diabolical plot of putting “profits over people”?

In reality, profit is a powerful mechanism for human cooperation, and serves to make sure that the earth’s resources are maximized to serve the best interests of humanity.


Think of profit as the reward for making good decisions.

Profit doesn’t have to be only about money…

This talks about profit but doesn’t tell you what profit is. And it purposefully politicizes the issue.

Similarly, their first sentence answering “What Is Economics?” says “Economics often is considered a dry or “dismal” science.”

Their answer to “What Is Cronyism?” begins “Activists blame “capitalism” for the world’s biggest problems, like the high costs of healthcare.” It gives a definition of “cronyism” in the middle of the second paragraph – and then continues with more political talking points. Also the high cost of healthcare is a U.S. issue, not one of the world’s biggest problems. Many other wealthy countries have government-provided healthcare, which has different problems. And many less wealthy countries have cheaper but lower quality healthcare.

Besides not caring about defining terms and giving direct answers to its own questions, the site gets opportunity cost wrong.

Overall, the site presents itself as basic, introductory economics education, but it’s more focused on a political agenda. Propaganda mislabelled as education makes it harder for people to find genuine educational resources. Sites like this result in people giving up on learning or being indoctrinated.

And this site is much more likely to alienate, rather than persuade, someone who already has an anti-capitalist opinion. It’s then harder to persuade anti-capitalists that actually capitalism is a good idea. If they know that prominent capitalists, like the Mises Institute, have poor arguments and integrity, they will assume capitalism doesn’t actually have good arguments (or else the Mises Institute would have known about and used those arguments instead of putting out propaganda). This kind of site makes the political tribalism problem worse and harms the world. (And they’re doing it in the name of Ludwig von Mises, and trashing his reputation after his death, and discouraging people from reading his great books.)

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