The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

via Open Culture by Dan Colman,

Matthew Might, a computer science professor at the University of Utah, writes: “Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is. It’s hard to describe it in words. So, I use pictures.” It’s September 26. That means fall is here again, and it’s time to bring you an encore presentation of Matt’s Illustrated Guide to the PhD. Have a look, and you’ll see the whole undertaking in a less hubristic way:

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty:

A master’s degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

You can find Matt’s Illustrated Guide hosted on his web site. This guide/reality check is published under a Creative Commons License. You can also buy a print version for $6.50. (The money goes to charity.) Matt offers more insights for Ph.D. students here.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. is a post from: Open Culture.

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Supreme Court upholds Obamacare. Recommended analysis on its short & long-term effects.

Today, Americans who Love Freedom lost a battle against the Welfare State.  In a historical decision, the Supreme Court decided to support Obamacare and to extend the devastating track of health care regulations in The United States of America.

The effects of Obamacare will represent higher costs, less competition, less innovation, more bureacracy, and decreased quality.  and in the long run, the result will be the complete destruction of American health care, as the system’s problems are inevitably blamed on our ‘private’ health care system and a fully socialized ‘single payer’ medicine is offered up as the only cure as explained, Yaron Brook, the Director of the Ayn Rand Center.

To learn how today’s decision will impact your life in the short and long term, I invite you to read the following articles that were collected by the Classical Liberal network Kosmos with the opinions of some the most important Libertarian and Classical Liberals:

While Freedom lost a battle today; the fight for a limited government that protects individual rights, including the right to private property, will continue and we will not stop.

Afghanistan during the 50s vs Today

A friend in Facebook posted yesterday an interesting link that read Afghanistan of the 50s-60s”. The description of the website read that “having seen the title of the post, many probably thought that it would be about a wild, backward, medieval country with even worse living conditions…”  However, the photographs in the link failed to “demonstrated” that Afghanistan pre-1950s was some type of a paradise before the Socialist invasion.

While the images show a “decent and civilized” view of Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s they are only a glimpse of the reality of the Asiatic region and of many other European colonies around the globe.  It is a fact that the great majority of the people during colonial times lived in worse conditions than during the Cold War.

As a result of centuries of this mix, Afghanistan was one of the poorest and most illiterate countries in the globe by 1950.  The life expectancy for both men and women was of only 29 years and the average GDP/per capita inflation adjusted was of only $800.00.

By 1970, Afghanistan was still one of the poorest countries managing to increase the life expectancy to only 33 years and the average GDP/per capita to $833.00  Today, Afghanistan has some of the lowest rankings of health, education and economic growth on Earth even after decades of investments done in infrastructure by the Soviet Union during the Cold War’s competition vs the United States.

Soviet investment during the 50s in Afghanistan

 What caused this economic and social stagnation vs the rest of the World?

Afghanistan is a complex historical mix of:

  • Centuries of imperialistic control (Mongol, Mughal, British, Soviet, American) +
  • autocratic tribalism +
  • religious intolerance  +
  • control of the economy by the state +
  • regional oligarchies +
  • disrespect for individual rights

The previous only kept increasing and by 1973, Afghanistan was what some would define a modern democratic state with free elections, parliamentary ruling, civil rights, women’s rights and universal suffrage that failed to improve the life of its inhabitants.  Becoming a democratic state with a parliamentary ruling is of no help when the ruling philosophy of a country and of its ruling elite is based on the principle of freedom to violate individual rights.

The past was not necessarily better than the more recent past or the present. Afghanistan is a good example of this last sentence. Whenever  individual rights are sacrificed for the interests of national of foreign groups of interests the positive outcomes will always result in detriment of the individual.  It has always been groups of interests who benefit from the illiterate masses and historical examples explain this plentifully.

The images in the link mentioned above are inaccurate historical accounts. I consider that the following cartoon is very clear in explaining the complex and unfortunate story of the country and I invite you to study it,

Book Review: Free Will

Free Will

Harris explores the notion that free will is an illusion in this nimble book (which, at 83 pages, can be read in one sitting or a couple of Metro rides), amiably and conversationally jumping from point to point. The book’s length is one of its charms: He never belabors any one topic or idea, sticking around exactly as long as he needs to in order to lay out his argument (and tackle the rebuttals that it will inevitably provoke) and not a page longer. Go to article

image

On the fallacies of an Emerging Global Left

Socialism is unrealizable as an economic system because a socialist society would not have any possibility of resorting to economic calculation. This is why it cannot be considered as a system of society’s economic organization. It is a means to disintegrate social cooperation and to bring about poverty and chaos.” Ludwig von MisesMoney, Method, and the Market Process.

Recently, an article from the blog Poverty Matters (supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) authored by Jayati Ghosh in the Guardian elaborates on how a new global left is emerging as a result of a transcendance of the traditional socialist paradigm.  Ghosh explains that this new global left has is currently transcending the traditional socialist emphasis on “centralised government control over an undifferentiated mass of workers, to incorporate more explicit emphasis on the rights and concerns of women, ethnic minorities, tribal communities and other marginalised groups, as well as recognition of ecological constraints and the social necessity of respecting nature.”  This transcendance is occurring via what Ghosh considers to be seven common threads that are not new but a result of a “collective failure of memory”.

These threads are:

  1. An attitude to what constitutes democracy,
  2. the rejection of overcentralisation,
  3. a more complex approach to property rights,
  4. a discourse in the language of “rights”,
  5. a realization that addressing issues only in class terms is not sufficient,
  6. a emphasis on gender as a a cause for addressing issues,
  7. an emphasis on environmental conservation, the protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and the integrity of a country’s genetic assets.

I wonder what Ghosh considered to be the traditional socialist paradigma.  Socialism and the ideas behind this socioeconomic system of collective ownership of the means of production is very diverse and it is incorrect and inaccurate to speak of a single socialist paradigm.  More so, what seems a New emergence of the left is in fact not occurring anywhere in the world.

Collectivism (inaccurately generalized as “the left”) in its many names and shapes continues developing itself within the same framework of ideas that have been used for centuries. While the historical context has changed the principles continue being the same.  As such, the thread number 1 which seems for Ghosh as a new attitude toward democracy is the result of the failure of the previous collectivist governments that have ruled the world.  There is no real change in the attitude toward democracy since collectivist ideas consider democracy as a means to the value they aim to achieve: collective power over the collective.  The only way of having a new attitude toward democracy would be in fact to reject it as a mean to achieve any end successfully.  This of course is not happening anywhere in the collectivist groups of the world.

As well, the point number two of overcentralisation is false since collectivism is a centralized system of organization in which at the end of the day the sole power over everything resides in the collective government.  The only change is not of how centralization happens but on how many people are to be managing that collective government (the Party, elites, corporations, oligarchies, et al).

Point number three and four have nothing new and are the same exact approaches that collectivism has had since it origin in regard to property and rights.  Collectivist philosophies consider all in essence the private ownership of the means of production to be evil, static in nature and inefficient to satisfy the needs of humanity. Its approach to rights is rooted on the principle that the only important rights are those of the collective and thus reject the individual rights of its members.

Points five, six and seven have also not changed in the collectivist mindset since they are rooted in the principles of class struggle that have only continued the trend of understanding society as a competing/destructive system based on gender, race, culture, religion, etc.  The principle continues the same: The so called  tension or antagonism continues to exists in their interpretation of society due to competing socioeconomic interests between people.

By definition, the only way in which any real change, evolution or overcoming of a collectivist philosophy in the globe will arise when the discourse starts by rejecting the philosophical principles in which they are rooted.  As such, unless they understand how and why the collectivist philosophy is full of fallacious principles that have caused death and poverty for centuries, there is nothing that will change.  There is no emergence of a new left, there is no resurgence of collectivism and the dialectics of historical materialism continue existing in the core of all collectivist philosophies.  It will be only until intellectuals have the common-sense and moral courage to question their philosophies of life that we may seem an end to centuries of collectivist failed projects of organizing society.  Until that day what we will continue seeing is the same social system that has destroyed the best within man for ages.

Travel Diary: Prices, Unions and Freedom in one of the richest countries of the World

Prices in a capitalist economy reflect the relative scarcity of a good or service as well as the amount and intensity of consumer demand. Free-market prices are the only viable means of rational economic calculation. If a good or service becomes in shorter supply, for whatever reason, its price will rise, all other things being equal. The higher price will give consumers the proper incentive to do what is needed whenever anything becomes scarcer: conserve, or cut back on consumption. DiLorenzo in “How Capitalism Saved America

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Oslo Objectivist Conference 2012 in Oslo, Norway in which I enjoyed a weekend of Philosophy, Objectivity and a celebration of Individual Rights.  On Monday before returning to my base in Leipzig, I decided to spend the day enjoying the parks and streets of the city (one of my favorites) and during lunch I went to eat buffalo wings in front of the City Hall Park.

That noon I was reading the last pages of the book “How Capitalism Saved America” by Thomas DiLorenzo and was writing extensive notes in my notebook criticizing many of his arguments in favor of capitalism due to lack of consistency and integration.  Leaving those morality issues aside, I was very interested in his historical explanation on the role that Unions (and privileged groups of interest) have had in destroying the foundations (principles) of capitalism in the United States since the foundation of the country.  Curiously, that same day the Farmers Union of Norway gathered in front of the park to do a countrywide protest (news).

As DiLorenzo writes, Unions have claimed for decades to be representatives of the “interests” of society, workers, middle class, proletarians and et. al. However, it has been actually only in the interests of the Union’s leadership and their pursuit of cronyism that they have actually worked by being concerned only in “their own membership rolls and dues revenues”. Examples from the Unions intervention in the destruction of the most successful industries of the  United States are explained by DiLorenzo’s book.

On Monday, the disgruntled Norwegian farmers decided to take the streets against the recent decisions of the government in April, 2012 to subsidy of Agriculture by granting only 625 million Norwegian Kroner instead of the 2.2 billion they asked.  The Norwegian Farmers’ Union (NFU) decided to take their trucks and cows and occupy the doors of the City Hall in Oslo; in other cities and towns the mayors were even kidnapped by the unionists.

This protest arise after the Parliament decided that that food prices should rise 20 percent in the next 20 years in line with expected population growth, providing sufficient income to both achieve this and ensure continued recruitment to farming (this reminds me of Hayek’s ideas on the Fatal Conceit). The NFU doesn’t agree.  They consider that the average annual incomes are under 300,000 kroner per man-labour year, whilst it is 469,000 on average in other sectors.  They also claim to represent the “interests” of 100,000 jobs in agriculture and food industry and not only to be seeking for more money for farmers (yeah, right).

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world and its society lives in very comfortable conditions.  The Leviathan in government charges immense amounts of taxes and inflation is incredible.  Just to illustrate the size of Leviathan: The buffalo wings and a beer cost me the high price of 250 krone (aprox. 33 euro or US$41.00 in T.G.I. Friday’s) That same meal would have cost me much less if bought in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world .

How can they afford it? The population earns artificial higher incomes due to the government interventions in the economy and disrupts the economy of the country.  How did the country reached such a condition can only be understood by taking a close and detailed attention to the role interventionism has in a country’s economy.  The effect: high prices, unstoppable high taxes and widespread limitation of liberties behind the power that Unions, groups of interests, politicians and bureacrats have had in the economy for decades.

Slowly but consistently, the Unions and crony capitalists in the bureaucracy of the Norwegian country have made it impossible to be free to exchange products in the country without any type of government intervention.  While Norwegians seem to be free, their daily lives are unconsciously been managed and controlled by a gigantic government that regulated every instant of their lives.

As DiLorenzo described, “Ludwig von Mises initially explained back in the 50s in this theory of government interventionism: one intervention (such as subsidies for railroads) leads to market distortions, which create problems for which the public “demands” solutions. Government responds with even more interventions, usually in the form of more regulation of business activities, which cause even more problems, which lead to more intervention, and on and on. The end result is that free-market capitalism is more and more heavily stifled by regulation. And on top of that, usually the free market, not government intervention, gets the blame.”

I would love to go back to Oslo and if possibilities arise to settle and live there for a couple years. I wish that my passion for buffalo wings will bring me to experience a story to write about and meditate again.  As for now, I return to write about Capitalism while sitting in a desk in Leipzig, Germany.

Discourse: Nationalization, Private Companies and Crony Capitalism

The neoliberal (a.k.a. crony capitalism) ruling of the world during the last 50 years is usually generalized as a “big fish eats small fish” relationship. The story continues, with the big fish in Washington, Brussels and Moscow fed themselves with the riches of the world and profited from globalization.  Meanwhile, the small fish continued breeding and feeding the always hungry lords.  This general discourse is repeated in most if not all the academic papers dealing with postcoloniality and globalization.

The impact of the ideas of these intellectuals is widespread and not easily observable for the ignorant masses.  As such, when you read the newspapers in Latin America or Africa in regard to the “new” nationalizations being undertaken by the “new” socialist/anti-neoliberal governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Greece, Lithuania, and Sri Lanka since 2011 people usually ignores that there is nothing “new” in these actions.

These nationalizations of privately owned assets have been in many of the cases actual renationalizations of companies that were not owned by the principles of free market ideas, but that had been privatized by corrupt social democratic governments 50, 40 or 10 years before and who created new privately owned privileged companies.  As a result of these social democrat and socialist governments many privately owned companies emerged as the bastions of crony capitalism, inefficiency and corruption.  The previous, generally increased as closer the national industries were owned by crony private companies that owned single-crop cultive exports and resource rich regions.

To mention short examples of the previous, recently in Argentina Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF; English: “Treasury Petroleum Fields”) was renationalized (not nationalized) by the government under claims of corruption, inefficiency and negative benefits to their national interests.  In Bolivia, Transportadora de Electricidad (TDE) was nationalized by Evo Morales government.  However, TDE was also a fruit of the neoliberal and crony capitalist deals established in 1952 after a coup d’état that established a military socialist democracy with the party  Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) which allied into a military-nationalist clique that lasted for 50 years.

Privately owned companies produce always more efficient and better products than state-owned companies.  However, privately owned companies that have benefited from government granted privileges for decades not necessarily will produce more and better services and products than state-owned companies.  The previous is something that few of us dare to identify and explain with a non-contradictory historical and philosophical background.  Meanwhile, the great majority of academics influenced by collectivist philosophies will start writing articles and books applauding the “successful” renationalizations and condemning those free-market authors who will write back and fight.

Indeed, there is a difficult road in defending private property and privately owned businesses in the context of countries and regions that lack respect for individual rights and the rule of law.  As such, to defend the private vs collective in those circles it is necessary that first we identify how the societies are currently organized around the collective inefficient systems of social and economic organization.  In the case of Bolivia and Argentina it is necessary for us to identify how these business and societies are not structured and organized around the principles of free market and individual rights.  By understanding and explaining this clearly there will be a chance to change the discourse of discussion from “why is renationalization good?” to “why laissez faire capitalism is better than the privately owned business of crony capitalism?”