Thursday, October 30, 2014

Me and my colony

It has long seemed self-evident to me but I'm not finding others talking about it so maybe this is unusual enough to write about.

Legally, we're all essentially pregnant, or at least siamese twins. That might need some unpacking.

One of the toughest legal questions around has to do with what to do when there's two inseparable individuals that legally fall into different categories, one guilty of a crime and the other innocent, or at least materially less culpable. Case law is not clear on this because it's such a rare condition that it's never come up in a common law country.

In the case of pregnancy, you have two genetically distinct humans with unequal rights. Sometimes the unborn is given a right to life. Other times no rights are assigned. Other times it's something of a case of chattel where the mother-to-be can kill the infant but nobody else can such as the case where it's a double homicide if a pregnant woman is killed but abortion is legal.

Everybody, however, hosts colonies of creatures on and inside our bodies. These colonies have no rights. In a lot of cases, the colonies are beneficial. Without our gut bacteria, we'd all be in significant digestive distress, very unpleasant distress. Other times, they get annoying, such as the various cold and flu viruses that lay us low periodically. There are mostly social sanctions in place for humans who cooperate in spreading those around and like the case of a worker sneezing into a food tray at a cafeteria there can be legal sanctions in terms of fines and operations shut downs for inadequate hygiene.

The most extreme of these legal sanctions is reserved for our hitch-hiking killers. Typhoid Mary, America's first documented asymptomatic carrier of the typhoid virus was isolated twice over the disease, the first time for three years, the second for the rest of her life. Strangely enough, her first major victim cluster was where I grew up, Mamaroneck, NY. Who knew?

Typhoid Mary was diagnosed with an infection of typhoid in her gallbladder but she refused to have the infected organ removed and without that removal she remained a public health hazard and was isolated until she died because she was so irresponsible after her first release from isolation as to change her name and continue seeking employment as a cook while refusing to wash her hands because, in her mind, she posed no threat.

The law could not force the removal of her infected organ. It could imprison her, and did. That's a very relevant distinction today. There is a difference between me and my colonies of various hitchhikers. I have rights and they don't. When they are not too noxious, they benefit from a sort of penumbra of rights. It's too difficult to separate us and they benefit. But if they are too noxious, if they even might be too noxious, I suffer a diminishment of rights. The penumbra goes the other way.

Which way the penumbra effect goes is a difficult question, one that we will never answer in a proper way so long as we do not explicitly lay out the facts as they are, that with every individual is a non-rights bearing set of organism colonies intimately locked in an embrace with our own biology. This is a legitimately hard question for which we have no final answers at the present, just a competing collection of unhappy feelings at whatever solutions are proposed by our political class, whether the disquiet at the laxity of the CDC or the outrage at the state quarantine orders nobody's entirely happy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Making Picketty's R > G work for the poor

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century tells us that the rate of return for capital exceeds the rate of economic growth. Putting aside the many problems of the book, this, in itself, is not very controversial. It's an expected result when you have a shortage of capital compared to the labor prepared to use it. But it is a result that can be reversed by increasing the available capital pool.

Bitcoin and the rest of the alt-coin world are an opportunity to do this. A bitcoin might be $380 today but the smallest unit is the satoshi, a fraction equal to 1/100,000,000th of that. People will pay tens or hundreds of satoshis just to get you to look at an ad for a few seconds. With some applied effort at a public library, it's possible to get perhaps 40k satoshi in a day (not easy but possible) in this way so even if you're in a jobs wasteland with no employment prospects, this option is still available for you. Those satoshi are loanable funds over at BTCJam and other P2P lending sites but unlikely to trigger the first world welfare state's various poverty traps that keep the poor down. Returns are advertised at just under 20% for a doubling time of three and three quarters years.

In short, you have a road out of poverty that doesn't require any action on the part of the government other than the willingness not to investigate the blockchain so closely that we enter the unjust world of Javert. This is possible because it's so cheap to move bitcoins around that even the poor in the US can be part time capitalists. They have the money.

Is anyone telling them this?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Judas in University Administration

It started this morning (as it often does) with Instapundit's item on bogus sexual assault numbers which pointed to Mark Perry's analysis that the rate of sexual assault (1 in 5 during university) combined with the rate of reporting (12%) didn't work. It isn't even politics, but just poor math that means at least one of those two White House numbers are wrong.

This was shortly followed by a piece examining the left's creeping totalitarianism on due process. What caught my attention is the phrase that Harvard could withstand the loss of federal funds while they fought for due process. It occurs to me that the amount of federal funds at risk, the endowment of the university, the male population being betrayed by university administration is all public information. You could make a judas index to measure how much money your rights are worth betraying.

There could be an app for that. It would be pretty useful when it comes time to pick schools.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How Big is Bitcoin? Monday October 20, 2014

For this post all values are rounded.

As of today bitcoin has created
13,400,725 coins in circulation

At time of writing 1 bitcoin was $385 USD

This puts the total value of the coins at $5.2 billion USD and is roughly equivalent to what the federal reserve calls M0. For USD M0 is $3.9 trillion at present.

If Bitcoin were an economy, it would be the 162nd largest in the world slightly larger than Jersey and slightly smaller than Burundi.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Formal Proof Jackassery

Out on the 'net, A Formal Proof that Neil deGrasse Tyson is a Jackass

Would you believe that I came across this on a random page with the link running, in effect, as a classified ad? The Internet is a wondrous thing.