Goodbye, Prof Freeman Dyson

I was saddened, though not surprised, to learn that Prof Freedom Dyson passed away on Friday in Princeton NJ at the age of 96. I admired him immensely for his intellectual might, bravery and honesty. Thanks to the internet, I have had the great pleasure of gaining from his intelligence, his humanity, his wide-ranging interests, his unconventional ideas.

I agree with all his viewpoints that I came to know about, particularly about climate change. Like him, I believe that the problem is neither urgent nor the most important. Humanity faces many problems, has the capacity to do something about some of them, and some of them are worth allocating resources to now. But climate change isn’t in that set. Continue reading “Goodbye, Prof Freeman Dyson”

Who Owns the Statue of Liberty?

I had no idea that “Who owns the Statue of Liberty” could even be a question. A bit of trivial knowledge which has absolutely no real implications for 99.9983 percent of the world’s population. But I post this video here just as a reminder that there’s lots of stuff we don’t know about, but if we did know about them, it’d make us go, “Wow! I had no idea.”

This is one of the more entertaining videos I have watched lately.

Planets and Population

The planet Mars is a very advanced planet: it’s entirely populated by robots. People haven’t set foot on Mars but that may change in the next 15 years or so.

The only extraterrestrial body that people have visited is the moon. And on their way to the moon, they got to see the entire earth. Those people are special in this sense: of the estimated 100,000,000,000 (a hundred billion) people who ever lived (around 7.5 billion of whom are alive now), only 24 people have seen the entire earth in one glance. Just ponder that thought for a moment. Only 24 out of billions and billions. Continue reading “Planets and Population”

Rationality in a World of Suicidally Deluded People

I take the non-aggression principle to be a “relatively-absolute absolute”

I believe that societies that follow the non-aggression principle (NAP) are better than those that don’t. To me, the NAP is a “relatively-absolute absolute”. I learned the concept of relatively-absolute absolutes from James Buchanan. These are persistent truths about the world of humans; they are not necessary in some absolute sense like, say, the conservation laws but are generally true and fundamentally important for human flourishing. Continue reading “Rationality in a World of Suicidally Deluded People”

Human Rights are Property Rights

The phrase “property rights” appears to refer to the rights of property. That of course is meaningless because property aren’t people, and therefore property cannot have rights. Property rights refers to the notion that humans have the right to their private property. Therefore to place property rights in some form of opposition to human rights — as I did in the previous post — is silly. The two essentially mean and amount to the same basic idea. Human rights are property rights, and vice versa.

It all begins with the axiom of self-ownership. To quote Murray Rothbard, the brilliant libertarian economist, from an April 1959 article:

. . . each individual, according to our understanding of the natural order of things, is the owner of himself, the ruler of his own person. Preservation of this self-ownership is essential for the proper development and well-being of man. The human rights of the person are, in effect, a recognition of each man’s inalienable property right over his own being; and from this property right stems his right to the material goods that he has produced. A man’s right to personal freedom, then, is his property right in himself. Continue reading “Human Rights are Property Rights”

Property Rights or Human Rights

Should society (through its institutions such as the government) defend property rights or human rights? That question is of course meaningless if one of the sets includes the other as a proper subset. But let’s assume for the moment that they are indeed distinct, and therefore the question makes sense.

I believe I have an answer to that but I will not go into it. For now, I’d like to pose a related question. Should society (through its institutions such as the military) commit resources to defending its weapons prior to defending the lives of its citizens? To put it more concretely, should society choose to build bomb-proof missile silos or build excellent bomb-proof shelters for its citizens, assuming that the society does not have the resources to build both?

Feel free to leave your answer in the comments.

{Followup to this post Human Rights are Property Rights.}

Opening lines

Here are the opening lines of four books that are important. For each, I have provided a link for a free download of the book.


How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith 1759 Continue reading “Opening lines”