We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

There needs to be a cull of Malthusians every five years or so. In the interests of preventing overpopulation. And a pretty memorial to these heroes.

– Antoine Clarke

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33 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • George

    What do you have against people that use math?

  • “What do you have against people that use math?”

    If using math tells someone Malthus got it right, all subsequent evidence to the contrary, it demonstrates that the ability to use math is not a good indication of a person’s ability to use reason.

  • Mr Ed

    Malthus‘ as opposed to ‘Math us(e)’.

    It’s ‘maths‘ anyway.

  • Ah…fair enough 😀 The typo was in the original quote and it was transcribed unnoticed. Duly corrected.

  • Mr Ed

    There’d be ‘l’ to pay if that went uncorrected.

    And surely by cull we would not want anything nasty to happen to people simply because they were labouring under misapprehensions about economics.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Now Mr Ed, I thought we had that mis-nickname “maths” sorted awhile back. Please pay attention. *severe frown!*

    ;>)

  • Mr Ed

    Julie,

    It’s ‘maths’, honestly, as they tell me in any number of Numberphile videos on YT.

    Some voluntary homework for you.

  • Laird

    “If using math tells someone Malthus got it right, all subsequent evidence to the contrary, it demonstrates that the ability to use math is not a good indication of a person’s ability to use reason.”

    Or perhaps it merely demonstrates that the person doesn’t have the ability to use math* correctly. Some people simply shouldn’t be permitted to go near a calculator.

    * Or “maths”. You Brits have the quaintest colloquialisms!

  • NickM

    The thing is maths is a tool when it is applied or stats (pure is different). A saw is a saw whether you are sitting at the wrong end of the branch or not…

  • Eric

    The would might be a better place if had a periodic cull of non-math users.

  • Stonyground

    We Brits use ‘maths’ as a contraction of the word mathematics. Since the full word is in the plural, it follows that the contracted version should be plural also. To use another English contraction as an example, a shop window full of televisions could be contracted to a shop window full of tellies. What it would not be is a shop window full of telly.

    As for Malthus, he was basically correct about the tendency for organisms to reproduce until they outstrip their food supply. Nature then corrects the problem as the organism in question then reduces in number due to starvation until the food supply recovers and the whole process starts all over again. In practice the swings are generally not so extreme as his theory suggests and nature maintains a sort of balance instead. In any case, humans are an exception due to their ingenuity which has resulted in things like birth control and industrial scale farming.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Stonyground, shame on you! Mathematics is derived from Greek, which often has words which end in ‘s’ but are singular. Physics comes to mind, not physics come to mind!

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT Stonyground’s 2nd paragraph: it is not human ingenuity per se that has made Malthus obsolete, but the bizarre* human tendency to have fewer children when material conditions improve; in particular, when infant mortality declines and one can spend time watching TV or writing comments on Samizdata, instead of taking care of children. Considering that the demographic transition started at about the time Malthus was writing, the man himself should not be blamed.

    * from a Darwinist perspective.

  • Having fewer children when material conditions improve but investing more in them, directly or indirectly through your efforts affecting what they will inherit, is not _necessarily_ bizarre from a Darwinist perspective. The cost benefit ratio of investing heavily in a few or less heavily in many is affected by the background random chance of death.

    That said, I agree with Mark Steyn’s view that “The future belongs to those who show up for it”. From a Darwinist perspective – or from the perspective of finding the burka an unappealing fashion on more than just an aesthetic level – the current western trend to denigrate the conventional marriage and its reproductive capacities is indeed bizarre. Perhaps PC ideas reproduce until they outstrip their ability to get win the competition for resources – the Malthusian version of ‘running out of other peoples money’.

    The Roman empire notoriously had a huge decline in in both its birth rate and its ability to assimilate newcomers, started importing lots of people from across the frontier, and then, over a century, gradually ceased to be. I can easily sympathise with Ellen Powers’ passionately expressed chapter on itThe Precursors, written (as you can easily tell) in the spring of 1939; parallels not too unlike those that alarmed her arise naturally.

  • Mr Ed

    Having fewer children when material conditions improve but investing more in them, directly or indirectly through your efforts affecting what they will inherit, is not _necessarily_ bizarre from a Darwinist perspective.

    Indeed, the Herdwick ewe typically has one lamb per gestation, whereas multiple births are common with sheep that live in less challenging places.

  • Mr Ed

    Malthus simply lacked insight into economics and the wonderful consequences of the application of labour to capital in market conditions, and the increase in productive capacity that comes from ‘capitalism’, so he was talking crap.

    However, should capital be consumed and prices be distorted, with private property undermined or destroyed, the long walk from before the Stone Age may become a precipitous fall.

    And there are plenty of ‘lemmings’ eager to rush towards the cliff, or at the very least push us off it first.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas! Exactly so. Which is why I cringe every time I hear someone saying something about something-or-other called a “work ethic.”

    Alas, such usages seem to have invaded American (at least) English as kudzu does any number of places whose native flora were far more pleasing to the bipeds living there. :>(

    . . .

    Mr Ed, indeed. I keep thinking I should write to Professor Frenkel and gently explain to him that the nickname is “math,” and that he should probably expand his knowledge of Standard English if he wishes to be taken seriously. No shame in it — after all, no one is properly educated in absolutely everything.

    . . .

    And whatever Malthus did or didn’t know about economics, younger fellas than he are still spouting such stuff. F’rinstance I seem to remember that Paul Ehrlich dropped The Population Bomb on us as recently as 1960, when some of us were more worried about the possibility of our species’ committing nukular suicide.

    Unfortunately it seems that a certain segment of our Intellectual Elite and also of the chatterati picked it up and are still anticipating its explosion.

  • Alisa

    Stonyground, these are not contractions, but abbreviations.

    Regarding Malthus, there are two forces at play: supply and demand (this applies to food, energy and any other essentials). Unlike more primitive organisms, humans possess the nearly unique and unlimited ability to manipulate both ends of the equation. It is true that having fewer children is one of the practical means to manipulate the demand end (by reducing consumption), but this seems to be effective only in a short-term context, and only in specific cases absent legal or cultural limitations on child labor and other factors.

    In the longer term, what truly proves Malthus clueless is the human ability to manipulate the supply side: we don’t depend on what nature offers us directly by way of food, energy, shelter etc., we actively produce these essentials through the use of raw materials and natural physical phenomena more primitive organisms cannot even think about – mainly, because they can not think.

  • Alisa

    BTW, in at least two other languages I’m familiar with, mathematics is never abbreviated, and is always used in the singular.

  • Stonyground

    Math? Maths? Oh well, I see no shame in being wrong as long as I keep on learning. It makes me feel like a toddler who has been tripped up by linguistic oddities like sheeps and foots.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Having fewer children when material conditions improve but investing more in them, directly or indirectly through your efforts affecting what they will inherit, is not _necessarily_ bizarre from a Darwinist perspective.

    It IS bizarre when there are fewer than 2 children (reaching reproductive age) per woman.
    A minor point: it is not bizarre if that happens not by choice, but by necessity.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    “Maths” is correct since the calculations performed by different interest groups are obviously done using utterly different disciplines.

  • Julie near Chicago

    PfP,

    “You got a point there, Judge!”

    (–“The Tijuana Jail,” via The Kingston Trio: Original hit, 1959, very good audio:

    UToob.com/watch?v=wlOXe2SAkjI&spfreload=10 )

  • Mr Ed

    Was Fibonacci a serious mathematician?

    Were Darwin’s arguments specious?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oops. Not “Tijuana Jail” (which is still not to be missed, of course” but rather, “Bad Man’s Blunder”:

    UToob.com/watch?v=mDMGMztg16g&spfreload=10

    HECK. To round things out, a ballad most suitable for this venue. Some commenter briefly summarizes the real (I assume real) history of the song, but personally it makes me think of the all-time-best-ever SF story written. See if you guys (who all, I hope, know your Golden Age SF — and your Groff Conklin anthologies) can figure out which one. :>)))

    UToob.com/watch?v=aP1bvY7IqZY&list=RDwlOXe2SAkjI&index=3

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, but Mr Ed, remember: “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”*

    For instance, in our national elections it has happened that the Jackasses had one opinion about the final vote-count (or at least about what it should be), whereas the Heffalumps took a different view. Clearly operating on different mathematical principles, no? The Jackasses arguing that the count of the Heffalump vote is necessarily overstated since in Jackassian arithmetic, v-sub-H ≤.5*v-sub-J necessarily; whereas in Heffalumpian math, v-sub-J is composed entirely of fictional elements used in place of the honest, actually-existing numbers used in the Heffalumpian world; with arithmetical rules to match.

    .

    *A brief excursion to the cyberstacks turns up argument about who “really” said this first, but there seems to be some agreement that it wasn’t really our Mr. Twain.

  • Paul Marks

    I can see Antoine Clarke’s point – if people are really saying that something drastic should be done about over population they should lead by personal example (not imply that other people be done away with).

    He is also (idiots please note) writing in the satirical tradition of J. Swift.

    Antoine is not really suggesting killing people.

  • Alisa

    Thank you, Paul, for putting our minds at ease 😀

  • Thailover

    Julie frm chicago wrote,

    “And whatever Malthus did or didn’t know about economics, younger fellas than he are still spouting such stuff. F’rinstance I seem to remember that Paul Ehrlich dropped The Population Bomb on us as recently as 1960, when some of us were more worried about the possibility of our species’ committing nukular suicide. Unfortunately it seems that a certain segment of our Intellectual Elite and also of the chatterati picked it up and are still anticipating its explosion.”

    Indeed. I used to love listening and watching Carl Sagan with his poetic and weird manner of speech. He was simutaniously optimistic about mankind’s future and us “going to the stars” while also being pessimistic about us blowing outselves up, or at least outpopulating and outstripping our food supply. He was a card-carrying lefty though and truely bought into the global warming disaster nonsense and the population bomb nonsense.

  • Thailover

    Mr. Ed asked,

    “Was Fibonacci a serious mathematician?”

    I understand he had quite the sense of humor.

    (Don’t worry, I’m only pretending to be thick, lol).

  • Thailover

    Snorri,
    Not only when infant mortality declines, but also when there are social means put in place so that the old aren’t left destitute. Before SS, people would have a boatload of babies so that SOMEONE might survive into adult hood willing to take care of them when they’re old. So now not only do peope ‘need’ less babies because the chance of them dying is lower, people also have other practical means of surviving old age.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Thailover: good point.