If my background and credentials matter to you, I present them in the following sections:
- Personal and Career Highlights
- Socioeconomic Background and Character
- Intelligence, Temperament, and Beliefs
- A Word to Leftists and Doctrinaire Libertarians
PERSONAL AND CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Birth and upbringing: Born before Pearl Harbor, but not old enough to remember it or World War II. (Japan formally surrendered two days before my first day of kindergarten.) Raised in two small, adjoining cities in the flat, eastern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. (But not in the Detroit metro area, as we hastened to add when asked “What part of Michigan?”.) Not a son of privilege, by any means (see “Socioeconomic Background and Character,” below).
Academics: Graduated from Big-Ten U in the early 1960s with a B.A. in Economics. Accepted for graduate study in economics at several top schools, including Chicago, M.I.T., and some Ivy League schools. Chose M.I.T. and soon regretted the choice: gray, rainy Cambridge and robotic mathematical approach to economics made for a depressing combination. Returned to alma mater to finish the academic year, then quit to join the (somewhat) “real world” and earn some money.
First and lasting employment: Encouraged by former professor to join a government-funded, defense think-tank in the D.C. area. Worked there for 30 of my 34 years of post-collegiate, full-time employment.
Marriage (and family): Met my first love at the think-tank and married her 56 years ago. Our happy union has blessed us with two grown children — whose lives validate the love (sometimes tough) and support we gave them — and twelve bright, loving, and engaging grandchildren.
Early and mid-career: After four years as an analyst at the think-tank, went to the Pentagon as a “whiz kid” for two years, at the height of the Vietnam War. Another regrettable choice. Returned to the think-tank and stayed seven more years, advancing from analyst to project director and program director (i.e., manager of several projects).
Escape from D.C.: The futility of analytical work (see “Beliefs,” below) led to the purchase of a small publishing company (weekly paper and free shopping guide) in western New York State. Worked like a dog for three years, and brought the habit back to the think-tank.
Return to D.C.: When asked why, replied “Give a person an opportunity to feed at the public trough and that person will take the opportunity.” Incentives work! Another incentive was the opportunity to criticize analysis (instead of doing it), as an in-house reviewer of technical reports.
Home stretch: Stayed at the think-tank another 18 years. After three years of reviewing reports, seized an opportunity to establish and run the think-tank’s publications department. Promoted a year later to chief financial and administrative officer, with a portfolio consisting of accounting, computer operations, contracting, facility planning and operations, financial management, human resources (a.k.a. personnel), library and technical information services, physical and information security, programming services, and publications. Became deeply involved in legal matters, including spin-off of the think-tank from parent company, resolution of affirmative-action claims, and complex contract and lease negotiations. Contrived retirement at age 56.
Post-retirement: Spent 18 months as the managing editor of an economics journal published by a privately funded, libertarian think-tank in D.C. — not for the meager wage but for the stimulation of working with intelligent, intellectually honest contributors and colleagues. Quit when this part-time job became too consuming.
Last stop: Moved from cold-rainy-hot-humid-hazy-cloudy D.C. area to warm-dry-sunny Austin, whose mainly left-wing denizens irritate me with their political posturing and self-centered driving habits. I am in Austin, but not of Austin. TANSTAAFL.
Memoir: See “You Can’t Go Home Again“.
SOCIOECONOMIC BACKGROUND AND CHARACTER
In my lifetime I have been related to, known, befriended, and worked with a broad cross-section of humanity. I have seen poverty and squalor, conversed with semi-literates and near-idiots, heard the rantings and taunts of bigots and bullies, known lazy louts and no-account dreamers, and admired hard workers with few skills and little learning who were proud of their meager possessions because they had earned them.
Both of my parents came from poor families — poor by today’s standards, at least. But by dint of hard work, there was always food on the table, though no one in those days took or expected handouts from government.
My parents’ outlook on life reflected the small-town values of the places in which they were raised. Through a grandmother to whom I was close, I got a good taste of how she, and my parents, had lived. I also came to know the advantages of living in villages, towns, and small cities: physical security and the kind of serenity that is almost impossible to find, for more than a few hours at a time, in the large cities and vast metropolitan areas that now dominate the human landscape of America.
If my father ever earned as much as a median income, it would come as a surprise to me. Our houses, neighborhoods, and family friends were what is known as working-class. If there were twinges of envy for the rich and famous, they were balanced with admiration for their skills and accomplishments. These children of the Great Depression — my parents and their siblings and friends — betrayed no feelings of grievance toward those who had more of life’s possessions. They were rightly proud of what they had earned and accumulated, and did not feel entitled to more than that because of their “bad luck” or lack of “privilege”.
In my own life, my jobs have ranged from busing tables to serving as a corporate officer. I have spent time in the company of high-ranking government officials, high-priced and expert lawyers, brilliant scientists and academicians, and talented musicians and artisans.
In short, I have walked many streets of life and seen many facets of the human condition. I have been spared much; my personal history excludes the direct effects of war, disaster, and privation. And I have been content to settle for relative obscurity and comfort rather than fame and fortune, even though I might have attained them had I chosen to strive for them.
On the whole, what I have seen, known, and done amounts to a large sample of the human experience. I am not trapped in the upper-middle-class “bubble” defined in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010.
My personality is more aloof than openly empathic (see “Temperament”, below). Why, I cannot say. I do know that aloofness can be an avoidance mechanism for persons who are too easily overwhelmed by emotion. And I do have an emotional side that I usually avoid exposing to others. Let me just say that my ability to observe the human condition is not dulled by automatic empathy of the kind that I have seen so often in persons whose political views are based on nothing more than raw emotion. Nor am I animated by prolonged adolescent rebellion, guilt, or an inability to advance beyond collegiate leftism. I am self-aware and self-critical to a fault.
Finally, I am strongly inclined toward justice. And I mean justice, not “fairness”, which is an excuse for leveling. True justice consists of two things, and only two things: the enforcement of voluntary, mutual obligations, and the punishment of wrongdoing.
What is the point of these recollections and glimpses of my character? It is to say that my upbringing, experiences, and personality give me an advantage when it comes to understanding the human condition and prescribing for its ills. This blog — in its very small way — is a place of refuge from uninformed emotion, prolonged adolescent rebellion, guilt, and a refusal (or inability) to change one’s political views for whatever reason — whether it is opportunism, obduracy, willful ignorance, simple stupidity, or an inability to admit error (even to oneself).
INTELLIGENCE, TEMPERAMENT, AND BELIEFS
A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.
– attributed to Benjamin Disraeli
Intelligence (for those who might care) and its application: Graduate Record Examinations scores: verbal aptitude, 96th percentile; quantitative aptitude, 99th percentile; advanced test in economics, 99th percentile. Combined verbal and quantitative scores qualify me for membership (which I do not seek) in the Triple-Nine Society, whose members “have tested at or above the 99.9th percentile on at least one of several standardized adult intelligence tests”. But I am much older now — more than thrice the age I was when I took the GREs — so I do not claim to be “brilliant”. On the other hand, I know a lot more now than I did then, and the more one knows the better one gets at assembling information into meaningful patterns and sorting bad ideas from good ones.
My intelligence was recognized at an early age, but its use was not much stimulated by my parents or the K-12 schools I attended. Only when I went to college was I “stretched”, and then the stretching came mostly at my initiative (unassigned reading and long, solitary sessions working through academic theories). The stretching — which was episodic during my working career — continues to this day, in the form of blogging on subjects that require research, careful analysis, and self-criticism of what I have produced. Self-criticism is central to my personality (see next) and leaves me open to new ideas (see next after that).
Temperament: I(ntroverted), (i)N(tuitive), T(hinking), J(udging)
For INTJs the dominant force in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities, symbols, abstractions, images, and thoughts. Insight in conjunction with logical analysis is the essence of their approach to the world; they think systemically. Ideas are the substance of life for INTJs and they have a driving need to understand, to know, and to demonstrate competence in their areas of interest. INTJs inherently trust their insights, and with their task-orientation will work intensely to make their visions into realities. (Source: “The Sixteen Types at a Glance“.)
Beliefs: I have moved great distances with respect to political philosophy and theology.
I was apolitical until I went to college. There, under the tutelage of economists of the Keynesian persuasion, I became convinced that government could and should intervene in economic affairs. My pro-interventionism spread to social affairs in my early post-college years, as I joined the “intellectuals” of the time in their support for the Civil Rights Act and the Great Society, which was about social engineering as much as anything.
The urban riots that followed the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. opened my eyes to the futility of LBJ’s social tinkering. I saw at once that plowing vast sums into a “war” on black poverty would be rewarded with a lack of progress, sullen resentment, and generations of dependency on big brother in Washington. (Regarding the possibility that I am a racial bigot, see the note at the bottom of this page.)
At about the same time, my eyes were opened fully to the essential incompetence of government by LBJ’s inept handling of the war in Vietnam. (Gradualism, phooey — either fight to win or get out.)
However, it was not momentous events but a bit of seemingly irrelevant analysis that administered the coup de grâce to my naïve “liberalism”. It happened in the early 1970s, when my boss asked me to concoct grand measures of effectiveness for the armed forces (i.e., summary measures of antisubmarine warfare capabilities, of tactical strike capabilities, and so on). I struggled with the problem, and made a good-faith effort to provide the measures. But in the end I had to report to my boss that he had given me “mission impossible”. Why? Because, no summary measure could capture the effects of the many factors that would determine the effectiveness of the armed forces: the enemy, the characteristics of his forces, the timing and geographic particulars of any engagement, and so on. (See “Hemibel Thinking” in this post for a précis of my argument.)
What does that have to do with my final rejection of “liberalism” and turn toward libertarianism? When government intervenes in economic and social affairs, its interventions are based on crude “measures of effectiveness” (e.g., eliminating poverty and racial discrimination) without considering the intricacies of economic and social interactions. Governmental interventions are — and will always be — blunt instruments, the use of which will have unforeseen, unintended, and strongly negative consequences (e.g., the cycle of dependency on welfare, the inhibition of growth-producing capital investments). I then began to doubt the wisdom of having any more government than is necessary to protect me and my fellow Americans from foreign and domestic predators. My later experiences in the private sector and as a government contractor confirmed my view that professors, politicians, and bureaucrats who presume to interfere in the workings of the economy are naïve, power-hungry, or (usually) both.
But there is more to my journey into political philosophy. I began to think seriously about liberty and libertarianism in the 1990s. Eventually, I began to question doctrinaire libertarianism (pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage”, etc.) which seems to have no room in it for the maintenance of social norms that bind civil society and make it possible for people to coexist willingly and peacefully, and to engage in beneficially cooperative behavior. And so, I have become what I call a Burkean libertarian.
The development of my theological views, which I will not trace in detail, has paralleled the development of my political philosophy. My collegiate atheism gradually turned to agnosticism as I came to understand the scientific bankruptcy of atheism. There is not a great gap between agnosticism and deism, and I recently made the small jump across that gap.
A WORD TO LEFTISTS AND DOCTRINAIRE LIBERTARIANS…
…who may be offended by many of the posts at this blog.
I have noticed that a leftist will accuse you of “hate” just for saying something contrary to the left-wing orthodoxy of the day. If you disagree with what I have to say here, but prefer to spew invective instead of offering a reasoned response, don’t bother to submit a comment — at least not until your rage has passed or your medication has taken effect. As it says in the sidebar, I will not publish incoherent, off-point, offensive, or abusive comments. Nor will I lose any sleep for having denied you an outlet for your incoherence, irrelevance, offensiveness, or abusiveness. You can post it on your own blog or on any of the myriad, hate-filled, left-wing blogs that view murder as “choice,” government dictates as “liberty,” self-defense as a “war crime” (when it’s practiced by the U.S. or Israel), and the Constitution as a vehicle for implementing current left-wing orthodoxy.
Having said that, I acknowledge that I sometimes adopt a biting or dismissive tone. (See, for example, the fourteen words that follow the em-dash two paragraphs above.) If you will read my blog carefully, however, you will find that my views are grounded in facts and logic. Where you disagree with or question something that I say in a particular post, search this blog and the list of favorite posts for more on the same subject. If you cannot or will not take the time to do that, don’t bother to comment unless you do it politely and give your reasons for disagreeing with me. I will reply politely, factually, and logically.
If you will bother to read very much of this blog and its predecessor, you will find that I am pro-peace, pro-prosperity, and pro-liberty — positions that leftists and certain libertarians like to claim as theirs, exclusively. Unlike most leftists and more than a few self-styled libertarians, I have seen enough of this world and its ways to know that peace, prosperity, and liberty are achieved when government carries a big stick abroad and treads softly at home (except when it comes to criminals and traitors). Most leftists and many self-styled libertarians, by contrast, engage in “magical thinking,” according to which peace, prosperity, and liberty can be had simply by invoking the words and attaching them to policies that, time and again, have led to war, slow economic growth, and loss of liberty.
A NOTE ABOUT MY RACIAL VIEWS
Rather than simply assert my lack of bias in matters racial, I present the results of a test of my implicit racial preferences, which I took at YourMorals.Org:
The study you just completed is an Implicit Association Test (IAT) that compares the strength of automatic mental associations. In this version of the IAT, we investigated positive and negative associations with the categories of “African Americans” and “European Americans”.
The idea behind the IAT is that concepts with very closely related (vs. unrelated) mental representations are more easily and quickly responded to as a single unit. For example, if “European American” and “good” are strongly associated in one’s mind, it should be relatively easy to respond quickly to this pairing by pressing the “E” or “I” key. If “European American” and “good” are NOT strongly associated, it should be more difficult to respond quickly to this pairing. By comparing reaction times on this test, the IAT gives a relative measure of how strongly associated the two categories (European Americans, African Americans) are to mental representations of “good” and “bad”. Each participant receives a single score, and your score appears below.
Your score on the IAT was 0.07.
Positive scores indicate a greater implicit preference for European Americans relative to African Americans, and negative scores indicate an implicit preference for African Americans relative to European Americans.
Your score appears in the graph below in green. The score of the average Liberal visitor to this site is shown in blue and the average Conservative visitor’s score is shown in red.
It should be noted that my slightly positive score probably was influenced by the order in which choices were presented to me. Initially, pleasant concepts were associated with photos of European-Americans. I became used to that association, and so found that it affected my reaction time when I was faced with pairings of pleasant concepts and photos of African-Americans. The bottom line: My slight preference for European-Americans probably is an artifact of test design.
I should be noted, also, that my apparent lack of bias, relative to the norms for “liberals” and conservatives, may be due to quick reflexes, as I discuss here. Nevertheless, as I say in that post,
I suspect that I am not a racist. I don’t despise blacks as a group, nor do I believe that they should have fewer rights and privileges than whites. (Neither do I believe that they should have more rights and privileges than whites or persons of Asian or Ashkenazi Jewish descent — but they certainly do when it comes to college admissions and hiring.) It isn’t racist to understand that race isn’t a social construct and that there are general differences between races (see many of the posts listed here). That’s just a matter of facing facts, not ducking them, as leftists are wont to do.
Fair and balanced. That’s me.
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For the results of other tests of my moral preferences, go to “My Moral Profile“.