Why so many utilitarians?

In this post I try to give some reasons why there are so many utilitarians among smart people, from personal experience reading things on the net. The point of this post is not to criticise or defend utilitarianism, just offer a presentation of the reasons why some people, I think, tend to favour it. I begin with a quote from Loren Lomasky, defining what we are talking about. You can also go to the SEP. For present purposes, a theory is said to be (more or less) utilitarian to the extent it satisfies the f…

The antonymical fallacy

I think there's an informal  fallacy that doesn't have a name of its own. I tried looking and couldn't find it, so I named it the antonymical fallacy. Maybe it does already exist. If it does, please tell me! It is closely related to the False dilemma informal fallacy. So the idea is this: There is a difference between the negation and the antonym (or antonym-like word) of something. Some antonyms are indeed the logical negation of the original word, but not all! not-tall does not equal small (it can me medi…

The private/public distinction, a reply to Stringham and Powell

The October 2015 Cato Unbound issue discussed Private Governance. In one of the entries, Aaron Ross Powell raised a very interesting point that I've never seen properly addressed yet: What is the difference between private and public? Is there any difference between a State and a large club? Sticking to the tangible, we get chiefly two examples from Stringham: private police and gated/private communities. Focusing on those, then, is there a meaningful way to tell which police/communities are public and whi…

Mingardi contra Mazzucato

In the Fall 2015 issue of Cato Journal, Alberto Mingardi (Director General of the Bruno Leoni Institute, and blogger at EconLog) published an article titled 'A Critique of Mazzucato's Entrepreneurial State'. Here I will provide a summary of it. Just the introduction is a huge condemnation of the book: Though Mazzucato claims she is building on existing evidence of the effectiveness of government research and development spending, in actual fact her evidence is shaky. She adopts a very extensive definition …

Linear models: Comments on Ridley

Matt Ridley recently published a piece in the WSJ, arguing that basic scientific research does not lead to more innovation. There are things to like and dislike in the piece. Jack Stilgoe and Anton Howeshave weighed on this, and you can read summaries of their articles here. The first thing to say here is that the linear model of innovation being talked about here is something that is rejected by the consensus of scientists (!) studying how science and technology actually work, whatever their policy recomme…

Are (social) conservatives less intelligent?

Recently, Onraet, van Hiel et al.published a meta-analysis on the relation between cognitive ability and right-wing ideological attitudes. They concluded that right-wingers are less intelligent. What do they exactly say?  And more importantly, Is it true? TL;DR If what you mean by conservatism is what the authors of the meta-analysis mean by conservatism, yes. The literature concludes that there is an inverse relation between IQ and what they measure as conservatism, and there is little evidence of publicat…