Thursday, February 18, 2010

Common mistakes in language

I am overwhelmed by the number of mistakes I see – even in the emails of educated people, from whom I expect more precision. I am not referring to typos, but to mistakes which indicate that the person typing does not think logically when transferring their thought to paper (or computer screen).

I see it in every language I use on a daily basis (English, Romanian, Spanish). It seems that mistakes are becoming more common – but it is just a gut feeling. Maybe we are relying more on email and chat programs and comment forums, and I am just reading more “regular people” writing than before, when writings were generally found in books and encyclopedias. However, I also see mistakes fairly often in “serious” (I hate that word) publications.

Most tell me to let these mistakes go, because the message is important, not the actual way it is written (as long as the message is clear). I see the point.

On the other hand, when I see these mistakes, the information conveyed is that writer was either not thinking logically, or has certain gaps in his or her education. Maybe I am being too cruel.

I am wondering why these mistakes occur so often. Is a matter of people automatically typing, without thinking? Perhaps you, my readers, can offer some theories as to why I see these mistakes all the time.

Here are some common ones (in English):

  • · it’s instead of its (not the other way around) – I see this all the time; however, this is a convention that one either knows or doesn’t; this is not a matter of logic, only of (basic) education; e.g. “the dog wagged it’s tail”
  • · there instead of their (and not the other way around); e.g. “there mother told them”
  • · capitol versus capital; e.g. “I am an educated and ambitious fuck and I live in Capital Hill” or “I am very proud of being born and raised in the nation’s capitol”
  • · I’m suppose to instead of I’m supposed to (this is a mistake I generally see black people make)
  • · who’s instead of whose
  • · using an apostrophe to indicate a plural (e.g. “this is for all the amateur photographer’s in the office”)
  • · you’re versus your; e.g. “you’re zipper is open” or “I am smart and your an idiot”
  • · mine instead of mind (again, black people tend to be overrepresented here); e.g. “he changed his mine”
  • · if I was instead of if I were (virtually everyone makes this mistake, so in a few decades it might become the “correct” form officially)
  • · a women instead of a woman (this one is generally done by women, who say things such as “I am a smart, educated, and beautiful women …”)
  • · could of instead of could have
  • · principal versus principle (maybe because they sound alike?)
  • · affect versus effect (maybe because they sound alike?)
  • · renumeration instead of remuneration
  • to loose (as a verb) instead of to lose

And the list could go on and on… is our society being dumbed down? Are too many people having access to a medium for expressing their thoughts publicly, such as blogs? (I see the irony here, don’t worry). Any theories as to why this trend is happening?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Economist, legal scholar, philosopher David D. Freidman, son of the late Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate in economics, argues (very logically and ably) for an anarcho-capitalist society. His main point is that society would not break apart (and anarchy is not a bad word), but – just like the free competitive market delivers light bulbs and hair cuts more efficiently than a centralized monopoly would, the free competitive market would deliver services such as legal protection and arbitration more efficiently than a centralized monopoly (i.e. the government) would.

A sample of his writing can be found here:

The arguments are brilliant and logical (and more importantly, easy to follow).

However, I can think of a counterargument to his entire thesis: I would argue that we now DO live in an anarcho-capitalist society. Or rather, we are a result of an anarcho-capitalist society, we evolved from one. Our ancestors lived in that state, in caves and jungles. Eventually they developed more intricate mechanisms of protection and arbitration, whether through iron weapons, walled cities, empires, or national governments based on a common language, religion, and tribal identity.

Where Friedman calls for private protection agencies instead of a police force, we have national governments (which compete with other governments; sometimes they settle disagreements through a commonly-chosen arbitrator, sometimes by compromise, sometimes by force). Consumers have a choice of changing the protection agency (i.e. moving to a different country), but the costs are high (learning a new language, escaping illegally from the original country, waiting years for a visa, living illegally in the new country, etc). These private protection agencies (which we refer to as national governments) offer protection, but in return hold the monopoly on force in their own area.

If we put Friedman’s ideas into practice, and started anew, abolishing governments and following an anarcho-capitalist system, what guarantees do we have that in a few hundred/thousand years we would not evolve again into a system similar to the current one, of powerful “private protection agencies” with limitless power in their own realms?

I am wondering if it is a human trait to seek like ones, band together based on tribal identity, and collectively give up individual liberties in return for protection. I am beginning to think that this is the case indeed.

Human actions are not motivated by morality

There is no good or evil. There’s only matter.

/*Begin disclaimer*/ These thoughts only pertain to things from a material point of view – given that we live in a material era. This is not an atheist creed, and I am too much of a skeptic to consider myself a follower of the atheist religion. More so, I personally need the moral compass of good and evil in my own perspective on life, for purposes of stability and automatic decision-making. When discussing the absence of good and evil, I am referring only to human (and non-human) action, and how things work in the universe. /*End disclaimer*/

The closest biological relatives of our human race are the great apes – and looking at their behavior can offer an interesting perspective on ours. My idea expressed in this blog came from simultaneously reading (superficially) about power structures in a chimpanzee society, with its alpha male, lackeys, the matron, etc., and reading (also superficially) about a study theorizing that politics has nothing to do with issues or candidates or even logic (which I long suspected), but rather instinctual yearnings of humans to be part of a tribe, and a dominant tribe at that. Just like sports. A third influence was rereading Golding’s insightful “Lord of the Flies”.

Human society is not about good and evil, nor is it only about survival and reproduction. It is about power struggle (perhaps related to both survival and reproduction?). I am ashamed to find something logical in puerile madman Karl Marx, who claimed that the history of mankind is an evolving class struggle – but in a way it is. However, it is not about social classes. It is about classes of humans. Personality, inherited genetics, and the such.

The system is irrelevant. Yes, some systems are better at allocating Earth’s scarce resources where they are most wanted (I purposefully avoided the word “needed”) – capitalism, decentralization, and the rule of law, for example. However, these are merely details. The dominant monkeys will eat the choicest steaks in a capitalist system with the freest of markets, and they would do the same in a kibbutz.

In a way, slavery is a natural human institution. It has only been outlawed in the “civilized” world (read “Lord of the Flies” or modern European history to put the word “civilized” into perspective) for the past century and half, two centuries at most. And it was outlawed in the most advanced societies first – where other much more subtle and efficient means to enslave fellow man were devised, rendering the chain and whip of traditional slavery primitive and obsolete.

The reason I boldly and improperly state that slavery is an intrinsic human trait is because we all want to have more with less effort. Since the things we want (again, I am avoiding the word “need”, which David D. Friedman, son of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, designated as a non-grata concept in economics) generally don’t produce themselves, we prefer others to do the work for us – starting with the inanimate, moving on to animals, and then to fellow humans. It is a human desire to have others produce for them (as long as the perceived cost of enslaving others is lower than the perceived benefit).

In a classroom, the bully will enjoy the fruits of another child’s labor (or that of the child’s parents) through sheer strength. “Give me your lunch money.” In most societies that is still the norm in adulthood. The pretty girls, lacking the physical strength to do the same, try to win the attention of the bully in order to have access to the material things he acquires. They will try to indirectly get to the goods through manipulation and winning the sympathy of the dominant male. The class clown – also lacking the physical strength necessary to partake in the plunder – will try to win the bully’s heart through antics and goofiness. The weak will receive a beating from the bully, as well as the contempt of the girls and other weaklings – for I have never seen them band together.

The appearance of another potential bully will cause power struggles, both physical and psychological. If the resources are relatively plentiful, the bullies can come to a peaceful and separate coexistence – much like a cartel in economic terms – but neither can sleep soundly or lower his guard.

This is continued in adulthood in many societies to this day. This is the way of the tribal warlords in various countries in Asia. This is the way neighborhood gangs operate in cities in the civilized and uncivilized world. This is how nations are run.

In more advanced societies, again, it becomes too costly to rely on physical might. Psychological dominance replaces it little by little (see centuries of development in the “civilized” world). Manipulation, rallying masses with illusory causes, and using them as weapons of mass destruction is less costly than using a military arsenal (it is easier to use willing servants than those forced into submission).

Dominant people in society will use their charm (politicians), religion and the promise to be on the side of “good” (i.e. to belong to the tribe that will dominate in the end), scare tactics (the world will overpopulate, overheat, succumb to disease, be overtaken by the “bad” guys – the competition, the tribe that is supposed to lose in the end), etc. Their goal, consciously or not, is to dominate the weak majority. A behavioral South Africa (under apartheid). Sometimes the dominant ones benefit materially (money, fame, women, luxuries, pride) and sometimes only through the knowledge that they possess power and, very importantly, reputation.

I sympathize with revolutionaries. I experienced one (a revolution, not a revolutionary, for the smartasses still reading this), live, with machine gun fire and terror, all eclipsed by the feeling of bursting freedom, of toppling the most insurmountable dam, a feeling that cannot be matched by a lifetime of orgasms. I feel for the Iranian youth today, fighting for change. I feel for the Cuban dissidents and for others like them. I respect them, and I envy them (they have something concrete to live for, they have a goal and no moral doubts about their actions). However, I am skeptical that they will change anything in the large scheme of things. It’s just that “their” guys will replace the “other” guys – don’t get me wrong, if I had a choice, I would associate myself with “their guys” on the spot, as I completely despise the “other guys”.

I did not lay out a clear idea in the above paragraphs. Just some rambling. If I read this aloud, I can start using some ideas from here to write many mini essays, or even try my hand at a novel, based on concepts found in these notes.