[ExI] Costs of the Roads Not Taken

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Jul 27 07:29:10 UTC 2007

Samantha writes

> [Eugen wrote]
>>> A first good step would be stop spending terabucks on breaking
>>> things and start spending terabucks on making things.
>> Whether or not the war was justified in some sense, it's simplistic
>> to describe the choices this way.
> Whether or not?  Surely you are not suggesting that there is any longer 
> a shred of doubt on this score.

I can hardly think of anything that at this point seems more a waste
of my time than debating the merits of the Iraq war, and so I won't.
Here I'm only  replying because of nature of your over-the-top
response, which is of psychological interest.

>> The problem, of course, is that the consequences of alternate
>> policies may be even more costly.  Surely this was the supposition
>> of those wishing to invade Iraq even as it was the supposition of
>> those wishing to attack Japan and Germany in 1941:
> Huh?  The cases are not remotely comparable.

I was *merely* attacking the implied notion that one can
evaluate costs simply, without taking into consideration the
"roads not taken". For my prison example, one can not
---at least to many people obviously not---simply say,
"Well, we shouldn't spend money hunting people down
and locking them up, because that is wasteful and doesn't
produce any positive result. The money instead should be
spend on schools and hospitals."

Now I do not, of course, mean to say that anyone is saying
that. But the reason that no one says that is that there would
be woeful costs associated with not pursueing criminals. The
costs would not be immediate, and probably could not be
reckoned as easy as budget items for police and prisons are.
The analogy is easy, nothing deep here:  we often must 
must take into accoutn the vague costs of not taking some
courses of action. In the Iraq war, for instance, one would
have to consider the likelihood that Saddam Hussein would
eventually have built a bomb, or that an arms race would
right now be going on between Iran and Iraq.  But I do not
mean at all to debate the likelihood of that---I simply am
affirming that these are---of course---what went or is going
though the minds of those who favored the invasion.

>> much more expensive by far than the current operations, it was
>> deemed that in the long run failing to take these actions would
>> have been even more expensive.
> What a pile of horse manure.  Do you actually believe anything you write 

Well, you seriously entertain the idea that I did not?

> or does it just flow from your fingertips while your mind is otherwise 
> occupied?

I can only serve this up as an illustration of absurd narrowmindedness:
How is it, I wonder to myself, that people become so wrapped up
in the conviction of the correctness of their own opinions---a form
of bigotry, really---that they begin to seriously entertain the idea that
those who disagree with them must not be sincere.

This kind of bigotry usually comes from hanging out with and 
exchanging ideas only with those with whom one agrees on
whatever topic is under consideration.  If you talk to enough
atheists, and (somehow!) never hear from religious people,
I suppose that folks naturally descend into "I cannot believe
that they really suppose that there actually is a supernational

IN short, I'm wondering just where I'd have to evolve to in
order to utter words like "Do you actually believe anything
you write or does it just flow from your fingertips while your
mind is otherwise occupied?".  Maybe if I had a really 
really bad day?  :-)


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list