Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Nassim Nicholas Talib's "Skin in the Game" looks like a "moral" sequel to my own DADT series!!

I don’t like to indulge in previewing books I haven’t read yet, but I saw Arnold Kling’s review on Foundation for Economic Education for Nassam Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life” , link here

The article focuses on Taleb’s “Silver Rule” which is a contrapositive of Jesus’s Golden Rule – don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have done to you.
I received the hardcover book from Random House through Amazon yesterday and started spot skimming it. 

I am rather impressed that his world view of morality so closely matches mine, especially in the last of my DADT books (“Speech is a fundamental right; being listened to is a privilege”). Indeed, I've made a lot of "speech asymmetry" which can leverage the influence of otherwise obscure individuals who never "paid their dues".  And that kind of asymmetry can morph into security asymmetry (start out by pondering the weapons and gun debate).  
The “skin in the game” title specifically and bluntly refers to the idea that people (especially in “privilege”) often take advantage of the risk taking of others, risks that they aren’t willing to share.
Like on p 189, his overview of virtue is – avoid virtue signaling and rent-seeking, and start your own business.  “You must start a business”.
Indeed, a lot of criticism of my own “publishing business model”, if you want to call it that, seems to come from the fact that I am not very interested in volume of transactions with real people.  Or with directly approaching anyone to sell things.  It’s good enough to be found.  But that seems morally suspect, perhaps, in its implications.
I also think there is a real speech issue:  On p 28, he writes “Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk”.  (Sounds like the second part of my own DADT-III title.) On p 33 “If you do not takje risks for your opinion, you are nothing.” And so on.

On. p. 186 of my own DADT III book I had written (2013), “Moral normality requires that everyone have their own ‘skin in the game’ of the whole group.”  Tribalism??

I think of Charles Murray, who said some similar things in his 2012 book “Coming Apart” – and Murray is one of those “Dangerous” (Milo-like) speakers banned from some campuses.

One point of a “real” business formally open to the public (like a McDonalds franchise) is that it is supposed to meet real needs of other people because they will pay for volumes of the items (that reasoning is far from perfect).  You could say the same about expecting people to get on your email list in these days of fearing spam – you can meet their needs.

But there’s also the question of having direct responsibility for others who depend on you.  In conservative talk, that usually starts with having children in traditional marriage – except that it needs to start earlier, and then in adult life, sometimes other people’s children should be your direct concern, despite our “mind your own business” style of individualism.  We get back to campus speech codes and calls to regulate hate speech – interpreted so broadly as meaning you have no right to address an issue that doesn’t affect you unless you will march with the oppressed or walk in their shoes.

I got into self-publishing and writing with a kind of issue creep – starting with my own ironic history concerning the male-only draft (during most of the Vietnam era, student deferments kept softer skin out of the game) and then the debate on gays in the military in the 1990s – and spread to everything.  A lot of policy issues (eldercare, paid family leave) come down to dealing with the fact we have very unequal responsibilities for others – and this cuts across all “intersectionalities” – although it probably hits “people of color” harder.  The “incel” issue may really become ground zero for Taleb’s ideas.

But remote issues can affect you more than you think.  Many things are your business – avoiding ruin and catastrophe which others can cause.  Suppose Trump, for example, mishandles North Korea and we do endure an EMP attack.  That’s just one idea of ruin.
I do remember the end of Aronofsky’s  movie “Black Swan” with Tchaikowsky’s trumph reigning down (Dec 2010)

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