Sunday, April 12, 2009

Incomplete Post:
Nattering Nabob

Jim Manzi.

CF. I love this picture. It confirms everything I was thinking from reading his posts at National Review Online. Kind of reminds me of Clinton's Esquire cover, though without the "below-the-belt" connotation. His perpetual hard-on lives in his brain. Of course, he's an estimable intellect:

Jim Manzi is CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company. Prior to founding APT, Mr. Manzi was a Vice President at Mercer Management Consulting where he spent ten years directing corporate strategy assignments across a wide array of industries on five continents. He was previously employed in the Data Networks Division of AT&T Laboratories where he developed PC-based pattern recognition software. Mr. Manzi has published articles on science and business topics in National Review and National Review Online. He received a B.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was subsequently awarded a Dean's Fellowship in statistics to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as one of the eight top matriculants to the school's doctoral programs.

A week or so ago, I promised a post on the "complex virtues of certain kinds of simple-mindedness." This is that post. Jim Manzi is Exhibit A. I'm going to offer only two pieces of evidence. The first is a secondhand summary of his views on Global Warming, though more concise than he tends to be.

Jim Manzi's article for the National Review is one of the most intelligent descriptions I've seen of a plausible conservative response to global warming. The National Review isn't readily available in the United Kingdom but if you are at university or otherwise have access to LexisNexis it is available over that service. The article was in the issue of June 25 and is titled "Game Plan - What conservatives should do about global warming".

The first thing Jim Manzi does is correctly identify the stage of the argument that it is most productive for conservatives to address: what we do about global warming rather than whether it exists.

This is clearly the right position to take. There is room for doubt over global warming and the question of how much warming there will be remains deeply uncertain. However, the political debate has moved on and most non-scientists more interested in the political debate can engage far more effectively on the question of what to do about global warming, a question rooted in politics and economics, than they can in the scientific debate. [boldface added, along with this reference and this datum:


The second is a summary of his views, in his own words, on the current "torture" controversy:

It seems to me that the real question is whether torture works strategically; that is, is the U.S. better able to achieve these objectives by conducting systematic torture as a matter of policy, or by refusing to do this? Given that human society is complex, it’s not clear that tactical efficacy implies strategic efficacy.

When you ask the question this way, one obvious point stands out: we keep beating the torturing nations. The regimes in the modern world that have used systematic torture and directly threatened the survival of the United States — Nazi Germany, WWII-era Japan, and the Soviet Union — have been annihilated, while we are the world’s leading nation. The list of other torturing nations governed by regimes that would like to do us serious harm, but lack the capacity for this kind of challenge because they are economically underdeveloped (an interesting observation in itself), are not places that most people reading this blog would ever want to live as a typical resident. They have won no competition worth winning. The classically liberal nations of Western Europe, North America, and the Pacific that led the move away from systematic government-sponsored torture are the world’s winners.

Now, correlation is not causality. Said differently, we might have done even better in WWII and the Cold War had we also engaged in systematic torture as a matter of policy. Further, one could argue that the world is different now: that because of the nature of our enemies, or because of technological developments or whatever, that torture is now strategically advantageous. But I think the burden of proof is on those who would make these arguments, given that they call for overturning what has been an important element of American identity for so many years and through so many conflicts.

I submit that both these items illustrate the phenomenon that it is possible to be so damn smart you're a total idiot...

[For the completion of this post, go here.]

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