Mozart vs Salieri Talent or Hard Work

mozart_and_salieriI was browsing through YouTube when I came across a clip from the movie Amadeus where Mozart plays a piece written by Salieri without any effort and then improves it within seconds. In the comment section below, someone mentioned how talent is better than hard work.

A number of other people immediately lambasted the original poster saying that talent was nothing more than a lot of hard work. I thought I’d examine the idea here today.

Let me relate a personal story. I was a pretty decent athlete as a young fellow. I had excellent hand-eye coordination, was moderately strong, and had decent foot speed. I loved sports and dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. In sixth grade I was playing flag football with some other kids and doing quite well when a talented athlete took the field. He literally ran circles around me. No matter how I tried I was unable to grab his flag. He was faster, quicker, and plain better. Not by a little either.

It was then the realization dawned upon me that I was not nearly as good as I imagined. I suppose this happens to almost everyone as they progress in their chosen field; athletics, music, sciences, writing, or anything else. As you get better so too does the competition. Hard work can only take you so far in this world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate of hard work. The superstars of the world combine both hard work and talent. Hard work will get you many places in life that talent alone will not. Plenty of talented people don’t work hard and fail to succeed. I’m just pointing out the reality of talent. You know it when you see it and you can’t get there by hard work.

What’s the lesson in all this? I think it’s important to understand your limitations. It’s fantastic to reach your maximum potential through hard work, study, and practice but it’s also good to recognize there are things beyond you. Understand these things you will never achieve, playing shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, are not personal failures. I just didn’t have enough talent to play major league baseball. That’s reality.

If I had worked harder I certainly could have done more with my athletic talent but I moved on to other things. I like to think I’m a pretty good writer and I work hard at that. I study the structure of good writing. I practice my craft regularly. I hope that I will enjoy success. That’s a good model to follow in life.

Do the things you enjoy doing. Work hard at them. Study and understand the best way to perform these things. But understand sometimes someone else is just better than you. And that’s ok. And so are you.

Tom Liberman

Lots of Hate for Julia Stephenson on Being Too Beautiful to be Faithful

julia-stephensonIn case you’re not fully aware, the Internet is filled with people willing to express their opinion. In the case of Julia Stephenson that opinion is almost universally negative. Stephenson wrote an article for the Daily Mail in which she lamented her physical attractiveness led to unfaithfulness and the end of her marriage.

As you can well imagine, the comments generally lashed out at her for not being particularly attractive and for laying the blame of her failed marriage on her beauty rather than the choices she made.

I decided I’d read her original article and get a feel for what she wrote. Not surprisingly the headline summations don’t really tell the real story. Yes, Stephenson blames her blossoming and the attentions of handsome men for the end of her marriage but she also accepts responsibility for it.

What’s interesting to me is the complete lack of objective reality that most of those commenting display. Someone who is good-looking is absolutely going to have more temptations to be unfaithful than someone who is less attractive and those temptations will be with people, well, more tempting.

I’d recommend reading Stephenson’s original article all the way through for it is not nearly as shallow or delusional as the headlines suggest. However, what I’d like to address is something called the Moralistic Fallacy. This fallacy is behind much of the criticism of Stephenson.

The idea is:

It is wrong to leave your spouse because someone else more attractive is suddenly available. Therefore it does not happen.

The only reason Stephenson left her husband is because she chose to do so. Her blossoming, gaining confidence, and having men of a social station and appearance that never before looked at her giving her attention had no bearing on her choice to end her marriage and engage in a series of short-term relationships.

This is simply people pretending that reality does not exist because reality is unpleasant. Certainly Stephenson chose to end her relationship and bears the responsibility for doing so, which she admits in her article. But it is clear that when suddenly presented with opportunities not available earlier, we all face difficult temptations. Certainly some resist, many do not.

I’m saying it’s absolute nonsense to pretend that changing circumstances do not influence behavior.

Stephenson left her husband for several reasons. One of which is that she had new opportunities available to her that she did not when she married him. It is not the only reason, of course. But it is certainly one of them and to pretend otherwise is to engage in a Moralistic Fallacy.

Are the Commenters Engaged in a Moralistic Fallacy

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Debbie Reynolds is not with Carrie Fisher

debbie-reynolds-carrie-fisher-minShe’s not. Debbie Reynolds might well have believed when she died she would be reunited with her daughter but she wasn’t. There’s a lesson here. For all of us, Atheist or no.

Debbie Reynolds was with her daughter. She raised Carrie Fisher to be the woman she became, flaws and all. She was with her every day of her life and she made a difference. She influenced Carrie Fisher. She shaped her. Carrie Fisher was her own woman but she was also a product of those who influenced her, and Debbie Reynolds was one of the most important.

You are a product of your life’s experiences but you are also your own person. You make your own decisions. We make your own way in this world and yet all those decisions, all those results are based to some degree on our friends, our family, our mother.

I’m an Atheist. I know there is nothing after life. There is nothing. Carrie and Debbie have not been reunited. Some might consider me a cold-hearted bastard. Perhaps I am. That doesn’t stop me from knowing that Carrie and Debbie are bound together, as are we with those we love. Those we admire. Those who influence our decision.

Does it make you feel better to think that Reynolds has been reunited with Fisher? Why?

Such fantasy does not soothe me nor will it ever.

Life is what we have. Make the most of it. As did Reynolds and Fisher.

That is what I conclude from events of the last two days. Life is what we have. Live it.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Tim Tebow and the Power of Self-Delusion

tim-tebow-patriotsThere’s an interesting story in the sports world about a fellow named Tim Tebow that is drawing a considerable amount of attention.

First a little background. Tebow was a star quarterback in college although his skills did not translate very well to the NFL. Many people predicted that, for various reasons, he would never make it as a quarterback in that league.

He was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos well above where scouts had rated him to be picked. His performance with the Broncos was statistically poor although the team won games with him at the helm and went to the playoffs. Eventually he was replaced by Peyton Manning and tried to gain employment with various other teams. It is this part of his story that garners my interest. Tebow was eventually signed by the New England Patriots who are quarterbacked by Tom Brady. Brady is considered by many as one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history.

In excerpts from his soon to be released novel Tebow expresses the idea that he thought he was going to be the quarterback of the future with New England. That he would learn from Brady, take over the team, and lead them to Super Bowl championships. Most people who watched Tebow play and practice consider this opinion delusional. By almost all standards of evidence they were correct. Tebow was cut by the Patriots in the preseason proving those doubters correct. But there’s more to it than that, I think. That’s what I want to examine. Is there something to be said for boundless optimism even if the evidence strongly negates hope?

It’s good to be confident in your abilities and to take on challenges that seem beyond your current skills. People who have this delusional belief in self often end up succeeding where those of a more grounded nature, me for example, would never even make the attempt. Of course, they end up failing spectacularly as well. That is the more general result of taking on a challenge that is beyond your skills.

It’s clear Tebow’s dreams of becoming a great quarterback and winning Super Bowls, just as his chances of being a major league baseball player, were and are extremely unlikely. But the idea of being a player in the NFL was not. He was a player in the NFL. He had high goals but went about achieving them by working at lower level goals. Making the team. Learning the offense. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t quit easily.

I write my novels and I work hard at it. I’ve written nine. I dream of my books selling millions of copies. I dream of movies and television shows being fashioned from them. Those dreams are about as likely as Tebow’s Super Bowl dreams. But I won’t quite writing. I’ll keep trying to become a better writer. I’ll try to write better novels. I’ll try to promote my novels and my blog.

Dream high but act realistically. Work hard but have alternate plans in case of failure. People who have delusions about their own abilities often succeed beyond all realistic expectations.

You never know, sometimes that self-delusion might somehow result in amazing success. Some of the greatest stories in history were made by people who were more than a bit self-delusional about their abilities.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

The End of Money

money-is-meaninglessYesterday I explained why I dream of a world with 100% unemployment and today I plan to explain how the End of Money will play a part in this process.

First it’s relatively important to understand the concept of money. Basically we use money in three ways.

As a Medium of Exchange, as a Unit of Account, and as a Store of Value

In essence we can trade things that are largely valueless for things with value. A piece of paper, a coin made of a metallic material, whatever, for things of intrinsic value like food and supplies. We can measure our wealth with stored assets, the worth of our business, etc.

It’s my opinion that eventually there will be no need for money. There will come a point when energy is largely limitless and free and with that comes the ability to manufacture and produce for a drastically lower price. When we can grow endless crops and transport them all around the world for virtually nothing there is no need to have a price on food. When fabricators in your house can create virtually any item you might want quickly and with only the need for raw materials there is no need for shopping or for goods at all for that matter.

Yes, I’m a Utopian.

The point is once we don’t need to buy things, when things are readily available for everyone, then there is no need for money. As a Randian Libertarian I’m of the opinion that money has served a valuable purpose in advancing society to the point where it no longer needs money. Money is one of the rewards for achievement and we want to encourage achievement. Eventually it will be an obsolete reward. The reward for achievement will simply be the great joy it brings us. When we accomplish we feel good about ourselves.

Some people will have robots to tend their perfect lawns and others will work on their gardens themselves simply for the great satisfaction they get from doing so. I will write my books not to make millions but to bring myself happiness and hopefully to entertain others. I will create and play in role-playing games for the enjoyment of doing so, not any financial gain.

This is a truer ideal than doing something for money. Money is certainly necessary today when there isn’t the abundance that is coming. Money is not evil or wrong. It’s just not the point. It’s ancillary to why we do things, why we achieve.

Imagine a world in which people can largely have whatever they want. Some people will want yachts and fancy houses but those are merely manifestations of the accumulation of wealth. When we no longer need wealth, we will be free to focus on the things that are truly important. When we have true and simple comfort then fancy becomes less valuable. We will focus on relationships with family, friends, and lovers. We will strive for achievement because we know it will bring us happiness. That will be a world indeed.

I suspect I won’t be alive to see it. But it’s coming.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

My Goal is 100% Unemployment

unemployment-is-goodYep. That’s the world I want to live in. A world where no one has to work.

Now it’s important to define what I mean by work. Work is what we do to make money. Not labor we perform. I’m a big believer in doing things, achieving things, building things, and general accomplishment. I think those are the things that make us happy. That being said; I think the general idea of unemployment is completely backwards. Economists, real ones and the armchair version that posts on Facebook and comments sections of news articles, are all wrong. Completely and totally wrong.

100% unemployment is the goal we need to seek, not 5% or whatever economists call healthy. We need machines to do all the work. We should be thrilled when they take away our jobs.

Imagine a world in which machines do all the labor and people are free to do as they please, that you have eighteen hours a day to be with your family, to be with your friends, to pursue your hobbies. What would you do? Work? No. Achieve at a never before seen level? Yes.

Again, it’s important to distinguish the idea of work from the idea of accomplishment. If I didn’t have to work I wouldn’t sit idly eating food. I’d go to the gym more often. I’d write more novels. I’d play more video games. I’d play more Dungeon and Dragons with my friends.

The question on your lips is one with which I’m familiar. Who would make the video games? Who would get the food?

It would be a combination of automated robots and people who like doing those things. There are many tens of thousands of people out there working on video game projects because they enjoy it. They release them as Open Source Freeware. Just as my novels would be free for all to enjoy. Farmers largely enjoy their labors. They love growing the food and knowing it is feeding people. It gives them great fulfillment, as well it should. Sure robots would do a lot of that but there are plenty of people in this world who love  doing things. Not necessarily working but achieving.

When people are free to achieve all day long why would you imagine productivity would go down? I’m going to write about the End of Money tomorrow but for the moment imagine you don’t have to make money to survive. Would you just sit around all day doing nothing? Perhaps a few among us would do so but I think the vast majority would use that free time to pursue productive ends. They would learn new languages, gather with friends to make music, improve their bodies and minds.

Imagine a world with 100% unemployment. I do.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Friendship vs Politics

friendshipIt’s been a rather awful political season and I’ve seen any number of friendships tested because of political differences. I’m a Libertarian so that means most of my friends think I’m an idiot. And, obviously, most of my friends actually are idiots! 😉

So I’m pondering the nature of friendship.

It’s one of the most important concepts in human history. It is friendship that binds people together. Friends find one another and choose to stay together. You are born to a family but you pick your friends. You pick them. Over the course of your life you keep some and lose others. In this modern age of communication it’s possible to maintain friendships with no concern for physical proximity.

These good friends will be with you for the bulk of your life. They help you overcome adversity. They go forth on adventures with you. They work with you and help you succeed in every aspect of life. In many ways they are more important than family. I think it can be argued that your friends are the most valued and treasured things in your life. More than anything else.

Aside from physics and a bit of biology; friendship built this world upon which you reside. Friendship created virtually every thing you value. Friendship.

Politics? Whatever.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

What is Loyalty?

loyaltyThe 2016 presidential election in the United State is certainly a depressing, if blog generating, affair. The latest turn has Donald Trump accusing Republicans like Paul Ryan of being disloyal. Loyalty is a topic that I examine thoroughly in several of my novels including The Broken Throne and The Gray Horn.

I can unequivocally state that loyalty is a quality that we should all admire. The dictionary definition of loyalty does not truly convey what the word means. It is one of the things that holds the fabric of society together.

The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.

Loyalty takes on many forms but at its essence it means that we trust and support people in our lives. It is being there when friends are in need. It is understanding that we can have disagreements but still be there. It is sacrificing our own well-being to ensure that those we love are safe or have things they need. It can be loyalty to a nation, to an idea, to a group, and to an individual.

I consider myself loyal to my Libertarian ideology. I take abuse for my thoughts. Quite a number of people who I consider friends have called me stupid to my face for such beliefs. I don’t hate them for it. I’m angry but if they needed my help I’d be there regardless. I’m loyal to the ideas of the United States even when things like the Patriot Act are part of that nation. I don’t agree. I fight against such things but I remain loyal to the ideas of the nation.

Loyalty is a good thing and we should surround ourselves with people who respect the idea. Who practice the idea. But we must be careful of those who speak most strenuously of loyalty and yet do not show any themselves. They are the thugs of the world who use words like loyalty and honor to manipulate those of us who respect such ideas into doing their bidding while in turn showing no such traits themselves.

In my novel The Sword of Water Jon Gray speaks rather directly to this idea in an important speech. I won’t repeat it here. Buy the book and read it. But the idea of his speech is very important.

There are certain people in this world who have no honor, no loyalty, who betray, back stab, and destroy anyone at anytime in order to further their own selfish ends. Thugs. They are to be particularly noted in that they condemn anyone who makes even the slightest objection to their rise as not having such traits. They understand the honorable and loyal will fall on the sword so to speak. That’s what good people do. Thugs manipulate that idea for their own gain.

I imagine you can see where I’m going with this. Donald Trump is the most disloyal human I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t pay his bills, he attacks former allies at the drop of a hat, he sues anyone at any time. He fires off hate filled diatribes at the slightest insult.

I understand there are many loyal people out there who defend Trump because they support the Republican Party or they support one or more causes in which they align with Trump. That’s fine. That’s your business. Vote for who you will.

I can only tell you one thing. Don’t expect that loyalty to be returned.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Never Had it so Good

life-is-goodAs I read the news, take in the comments, watch the pundits, and listen to friends and strangers something strikes me quite powerfully. What I’m about to say might hurt your feelings. I don’t much care.

Never in the history of the world have so many people had it so good. Never have so many had access to astonishing medical care. Access to decent housing. Access to enough food to eat. Gallons of clean water to use and waste. Never has it been so good. Here in the United States we are fortunate beyond our ability to comprehend. We have more things, more leisure time, a greater ability to do as we please, than at any time in the history of this nation. Black, white, atheist, jew, or poor, it doesn’t matter.

Right now it is quite likely you have it better than a historically similar person has ever had it.

And yet in all the history of people suffering far more than you or I have; I can’t imagine any of them complained, whined, and blamed others more than we do. We are the most Ungrateful Generation. Our suffering is nothing compared to those who passed before and yet we whine all the more. We blame everyone else for problems that fifty years ago were trivial nothings.

Nothings!

And we are angry that we get whiny, complaining, blame everyone else politicians? They are us. We are the Ungrateful Many.

Life is great. Not perfect certainly. The sky is not falling despite what you are hearing. The only crisis is the one in your mind.

A great man said it well. The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. Anyone who spouts differently is trying to manipulate you. Don’t let them.

Now go enjoy the bounty of this world, this country.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

 

I know I shouldn’t but …

say-what-you-meanOne of my Facebook friends just shared a post from one of her friends that started off with the following sentence: I know I should not … but I can’t help myself.

What a coward.

I am using the word coward intentionally and I mean it. I am not being sarcastic. I am not trying to tell a joke. I am not saying something I know I shouldn’t but doing it anyway. Why? Because I am exhibiting a character trait called personal responsibility. I am standing behind my words and saying what I want without pretending that I’m not saying it. I’m not a coward.

I’m ranting a little bit today because this business of “I was being sarcastic”, “I was just kidding”, “I was telling a joke”, “I know I shouldn’t but …”, “No offense but …”, are all cowardly and dishonest. Using such words demonstrates a complete lack of character.

If you know you shouldn’t be saying something, I’ve got a recommendation. Hopefully you can figure it out.

If you say something nasty and vile about someone that turns out to be false I’ve got some advice for you. Apologize. Don’t claim you were joking.

I’m not saying that a joke never goes awry because sometimes it does. I’m just suggesting people take responsibility for their words. Don’t preface it with “I don’t mean to be insulting but …”, “No offense intended but …”.

Those are the words of cowards. People who don’t have the courage of their conviction. If you don’t like my opinion then let me know and tell me why with good arguments. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize. That being said, this post represents what I meant to say. It is not a joke. It is not something I know I shouldn’t say.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Two Games for One Date

male-and-female-tinderLately I’ve been using Tinder, without a lot of success, to meet women but I have noticed an interesting sociological interplay. I’m working on a pretty small sample size and if everything I mention in this blog is horribly wrong, please don’t hesitate to eviscerate me in the comments.

What I’ve noticed is the women with whom I make an initial connection ask me a lot of questions. A lot. I, on the other hand, ask a few questions but pretty much spend all my time telling the prospective date about me and my peculiarities. It seems like both of us are playing the same game, for lack of a better word, but we are playing by completely different rules.

Basically I’m hoping to meet the woman for perhaps a drink and a bite to eat. If it turns out we’re incompatible, I’m simply out the price of her preferred drink and a few appetizers. If it turns out she’s an absolute nut, I have a great story for my friends later.

But what about her? What does she have to lose? A quick perusal of any news channel indicates that she has to fear bodily harm, rape, kidnapping, and murder. Those are pretty high stakes indeed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asserting that women are completely non-violent and are incapable of meeting a man for a date and doing him harm. I’m just saying that the possibility is so low on my radar that I don’t even consider it when texting on Tinder. I imagine that it’s pretty much the opposite for a woman.

I don’t have any deep philosophical revelations based on this observation. No meaningful insights. Just something I noticed. It gives me a small window into the world of being a woman. An unpleasant reality in some ways.

Maybe I’m wrong. It’s certainly possible.

What do you think?

Are my observation on Tinder interactions accurate?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Binary or not Binary

binary-problemsThis world is made up of two kinds of people.

  1. Morons who think things are binary
  2. The enlightened who understand things are not binary.

And, to be clear, morons, I’m one of the enlightened non-binaries. You, fool reading this, are a binary cave dweller.

See!

Do you see!!

There’s just two kinds of people. The enlightened people who realize everything is not binary, like me. Because we’re better than you (just in case you weren’t following). And then there’s the rest of you idiots. There is no middle ground. I want to be very clear on this.

It’s us intelligent, kind, thinking, non-binaries who understand the world isn’t a zero or a one and the rest of you, who we hate (to be clear). You are stupid and wrong about everything!!!!!! And we’re smart and right about everything!!!!!!

I hope I’ve cleared things up for you, binary idiots. Now, I’m going to go have some overpriced coffee with my non-binary friends where we will make fun of you and call you stupid.

Have a nice day, because, you see, I’m a good person who is just making the world a better place.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Life Ain’t Fair – Just ask Hikaru Nakamura

gary-kasparovI wrote a blog post about a chess player named Hikaru Nakamura who was penalized for breaking a rule in chess a few weeks back and something happened yesterday that painfully illustrates the old adage that life just ain’t fair.

In that case Nakamura moved his piece, took his hand off of it, and then tried to further move it. His opponent, Levon Aronian, immediately called this a violation and Nakamura was forced to put his piece on the original square. This cost him the game.

Tough but fair. Them’s the rules. Or are they?

Nakamura just finished playing in the United States Chess Championship where he finished in a tie for second place. After the match the tournament scheduled a special Blitz Chess match between the top three players in the tournament and legendary chess player Gary Kasparov.

Kasparov is 53 years old and has been largely retired from chess competitions for the last ten years. He is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game and some consider him the clear best. That, of course, is debatable.

Well, why today’s blog? Because in a Blitz matchup against Nakamura; Kasparov did exactly the same thing as Nakamura did in his match against Aronian. Nakamura saw him do it and a wry expression came across his face. Why? Because he was totally screwed.

If Nakamura called the legendary Kasparov for the rules violation, everyone is going to consider Nakamura a bad guy. While there is a fairly large amount of money available to the winner of the Blitz tournament, it is largely an exhibition for fans to watch one of the all time greats take on some of the best United States players of today. If Nakamura doesn’t call Kasparov then he is throwing away an important advantage.

Well, Hikaru, I don’t have to tell you, life ain’t fair.

That is today’s lesson people. Sometimes you have to give life a wry smile and move on. I feel for you Hikaru. At least this one blogger thinks you made the right call, however, if it happens again, throw down the hammer!!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Chet Hanks and Being Responsible for Someone Else’s Actions

chet-tom-hanks-rita-wilsonA man is suing Tom and Rita Hanks because their son, Chet, reportedly caused a car accident that injured that man. I’d like to examine the idea that a third party can be held responsible for the actions of another person.

Tom Hanks and his wife are the registered owners of the car Chet was driving. Chet has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. The main thrust of the argument is that by purchasing a car and insurance for Chet, they enabled him to drive. Without their intervention he would not have been able to drive a vehicle and thus would not have been in the accident.

The lawsuit brought to my mind the idea of suing someone for what in legal terms is largely called negligence. Negligence law is quite complex and I could get quite bogged down in minutia. I want to avoid that.

There are many situations most people can agree whether a third party is or is not negligent. I’ll give an example of both.

Your friend comes to you and asks to borrow your firearm (or kitchen knife) so they can shoot (or stab) someone else and you give it to them without question. I think most people would say that you are partially responsible for the ensuing murder.

Your friend borrows your firearm (or kitchen knife) to go practice at the shooting range (or cut vegetables) but then shoots (or stabs) someone else. I think most people would agree you did not behave in a negligent fashion.

At what point am I responsible for someone else’s harmful actions? That’s the question. That’s the legal line of negligence. It’s not an easy question. Each case must be adjudicated on its merits. And yet, I think there is an answer.

The larger, and better, answer is that we are not responsible for another person’s actions. They alone are responsible. If I provide that person with the means to commit a crime (the car in this case), there is no way to say they wouldn’t have acquired those means via another avenue. Chet could have purchased his own vehicle and gotten insurance. He could have stolen a car. He could have driven without insurance.

If a friend comes to me saying they want to murder someone and I immediately loan them my gun, I am not responsible for the ensuing murder. I didn’t do it nor did I encourage or manipulate my friend into doing it. I am certainly guilty of being a horrible person. I never should have loaned them the firearm. I should have tried to talk them out of it. I should have called the police to alert them. I should have called the target and warned them. I’ve failed as a person on many levels but I did not commit murder.

And yet there is a victim. Someone’s life was changed or ended. The family and friends of the murder victim. Maybe the victim survived but is in a vegetative state or crippled. Their life has been fundamentally and irreversibly changed. If it was one of my sisters or friends I would be extraordinarily angry at the negligent third party who gave the murderer the firearm. But would that person be guilty of negligence and owe me money?

I say no. I say you can’t be responsible for another person’s actions unless you intentionally manipulate them into doing something. We must all be responsible for our own actions.

It’s a tough concept to swallow and I understand people will disagree. My final argument is to ask if negligence laws prevent people from criminal activity? If Tom and Rita Hanks are held financially responsible for Chet’s alleged mistakes does that make the world a safer place? If parents around the nation who have children with alcohol or drug dependencies stop getting cars for their dependents will it stop the children from driving? Or will it cause more problems as said children need transport and resort to whatever methods required to get it?

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Fallacy Saturday – Confirmation Bias

confirmation biasI just read what appears to be a well thought out article from the Huffington Post about the decline of Olive Garden restaurants and the meaning this has for our overall economy. At first read it appears completely reasonable but it’s not. Happily it gives me the opportunity to talk about an incredibly important logical fallacy called Confirmation Bias.

The article itself looks into the declining market for Olive Garden and Red Lobster which are owned by Darden Restaurants. It then compares them to their high-end Capital Grill restaurants that saw growth in the most recent quarter. It then concludes that because the middle-class catering restaurants are seeing declining sales and the high-end restaurants are increasing this clearly means that the middle-class is suffering while the upper-class is thriving.

I’m not going to say the argument is completely false but it’s a classic example of Confirmation Bias. Yes, Olive Garden and Red Lobster have seen dramatic losses in the last few years but at the same time Fast Casual restaurants like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Panera (or St. Louis Bread Company as we call it here in St. Louis) are growing by leaps and bounds. These are clearly not high-end restaurants.

So what is Confirmation Bias? It’s the willingness to look only at facts that support your preconceived notion and either ignore or simple refuse to look at other factors that might not support your hypothesis.

It’s a very easy fallacy to fall into. When you see a post on Facebook that confirms what you believe there is the instant urge to Share and Like that post without even reading the article that is behind. This almost happened to me in regards to an article about Hospice Care that a friend posted on Facebook. When I went and actually read the article I saw that it was heavily biased.

We so badly want to believe that certain things are true that we are willing to accept any evidence that supports this point of view while ignoring those facts that seem to contradict our hoped for conclusion. This is an extremely dangerous fallacy. Just ask the brave men and women who served our country in Iraq ostensibly because they were going to stamp out the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

This fallacy is pervasive in today’s political culture where ideology trump facts. When we make important political decisions based on what we want to be true then we are doomed to making horrific mistakes.

What I’m saying is that the reason Olive Garden and Red Lobster are struggling might be because of the changes in economics for the Middle Class but there are likely other reasons as well. Certainly other Middle Class aimed restaurants are doing quite well. I’m sure there are a number of fine-dining establishments that aren’t doing very well. Can we assume the rich have less money?

The next time you hear someone make a claim that seems to support your position pause for a moment. Examine the facts from a Critical Thinking perspective. Do your homework. Think twice before Sharing that Facebook post.

The bottom line is that when we make better decisions we experience more favorable outcomes. Better decisions are driven by complete information. When we fall into the trap of fallacies we make worse decisions. When the people of a nation make bad decision after bad decision there are bound to be serious repercussions.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Mt. Everest – Am I Orville Wright if I fly a Plane?

Norgay atop EverestThere’s an awful story in the news about a group of people killed in an avalanche at Mount Everest and it made me consider the nature of achievement.

The tragedy killed at least thirteen Sherpa guides on the mountain last week. When I first read the story I wondered why only guides were killed and no climbers. It’s because climbing Mount Everest has become more of an expensive tourist attraction than a glorious achievement.

The Sherpas were setting up ropes and supply camps along the route that the “climbers” were to take later this year. Getting to the summit of Mount Everest was once a very difficult thing and required tremendous skill, stamina, and sheer guts. The first men atop the mountain were Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and his companion New Zealand mountain climber Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953. The courage of those men and the others before them who failed or died trying is not to be doubted.

On May 23, 2010 a total of 169 people reached the summit. That one day total represented more people than had been to the top since the first summit in 1953.

At this point the well-funded tourists wait in line to get to the top aided by the Sherpas who set up equipment and ropes for them to use. It is still an arduous trip to be certain but is it an achievement? That’s my question.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first to fly a plane. A lot of people fly planes today and it is still an accomplishment. Getting your pilot’s license is not easy. Ascending to the top of Mount Everest is not easy.

A real achiever by the name of Reinhold Messner said, … a mountain without danger is not a mountain.

So why are people with little to no climbing experience paying up to $80,000 to get to the top of Mount Everest? Why are they waiting in line on the few good days a year it’s possible to reach the peak?

I think it’s because they yearn to achieve something great. That’s a fantastic and deeply ingrained human desire. Each time I near the completion of a new novel I dream that it will be lauded as a great piece of literature to be read throughout the ages. I dream about making riches as well, but the underpinning is always the idea that I will have accomplished something that gives others inspiration and joy.

This is a wellspring of humanity that Ayn Rand speaks about in her novels. This is the underlying force that drives the philosophy of Objectivism. It’s not about gaining wealth and fame, it’s about driving oneself to the be the best human one can be. It’s about doing great things and the sense of worth that it gives us. It’s about achieving.

I’m convinced this fundamental drive is in each of us. That in order to make this world a Utopia we just need to convince everyone that their happiness derives from their achievements in life. That as more people become like Norgay, like Hillary, and like Messner, the rest of us will join them for the ride!

Follow your dreams. Dare to be great but do it in a practical way. Make your plans and carry them out with determination.

Greatness awaits and the reward is a life filled with joy.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

A Glint of Light Equals Aliens … Why?

Mars speck of lightThere’s a news story making the rounds which I’ve been ignoring because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to add to the conversation. I’ve changed my mind.

About a week ago Curiosity took a picture on Mars in which there is a glint of light on the horizon. A picture taken a day later from the same position did not show the glint. There are a number of explanations as to what caused the glint but I’m not going to talk about the rational explanations. Nor am I going to spend much time talking about the theories that it represents aliens living underground on Mars who somehow caused the anomaly.

I want to talk about why anyone would think that a speck of a light in a picture taken on Mars might be evidence of alien life. Not whether or not the light is or isn’t such evidence, but why anyone would think that it was such proof.

Mars is a barren world with barely any atmosphere. We’ve landed any number of vessels on the planet itself and spaceships with high-resolution cameras are constantly orbiting Mars taking pictures. We first sent a robotic ship by Mars in 1965.

Earth bound telescopes have been trained on Mars since 1672 and have only gotten sharper in resolution and more available to amateurs. Radiation bombards the planet relentlessly. Water is likely present but only deep below the surface. There are no signs of a civilization on the surface, no signs of animals or plants, no chemical signatures indicating living creatures.

So why, why would anyone think that a glint of light in one picture is anything other than sunlight bouncing off a shiny rock? Or an illusion of photography? Anyone who has taken a picture with a camera on earth knows that light is a tricky fellow.

When you go to the store and a somethings inexplicably falls off a shelf nearby do you assume that it was Bigfoot lurking in the next aisle using telekinetic powers to alert you of an upcoming Supervolcanic eruption? Or do you shrug your shoulders and assume that something was perched precariously and a small vibration sent it to the ground?

What is the psychological makeup of someone who immediately leaps to the most unlikely explanation? What are they thinking? Are they thinking at all?

That’s my question. I don’t know that I have a good answer. I know that my mind always looks for the most logical explanation to any event and a thriving community of intelligent creatures living beneath the surface of Mars and pointing their flashy lights at the rover would never, ever, have crossed my mind when I saw that picture.

That being said, I think this sort of thinking is not unusual. Everyday I read about or actually experience someone who believes absolutely unlikely things in lieu of a very reasonable explanation.

I’m of the opinion that people largely believe what they want to believe over factual evidence. If a person wants there to be Martians then that person is going to grasp at every ridiculous explanation to believe Martians exist.

I ask you an important question: What would the world be like if people only believed what the evidenced suggested and threw out their preconceived notions?

It’s a world I dream about. It’s a world that I believe can exist. I’m certain people are capable of thinking rationally all the time. Of making decisions based on factual evidence.

I see a world like this in our future. When disease is eradicated, energy is abundant and cheap, the population static with food for all. Automated machines doing the work people don’t want to do. Free people living eternal lives dedicated to achievement.

The novels I write are about a Sword and Sorcery fantasy world but there are characters in that world seeking the same thing I’m seeking in this one. There are those that thwart them. You should read my books and maybe you’ll see that same world I see in my mind’s eye. That endless Utopia where humans stand astride the galaxy always striving to be better, ever better.

Do you want to live in that world?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

What’s the Best Thing that happened to you Today?

Happy MomentAs I walked into my yoga class today the instructor asked me the following question: What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

People have accused me of being too literal, of over-thinking, and of other general traits wherein I take something apparently simple and make it difficult. I’ll run through my thoughts about that question and then you let you decided if I do exhibit such traits.

So, what did I think when asked that seemingly simple question?

Today is the day I published my new website and that was pretty nice but the act of publishing was not a particularly great accomplishment. All the work I did in making it, building the pages, styling, creating the navigation, writing the content, and more led up to a relatively simple moment.

Once the site was published came the task of trying to figure what was wrong, with the help of Dave Mueller, and fixing it. Eventually most of the mistakes were ironed out but a few tasks need still be finished.

So I asked myself, what was the best part of all of that, and was any of it better than the fact that on a snowy, blustery, bad driving sort of day I timed every light perfectly and barely slowed down all the way from my driveway to my favorite parking spot at work?

So much happens to us in a day and most of it is good. The alarm goes off when it could have failed. The power stayed on overnight and everything was warm when I awoke despite the cold outside. Was this the “best” thing that happened to me all day? For if the power went out and I woke to a frozen house with bursting pipes,well certainly that would have been much worse than delaying my website for a day.

Many people when asked about the best thing that ever happened to them will recall weddings, graduations, births of children, and things of this nature but none of them happened in isolation from the rest of life. You did not instantly marry your spouse but made a series of decisions, presumably good ones, that led to that moment. Is there in fact such a thing as a best thing in a day or a life?

Each incident is part of the whole. How am I to rank them? In my drive to work which of the several green lights I arrived at in succession was the best? Were they all equal? Was the last the best? The first?

I ran these thoughts by my yoga instructor who looked at me with wide eyes, I didn’t think I was asking that complicated a question, she said.

That’ll teach her. Ha!

Then I realized my answer. The question was the answer. For the question inspired me to think, and thinking is the thing I love the most. It also inspired me to write this blog and I truly enjoy writing this blog.

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Personal Responsibility – The Libertarian Ideal

ResponsibilityEarlier today I posted about a law recently passed here in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri in which a person caught texting and driving will face maximum penalties of $10,000 in fines and ninety days in prison.

I immediately got into several discussions, both social media and face-to-face, about the merits of my ideas. My theory was that the real problem was Inattentive Driving and that texting while driving was only one example. That by passing a law very specifically aimed at this one kind of Inattentive Driving the municipality was opening itself to some trouble.

The idea is that an officer would be responsible for upholding the law. If a person was texting but the car wasn’t moving; they would be in violation of the law. Also, an officer would be obligated to write a citation for a less-distracted driver texting and not so obligated for a more distracted driver who say, had a wasp fly in the window and land in his lap (I speak from experience).

I argued that a law against Inattentive Drive was broader in reach and would allow law enforcement officers to use their judgment and common sense in handing out citations.

The thrust of most of the arguments against my method were two-fold. One was that of all the events that distract a driver it was texting that was the most likely to cause an accident and therefore the best bang for the buck. The other was that my law against Inattentive Driving left far too much discretion in the hands of the officer of the law. That laws needed to written so that there could be no confusion carrying them out.

In particular the second objection speaks to the very heart of the Libertarian ideal.

It is the bad apple spoils the barrel philosophy, the zero-tolerance philosophy, the mandatory minimum sentencing strategy. The idea is that we cannot trust individuals to make decisions therefore we must pass restrictions narrowly and take power away from the individual. Your daughter was thrown out of school for having a Tylenol? Not my fault, zero-tolerance. You were ticketed for texting while stopped in a traffic jam? Not my fault, just upholding the ordinance. You were given ten years for having a small amount of marijuana? Not my fault, it’s the law.

These kinds of laws are made with the best intentions but largely take us into a Libertarian nightmare. It seems self-evident to me that as we give people less and less responsibility they will be less and less responsible.

I suggest we give people more responsibility and if, and only if, they prove untrustworthy should we take it away. If there’s a bad apple in the barrel, then throw that one apple away. If an officer hands out a ridiculous Inattentive Driving citation using my broad law then bring in the officer for more training. If the officer persists, fire them.

Libertarianism works when people are responsible. People become responsible in one way. By being given responsibility and being held accountable for their actions with that responsibility. If they handle it well they deserve promotions, upwards movement into management where they will train others such responsibility. If they don’t; they will be trained, disciplined, and eventually fired.

The heart of my argument is that by passing Bad Apple laws we are lessening the likelihood for just outcomes by increasing the number of people in the world who do not know how to behave responsibly. I freely admit that passing broad laws opens them to possible misuse. However, I argue that narrow laws designed around the Bad Apple principle eventually result in a far more unjust society.

In the ideal Libertarian world everyone does what is right because doing what is right is in their long-term best interest. You don’t have to tell me that this world will never be. I realize this.

It just seems to me that if we want a more fair world, a more just world, a world wherein people behave responsibly and ethically; the path is not to micromanage people’s lives. It is to give people an understanding of what it takes to succeed and of how ethical behavior benefits all society in the long run.

If you want a strong society then give people responsibility, don’t take it away.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Garden of Eden, to Stay or Leave?

Garden of EdenI wrote a post about the nature of Satanists not long ago and in it I discussed their belief that Satan offered humans a real life outside the Garden of Eden when he suggested that Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of Knowledge. I wanted to explore the idea of Garden of Eden as it is understood from a religious perspective.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I am an Atheist. I don’t believe the Garden of Eden existed. I don’t believe God exists. I don’t believe Satan exists. I don’t believe that mankind started with Adam and Eve or that they had to make a decision about eating of the Tree of Knowledge. However, there are a lot of people who do believe that particularly story and this is what I want to discuss.

If you believe the story of Adam and Eve is true, then, facing a similar circumstance what choice would you make?

In the Garden of Eden man was created and tends the garden. For this duty man is granted a life of eternal ease, free of both good and evil. Man has everything provided for him. He is immortal. Adam and Eve frolic throughout the Garden of Eden in what those of a religious mind will tell is a Utopia.

God forbids Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge telling them that if they do so, they are doomed to die. He does not also tell them that all their children will be bathed in this sin and forever tainted and evil unless they ask forgiveness from God, Original Sin.

So, that’s the scene. You are living in a beautiful and fertile garden. Everything you want is there and you are not troubled by danger, death, disease, or wild animal. You are immortal. You will live forever and your one duty is to tend the garden. There are no books to read because knowledge is evil. You are a pet.

Satan comes along and tells you that the Tree of Knowledge, which has been forbidden to you by the master of the house, will free your mind to experience life but that this experience is not all good. There are many bad things outside the garden. That in order to experience the good in life beyond the garden you must be willing to accept the bad as well.

If you eat of the Tree of Knowledge you will know good and be able to enjoy it fully but also know evil and feel its pain.

What would you choose?

Herein rests one of my major problems with Judeo-Christian-Islamic philosophy. Not only has God created a couple of mindless pets so that he can enjoy watching them but he has placed the ability to become much more in their midst and forbid them from partaking in it. Any parent who place a toy in a room and tells their child not to play with that toy knows the result of such foolish behavior.

Even worse, because Adam and Eve make the right choice, they choose to live life fully rather than as pets of God, he punishes all of their children for eternity. This is not a God I would want to worship even if I thought for a moment he existed. This is a vindictive god who little understands his creation and merely wants slavering love with no actual thought behind it.

This is a vile creature. This is the thing that so many religious people worship. Not only do I not believe in your God but if he were to come forward and show me his existence I would tell him to go crawl back into his hole. I will eat of the Tree of Knowledge. I will suffer pain. I will lead my life on my terms, fully and completely. I reject your Garden. I reject your damnation. I reject your philosophy.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne