Polygamy in Nature and Religion

January 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Religion | Leave a comment

If you look at the animal kingdom, there is an observable pattern to recognize some animals are polygynous, the male having multiple mates, and some that are polyandrous, the female has multiple mates. Note this pattern: When the female is larger like in bees, ants, and humpback whales, then the female has multiple mates. When the male is larger, as in chickens, lions, to lionfish, males mate with multiple females.

If you create a monogamous pairing of chickens with only one rooster and one hen, then the rooster will mount the hen too frequently, causing stress to the hen, often creating a bald spot of plucked back feathers, and it will reduce her egg production. For chickens, the rooster to hen ratio is generally best at one to five or one to ten. With human males being about 15% larger than human females, you would biologically expect humans to be slightly polygamous, and when monogamous, for females to be stressed with too much sex, or males to be frustrated with too little.

Many people see Christianity as the primary source of strict monogamy in world history. However, this is due to a lack of knowledge of history, and a lack of defense of polygamy, as a taboo too dangerous to consider.

It was the Greek reformer Solon who instituted strict marital monogamy in Greek culture in 600 B.C. While economists (David D. Friedman, Price Theory, Ch. 21) can show that polygamy by itself benefits females assuming they have a choice in the matter to benefit from increased choice. But there is no evidence that Solon created strict monogamy to reduce women’s choices, instead it was for the opposite side, to reduce competition among men. In order to facilitate the change, several cultural conditions were created or solidified, such as state sponsored prostitution, support for homosexuality, as well as a common belief that romantic love was only between men.

By the time of Christ, pagan Greek culture had practiced centuries of strict marital monogamy, as well as did the pagan Roman culture they influenced. The first six Roman emperors had 25 wives between them, but all by serial monogamy of divorcing one to marry the next. So even the Roman emperors were bound by the power of their pagan cultural taboos.

So what of Jews under the rule of Greeks and then Romans? I’ll let George Joyce provide the answer in his “Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study”  (1933):

“When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even when though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.”

Here we see the interesting case that pagan Rome restricted and persecuted polygamy and the Jews for practicing it, including Diocletian, an equally infamous persecutor of Christians. And then this pattern even continued with the Christian emperor Theodosius. After this period, Christian Roman Emperors would continue the pagan Roman pattern of increasing the punishment for polygamy so that Emperor Justinian outlawed polygamy to the degree that only a few of the wealthiest Jews were able to avoid coerced divorce and keep their wives.by paying a fine of ten pounds of gold in 535 A.D. By the ninth century, polygamy brought the death penalty. In order to end over eight centuries of persecution, Judaism in Europe under Rabbi Gershom decided to self-monitor among European Judaism and prohibit it among their own in the 11th Century.

This is similar to what happened to Mormons in America. The persecution of them became so great they would become the first religion to claim to receive a message from God suspending polygamy. They likewise began rigorous self-policing and persecution of their own fundamentalist sub-sects who refused to give up polygamy.

But this does not address the New Testament for Christians, and how Christians came to generally oppose polygamy. Many centrally influential Christian writers admitted that the New Testament did not prohibit polygamy, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther, who wrote:

“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.” De Wette II, 459, ibid., pp. 329–330.

But still others made and still make a claim that it is prohibited by a few different Biblical arguments. First is a claim already disproven by the history above, that polygamy was already not practiced by Jews of the first century, and so didn’t require specific opposition. Next is an argument based on the parallels in Paul’s phrase, “Let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” However, the English of this phrase hides a detail from the Greek that proves and defends polygamy was assumed and allowed.The phrase uses two different words for “own”: heautou and idios. The difference is to clarify that a husband has a wife exclusively that he cannot share. The wife has a husband using a collective “own”, such as in the phrase “Each man return to his own city”. In this case, the man does not exclusively own the city in opposition to others as co-owners, just as a wife’s ownership of her husband does not prohibit other wives owning him as husband.

The final argument is the phrase used for a qualification for elders, “husband of one wife” in most English translations. However, the Greek is mias gunaikos andra. The word mias can mean either “one” or “first”. Context should decide, but in church history, a cultural bias colored the interpretation from the beginning. Gentile converts to Christianity, coming from Greco-Roman opposition to polygamy would assume it mean “one”. But Jewish converts to Christianity would assume this is requiring a man who would keep and not divorce his first wife. Indeed, even though John Calvin opposed polygamy, he acknowledged that the early Jewish Christians continued in polygamy.

Whether one accepts the Jewish or pagan Greek method of interpretation depends on if one contemplates Jesus statement, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law.” In other words, the Old Testament’s concepts and definitions of marriage are used with Jesus correcting misinterpretation. Jesus is not creating replacement definitions.. In contrast to this is the gnostic approach which tries to argue that the Law was evil and materialistic, as was God in the Old Testament, and Jesus was trying to oppose the Old Testament God. In this, official Gentile Christianity orthodoxy, at least through Imperial decrees and laws, chose, perhaps partly by accident, partly by excessive anti-Jewish bias, to follow the gnostic approach to argue against polygamy, even if it was generally critical of gnosticism.

Another issue is an attempt to reinterpret Old Testament texts claiming support for monogamy, such as Adam having only one wife, or Abraham’s second wife causing conflict. But yet, if these did not imply a strict monogamy then, then they can’t be correctly interpreted later to do so. Take the example of Abraham, the example of faith, lived with at least a third wife and unnamed concubines without any implied wrongness.

Further, God used a metaphor of Himself as a polygamist with two wives in Ezekiel 23. To claim that God would use the example of something unethical as an attribute of Himself is dangerously close to blasphemy.

Given that I argue for the legitimacy of polygamy, the question arises, how do you stop the abuse of it? The New Testament did not have to provide an answer as the Old Testament, along with the Jewish understanding of marriage was sufficient. In Exodus 21:10 a man cannot take an additional wife unless he can do so without diminishing his financial support of his existing wife, or her sexual needs. Even a very wealthy man can only satiate a limited number of women unless they all enter the marriage with low sex needs. Further, a wife with sexual desire greater than her husband effectively prohibits him from ever taking a second wife. This limitation makes each additional wife beyond one gets exponentially more difficult. This in effect provides a give and take balancing that reduces the problem of the excessively mounted and stressed hen, or the under-satiated rooster.

LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice Part 2: All Bugs Are Shallow When Blogged to a Linux News Feed

October 10, 2012 at 9:10 am | Posted in Operating Systems, Technology | 4 Comments

In my prior blog post, my intended lessons for OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice were  1. Try both. 2. Use both. 3. Use what works best for particular cases. 4. Where there is no problems with either, prefer LibreOffice for its community support.  5. I had a specific important case for my usage where I had to use OpenOffice. Now it appears my options will expand in a month.

The comments represented the general community preference for LibreOffice.  Not only that, they were enough for Michael Meeks, a well-known open source developer to comment, find the outstanding bug report for it, which was miscategorized but had already been fixed in the 3.7 branch, and backport it to next month’s 3.6.3 LibreOffice release.  Thanks LibreOffice team, community, and Mr. Meeks!

So now, the opposite of the last post,  I am blogging a longstanding OpenOffice bug that is fixed and “just works” in LibreOffice.  So will the OpenOffice community respond as quickly to fix the problem as the LibreOffice community did to my last blog post?

When I go to “print preview” in Apache OpenOffice Calc 3.4.1, (and all older releases I recall) and then hit the print button from there, it defaults to printing every single worksheet instead of just the active one, even though I carefully selected the print range on the active worksheet to print a precise area and only one sheet.  In my case, OpenOffice prints 22 pages instead of just one.  There is a workaround, that as long as I close out of print preview first before hitting the print button, OpenOffice will print only my selected worksheet.

LibreOffice inherited this long standing OpenOffice bug (I would dread this waste of paper and ink being called a feature.) However, LibreOffice fixed it, I think around their 3.5.0 cycle.

So a final tangent about being for below average in technical skills relative to the Linux community.  Everyone recommends bug reporting, and I occasionally do that.  However, I have had little success in my six years of using Linux in bug reporting.  If there is a proper existing bug report already out there, I have little to add. Certainly not any programming skills to fix it.  If I’m creating a new one, assuming it does not get marked as a duplicate by my failure to find the existing one, I usually don’t have enough precise details to aid in a solution or convince anyone it is important.  I also say this without a solution.  Maybe I need a class on bug reporting for dummies.  Getting bugs fixed by getting a blog linked on a Linux news feed (Thanks Lxer.com!) is surely cheating.

Maybe if this blog post is especially lucky in drawing the right readers, someone will have an idea on fixing this 3 year old Wine bug on 15 year old software.  I can at least say that I reported a bug that has stayed outstanding that long without being either fixed or closed for other reasons.  That almost counts as an accomplishment, right?

Last thought: The particular usage of LibreOffice and OpenOffice on .xlsx files was not just because of desire to use open source, but because Excel 2003 to Excel 2010 have a bug that does not let me hide the full 130 columns I need hidden.  Notice, despite the helpful comments for LibreOffice and OpenOffice, no one had advice on making Excel work.  That, I believe, would truly be a lost cause in attempting to report a bug to Microsoft.

LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice, Not Always Simple

October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Operating Systems, Technology | 42 Comments

[Final Update: This post got a lot of notice, but I also had a follow up post that received less notice here that should be read for full perspective before commenting on this one now.]

If you are like me, you prefer LibreOffice over (Apache) OpenOffice because (1) It has a better open source license. (2) It has more community support. (3) It is more rapidly developing and releasing updates.

But at the same time, when I try to use them in a hard-core power user work environment, ideals go out the window and I use what works to keep my job.  My employer briefly flirted with OpenOffice around 2005, and supposedly it was really bad experiment, but I wasn’t there at the time.  So sadly, no one here contemplates a change from MS Office.  Take an example spreadsheet I use. It is very complex to the point it would be better off in a database, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

The surprising part is that MS Excel fails my needs even with working with its own .xlsx spreadsheet format. I need to hide 130 columns and Excel 2010 warns me “Cannot shift objects off sheet.”  Prior Excel versions had the same problem.  I’ve spent some effort looking for a solution, but the only thing I found to work is opening in an open source office suite.

MS Excel 2010:

I can open up this Excel document in either OpenOffice 3.4.1 or LibreOffice 3.6.1, and both are able to successfully hide the large number of columns I need hidden where Excel fails itself.  However, LibreOffice has a bug that has persisted for many months, whereas OpenOffice just works.  LibreOffice is making all comments visible by default.  The only solution I’ve found in LibreOffice discussions is to manually close each one.  In this case, that is an insane waste of time, as there are hundreds of comments showing, poking through the hidden columns.

LibreOffice 3.6.1:

Apache OpenOffice 3.4.1:

So in this case, the solution is to use OpenOffice.  I’d rather point to a LibreOffice victory, but the open source community has to acknowledge failures for them to be fixed.  And the bright side is that Apache OpenOffice is both still open source, and still free.  There is nothing stopping people from using both office suites when necessary to see which better renders specific documents.

Update:  Here is discussion where LibreOffice users have known and tried work-arounds for the past six months.  I think that OpenOffice might have had a greater focus on MS Office document compatibility, while LibreOffice has focused on advancing features.  I’m afraid my employer needs are squared directly over MS Excel compatibility vs. new features.

The Bush Dynasty As Link Between Kennedy Assassination And Watergate

June 20, 2012 at 7:55 am | Posted in History, Political theory | Leave a comment

This article by Russ Baker goes into great detail to show how the Bush family brought Nixon into politics in 1946, and controlled his every advance. But the remaining mystery of Watergate was that there was a mole in Nixon’s Whitehouse that had to know exactly where to look through 3700 hours of tapes to find the incriminating evidence.

I don’t know precisely who, but we can be sure it was someone under the Bush family control of the CIA. So the Bushes made Watergate public for Nixon failing to give G.W. Bush Sr. the VP position, and because Nixon had secretly backed some Texas Democrats against Bush Republicans.

I can answer one question Russ Baker raises as to the motives of the Bush family supporting Goldwater in 1964 against Rockefeller. (Remember that Bush was more liberal than most Democrats, such that even John Kenneth Galbraith backed Bush instead of Democrat Lloyd Bentsen for Senate in 1970.) Bush backed Goldwater in the 1964 Republican primary as a favor to his Kennedy assassination cohort LBJ. The alternative justification of Bush opposing Rockefeller because of Rockefeller’s divorce and remarriage is laughable ignorance of the Bush family using religion only as a politically exploitable tool.

The (Bad) Economics of Perpetual Growth, Part 2

June 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Decentralism, Political theory | Leave a comment

Modern central-bank-capitalism is a debt based system. Central bank money is created into existence by debt…selling government bonds.

There is an equally famous debt based system called — a Ponzi scheme. The two systems share fundamental similarities. The only way a Ponzi scheme can forestall collapse is to perpetually grow faster with new victims than it pays out to early participants. Bernard Madoff showed that it could go on for a couple decades with just one person knowing the facts.

This is how a central bank operates, but instead of just one person at the helm, it is a semi-united effort of all industrialized central banks. Futher, they have financial control over nearly all the wealth in the world. So the fact it can survive hundreds of years does not remotely prove it is sustainable. It merely proves they have so far managed to encourage on average growth faster than they have expanded the money supply.

There is a specific financial predictor that shows this is collapsing, discovered by the late Dr. Kurt Richebacher. Namely, the declining productivity of each dollar of new debt, sometimes referred to as the change in debt to change in GDP ratio.

The (Bad) Economics of Perpetual Growth

June 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Decentralism, History, Political theory | 1 Comment

The Permaculture Research Institute has an article on the myth (presumption) of perpetual growth that has been built into the modern world’s mainstream economic system. It is an important point to recognize this error. It is one that Chris Martenson focuses on extensively in his Crash Course, but I want to add some commentary.

They use the date of 1776 as a start date of this myth, but the birth of the USA, is not specific or informative enough. Instead we should use the date of 1694, which was the founding of the Bank of England, the world’s second central bank.

Why that event? England lost a war with France and wanted to regain/retain its position as dominant global power. To do so it needed much more money to finance its military, navy, and government expansion. It did not want to be limited to what credit it could obtain through the natural markets…so it nationalized the credit market.

In natural society, money is the most marketable commodity, and credit is loaning money at a rate (interest) determined by the supply and demand for credit. A central bank, such as the Bank of England (or Federal Reserve in the USA), maybe “capitalist” in some definitions of capitalism, but it is the opposite of a free market.

Money is like language. It is naturally created by societies without and before government. Governments (via central banks) replace natural money with fiat money only for their own benefit, so they can expand their power, by expanding fiat money, faster than they could expand natural money. Ah, in there is the mainstream economic profession’s origin of the myth of perpetual growth…unnatural expansion.

Fiat money is just pieces of paper that have no value apart from the weapons of government pointing to the heads of citizens saying it must be accepted as money. However, it cannot perfectly control the degree of value, and that is where “respectable central banks”, unlike that of Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany, exercise just enough self control to stop hyperinflation.

So what are central banks doing with money? Instead of a natural market determined rate of interest, they dictate a rate. This explains how we should define “actually existing capitalism” instead of theoretical capitalism. Such capitalism is when the foundational layers of money and credit are controlled by a central bank, but most other layers on top of that are open/free markets. However, since that fundamental layer is not free, all apparent freedoms that are built above it are not nearly as free as they may seem. It is like in George Orwell’s 1984 where the government has altered language with Newspeak. Language is fundamental, just as money is the language of economics.

In order to stop hyperinflation, while still transferring wealth to capitalist government, a central bank perpetually inflates the money supply, but exercises a degree of conscious self-control, just like the victor who refrains from killing his enemies so he can enslave them.

In Colonial America, tobacco was often the medium of exchange, i.e. money. Sometimes it was wheat, or even whiskey.## So if the “money supply” increased, it did so because people went to the effort to create the valued items to increase it. In contrast, when central banks increase fiat money, that does not increase goods of value. A 10% increase in the fiat money supply means that the previous owners have had their money decrease in value by 10%.

So when economists from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman say they want a stable increase in the money supply of about 3% per year, that is a 3% transfer of wealth per year to Wall Street and government. Why 3%? Because they can get away with that without causing hyperinflation.

But mainstream economists don’t want to focus on money supply as inflation, instead they prefer to leave that to “the man behind the curtain” and focus on prices as indicator of inflation. So in the 1920s, productivity was increasing such prices should have been falling due to increased efficiency. Instead, the Federal Reserve increased the money supply to keep prices stable. The father of mainstream economics, Irving Fisher, thought such fine and said there was no bubble in 1929, and proceeded to lose his family fortune in the crash to prove he believed it.

But there is another layer of the perpetual growth myth. Without perpetual growth, then all that government “sovereign” debt cannot be repaid short of a hyper-inflationary crack-up bust in the market. Market value would become less than book value…much, much less, like in Greece. Ah, but as you’ve discovered…it isn’t likely to happen with perpetual growth either, because that is impossible as it pushes against natural limits.

Finally, here is why there are no mainstream economist exceptions: The Federal Reserve pays major stipends to economists all over the world to buy their allegiance and cement the Federal Reserve’s legitimacy among economists as a guild.  As Gary North points out, economics textbooks will go from a chapter on the dangers and inefficiencies of cartels, to a chapter on the Federal Reserve, without a hint of contradiction or acknowledgement of it as a cartel.

What about economist professors who are exceptions like Prof. Hayek? Even though he won a Nobel Prize in economics, the University of Chicago where he taught refused to even let him teach in the Economics department! So he was not mainstream. Such difficulty getting a tenured professorship in economics has been the case of economists all over the USA if they question the propriety of the Federal Reserve.

2012, The Year Android Passes Microsoft Windows As Top OS

May 17, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Posted in Operating Systems, Technology | Leave a comment

Tomi Ahomen has another great blog article that does the math, adding smartphone and PC sales to show that 2012 is the first year where Android (and thus Linux) passes Microsoft in operating system sales.

I hope the future follows his prediction path…but I see a risk he doesn’t mention.  Tomi acknowledges the telecom carriers view Skype (and so VOIP in general) as an existential threat, and this is a reason that they aren’t cooperating with Microsoft.

Although I hope the carriers can help squeeze Microsoft dry, can they really win the battle against the progress of technology, of which the much more efficient VOIP phone calls should be the future?  Put me in the category of pro-VOIP, not pro-Skype or Microsoft.

Tech aware consumers would be much happier with a data only phone plan, where they could just use a VOIP phone with no meaningful loss in functionality, but a reduction of perceived excessive cellphone bills.  Some people already do this and have zero call and text minutes, as VOIP calls and texts don’t count.  If Microsoft were to somehow survive in the phone business for another decade, then I would presume that VOIP technology finally became the disruptive technology that broke the telecom system.

The good news is that even if that happens, Google and Android seem equally well prepared for a VOIP future without having to purchase Skype or suffer the negative fallout from doing so.

[Confession: Although my wife has a Samsung Galaxy S2 on a Sprint plan, I still refuse to have any cellphone plan. I just use her old EVO 4G as a Wifi device.  We won’t renew her contract when it ends and will likely switch to Republic Wireless or Ting. Those at least represent an improved direction for carriers (MVNOs in their case) that don’t overcharge customers.]

The Irony of Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

May 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Decentralism, History, Political theory | 4 Comments

Given that Federalism and Antifederalism are 220 year old ideologies, I’m surprised I have never run across the observation I’m about to make. If someone knows who else pointed this out, please let me know.  Pay attention to when I capitalize “federalism” as when lower case I refer to the concept, but when capitalized refers to the group of people calling themselves by that name, whether accurate or not.

The Federalists named themselves that. It was wrong. Most Federalists were really nationalists. They named themselves such because of the Colonial public’s distrust of nationalism.  In Lincoln’s era, and sympathetic historians after him, the Unionists could point to acts and quotes of many Federalists that clearly had nationalist leanings and statements, as this was what the Federalists desired.  The Southern secessionists could likewise point to acts and quotes against nationalism because this is what the Federalists had to say to gain power.

Anti-Federalists did not name themselves.  This was a term applied to them by their opponents who called themselves Federalists.  So it is more ironic that the so called Anti-Federalists were actually the federalists, just as the Articles of Confederation were federalist while the Constitution was only superficially so.

So it is true that the Constitution, created by the “Framers” who were mostly Federalists who weren’t federalists with just enough Anti-Federalist federalist wording to get passed, was a combination of apparent federalism but hidden nationalism.  So the Constitution as applied became increasingly nationalist, and permanently so after the so called Civil War.

If anyone has read the constitution of the former USSR, freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion are enumerated. However, like the Constitution of the USA, there was insufficient protections to stop centralization of power into nationalism which provides no means to protect those freedoms.

Lysander Spooner would write it best:

The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part, who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government, have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect, in the place of the written Constitution.

And again another Spooner nugget of genius:

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain—that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

Is Microsoft Driving Valve and Steam to Strengthen Linux as a Gaming Platform?

April 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Decentralism, Operating Systems, Technology | 8 Comments

If I combine a few news items to reach a natural conclusion, for the first time, it makes sense for a large business to fund Linux as a gaming platform.

Consider this. Not just any mere Valve employee, but the CEO Gabe Newell himself wrote:

1. L4D2 runs multithreaded at 250 – 300 fps on my Windows 7 machine. Single threaded it’s ~180 fps. On Linux it runs at 25 – 30 fps with the same NVidia GTX 580 video card (after getting them to fix some things), and around the same on a ATI 6970.
2. Good tools to track down OpenGL performance and help debug rendering issues just don’t exist.
We want to fix this. It would be nice to have people who have experience with Linux work on it.

Followers of Linux gaming have known that Valve had a few employees dabble in Linux before, but not make commitments or investments in it. So a CEO saying “We want to fix this.” Is a major change and improvement.

But why the change? Ah, this is where Microsoft is the danger to Valve. But I’ll back up to explain what Valve does to those who don’t know. Valve started as a video game developer. They saw that a game distribution platform would be useful, and since they couldn’t find anyone else willing to create one, they created their own.

This platform is called Steam and has turned out to be majorly popular and profitable. And unlike the love-hate relationship many have with Microsoft and Apple, users are pretty much in a love-love relationship. In other words, it is viewed as both a must have and good or great on prices.

Steam provides a centralized system to buy games digitally, receive patches and updates, interact with friends who play games, and find people to play multi-player games together.

Steam follows (more accurately, predates) the model of an App Store that is used prominently by Apple, Google, and Amazon for Iphones and Android devices. And unlike Apple at least, it doesn’t do hardly any ideological filtering to remove politically incorrect applications. This is also similar to the repository model of software distribution used by most Linux distros which is much older, but mostly for free without much paid software.

Microsoft’s Windows platform does not follow the restrictive App Store model, but as this model seems profitable, it wants into the format. The Android model is popular for its freedom… you get its benefits, but you can still install separately. The Apple model is much more restrictive, making it difficult to install outside of the App Store.

Microsoft, being a giant monopoly desiring company like Apple, would like to follow the Apple App Store model. It has made indications that it will push toward this model with Windows 8 and the Metro format.

This presents a problem for Valve’s Steam. It currently requires Microsoft Windows, or Apple OS X, which is also pushing the App Store model on the desktop as a future direction for profits. It is not hard to imagine Microsoft locking out or debilitating 3rd party digital distribution stores.

For comparison, think of Microsoft Windows as a government that creates the laws by which the entities (software in this case) are allowed to operate within Windows. But Microsoft does not act as a mere government, it also acts as a competing corporation within the governmental framework. Does this give it an unfair advantage? Absolutely. When Microsoft wanted to get into Office software, it went into competition with Wordperfect, a software that significantly helped make Microsoft’s operating systems valuable. But Microsoft could and did design Windows (the government) in such a way as to advantage MS Office and disadvantage Wordperfect.

There are many other examples like web browsers that could be used, but suffice it to say, such is the Microsoft pattern, and Apple is in no way better. This is bad news for Valve and Steam. If it stays dependent on Microsoft, it is likely to be marginalized to nothing within a decade.

That is where Linux offers an alternative. In the past till now, no large company had a clear and strong financial reason to invest in Linux as a gaming platform. It has developed into an adequate gaming platform, but not great. In order for Valve and Steam to offer an alternative through Linux, it must become graphically competitive.

The prime limitations include OpenGL, while in no means bad, has had its primary financial backing by companies that focus on non-gaming graphical computation, and so is not competitive to DirectX 11. Next is X.org or Wayland display driver. The first is growing archaic and the second is incomplete. These would need developers funded to include gaming performance as an important consideration.

Separately is the Wine program primarily directed by Codeweavers. Wine allows Windows programs and games to run on Linux. However, Codeweavers is a comparatively tiny company that can only improve wine slowly but surely. This is a central place that Valve would need to drastically increase the rate of improvement to provide an alternative for the many thousands of already existing Windows games that it already supports. While there may (I hope) come a time when game developers view Linux as a primary platform, I foresee no transition path without Wine figuring prominently. Nor do I see an intelligent path that does not partner with Codeweavers to rapidly expand Linux gaming.

Microsoft has hinted that Windows on ARM will be locked down to a Metro application store with likely no opportunity for Valve’s current business model for Steam. The potential future lock down on x86/x86-64 as well is a noose around Valve’s future on Windows. It is possible that ARM could continue its expansion against Intel and AMD processors and limit Valve in that direction even if x86 Windows never locks down 3rd party application stores. If so, then Wine on ARM may also be a future focus of Valve to secure its future destiny.

There has been recent discussion that Valve might create a “Steambox”, an alternative to the Playstation and Xbox consoles. While it acknowledged no such immediate plans, if it were to do so today, it would basically be a Windows PC already configured for gaming. If we were to go out maybe 5-10 years in the future, a Steambox could be a Linux based x86-64 or ARM PC that could run the majority of 20+ years of x86 Windows games, and most of those at high frame rates without glitches.

Someone may think that Valve may eventually target Android instead of standard Linux, but the two are compatible enough that converting between the two is far easier than the conversion from Windows. Wine and OpenGL are much bigger challenges necessary for a focus on either standard Linux or Android.

As a post script, Valve is further an interesting subject for this blog because they may be the most decentralized moderately large business in America. If you can believe it from their own statements, they have no management and effectively no job titles.

[POST SCRIPT EDIT: There is further confirmation that most of what I said is in the right direction. Valve CEO Gabe Newell is directly seeking work on Linux and OpenGL. Also note “his negativity towards Windows 8” seems to reaffirm the threat of a Windows lockdown.  However, Wine doesn’t seem to be figuring into their current equation.  Software built directly on Linux without Wine is the best end-stage option if they focus primarily on future games, but I am equally interested in the back catalog of thousands of games.]

The Mathematical Restitution Formula and Its Application

April 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Anarchism, Decentralism, Political theory, Religion | 1 Comment

[This article was originally posted on Strike-the-root.com on Sept. 28,2004. However, in one of that website’s format changes, mathematical symbols were lost. So it is reprinted here. A few minor corrections and hyperlinks added as well.]

I still find it hard to believe that I may be the first person to make tort and criminal restitution into a mathematical formula that encourages both sides to be as honest and fair as possible in claiming what the most just and equitable amount of restitution should be. Since I am so far unsuccessful in finding this formula in other writers, I will call this the Hobbsian Just Restitution Formula until someone can show me someone who derived it before I did, originally around 1999 though not published till now.

In any case where a wrong is claimed to have been done, whether by intent or negligence, there is the temptation for the alleged perpetrator to seek paying less restitution than is just, and for the victim to seek receiving more restitution than is just. This may not always be so, but a justice system should have a way to minimize this tendency. This formula is a way that can minimize the temptation for each party to have the scales of justice lean in their favor instead of truly balancing.

Take the restitution claimed appropriate by the perpetrator to be Rx, and by the victim to by Ry. Now if they are unable to resolve this alone, they can take this to a third party to act as an arbitrator and judge, whose decision is Rj. Assume for now that Rj is not beyond the bounds of Rx to Ry. If so, then Rx ≤ Rj ≤ Ry. Now here is the important formula to determine who pays the cost of the arbitrator:

Ct (Ry – Rj) / (Ry – Rx) = Cy

and Ct (Rj – Rx) / (Ry – Rx) = Cx

where Ct is the total cost of arbitration and Cy and Cx are the costs of arbitration for the victim and perpetrator to pay respectively.

By this method, if the victim has requested restitution equal to the arbitrated decision, then he will pay for none of the costs of arbitration. Likewise the perpetrator could avoid paying arbitration costs if he had chosen what the arbiter decides. In the event that the judgment falls in between, then they each will have to pay part of the cost in direct proportion to how much they desired more than the arbitrated decision of an equitable amount.

By this method, each party would be financially encouraged to avoid excessive claims to minimize the arbitration costs to be paid. If they can come to a point where the spread of desired restitution is less than estimated arbitration costs, then they could recognize it might be cheaper to resolve the issue without a professional paid arbitrator. The more complex the issue, the more arbitration will likely cost, and the incentive to avoid paying for arbitration also increases.

It is possible that the arbitrator could decide that appropriate restitution is beyond the Rx to Ry borders. Rules can be decided before hand if the boundary points would be limiting or not. It is also possible that the parties do not let the arbitrator know the boundary points until after the decision is reached, if one or both feel that such might unfairly influence the result. They could then just be intended for use to determine who pays arbitration costs. However, it would still be necessary for the parties to know each other’s desired restitution value. It would make no sense to keep it secret from the counter party, go to arbitration, and then discover that you would have agreed to an amount without an arbitrator.

What about lawyers? Different arbitrators might allow or disallow them. In this system, they would rarely be necessary, and most often increase the expected cost for each side that uses one. An arbitrator should be unbiased, and should help both sides explain as well as understand the strength of each argument given by each side. An arbitrator’s goal is not only to make a just decision, but also to explain and convince both sides that the decision is just. This is not the goal of lawyers.

What about non-monetary compensation? This is a significant possibility, and a further complication that could add to the cost of arbitration. If a proposed compensation is to be labor of the perpetrator to the victim, then as the victim would act as employer, then the repayment wage rate would have to be agreed upon as any other wage rate. The arbitrator could help decide this, as well as look for third parties who would accept labor and then pay the labor wage to the victim.

This system does not require the alleged perpetrator to agree that any wrong was done. He can even claim that since no wrong was done, he is owed compensation for the counter party wasting his time. The formula would still encourage him to not overestimate this counter claim.

Additionally, despite modern practice, there is no reason to think this system would not also be best for criminal cases. Punitive damages could be part of restitution paid to the victim, not as fines paid to the state. When victims do not receive restitution through a criminal justice system, there is an increase in both extremes of letting crimes go unreported and unpunished, due to lack of incentive, and of victims groups advocating punishments that do more harm to the perpetrator than would be done by fair restitution. (See Bruce Benson’s books The Enterprise of Law and To Serve and Protect for historical examples of restitution-based free market courts and their successes, as well as the failures created when states monopolized criminal justice systems.)

Religious groups have usually realized that to submit to states in the area of justice is to make the religion a pawn of the state. Jews have always had a Beit Din to resolve problems religious, civil and sometimes even criminal. Islam has Sharia courts for the same purpose. Christians are required to do the same, per the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6. (However, I don’t know of Christian groups that actually have established even informal courts or respected arbitrators for this purpose, other than religious bodies intended to decide purely religious dogmatic conflicts.)

There are many possible complications, but none of them really diminish the value of this formula. What if one party refuses to go to any arbitrator? What if some arbitrators are corrupt? What about appeals? These and many more are all legitimate questions. To answer them all would make this essay a textbook. However, other writers have already insightfully answered these questions, including Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, Power and Market, Bruce Benson’s The Enterprise of Law, Morris and Linda Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty, and David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom.

These authors (and more like Anthony de Jasay and J.C. Lester) provide quite different methodologies, but reach similar conclusions about the efficiency of polycentric law and arbitration compared to authoritarian, conquest-based law.

Could this be the kernel of truth to the concept of justice? Is justice something that must be created and defined by a government whose origins in conquest of weaker parties precede and supercede its concept of justice (sovereign immunity)? Or is justice a principle where conflicting parties resolve disputes without allegiance to any party above, beyond, superceding, or immune to justice?

Given that people tend to be utility maximizers, judicial systems will be tools to maximize the utility of those who control them. In a state, its laws are written to maximize the utility of the ruling coalitions as opposed to the whole ‘people,’ the subjects, or any other partition of it. If any social group seeks to be classless and judicially independent, it cannot form a state where any weaker party is subject to law made by the stronger. Nor can any part of the group be immune to the principles of justice.

There could be many social groups that could make themselves judicially sovereign-independent. Religious groups mentioned already have such rules, and might intend to be an example to outsiders in being independent from states. It is possible to have multiple overlapping social judicial groups, but this would create hierarchical limitations, as individuals would need priorities as to which social group (with its justice) to place primary association. For example, a conflict arises between parties who are in the same religious judicial group and the same business judicial group. Both groups could not require all members to seek justice for internal conflicts only through that group’s arbitration system. Or if these groups do, and have differing memberships, then individuals who joined both would have to violate one of the groups’ primacy agreements if such a conflict arose.

The reason that justice without sovereign immunity would naturally exist in cohesive social groups is that individuals obtain significant utility from their social group, and ostracism by one’s social group could provide a persuasive influence to those who would consider refusing to accept an arbitrated decision. Several millennia of diasporic Jewish social groups all over the world provide plenty of historical evidence for this non-state judicial system to be sufficient to maintain internal peace and order, especially relative to a state justice system. Social groups then compete non-geographically in the market for members, based on many factors, justice likely being one.

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