Saturday, December 22, 2007

Public and Private Behavior

The world as a whole will never agree on everything. We will never even agre on the fundamentals of right and wrong. I think the best we can realistically hope for is some form of order which allows large groups of us to get along relatively peacefully. As I've remarked before, I think the rules governing society, whether enumerated or tacit, will not and should not be universal.

Personally I would prefer to live under very libertarian laws, but experience has taught me that most people would prefer otherwise, and that this is not going to change, almost certainly not within my expected lifetime, probably not ever.

Fundamentally, there's no good reason why they should.

The idea that people act rationally in order to achieve their goals is potentially highly misleading. People will often do things which seem appealing to them at the time but which they will later regret, and in some cases this later regret is predictable in advance. A person who has problems resisting the urge to drink or gamble, for example, might quite sensibly prefer to live in a community where he would not be subjected to constant temptation.

The concept of a right to free speech essentially refers to the right of people to converse among themselves without fear of reprisals. It has never been absolute in the sense of permitting anything which might be considered speech or symbolic speech. Threats, criminal conspiracies, fraudulent business offers, and slander all contain a speech element, but they aren't only speech. It seems to me that deliberate attempts to offend go beyond being only speech in the same way. I'm talking about something like this. Asshole had it coming, Buzz is a hero.

In general, the strict libertarian people have an absolute right to cause emotional harm to others, whether inadvertently or deliberately, provided no physical harm is done to person or property, seems to me unreasonable. Certainly a negative emotional state represents a reduced quality of life. Given that the value of property is largely subjective anyway, why shouldn't one treat emotional harm as being as real as property damage? I can certainly see a strong pragmatic argument against legislation attempting to prevent emotional damage. Since in principle anything could be emotionally damaging to someone, giving a government agency blanket authority to protect people's fragile emotions would be giving it unlimited power to micromanage everyone's lives. But a pragmatic argument cannot justify a moral principle, and the fact that the most extreme examples of something imaginable would clearly be bad does not indicate that it is always bad in any degree.

On the other hand, it strikes me as being absurd that people would take it upon themselves to invade other people's privacy in order to root out behavior which would tempt or offend them if it were done in public. I understand that people do, but I can't understand the mindset that encourages it, and I think it's a fairly rare one. I suspect the main reason it has infested our legal system is that people have been fed a false dichotomy between draconian private enforcement and public tolerance; that it's necessary to break down doors in the middle of the night and gun down grandmothers on the possibility that there might be a joint in the house, because the only alternative is to have the streets littered with semi-catatonic junkies and their disease-infested needles.

It's a straightforward consequence of economics that the more intense the efforts to suppress "victimless crimes", the more potentially profitable they become. Conversely, the more discrete "victimless criminals" are in their activities, the less the public is interested in suppressing them. It seems natural that societies would protect their sensibilities by either regulating the times at places at which "vices" can be indulged, or ostensibly banning them but making no real effort to enforce the ban provided that the law is not publicly flouted. I think historically that's what most socities have done, aside from outbreaks of puritanism.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M Weaver

This is a very interesting book. I highly recommend reading it. I found myself thoroughly disagreeing with most of it, but there is very little I could actually refute. The author's viewpoint is internally self-consistent and many readers may find it appealing.

Chapter 1 begins, "Every man participating in a culture has thre levels of conscious reflection: his specific ideas about things, his general beliefs or convictions, and his metaphysical dream of the world". The title reflects the author's thesis that this metaphysical dream often has more influence over one's actions than do the specific ideas. An illustrative quote which I found astonishing: "The Schoolmen understood that the question, univeralia ante rem or univeralia post rem, or the question of how man angels can stand on the point of a needle, so often cited as examples of Scholastic futility, had incalculable ramifications, so that, unless there was agreement upon these questions, unity in practical matters was impossible."

He blames what he considers to be the decadence of the modern (1948) world on a shift in this metaphysical dream: "Man created in the divine image, the protagonist of a great drama in which his soul was at stake, was replaced by man the wealth-seeking and -consuming animal".

Weaver acknowledges that the modern world has vastly more material productivity and knowledge of specific facts than the older world, but he considers these to be of comparitively little value. He asserts that although we know more specific facts, our understanding of things in general has atrophied. He considers the shift in attitude from one of duties to one of gain vs. loss to be of much greater significance, and quite harmful.

Weaver goes on to discuss how art has been corrupted by the idea that there is no reality beyond that perceived by the senses, how the sensible idea of equality before the law has been distorted to obliterate sensible distinctions between classes of persons (young and old, men and women), and many other topics. He covers quite a lot of ground in under 200 pages. A 21st century summary may make him sound like a senile coot raving about kids today, but reading the actual book he sounds quite sensible if not persuasive.

The last three chapters are about areas in which Weaver saw hope, although I'm sure he would have been appalled by what has happened since then. They are about how there remained respect for the concept of property as a metaphysical right, how words might again be regarded as having meaning as opposed to being merely symbols, and about repect for the virtues of piety and justice.

I think Weaver is correct that metaphysical beliefs do have consequences in human action, and rejection of belief in the transcendental probably was a necessary precursor for Nazism and Communism, and is at least partially responsible for the social ills that plague us today. But I doubt that it can be helped. So far as I can tell there is no transcendental, and if there were we could not have any reliable knowledge of it.

Monday, December 10, 2007


There is an old debate as to whether law is "created" or "discovered". I think this is because the word "law" is used to mean two very different things: what I will call "abstract law", which is basically people's general sense as to what is and is not acceptable moral behavior, and what I will call "codified law", which is a set of enumerated rules saying what is allowed or forbidden.

The fact that something like abstract law exists can be inferred from the observed fact that people will generally exhibit some sort of orderly behavior even when there is nothing like a law enforcement officer present and, barring extreme actions, there is no risk one's actions will be reported to a law enforcement officer. That codified legislation does not always reflect abstract law can be inferred from the observation that in some situations people in general will modify their behavior when a law enforcement officer is present. For example, if almost everyone slows down at the sight of a police car on a certain stretch of road, that is strong evidence that the posted speed limit is lower than what most people would consider a safe and acceptable speed.

The reason it can be useful to have codified law is that in general there isn't anything like unanimous agreement as to what abstract law is. Abstract law should not arbitrarily favor certain persons over others, and it should prohibit behavior which is on the whole harmful while allowing that which beneficial or neutral, but these criteria are not sufficient for determining what abstract law is, even before we consider the problems of human uncertainly and error. There is a great deal of "wiggle room" within which codified law can be consistent with abstract law. If this is the case, people will generally believe one ought to obey the law simply because it is the law. But if codified law is not in good accord with abstract law, particularly if it is created or changed to arbitrarily favor persons, it loses all moral force and will not be obeyed voluntarily. The key point is, one's moral compulsion is to obey abstract law, but what is enforced is generally codified law.

The "law is discovered" argument was fundamentally flawed because it assumed that what they called law existed independent of human minds and was unambiguous, unchanging, and universal. But the "law is created" argument is much worse, because it considers all law to be good provided that it is enacted via the approved legislative process. This has led to the belief that not only is it acceptable to use the political process to try to gain special privileges for one's group, but that fundamentally that is what the political process is for.

The idea that there exists such a thing as law apart from arbitrary human will is the cornerstone of Western Civilization, and perhaps all civilization. But this abstract law does not come from God (and religious scripture tends to be a poor guide to it), and cannot be discerned by reason alone. There probably isn't anything close to a 100% reliable process for discovering what it is at a given time and place. But when codified law is routinely violated by multitudes without shame or guilt, that likely indicates a problem with the codified law.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Mosquito carried viruses have been among the greatest causes of death and misery in human history. The mosquito eradication and malaria control programs have been among the greatest success stories of 20th century American government. According to the cdc in 1933 30 percent of people in the CDC suffered from malaria. Now it is virtually eliminated in the USA.

Malaria in particular and mosquito carried viruses in general are an area in which applications of libertarian philosophy in its purest forms could lead to highly unfortunate results. The methods used for malaria control (requiring people to install screens on all doors and windows and requiring them to eliminate all standing water on their property) don't seem terribly oppressive to me, but they are the sort of thing that a purest could regard as being intolerable in principle. A neighbor three miles down the road who leaves an old tire in his back yard probably intends me no harm, and probably won't cause any. But if I become infected with malaria it will be impossible to prove where the mosquito came from, so obtaining compensation from the person who allowed the mosquito to breed on his property is impractical, even if he were to agree that if it could be proved that it was "his" mosquito which infected me he is liable and that he is capable of adequately compensating me for the damage, neither of which is likely to be the case.

Of course, no sensible person would suggest that a full modern regulatory state is necessary for malaria control, and if it were, perhaps one might prefer to avoid the regulatory state and accept the malaria. I think in the early 20th century it was understood that contagious diseases were a matter of legitimate public concern in a way that obesity, steroid use, and even smoking are not.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I used to consider myself a libertarian. Although I still frequently agree with libertarians, I no longer call myself one. There was no sudden moment when I decided I was not a libertarian; I just sort of gradually drifted away.

By "libertarian" I mean one who accepts the idea that one can never justly initiate force as an absolute moral axiom, and that essentially all moral rules can be derived from this axiom. Equivalently, one has an absolute right to do as one pleases provided one does not directly harm another. Although I think this is a good guiding principle, I think it is neither absolute nor sufficient.

There are several problems with what I will refer to as "the libertarian axiom". First, I don't think there's a clear objective threshold as to when harm occurs. For example, I think it would be absurd to complain about the secondhand smoke from a cigarette miles away, but there must be some limit as to how much noxious fumes one can be expected to endure. Things only get more complicated when one considers that how much is being emitted will also be uncertain.

There also is a problem with what happens when, inevitably, force is initiated. It seems to me insufficient for people to simply agree not to initiate force themselves. There ought to be some responsibility to aid defenders or punish aggressors, but I can't see how that would be consistent with the axiom. The idea that one may (but need not) side with a defender against an aggressor is appealing in clear cases, but it is often not completely clear who the initial aggressor was.

It's clear that some degree of retaliatory force must be acceptable, but I think there ought to be some limit as to how much retaliation can be justly applied.

I also think that in some circumstances it is reasonable to stop people from doing things which endanger one but which have not yet caused harm, even without evidence that harm is intended or proof that harm definitely will occur. Certainly I think it can be appropriate to act against someone who clearly does intend harm.

These are the main pragmatic difficulties I see with implementing a system based on the axiom, but even if they could be satisfactorily resolved, there's a more fundamental philosphical problem: there is no guarantee that people can be convinced to accept the axiom in the first place, and my experience indicates that most people can't.

I think most libertarians tend to be less affected by material jealousy than is the average person. They tend to like having stuff, but it doesn't bother them much if at all if other people have more or better stuff. I'm like that myself. Most people would agree that if everyone could have more stuff it would be better. But many people seem to value a universal improvement only slightly, and primarily seem interested in what they have relative to everybody else. It does no good to assert that people "shouldn't" view the prosperity of others as a bad thing. People's preferences are what they are.

The argument that free market policies tend to lead to increased prosperity for everyone is only powerful if one has already decided material prosperity is important. In a society in which people value leisure highly and primarily are concerned with relative rather than absolute material well-being, it would not be at all surprising if laws limiting the number of hours one can legally work (for example) could make most people better off according to their own conception of the good.

Similarly for freedom of speech, the press, religion, etc. I have no desire to tell other people what to read or not to read, and I don't really care much what they believe or say, only what they do. Whereas it is very important to me to be able to read and say what I choose. But the fact is, most people in the world don't feel that way. There's a notion that almost everyone would prefer to be able to speak his own mind to being able to suppress the speech of others, but I I think this idea is mistaken. Many people would feel it outrageous that they should be subjected to blasphemous speech, inconceivable that they would ever want to blaspheme themselves, and madness that the ideas of other cultures as to what does and does not constitute blasphemy is equally valid as their own.

If someone were to assert that equality (whatever that means) is good purely for its own sake, or that the individual subsuming his own interests to those of the group is good in and of itself, it would be impossible to prove the asserter "wrong", and societies designed with those values in mind could be optimal according to their own conception of good. The fact is, one can make as many internally consistent value systems as one cares to, and they all seem absurd looking at them from the outside. Libertarianism only appeals to a small fraction of the world's population, and this isn't going to change anytime soon. It might be possible to live in a libertarian community. It is not possible to live in a libertarian country of major size, much less a libertarian world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


People believe things for a variety of reasons, some pretty good, others not so good. I think in the pre-renaissance days people tended to have a strongly conservative bias. That is, if things had been done a certain way for a long time, that was considered to be strong evidence that there were good reasons for doing things that way (even if nobody remembers what the reasons were) , that change is likely to be for the worse, and that going back to ancient ways is likely to be an improvement over modern ways.

Conversely, in modern times there seems to be a what I call a "progressive bias". By this I mean not a belief that all change is good, but that after a change has been adopted for some time, the fact that the change has occurred is strong evidence that it constitutes an improvement. Those who advocate undoing some particular change are accused of wanting to "turn back the clock", as if all social and technological change were interwoven to the extent that one couldn't possibly overturn Roe vs Wade without also putting lead back in the gasoline and eliminating the personal computer.

I think it's beyond reasonable dispute that increases in scientific and technological knowledge in general represent a genuine improvement. But the case of social change is much less clear. Certainly some social changes are for the better, and some for the worse, but we won't necessarily agree as to which are which, and it's not at all clear to me that there's a strong tendency either way.

This is not to say that social change is anything like random. Over the last few centuries there has been a general tendency towards centralization of authority in many countries. One major reason for this is that a strong central government is necessary for fighting modern wars. Another is essentially Parkinson's law: in the absence of an external counterbalancing force, entities tend to increase their own jurisdictions.

There are major drawbacks to excessive centralization. It forces everyone to accept "one size fits all" rules that don't really fit anyone particularly well. People sometimes talk of states as being like "laboratories", but I think this is a very bad metaphor. It seems to imply that the purpose of "experiments" in these "laboratories" is to discover a "right" way of doing things, which will later be copied by the other states, either voluntarily or through federal legislation.

Referring to moving to a different jurisdiction as "voting with your feet" is an even worse metaphor. In terms of actually improving one's own life, voting is among the crudest and least ineffectual means available. Ineffectual because your individual vote is highly unlikely to ever decide an issue, crude because it requires enforcing your own preferences on everyone else in your jurisdiction. One might as well refer to undergoing surgery as "loading your shotgun with scalpels and shooting yourself".

A typical example: I think most Californians are glad that casino gambling is not legal in most of the state, even ones that are also glad that it is legal in Nevada if they feel the desire. Personally I would just as soon see it legal anywhere, but it makes no practical difference to me either way. I'm not a libertarian, I don't think that people who may have problems resisting the temptation to gamble are being unreasonable if they want to live in communities where there is not legal public gambling. But it seems to me almost beyond reasonable dispute that most people will be best off if regulations of this sort are kept at as local a level as possible. I'll probably write more about this in a future post.

Changes in laws aren't just caused by political forces, though, but by changes in norms. Earlier generations were, in general, harder, tougher than mine, and I think the next couple generations will be still softer. "Nanny state" regulations are becoming more common, among other reasons, because to oppose them is to be seen as lacking compassion. Even arguing against a policy on pragmatic grounds, while fully supporting the policy's aims, can be seen as lacking compassion. Caring is more important than results. Personally I don't see this change as being a good thing.

One can't derive a pure ought from a pure is, of course, but even if one subscribes to modern norms, one might want to consider the possibility that the true reason for this is simply that they are modern norms, that they are acquired from society without much questioning, and that accepting them brings approval and challenging them brings hostility.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Money is perhaps the single most useful invention in human history. Without something like a uniform medium of exchange any sort of modern society would likely be impossible.

By "money" I mean goods which people will accept as part of a transaction, not for any direct use it may have, but because it will be used as a payment in future transactions. It follow that it is not strictly correct to say of something that it is or is not money, but rather that it is or is not being used as money. If you accept gold coins because you actually expect to use the gold, say to make an lovely ornamental calf statue, from your point of view the gold coins aren't money, they're a consumption good.

People will sometimes say things like "money is also a measurement of value or a store of value". This is a confusion of conncepts. In the first part, it is the same sort of error as using the same word for "meter" and "meterstick", and concluding the same thing. A "dollar" as an abstract measurement of value is something different from a coin or note considered to be worth a dollar. The second part is a different sort of error. There are reasons why the same sorts of things are likely to be useful as a store of value or as a medium of exchange, but if we accept that calling something "money" denotes what it is used for rather than what it is, and incidentally that it is not always true that the same sorts of things are useful for both purposes, we can see why calling these two concepts by the same name is misleading.

There are many sorts of things that have been used as money, but they come in two general sorts of categories: goods that are considered to carry intrinsic value (even though it is not expected that they will be used as primary goods, it is vital that they could be), which I will call "value money", and signifiers of some sort of transferable promise, which I will call "promise money".

There are many reasons why metal coins have been particularly popular as value money. Uniformity (value is determined solely by the mass), durability (gold won't rot or rust), density (an ounce of gold will usually fetch more than a ton of wheat).

Because metal coins have so often been the items used as value money, and because promise money (at least initially) pretty much has to be redeemable for something specifc, there is sometimes a tendency to view metal coins as being "real money" and promise money as just "representing" money, the promise money representing some quantity of metal. In 1957 dollar bills were still "silver certificates". But fundamentally gold and silver are just commodities like any other, subject to the same sort of fluctuations in value. The advantages of metal money really only apply when the metal itself is being used as money. Any sort of certificate would have the same advantages.

There's no reason in principle why there must be a direct relationship between price denomination and form of payment. For example, one could imagine a loan arrangement where the debt payment is specified in tons of wheat value equivalence but the payment is in the form of gold coins. This of course necessitates specifying a method of determining what the relative vales of gold and wheat are, so one wouldn't introduce this added complexity for no good reason.

But such an arrangement would make sense if wheat had a more constant value in time relative to other goods and services (so tons of wheat makes a better measure of value) but gold is much more convenient as the actual medium of exchange (because you only have to ship ounces rather than tons).

I believe the state's involvement in the issue of money originated because it's a convenient way to tax. Demanding that internal trade takes place using the official coinage allows for charging a seigniorage, and also allows the state to effectively repudiate a portion of its internal debt by debasing the coinage (or "inflating the money supply"). This is better for the state than repudiating the debt directly, since by requiring citizens to accept debased coinage at face value the state causes the burden to fall on the people as a whole rather than merely upon its creditors.

Friday, November 9, 2007


It's a bit of an exaggeration to say that "government" is nothing but another name for "sedentary bandit". But really not that big of one.

For the vast majority of governments past and present, the primary activity has been the forcible taking of goods and services from some and giving it to others, the support of the recipients being necessary to keep the government in power. This includes modern democracies.

It seems likely to me that some form of government is unavoidable, and perhaps even desirable. "Government" essentially denotes an organization that is ultimately capable of effectively applying coercion in a region, and although the arbitrary initiation of coercion
is clearly undesirable, I don't think a complete absence of coercion is even possible. When two disputants are absolutely incapable or unwilling to come to an agreement, either one will enforce its will upon the other or some third party will enforce a decision upon both.

It might be desirable to have some organization entrusted with enforcing resolutions upon disputants, with more or less monopoly power over a region. Or perhaps not, this strikes me as a topic particularly open to debate.

The particular set of functions and policies executed by modern governments is a result of historical processes, and doesn't necessarily make any sense when viewed as if they had been recently designed with some purpose in mind. For example, in some countries governments run the liquor stores and in others the brothels. This is not because private industry is incapable of adequately serving the public need in these areas, but because positioning itself as a monopoly supplier seemed a convenient way of raising revenue. They could almost certainly serve their customers better and get higher total revenue by privatizing these industries and taxing them rather than continuing to operate them directly, but this is not obvious to most people, and there are vested interests in continuing the current policies, whereas the individuals who would significantly benefit from privatization are just theoretical people. That is, they must exist, but nobody (including themselves) can know who they are.

I think economists have by now shown that it's a highly reliable rule that market-oriented dispersed decisionmaking will consistently outperform centrally planned decisionmaking. The implication is that, from an efficiency standpoint, the only activities that should be performed by governments directly are those which are intrinsically coercive, and that regulatory law should wherever possible be goal rather than process oriented. For example, if the objective is to decrease pollution from coal-fired plants, it would be better to limit legal emissions rather than to mandate specific pollution reduction measures, and still better to apply a tax based on the amount of emissions. "Better" in the sense of resulting in lower total pollution at lower cost. So why aren't things usually done this way?

Several possibilities spring to mind. First off, a lot of it really is just disguised payoff to certain groups for their support.

Second some of it may be crappy economics. The idea that central planning will outperform the market if only you have smart enough central planners seems intuitive to many people. You have to spend more time looking at the historical record than most people are willing to to convince yourself that it is not true, and more time studying theory than most people are willing to to understand why it is not true. Certainly I couldn't convince anyone of the advantage of the market who did not believe in it already.

Another is the possibility that certain functions must be operated directly by the government in order to fulfill the government's objectives. For example, governments run the post office because they want to be assured of the ability to read people's mail. Governments run schools because they want to determine what children are taught. Governments run television and radio stations because they wish not merely to objectively inform and entertain, but to influence public opinion in particular ways.

Last on my list is the possibility that the purported objectives are actually much less important than the signal sent. For example, it's likely that most people would receive more direct benefit from appearing to care about polar bears than actually increasing polar bear populations, since most of us will never encounter a polar bear outside a zoo, and that's probably for the best.

Other suggestions?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm hoping to make this largely a discussion blog with my own posts just as jumping off points, but we'll see how that goes.

What I want to do is to discuss ideas for spreading freedom through voluntary action. In particular I want to focus on the applications of modern technology. Anything that is done must be done for the first time, but I suspect if an idea hasn't been tried before and it's any good, most likely it's because it hasn't been possible until recently (or perhaps isn't possible quite yet, but soon will be). I'll try to avoid speculations which require major technological breakthroughs.

This isn't intended to be yet another individualist political blog. There are plenty of those already, many written by people who are much better writers than I am, and much better informed on current political events. I intend to keep my discussion of such things to a minimum.

Some of my posts (like this one) will be about pretty general concepts, and may seem quite basic. I think they are necessary, because my experience is that people tend to think they are being understood much better than they are, and people think they understand much better than they do.

This post is about freedom. I don't want to spend a lot of time quibbling on precise definitions, but "freedom" in the context of this blog means more or less the power of individuals to decide what actions to take tregarding their own lives, and to bear the consequences (good and bad) of those actions. This blog is dedicated to the proposition, "freedom is good". Not necessarily the only good, not even necessarily the highest good, but good in and of itself. If individual choice is to be restricted, this requires justification. Removing such restrictions requires only that the restrictions have not been sufficiently justified.

There are people who use the "freedom" in the sense of "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear". I consider those not to be different kinds of freedom, but rather completely separate concepts that are unfortunaltely referred to by the same word. If I feel the need to refer to such concepts here, I'll describe them in some other way. In any case I don't think anyone is morally entitled to something like a guaranteed minimum standard of living, not do I think such a guarantee is possible in practice.

I reject the concept of "false consciousness", by which I mean the idea that there's something people "really" want which is very different from what they think they want. Irealize that people may do things at the heights of emotion which they may regret in their more sober moments, and I realize that small children or people with severe mental disabilities may have no idea what is harmful to them. But I think for normal, sane adults taking time for serious reflection, not only are they generally capable of deciding what is best for themselves, they essentially define what is best for themselves.

The last thing I want to rule out is the idea of group rights, that is, the idea that a group has rights as distinct from the rigts of its members. I understand that people are naturally social, that they will form groups, that they will do things on behalf of the group itself or to demonstrate loyalty to the group, and that a person may voluntarily join a group on the understanding that the group has the authority to discipline its members. But nobody outside a group has a moral responsibility to aid a group in enforcing its rules upon its members, and a person is not morally subject to the authority of a group he has not voluntarily joined. In particular, upon reaching adulthood a person has a right to leave a country or religion he was "born into".

I don't want to waste effort debating basic premises. I understand that my beliefs are very much in the minority, I don't care. I understand that there are people who believe that individualism is fundamentally bad, and sacrificing one's own desires in favor of the interests of others is fundamentally good. If anyone reading tends to think this way, I'm well aware that I will be unable to change your mind. I suggest that your time is better spent elsewhere, as our viewpoints are too distant for their to be any profitable mutual discussion. In any event, please don't comment, since I'll just delete and ban anyway. This blog isn't for discussing what our goals should be, it's for suggesting ideas about how to achieve them.

I hope I haven't driven away all my potential readers. I think within the boundaries I have set there are still many lifetimes' worth of potential discussion. Please be civil, both to myself and to each other. Remember that, once suggested, the quality of an idea is independent of who its proponents are.