Archive for Politics

A Stupid Argument

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , , , on November, 2012 by melendwyr

One of the most common arguments I’ve seen people bring up in criticisms of ( conservatism / Ayn Rand’s Objectivism / whatever strawman they’re trying to tear down to show how potent their political positions are ) is the American interstate highway system.

You’ve probably heard or read the objection yourself; it usually goes something like this:  “You use the interstate system and products shipped on it – shouldn’t you be boycotting the evil governmental interference in the market?”

I’d like to suggest a reply to such people.  They presumably contract for the services of various utility companies – electricity, water, oil or natural gas, and so on.  In the United States, these utilities are almost always, to the best of my knowledge, privately owned companies.

Shouldn’t these advocates of government influence in the markets be boycotting the evil corporations trying to dominate their lives, and refuse to use utilities until such time as they can be nationalized into government services?

As for the argument that many of the people who have shaped the technological and sociological structure of our society had at least some public schooling, and the government subsidizes many kinds of education, therefore our wonderful society is utterly dependent upon government activity… well, I don’t think any argument is effective against Duckspeak.

On a totally unrelated note:  the Eurythmics’ soundtrack to 1984 is fantastic.  I particularly recommend Doubleplusgood, although the fan video which accompanies it is a bit rough around the edges.

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Relevant Aphorism

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , on June, 2012 by melendwyr

Regarding the recent Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal penalty for not purchasing health care can be thought of as a tax and is thus Constitutional:

“How many legs does a dog have, if you call his tail a leg?  Four.  Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one.” – Abraham Lincoln

The Purpose of Power is Power

Posted in Doom, GIGO, Politics and Society, Useful Aphorisms with tags , , , , on September, 2009 by melendwyr

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating, and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price for maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic.

– from “Muad’Dib, The Religious Issues” by the Princess Irulan

– Frank Herbert, “Dune”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of power. What it’s good for, what its limits are.

It’s increasingly clear to me that power, used in ways that are not compatible with the maintenance and continued existence of that power, tends to expend itself. Power that persists usually concerns itself with itself and its perpetuation. But there are inherent trade-offs that cannot be avoided.

Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the path to slavery.

– Frank Herbert

What is power to be used for? What goal is the end to which power is the means? Those who have purposes for their power will sometimes find that purpose in conflict with the perpetuation and increase of the power itself, and so must choose. Those whose purposes include the use of power in a certain way will face even more conflicts and more choices. But those who seek power only for the purpose of possessing and exercising power will not be conflicted, and will be forced to no difficult choices.

Maintaining a democratic system and keeping it functionally in touch with reality is an example of having standards for the use of power. Demagogues and popular tyrants – the most obvious threats to any democracy – are examples of seeking power for power’s sake.

I don’t think this is a conflict we can win.

Balko on Ted Kennedy

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read with tags , , on August, 2009 by melendwyr

See his article here, which demonstrates a far greater patience and restraint that I could manage.

Basically, he sums up most of the things I wish I could say but am not skilled enough to do so properly.

Worldbuilding Questions: Scalzi’s OldMan’sWarVerse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August, 2009 by melendwyr

WARNING! Spoilers for books set in the narrative universe of Old Man’s War, below!

Please see John Scalzi’s thoughts on worldbuilding, here.

The brain implants that the artificially engineered bodies of the soldiers possess are in fact capable of reading their minds (which is obvious) and transmitting that information to their superiors (which they are generally not aware of). A major plot point revolves around the development of a wholly organic ‘implant’ that can be grown, and be fully functional, in a ‘normal’ human body.

My questions: What are the implications of this technology existing in a society primarily dominated by a militaristic, totalitarian state? How long will it be before the civilian population is secretly infected with implant-building viruses that give them none of the useful side effects of having a brainside computer but permits their thoughts and actions to be monitored?

Secular Right: Futility

Posted in Politics and Society, Reviews with tags , , , , on August, 2009 by melendwyr

Heather MacDonald suggests that all her posturing about the foolishness of religion is a way of attracting young people to conservatism, of “rebranding” it. She seems to think that the young are running away from institutions like the GOP in droves because of their theistic stances.

So her anti-religious rhetoric has nothing to do with Reality or Reason (the two things that SR is supposedly about), but is entirely a means toward her end – which seems to be the propagation of what is commonly called “social conservatism”, or so I presume.

Meanwhile, religious morons dominate the discussions. I mean, just look at this guy. That’s the sort of comment that’s all over the place on SR – not because the morons are exerting themselves, but because no one is saying anything of value. Are the morons shouted down? Are the glaring errors in their arguments acknowledged, much less condemned, by anyone? No.

I’m ‘conservative’ because I think change should be approached with caution – which is not to imply that it’s not inevitable, or not desirable. I think the best of the past should be carefully preserved, and care taken to see that the things we introduce to history are worthwhile; I don’t want to back blindly into the future.

In other words, I want to preserve the legacy of Jefferson in “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” mode, regarding what should be tolerated. Not “maybe we shouldn’t execute homosexuals, just castrate them instead” mode. (Well, that’s more tolerant than the general view at the time, but I think you get my point.) Or “let’s declare blacks to be two-thirds of a person for purposes of voting assignments”. Or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are natural rights, but I need to be able to own slaves.” Those are aspects that I don’t see the value in preserving.

The people who want to preserve that sort of stuff aren’t necessarily conservatives. But they are morons. Pure and simple.

I don’t think it’s the GOP’s theism that’s driving people away. It’s their authoritarian, culturally reactive, narrow-mindedness. Those aren’t traits that make up the best parts of our historical legacy. They’re not things I want to preserve and encourage. I want political groups that are based in reason and reality, not ideological stances that proclaim to possess a continuity with a better past while not actually representing what the past was really like. I want stances to be taken because they’re true and correct, instead of being advertising gimmicks.

I’m increasingly of the belief that SR isn’t interested in providing those things.

As long as the religious morons believe they can be influential without having to give up their attempts to promote their delusions, they’ll keep promoting them. The only way to get the religiously conservative to work for the cause of secular conservatism is for secularism to become sufficiently powerful in its own right that the religious feel they have something to gain by allying with it – and something to lose by not doing so. Power attracts power; strength attracts strength. At least in the nonsensical, limbic-brained world of politics.

MacDonald isn’t just going about things in the wrong way, she has the wrong goals. And no one else is doing much contributing to SR, so she’s establishing the site’s message by default.

Best Idea All Day

Posted in Politics and Society with tags on August, 2009 by melendwyr

RGH posts in this comment thread of Sailer’s:

It’s seems to me that the basic problem is that we lack a critical mass of people in the US who understand how wealth is created and what limited government is and why it is desirable. I would like to see the party spend a lot of money on creative media to teach these principles to the American people. No one who understands either of them would vote for someone like Barak Obama.

I don’t agree with that last part – I can think of all sorts of reasons why people would understand those principles and vote for Obama, most of them involving personal benefit and awareness that limited-government advocacy is currently going nowhere – but the argument as a whole is sound.