If Only The Right People Were In Charge!

Not only our current national follies – really, the shutdown involves roping off access to the old North Bridge in Massachussets and a monument to the original tea party?  Something that like the WWII monument and the self sustaining farm, and the service academy football game requires NO federal money but requires federal money to shut down and keep shut like, oh, the trail heads of suddenly “closed” trails?  Really?  You really think we are that stupid? – but the follies of SFWA including the hilariously bizarre survey that Kate fisked today have brought to my mind again the oddly persistent myth that if only the right people were in charge, then we could have a paradise right here.

I have no idea why this myth persists, except, of course “How full of brambles is this workaday world.”  That is, almost all of us know someone who really deserved much better from life, and who got handed the short (and often dirty) end of the stick.  And we know right bastages, with nothing to recommend them, not even a good amount of the brains given a common goose, who flourish like the green bay tree.

To our monkey brains this seems wrong and like there should be a better way to organize things.  Then comes the temptation.  “If only the right people were in charge.”  You know, smart people, and well brought up, who really want what is best for everyone.

Somehow this keeps failing and the monkey brain keeps insisting it shouldn’t.  And we keep being baffled by it.  “Perhaps we need the right people and the right ideology to train them in, an ideology that foreswears private property and makes the world sing in perfect harmony – oh wait, that’s coca cola – and makes everyone share everything and be nice to each other.

And yet, communism, has not only filled the graves with hundreds of millions of innocent lives, who did nothing to deserve it, it has also brought about the world’s worst living misery AND succeed in establishing the old dynastic monarchies in the shape of Kim’s and the Castros and others.

So – to quote an old communist – what is to be done?

Why does this keep happening?

Most of us have never got to be rulers of the world.  But we have all got to work in groups. And ultimately, even a totalitarian government is a group.  Any group of humans from the smallest work group in your local high school falls prey to the fact that we’re monkeys, and monkeys wish to establish dominance structures.

I remember my shock in high school when I found that the people in my work group were not in the least interested in turning in a good project.  Oh, no.  They were interested, instead, in showing each other who was boss.  And every female in the fargin group would decide I was the person to beat.  Say it was an English Translation group, tasked with translating a story from Portuguese to English.  I’d calmly point out to the female tossing her hair and blowing out air from both nostrils that no, I wasn’t going to write in French Friends for French Fries.  The answer would not be to look it up in the idioms list and confirm I was right, it would be “You’re not the owner of this group.  I want that there.  Am I not a part of this group?  And why are they called French anyway?  That’s just stupid.  Potatoes aren’t French.  You’re always putting crap like that in, because you think you’re so smart.”

And heaven have mercy on our souls if this chick was actually pretty and there was a male in the group, because he’d immediately take up his lance for the lady fair.

Think of any government as the same thing.  You might go in as the most ethical person who ever lived, but after sustaining ten or twenty or a hundred of this type of assaults, you’re going to go “Screw that.  I’ll keep power, because you guys are all crazy.”

The problem with this is that by then you’re likely also crazy.

And then there’s of course the inherent problem of communism, which is supposed to equalize things by identifying the deserving who aren’t getting enough.  Note the subjective things.  Who are the deserving?  And what is enough?

The Kulaks were after all small farmers, and pretty damn poor by OUR standards, but they were deemed to have too much and to stand in the way of fair distribution and into the grave they must go.

SOMEONE must decide.  The person who climbs to the top in this type of system is the sort of person who by nature thinks they know better than everyone else, even when this is demonstrably true.  And the top in this case is not just the dictator spot but every node in the bureaucracy.

Then there’s the fact that these people arrogate to themselves the right to decide what’s best for people they don’t know and whom they’ve never seen.  Given the plain weirdness of my body and how it reacts to things – no, really? Carbs make me break out in eczema? – and that’s before you throw in far worse weirdness like my husband who gets put to sleep by caffeine and gets wired by codeine…  who ARE these people to think they know what I should do and eat, and when I should be treated or not?

I have bad news for the panel of doctors who, 17 years ago declared my case to be both baffling and beyond hope (I had atypical intra-cellular pneumonia.)  They said I’d be in again within days, when I insisted on leaving the hospital, and also that I wouldn’t survive another year.  Well, I’m still here, and the body though not working well… is working.  Because I left, and because I took enough anti-biotics to clear the thing away, even though they said it wouldn’t work, because it hadn’t worked, because….

These were doctors who were working directly with me.  They were grievously wrong.

Do I want a panel of bureaucrats who’ve never seen me deciding I shouldn’t have whatever it is I need to survive?


The more government grabs, the more it becomes like group work, and we should all be French Friends, only not French because that’s stupid and potatoes are not French.

And this is all ignoring the fact that no, life isn’t perfect and we all have differing amounts of drive and talent.  However, if you let people work for what they conceive to constitute their happiness, they will work hard enough to enrich even those who don’t work.  No, not to the same level.  Humans aren’t eggs, all alike and perfectly unmarked.  No, the ones who are poorer don’t “deserve” better.  Oh, they might, some of them, on a case by case basis.  BUT they don’t deserve it JUST because they’re poor.  That just creates an incentive to be poor.  But in a society where people can keep the fruits of their labors (Ah!) then those who are able and willing work hard enough that even the poorest in the society are better off.  No?  Compare your local working poor to middle age peasants (living in a system that confiscated earnings based on birth, if not on equality.)  Oh, heck, I’ll spot you one.  Compare your working poor to the kings of the Middle Ages.  Rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  And that’s our poor.  By historical standards.  (And I know whence I speak.  Reading history when I was little, I considered myself immensely wealthy, living in an unheated stone house, with the bathroom outside the back door and eating mostly the local produce and meat on Sundays. Oh, heck, I had FIVE outfits.)

Yes, there will be injustices: the mother left with a brood of children, working till she drops to keep them decently; the man who for some reason never gets ahead, and works in obscurity until he dies when his worth is realized; the artists who are never discovered; the person who is cheated out of all he owns.

Except that a top down system doesn’t cure any of that.  It just makes them endemic.  How could it be else, when it’s administered by bureaucrats working at cross purposes with each other and often with no view at all to the people they affect?

No?  Then what possessed a government HERE to close monuments that don’t need government employees to run?  What except to keep their power?

This, this, if nothing else is sufficient demonstration that they certainly don’t need more power.

A small government that lets individuals make choices on what constitutes their happiness is the only answer.

As much as it might offend bureaucrats and feminists, it might constitute that poor single mother’s happiness to work herself to a bone in order to bring her kids up right?  No?  How do you know?  I know many in her position who felt just that way.  Would a self-actualizing lifestyle be better?  For whom?  You perhaps, but then don’t come whining to me about the anomie and lack of purpose of modern life.  Some of us find our purpose and happiness in others.  Not your cup of tea?  Then don’t drink.

In cases like that government subsidies just rob the person of purpose and happiness.

An, but we get French Friends because “it’s my work too, and I want to have my hand in it.” (Stompy foot.)

If that’s the kind of system you like, then you definitely want the right people in charge, and you also think you’re the right people.  Full speed ahead and damn the mass graves.

If you’re not…

If you’re not you might start suspecting that though a lot of nonsense has been spoken about the occasion of sin (possibly because the poor serpent is inherently phallic) what that ancient serpent whispered in the woman’s ear in the fabled garden was “This Earth could be a paradise.  If only we had the right people in charge.”



310 responses to “If Only The Right People Were In Charge!

  1. Birthday girl

    ” … what that ancient serpent whispered in the woman’s ear in the fabled garden was “This Earth could be a paradise. If only we had the right people in charge.”

    Oooooo, I stand in awe. Wow.

  2. I’ve contended for years that our founding fathers never intended for political dynasties to become entrenched in our government.[the kennedys among others] I’ve said flat out that they never intended for political office to become a career. That their intent was we all be ‘citizen statesmen’. We go into office, do our term of service, maybe two and then LEAVE back to our normal lives. To let someone else come in and pick up the torch. Sadly that ain’t what we got, now is it?

    • It began pretty quickly, e.g. John Quincy Adams.

    • One of the libels leveled against George Washington was that he intended to establish such a dynasty — and his infertility is cited by some as proof of G-D’s love for America.

      One could argue equally that the Kennedy, Roosevelt and Bush “dynasties” are evidence of Satan’s hatred of America. But the simple fact is that (as can be seen in the various senatorial family dynasties in the various states over the years) that politics rewards those who have name recognition and can employ the experienced campaign staff (aka: the family business.)

      In truth, it is notable that there are not more such dynastic families, a fact likely attributable to how long a senator can survive in office, leaving offspring looking enviously at Prince Charles and exploring other money-making options … like trading on Daddy’s connections to get in on the ground floor on profitable land development deals or internet start-ups.

  3. he’d immediately take up his lance for the lady fair.

    Heh-heh. I see what you did there.

  4. Well said! I wish I knew what to do to get back to the system we used to have.

    • I like the thought of the public getting pissed enough that they hang every sitting politician on the federal level and a not so small portion of the same to those on the local and state levels my self.

      • yes..I realize it probably won’t happen but a boy can dream

        • It will eventually happen in some form, but, it will be long and bloody.

          • And this is what I’d like to avert.

            • I don’t think that is possible any more. I would just like to delay the start so I can get home first.

            • Seconded. We, as a country, really, REALLY don’t want this to happen. We are in no sense prepared for it.

              • No one, as a country is ever prepared for that. It still becomes necessary to water the roots of the tree of Liberty occasionally. I just hope we avoid chopping it down.

                • While I’ll grant it may become necessary, I’ll still devote considerable will to the prevention of it. War here would not be restorative, not for some time.

                  • Not Gainsaying you, simply pointing out that our not being ready will always be true. And adding my fear that someone, trying to right things, will destroy us

                    • Fair enough. I think there have been times in our history where the civilian population were more prepared for the realities of combat. And certainly there are other countries where people are more intimately familiar with those realities. But you’re right, we’ll never truly be ready, whatever necessity dictates.

                      And I, too, fear an attempt to right the ship may destroy us. Frustration abounds.

                • It really does seem that preserving liberty in this country requires killing large numbers of Democrats every 90 years or so.

                  • Killing them seems unnecessary and wasteful. I am confident that modern science offers many more practical options for reconditioning them to become useful and productive members of society.

                    There is, of course, some debate as to what would constitute the optimum scenes for exhibiting in such a montage.

                    • I find many people who talk about “restoring liberty” (and the steps they believe necessary thereto) to remind me a lot of the emergency committee (or whatever they were called–that kind of detail doesn’t stick with me very well from reading fiction, even very good fiction) from A Few Good Men.

                      There are entirely too many who seem to think “let’s just kill/imprison/otherwise deny life or liberty to folk who disagree with us” folk out there who are nominally on “my side.” (I am not making that accusation against anyone here–just to be clear.) And, historically, those are the kind of people who just love to hijack revolutions and use them for their own ends (which always seem to end up being their own personal aggrandizement).

                      This is why I have very little hope that liberty will actually be restored and the only real question is what form tyranny will take.

            • Indeed. The consequences of another civil war in this country could be… terrible. I do not want to live in a country where violence becomes an accepted part of the regular political process. Neither do I wish to see the wages of war levied on innocents, especially here at home.

              I really, really, want peace. I like having a cookout on friday night, talking to friends over the internet, and going to sleep with the sound of rain outside my window, knowing those I care about are safe. I dislike fighting and conflict, as most good folk do.

              There are those out there who disagree. People, in the loosest definition of the word, who would *take* from me and mine to feed their own greed and lust for power. Predators who’d whip up a brutal storm of fear and hatred and set it loose among those who are envious, wicked, or merely credulous and incurious.

              The tide of public opinion can be tempestuous and wild. Given the wrong set of circumstances, the peace we love and cherish could be shattered in an instant. These are not happy thoughts.

              I will willingly trade complacency for vigilance. I could stand to lose my guaranteed universal healthcare in exchange for the risk and responsibility that managing my own HSA requires. No tears would be shed should preferential treatment for groups that I legally might claim membership of disappear, if a clean slate and clear eyed evaluation of each person according to their own merit take its place.

              If history has taught us anything, it is that there will always be threats to our peaceable way of life. Our nation is too powerful for there *not* to be men and women who would seek to control it for their own ends. I believe the founding fathers knew this, and tried to build safeguards against it. Public service used to be a sacrifice, wherein an elected offical forwent the profitable possibilities of private life to serve the interests of his fellow citizens, to protect and enhance their freedoms and chance to pursue happiness.

              It may be that one day the greedy and the ambitious overplay their hand, and the chain of consequence leads us to violent internal strife. Against that day, the wise who love freedom, safety, and peace will cherish every moment they have, and until the last moment strive to hold this repbulic together as it is meant to be.

              For if we fail, si vis pacem…

      • I’d like to exempt Ted Cruz on the grounds that he is doing the right things and isn’t your usual congresscritter.

      • The problem with hanging all the scoundrels is that there are ten more to replace each one swinging in the wind.

      • Those are the wrong targets. They are few, easily defended, and the lure of power quickly replaces their number. Plus, if you believe people have a right to say who leads the government, it’s tough to justify the death of their chosen representatives.

        The tens of thousands of bureaucrats who enable the beast, on the other hand, are the soft target. And if you make the bureaucracy frightened to follow unconstitutional dictates from the government, well, that’s just another check and balance in the system.

        • This is wisdom. It is the jobsworths in their bureaucratic sinecures that are a large part of the problem. Bureaucracies always expand (Pournelle’s Iron Law, Acton etc ) and never contract. They may sometimes change purpose and focus but the top bureaucrats need to have (more) underlings and the underlings need to have more underlings and dependents (which may include recipients of their largess or folks they have to regulate to pieces) in order to win their turf battles and justify their existence.

          Making it, in some way or another, a scary risky dangerous process to be a bureaucrat might well mean that bureaucracies start contracting. right now most bureaucrats are essentially immune from consequences if their actions are judged to be illegal, immoral etc. Indeed going on some of the things I read in the news it seems that even personal foibles like a desire for sex with barnyard animals may not be sufficient to get a bureaucrat fired as opposed to sent on a mental-health sabbatical or similar.

          This, it seems to me is wrong. There should be a way to hold their feet to the fire so that they don’t think about overreach. I incline to incarceration in stocks or cages at the entrance of the office they formerly worked at. For health and safety reasons they will be hosed down once a day, and they have a bucket. Food will be available for passers by and well wishers to provide to them at their convenience, and for safety purposes it will of course be soft and easily digestible. In order to make sure that it is only given to the malefactors it may have an unpleasing smell or color (or both).

          • “I was just following orders” needs to be as poor a defense in civilian courts as it is in courts martial.

            • Instead, we have idjits like the TX Democrat Congresswoman who proposed a law to remove from office any elected local official who refused to enforce Federal law. It was about gun control.

              Her staff was less than amused when I called the office and asked if it included a clause reversing the verdicts at Nuremberg. What killed it was the realization that it was a ready made club to use against “sanctuary cities.”

              • Strange how that works once you start bringing up laws that [other side] happens to like. Or dislike.

                • “You should never hand someone a gun unless you’re sure where they’ll point it.” -Jeffrey Sinclair

  5. Yup. A basic rule of thumb is any political philosophy that depends on the “right people” being in charge has already failed.

    There’s also the case of Locke’s good prince, and how the occasion of actually getting that right person in charge makes things worse in the long run, as people give that right person all sorts of new powers that are abused by the next rulers.

    • “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” But as Madison went on to observe, we are stuck with men.

  6. The person who climbs to the top in this type of system is the sort of person who by nature thinks they know better than everyone else, even when this is demonstrably true.

    Sometimes it is merely the person more willing to abuse the system (and the people) to get their own needs (fiscal, social, psychological) met. They don’t think they know better than everybody else, but they know what they want and think anybody not similarly abusing the system is a sucker.

    • And never stop to think how much of that system depends on most people not abusing it. When everyone develops that attitude, that following the rules is for suckers, it’s Katy-bar-the-door. And we’re getting there quickly.

  7. Really? You really think we are that stupid?

    Before reading further, I want to respond to this. YES, they think we are that stupid. And I think I have finally figured out why. They look only at their own sycophants, and see how easily they swallow every dinosaur-choking pill they are given, and extrapolate that to the rest of the people, no matter how many times they have their noses rubbed in the fact that they don’t get it.

  8. It is possible that “the system” would work, and work well if the “right people” (for sufficient values of “right people”) were in charge.

    The “gotcha” is that as a general rule, folk who seek to be in charger are never the right people. For that matter, folk who have managed to get into a position where being “in charge” is at all possible are never the “right people.” Exceptions are . . . rare enough that I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    And so, once again we see that while in theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice they are different.

    • So, the *sneaky* way to do it is to get everyone in a room, ask those who want to be in charge to come to the front (where they are given committee assignments and long meetings)… and then the ninjas grab the people edging to the back and hiding behind the potted plants and put THEM in the real seats of power. The beauty of this scheme being the grabby people would never figure it out because they got to brag about being Senior Co-Chair of the Policy Subcommittee or some such and catered donuts.

      • You’ve been reading The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

      • Who will be in charge of reluctantly accept the responsibility of coordinating the ninjas?

        • ah yes. And how does he get the ninjas to obey him?

          • For a few years I was a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party until I saw how Harry Browne’is merry crew behaved after they took over.

            Never again.

          • How do we keep the ninjas from being the rulers? cf. Praetorian Guard.

            • Dorothy Grant

              the ninjas are the rulers. “If you want out, you have to find someone who wants it less than you…”

              • Who is the speaker, and how did he get in a position to say that?

                I’m working on a far-future where he could. This is because they have a working truth-detector — it goes by what section of your mind activates when you talk, they differ for truth and lies — and after generations of a total inability to get away with it, dishonesty has massively decreased.

                I ought to write the near future one where it gets deployed into society sometime.

                • Sounds like _The Truth Machine_ by James L. Halperin. Neat ideas but not the best writing I’ve ever read.

                • Which is one of the basic abilities conferred by the Lens of Arisia. If you know when someone is lying / corrupt then Good Princes become far more likely.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Non-Corrupt doesn’t equal Good. [Sad Smile]

                    • No, but being able to spot dishonesty makes “Are you evil*?” a useful filter.

                      *Yes, yes, no one is evil in their own mind. But it isn’t terribly difficult to pose a series of questions that would reveal an evil person, either through their answers or their deceptions.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Jeff, that depends on who’s asking the questions (and creating the questions), the Arisians or the Eddorians?

                      While I believe in “evil”, too often in human affairs “evil” is defined by the “Good Men”.

                      Is Orson Scott Card evil? Too many “Liberals” would say “yes”.

                    • Well, first you have to pass the questioners through the filter. Yes, there’s a bootstrapping problem, but let’s worry about that after we get the perfect lie detector.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Jeff, IMO you’re thinking “if the Right People Were In Charge”. For your idea to work (beside needing the perfect lie detector), you need the “Right People” to administer the tests. Can’t remember the Latin but there’s the old idea of “who guards against the guardians”.

                    • I am aware of the apparent irony. But there is a difference between “evil” and “disagrees with me” and I don’t think it would be terribly difficult to develop a set of questions to suss out the former.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      In theory yes, but in practice IMO it won’t happen or will start up that way but Human Nature being what it is won’t stay that way. When I see people “damning” Orson Scott Card, I’m not optimistic.

                    • You know, there’s nothing inherent to our magical machine that requires it to be used under interrogation. Simply require journalists to be hooked up while giving their story, and append the results (I’m thinking a truthometer chyron during broadcast, maybe a truthiness printout following an article in the paper). Keeping the Fourth Estate honest and eliminating spin would go far in solving many of our problems. It would eliminate one failure mode of the democratic process.

                    • And I should add that use of the phrase “in practice” while discussing a purely hypothetical device is why this place is awesome.

                    • Forgive spelling & grammar, someone else please correct: quis custodiet ipsos customers? Or in good ol’ ‘ murican — who’s gonna shave the barber?

                    • Custodes not customers. Autocorrect strikes again

                    • Customers has a certain character to it…

                    • You can judge if someone is evil by their actions.

                    • If you know what their actions are, you can tell how good they are. That’s where the lie detector comes in.

                      What happens is a spiral. One starts by verifying that people in crucial occupations are not breaking the law or otherwise acting in a way that their crucial occupations makes uncommonly dangerous. One would, for instance, check that jailors are not aiding and abetting prisoners’ law-breaking, or abusing prisoners. Or that teachers are actually trying to teach, and are not, say, abusing the children. Trials, whether civil or criminal, would be an important point. Politicans would start using the detector to ensure that you believe them — which will produce a sea change in politicans, and probably result in such things as an amendment to say that you do have to testify that you have not committed a crime or it can be held against — and by the same token, the police who want to arrest you must testify that they do have cause and are not doing it out of spite.

                      Thrashing out the questions to be asked would take a good long while, with people demanding every step that the person advocating a use genuinely think it would help the problem — and by the same token, that the person opposing it does for the reason he states and not to protect his darlings.

                      I should mention that it also can filter out self-delusion, which is perhaps even more crucial, but which I dropped earlier.

                    • As for who guards the guardians — once this system gets rolling, there is a questionaire for guardians hitting the offenses they don’t want them to commit. Every year, everyone gets to watch the Chief Guardian testify under the lie detector that neither he nor his underlings violate them. The reason he can know that his underlings don’t is through recursion: he questions his immediate subordinates about whether they have offended, and whether they have properly questioned their subordinates.

                    • “You know, there’s nothing inherent to our magical machine that requires it to be used under interrogation. Simply require journalists to be hooked up while giving their story, and append the results (I’m thinking a truthometer chyron during broadcast, maybe a truthiness printout following an article in the paper). ”

                      I’m thinking more along the lines of a shock collar, that gives them a jolt everytime they lie.

                    • All you are doing there is employing operant conditioning to develop a superior breed of liar. Doesn’t it all come down to how carefully you refine the definition of “is”?

                      After all, as the definition of “sexual relations” includes the concept of providing sexual gratification to your partner I doubt any lie detector would have registered Billy Jeff Clinton’s famous denial as false.

                    • You can filter out enough to be useful with questions that admit of no parsing.

    • For a small enough group of people, so that one person can know (at least in passing acquaintance) everyone in the group, that may be true. For larger groups, it quickly becomes impossible, because one person simply cannot manage all the variations. Look at Sarah’s example of her doctor problems. What top leader could possibly take care of all those details?

    • So long as emergent values are instead purposefully calculated by a few individuals within the system, the right people will only take one look at it and then abolish that part of the system.

      In other words, there are systems so stupid that the only criteria for being the right person in charge is the willingness and ability to move to some other system.

    • an observation as old as Plato

  9. It would appear obvious to me that the administration is doing everything in its power to make the shutdown as painful and inconvenient as possible to as many of the public as they can. Why would they do so if not under the assumption that they will be able to spin it to put the blame for said pain on their opponents?
    Tar and feathers are far too good for such low life scum. An old soft rope is much more to my liking.

    • may break, a new, well waxed one would be best

      • Old time hangman lore. Use a new rope with a proper hangman’s knot positioned correctly behind the subject’s ear to cleanly snap their neck at the drop. With an old soft rope set directly behind the head the subject will slowly strangle with much kicking and struggling.
        Second option was saved for those convicted of especially heinous crimes or simply for the entertainment of the viewing public. Back in the day public hangings were considered a prime spectator event.

    • While reading about the announced “cancellation” of service academy athletic contests, even though the athletic programs are fully independently funded (no appropriated funds expended) (“Cancellation could cost athletic association upward of $4 million”) I came across this statement:

      “We could run our entire athletics program and conduct events as we always do without any government funds,” Gladchuk said. “In talking to the Air Force athletic director, their football team could execute the trip without government funding.”

      Asked why the Department of Defense was suspending intercollegiate athletic contests if government funds are not required, Gladchuk said he was told it was about “optics.”

      “It’s a perception thing. Apparently it doesn’t resonate with all the other government agencies that have been shut down,” Gladchuk said.

      it occurred to me that the problem is the failure of Sequester Financial Terror to materialize, thus the Powers The Would Be decided the answer was to “double down” on the pain. Thus we have the “Barry-cades” and cancellations of things the Feds don’t fund and the President trying to stoke panic in the financial markets.

      These twits are so accustomed to a pliant press asking no questions more challenging than “Exactly how vile are the Republicans?” that they think their grade-school theatre production is Broadway quality.

      • Read that. Snorted at the absurdity. Find myself hoping people don’t buy into the theater.

        But as an aside: Does it drive anyone else bug-nuts that the new buzz-word is optics? And ‘optics’ has nothing to do with the science of optics?

        Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. – Wikipedia

        “Man, we need a highbrow word for how people see our deceptive antics.”
        “Dude! I know! We’ll use optics. ‘Cause, like, that’s the stuff they use to make those things people look through! Right?”

        • “Dude! I know! We’ll use optics. ‘Cause, like, that’s the stuff they use to make those things people look through! Right?”

          And lets hope everyone buys Tasco, not Stiener or Swarvorski.

          • “Dude. What if, like, they get clarity from their optics? It’d be, I dunno, kinda bad. Right?”
            “Man, is okay. Clarity is expensive. Nobody wanna spend time on that. It’s all good, man.”

          • I like Adlerblick, except for the weight.

            • Never used them (in fact had never hear of Adlerblick binoculars, and had to look them up) but your comment reminds me of Nightforce scopes. Awesome optics, if you don’t mind bolting a boat anchor to the top of your rifle.

              • Nightforce scopes are one of the reasons I have a line about “I’ll have you know my that Uncle Avigdor invented the first rail-mounted tactical coffee cup” in a story. 😉

    • Reporter: If you can help one child, why won’t you do it?

      Reid: Why, why, why would we want to do that?

    • It is the theory of hostages and human shields. NO! they say, Do not do that or this innocent will be hurt by your action! All these innocents we have chained to the chemical weapons plant will die horrible deaths if you do a bombing to end our production of materials with which to commit genocide! See, they need immediate help to cope with the injuries I have inflicted, let us go and you can save their lives with proper medical care! How can you be so deaf to the pain of others?

      • A responsible corporate executive, faced with a labor disruption, has a duty to respond in such ways as to minimize the damages while the disruption is ongoing.

        It is a shopworn cliche, but imagine the MSM coverage had such a disruption occurred while George W. Bush was president.

      • My response: “I see that they are already beyond hope. We will thus incinerate the bodies as a gesture of respect to them for their sacrifice.”

        • There was an article I read recently trying to address the question of the libertarian approach to human shields. The question came down to whether to treat the hostages as innocent victims who should not have violence initiated against them, or if they should be viewed as weapons in their own right which means they don’t matter nearly as much. The author was on the side of shooting through the hostages, but I couldn’t follow the logic.

          • A person who volunteers to act as a shield is objectively abetting the actions of those they choose to shield. Read Orwell on pacifists.

            From a purely pragmatic view we should view any hostages as already dead. To do otherwise encourages hostage-taking. Not that I am advocating such pragmatism, merely noting it. See Tom Godwin’s story The Cold Equations.

          • It boils down to being a judgement call on a case by case basis. Is there any reasonable chance that I can maneuver around while stalling and manage to snipe the hostage takers while saving at least some hostages? How many more people are going to die if I don’t shoot through the hostages? Are the hostages volunteers and/or sympathetic to the hostage takers cause? All these considerations and the multitude of variations of them have to be assessed (sometimes in split seconds, sometimes you have days to study on it) it is difficult if not impossible to make a written in stone rule that will provide the best outcome in all scenarios.

            It all boils down to the SEAL saying, “it sucks to be a hostage.”

    • President Obama got into hot water today when he told the U. S. National Park Service to shut down Old Faithful.

  10. the biggest problem with Gov’t is those best able to do the job well are entirely disinclined to try to get the job.

  11. However, if you let people work for what they conceive to constitute their happiness, they will work hard enough to enrich even those who don’t work.

    Normalization of outcomes is an essential failure point in social theory, time and again. That ‘right person’ views objective (hah!) data through a subjective filter and decides to take steps to fix things. Because surely everybody wants…

    It runs up against the essential inability to understand the reality of a heterogeneous society of 314 million people. And 314 million different wants.

    work for what they conceive to constitute their happiness

    If only our founders could have foreseen this complexity and built a system that would allow for individual pursuits.

    Wait, what?

  12. In the whole “They’re morons” argument, I present something that was pointed out in class today. They shut down the CDC, furloughing some 68% of the workers… just as flu season is ramping up. This is something that could have far-reaching and potentially fatal, if not pandemic, consequences. We, America, IS the best in the world when it comes to that system, and it’s a potentially global problem too.

    • They think there are too many humans, so it’s still open. Morons or malicious?

      • Depends on how confident they are that the “right people” will survive…

      • Why can’t they be both?

      • IMO both.

        • ding, ding, ding — and Miz Emily wins the entire schadenfreude package.

          • Thank you. You’re too kind.

          • I get chopped liver, I s’pose?

            S’alright — I already got the deluxe schadenfreude package, with silver trim, custom interior, hi-tech instrumentation and fuel saver extras.

            • I’ll trade you the schadenfreude for the chopped liver.

              • I’m full up on schadenfreude at present, but you’re welcome to help yourself to the chopped liver. Try the rye whole grain crackers, they’re delicious and have a low glycemic index.

                I’ve never been clear on what wines go well with chopped liver — I grew up with Manischewitz and never figured how they made that because it was sweeter than grape juice! — and I no longer drink wine, so you’ll have to BYOB. Sorry.

                • masgramondou

                  for additional Schadenfreude there’s the tragic story of the greenpeace activists who protested Russian Arctic drilling and are now experiencing the joys of Russian prison.

                  • Tragic? Give me a break, they’re Greenpeace!

                    • masgramondou

                      I’m sorry I omitted the tags

                    • masgramondou

                      Er let me try that again:

                      I’m sorry I omitted the ( sarcasm ) tags

                    • I sort of knew what Francis was saying. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh like an hyena.

                    • I do feel a bit sorry for them. How much are the activists who actually go on the field the useful fools for that organization? In several ways exactly this kind of incidents are what the organization itself probably prays for, they do live for and by publicity and this means that kind of publicity no amount of something like getting walked off some nuclear facility by a polite police and then getting a slight slap on the wrist in court will ever get.

                      How much do the higher ups really care about their field operatives? Probably not all that much. Especially since they can be fairly confident they can always find new ones willing to step in, there are plenty of stupid idealists who have bought all their propaganda, bait, hook, line and sinker all, around.

                      But just a little sorry. They are old enough to be responsible for themselves and while the fact that they are idiots may not be quite their own fault – it can be hard to learn otherwise when most of what they see pushes just one narrative – but perhaps being an idiot should be allowed to be a punishable crime.

                    • I think being able to feel regret for the bad (stupid) choices of others keeps us human. Empathy is great, tempered by rationality.

                  • there may actually be a few legal problems with the piracy charges.

                    • Not in Tsar Putin’s justice system there won’t be.

                    • That might actually make it a better lesson for activist groups of this type. They really need to understand that when your mission is to be annoying, the only thing keeping the opposition from hammering you is their own restraint. If they decide not to be restrained, life gets hard. And if they’re disinterested in world opinion, life stays hard.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Depends on if it’s international law that’s in play or Russian law that’s in play. (Note I’m not any sort of lawyer).

                      In any case, when it comes to Greenpeace, they deserve whatever treatment they get from Tsar Putin.

                  • Dorothy Grant

                    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    • Along with being stupid, I think that Oblongo’s crew are evil. Maybe they think that more people getting sick is a good thing.

    • I’ve got mixed emotions on the CDC business. On one hand, we do need a national coordinating body for major public health things. One the other hand, local and state public health departments have handled all of the recent outbreaks (Hanta and friends, SARS in the Midwest, West Nile) in the proper fashion without the glory and mess of the CDC and NIH. *shrugs* Plus the two flu vaccines are already out for this year, so the lack of CDC isn’t as important as it might have been in, oh, March or April.

      • Do keep in mind that until they had their funding snipped by Congress the CDC was well on its way in an attempt to prove that private ownership of firearms was an illness that required draconian treatment.

        • Well, they tried, but wound up showing that guns save more lives by a couple orders of magnitude.

          • Yes, but as I recall at the time their official statement was that their findings were “inconclusive.” They absolutely refused to go on record that the presence of a firearm was in any way shape or form beneficial.

      • Well, I’m not going to argue about it being a gov’t bureaucracy, and therefore deeply flawed, but we don’t have anything in place to take over. Flu vaccines take about six months to produce, and they determine which ones they’ll make by watching the current flu season, so it might be interesting to see if they can do that (they announced they are not) with only 30% of their workforce.

        • Well in the past, I would have assumed some of the vaccine makers would have taken that over. Selling that many vaccines in a year would be big business. But with Obamacare going into effect…

    • The CDC does almost no actual epidemiology now. It became a political organization back in the Clinton years. The CDC collects statistics, does little with the important ones, and misuses the unimportant ones (such as the report that obesity is the major cause of mortality). I’m a pathologist, and I wouldn’t mind one bit if the CDC closed forever.

      • Is there any doubt the functions of the CDC could be privatised?

        • Since the main concern would be that a private organization that took over the functions of the CDC would misuse its position to push or suppress or promote beyond common sense certain treatments, behaviors or organizations….nope. Probably do it cheaper too.

          • “Since the main concern would be that a private organization that took over the functions of the CDC would misuse its position to push or suppress or promote beyond common sense certain treatments, behaviors or organizations”

            And this is different than the CDC, how?

  13. Oh yes, I have worked on group projects. Never again.

    • I’ve worked in teams before in academia and the military. My experience working on a team in the military was vastly different than in academia – most of my coworkers were unfailingly professional and focused on getting the job done. It was amazing – things actually worked, we actually got things done.

      In academia, team projects are unfailingly insanity producing vortexes of drama, dominance contests, and shoddy half-assery. The “groupier” the group effort is, the harder you want to run screaming. If they start in with the team propaganda, you know you are in for a gratuitous waste of your already limited time, effort, and GPA.

      • Not to mention that in school, team efforts make very little sense anyway. No one can *understand* something *for* you. 😛 Oh well. I have my own research at the moment, and none of my classes have projects which require groups. (Giant sigh of relief).

  14. Re: group projects, I present my high school literary magazine.

    “Oh, this year we won’t publish just anything. We want only the best stuff published. You be the editor and pick out only the best stuff from the submissions.”

    A month later, looking at my lean, mean literary magazine selections, almost none of which were by the popular smart kids or by friends of the smart kids also on the literary magazine: “We’ve decided we want to include everybody.”

  15. Always remember that one man’s “Right People” are another man’s “No Effing Way!”

  16. Christopher M. Chupik

    We should genetically engineer a few good men to rule over us. I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong with such a well-thought-out plan . . .

    • I almost spewed coffee on my keyboard. *snort

      • Christopher Badman Chupik

        I am. It’s true.

      • Was there a reason why Portugal suffered especially badly during The Troubles?

        • Did I make Portugal suffer especially badly? I sometimes obliterate places without noticing. Other times I destroy my favorite places (The Museum of Natural History.) Portugal has two claims on my affection: my family who live there, and the grave of my paternal grandmother. But it’s not my favorite place. So if I obliterated it, it was as a passing thing. OTOH Dr. Bartolomeu was CLEARLY created by Portuguese scientists, so there’s that. (Which probably means he had some hidden and truly WEIRD flaws, too.)

  17. Even if we made ‘perfect’ ‘rioght people’ to be in charge,they’d still be flawed. Possibly more flawed. Someone could write a book to that effect.

  18. The Washington Post recently said the Senate and House should be shot. Similar comments from the rest of the Media. The online news sites say shots were just fired at the Capitol Building.

    • Will any of them feel the least bit guilty?

      • Guilty? But Mary, they are the right people. Besides, G-d is dead and the ends justify the means.

        • When I can steel myself to watch for more than a few moments it seems to me that both Reid and Pelosi come across as very sincere, which begs the question “do they truly believe the dreck they are spewing, or is it simply a matter of we’ll say whatever promotes the party narrative at the moment and deny your lying eyes if ever called to account?”
          Pelosi coming from California I can almost understand. She fits right in with the rest of the fruits and nuts, but Reid from Nevada? I can only believe that when organized crime was pushed out of the casino business they chose to invest in politics, and he’s fronting for some really bad people with deep pockets and the muscle to keep him elected.

          • I’d guess three kinds of people do evil things: ones who just plain don’t care as long as they get what they want, then those who are stupid enough that they don’t quite comprehend what they are doing and that it is perhaps wrong, or not working the way somebody told them it should (so they just try harder, or decide to wait a bit longer for the promised results).

            And then those who would both notice and care if they allowed themselves to look at what they are doing, and what is going on, objectively, but manage to convince themselves that they are on the side of angels because doing what they are doing is rewarding to them and they really want to keep getting those rewards. So they fool themselves first, and often probably really truly then do believe that they are the good guys, and anybody who argues is just wrong. And possibly evil.

            Okay, I suppose there is a fourth group, a minority who actually like thinking they are evil, but they probably are a rather tiny minority.

          • He’s there to improve camaraderie between Catholics and Mormons.

            No, really– when an observant, redefined-until-they’re-“radical right-winger” Catholic bemoans Pelosi and the late T. Kennedy, an observant Mormon can sigh and commiserate over Reid.

  19. When I look at a law, I always start out by asking, “What could be done with this if the badly wrong people were in power?”

    • There’s some idiot on Mike Williamson’s thread on FB who wants a pony. Oh, sorry, she wants universal health care that works “like everywhere else.” I had to leave because I was going to berserk at my keyboard. And effing hells I wish she could experience the glorious healthcare of Cuba!

      • She wants to wait months to see a doctor?

        • She won’t have to see a doctor, Obamacare will undoubtedly get around to requiring insurance companies to provide end-of-life palliative care, at no cost, no doctor visit, no co-payment required:

          “At least we can let doctors know — and your mom know — that you know what, maybe this isn’t going to help. Maybe you’re better off, uhh, not having the surgery, but, uhh, taking the painkiller.”

          Although there will probably be encouragement for such patients to sign releases have presumed releases for organ harvesting donation that require a signed, notarized and witnessed document to repudiate.

        • Oh, there’s now a worse idiot — male — who is convinced that we’re afraid of Obamacare because it will succeed beyond the dreams of humanity. HEAD>DESK.
          This is why I need a shield to prevent grinding my teeth in my sleep.

          • It’s the new talking point. I’ve been seeing it pop up all over. And the polis are bleating it.

            Except some of us have seen this idea in practice elsewhere.

            • Ayup – the only reason we’re trying to stop them driving the car over that cliff is we’re afraid it will fly. Because their positive thoughts, hope and desire should be all it takes to rewrite the laws of physics.

              If only they weren’t forcing me to ride along and chip in for gas.

          • Yeah, I am not exactly terrified of that. I am terrified of the massive damage being done to our economy and the large tax increases that kick in in 2015.

            • That’s what we told him. Then he said Switzerland had a similar system and it worked. Head>desk, repeat.

              • Wayne Blackburn

                I went and looked up that thread. I almost added a comment to the effect that one reason it will be worse here is that the U.S. is the driver of health care innovation for the planet, and since socialized medicine stifles such innovation, that the entire world will suffer. But I don’t have information to back me up at hand, so I didn’t stick my nose in.

                Besides, I have yet to purge my FB profile of my company affiliation, and their new Social Media policy might come back and bite me in the ass.

          • Bloody hell.

            Maybe it’s because I’m too much of a realist, but I’d actually LIKE to be able to believe this will be successful beyond the dreams of governmental avarice. Having been around the block a time or two, I no longer have the naive faith of a child waiting for Santa in response to government programs of any sort – more of a ‘Well, let’s just wait and see if there’s a pony at the bottom of that pile of horse manure… and what sort of shape he’s in. I’m not seeing any movement, so I’m not going to be hopeful.”

            That poor sap’s going to be a bit surprised, I think.

            BTW, on a lighter note, I’ll be putting my next book up on KDP in a week or so. I do believe you’ve created a monster. 😉

    • When I look at a law, I think “do we already have a law that covers this?” And “Do we *really* REALLY need this law?”

      Since I talk to myself sometimes, the answer has most often come back, “NO.”

    • “How can this %^&* me?” needs to be the first question anyone asks themselves before they start fiddling with things.

      • This.

        The biggest flaw in the left’s embrace of the ACA is their blindness as to what could happen if, the pendulum having swung, a government instantiating all of their caricatures of the GOP were to come to power with all of the ACA’s overreach fully in place.

        Giving the government this much power over this much of the economy is a fundamental bad thing, exactly because nobody knows who will eventually be holding the reins of power*.

        (* OT: Oddly, WP spellcheck wanted to make that ‘reigns of power’.)

      • This. The law of unintended consequences ALWAYS applies, and only a fool thinks he can avoid it because his intentions are pure as the driven slush.

  20. Does it strike anyone else that the online computer system that is supposed to run Obamacare seems to have crashed much worse than the Republican campaign computer system that possibly cost them the presidential election? And the Democrats had three and a half years to fix this stuff? Do the Democrats only care about this computer stuff when it’s getting them elected?

    • A sensible attempt to field a national computer system to handle health care would best be farmed out to say Amazon, or Facebook, perhaps Apple, or Ghod save us Microsoft. But instead all that funding went to community organizer outfits because they “care more.” Or if I were the suspicious type, because Der Leader’s base is getting antsy and needed a cookie to calm them down.

      • It seems more likely a case of small-time grifters incapable of running a scam without skimming a little extra for themselves.

        I would like to see the House GOP offer a clean CR with one rider: all Obamacare “Navigators” must have criminal background checks and be bonded against misuse of the personal data they process — with strict liability for all contractors employing them.

        • You Sir or Madam are no fun at all. Would you bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain? Of course these folks more closely resemble the South end of a North bound kine, and their sole function appears to be to facilitate the transfer of said grain from those what grew it to those what hunger for it with of course a modest vigorish for themselves. Asking them to submit to criminal background checks is as bad as asking for photo ID before voting. It’s raaaaccccciiiiissssst!

    • I thought Google did the Democrats’ GOTV system?

    • What he says makes sense, but since I have never been able to get McAfee to run on my computer, I’m not inclined to listen to him as an expert on software.

      • Just because the man may be a nut does not make him wrong.

      • This is a mild nonpolitical version of the comments that buried that entry: “Obama is GOD so we must dig into the past of the fellow who wrote this sinful, blasphemous article.” All McAffee said was, this system is unbelievably bad, it’s a hacker’s dream, it will result in less than computer literate people getting their bank accounts emptied and their identities stolen and much fake credit taken out in their names.

        • … people getting their bank accounts emptied and their identities stolen and much fake credit taken out in their names.

          Oh heck, is that all???? The NSA, Bernacke, Obama and the Reid/Pelosi Congress have already done that. And efforts to slow their looting are already generating much bluster about Republicans putting the “Full Faith and Credit” at risk of default.

          *SNORT* Jokes about whores defending their virtue come to mind.

          What a Default Looks Like?
          Editorial of The New York Sun | October 3, 2013
          What would happen if America defaults? Our prediction is that millions would be thrown out of work, housing prices would collapse, people’s savings would be wiped out, and we would be forced to retreat in war. Congress would be deadlocked, foreign governments would be calling for the establishment of a new international reserve currency, the Middle East would be in flames, Communist China and Russia would be flexing their muscles, and the unemployment rate would soar and stay above 7% for four, five, or six years or even more, and the Federal Reserve would be looking irrelevant.

          If that sounds a lot like the past six years, it’s no coincidence. That’s because we are living in the midst of a default. America defaulted on the dollar in the first decade of the 21st century, and we have been seeing what a default looks like ever since. On the day that President George W. Bush was sworn in as president, the value of the dollar stood at a 265th of an ounce of gold. Then, in the years of war that followed September 11, 2001, America defaulted. It allowed the value of the dollar it issues as its unit of account to collapse to less than, at the moment, a 1,300th of an ounce of gold and, at one point, to below a 1,800th of an ounce of gold.

          • I do not understand why so many Libertarians advocate a monetary policy that makes one of the foundational assumptions of socialism – that the size of the economy is fixed – true.

            Nor do I understand why people who oppose government interference in markets want the government to set the price of gold.

            • This is not a trap, I am actually interested in the question: do you think there will be a widely accepted Gold/Silver/real commodity backed currency any time soon – anywhere in the world?
              The only real benefit such a currency has, as far as I can figure, is that it makes inflation impossible and the bubble-burst cycles damp themselves out, the downsides is that it takes the power to print money on demand from the central banks.

              • I don’t think it’s impossible, the history of money shows an oscillation between fiat and specie currencies. Both have their problems, so when an economy starts suffering from one it switches to the other until it runs into the new barrier. Much like a drunk walking down an alley. I happen to think that fiat currency’s problems are easier to work around, though they’re also easier to fall into.

                Specie currencies don’t make inflation impossible, large influxes of the commodity in question will result in inflation just as surely as running the print presses will. Granted, it’s more difficult to inflate specie currencies, especially today when we’ve already dug up the big lodes. But the flip side is that economic growth puts deflationary pressure on the currency. And I would prefer mild inflation over mild deflation. That’s specie’s biggest downside: the inability to match the money supply to the economy (not really true, the economy and the money supply will match, but in this case it will be because economic growth is smothered by a lack of money.)

                • I would argue that the biggest problem with fiat money is the feeling governments get that the central banks can match the money supply to, or direct the action of, the economy by printing, manipulating borrowing rates or choosing winners and losers by directed lending. I think what is worse is the feeling that it is essential to do so.
                  I don’t believe that it is possible for any individual or group to be able to either predict or act with near enough knowledge to adapt the money supply to the need of the economy, but it is provable that governments trying to do so have mucked things up to such a degree that they destroyed their own economies.
                  The thing the Zero-Hedge people are focused on is that with specie it is hard for the central bank to manipulate the money supply for their own ends, it makes the system more regular and less exciting so investors can invest and plan in relative calm, and if a central bank or government wants to increase the money supply in the national economy they can foster an environment that increase production (mining laws or environment for manufacturing), or limits controls on imports exports and trade in general (like the British Parliament ending tariffs), instead stealing value out of every economic player’s pocket and bank account by printing even more money to give to their favorites.

                  • Matching the money supply to the economy is the great strength of fiat money. Government manipulation of the money supply to attempt to influence the economy is its great weakness.

                    It’s impossible to exactly match the change in money supply to the changes in the economy, but it’s also impossible to match the position of the gas pedal to the condition of the car. There is such a thing as dynamic stability.

                    In a specie regime increasing manufacturing does nothing but cause deflation. Eventually you cannot increase manufacturing because consumers simply cannot get their hands on enough money to buy products (well, in actuality money would simply become something actually available, but that’s just another form of debasement). Likewise, if a key component in your economic management plan is to limit trade, i.e. wealth creation, then your economic management plan sucks.

                    • I have yet to see a governing body with the right to print money at need eventually fail to find a crisis it needs to justify printing and giving away free money to shore up its political standing. In that alone I feel that fiat currencies should be viewed with suspicion.
                      Deflation does mean that the supply of money has, or is, reducing in proportion to the things it can buy, but prices will adjust as long as they are allowed to do so. What makes them adjust is the demand for them. Prices are not set in stone, they fluctuate with a number of elements including the cost of materials, energy, wages, regulation and the cost of any loans. Inflation tends to make a good deal for getting loans but prices on materials and labor go up too. Deflation makes loans expensive because money is hard to find, but prices for materials tend to go down too (labor is different, employees hate wage cuts-and there is that minimum wage thing), and deflations tend to be periods of reduced economic activity and cost cutting – and discounting of malinvestments (like the 500 hula-hoops, sell ’em off for what you can get for ’em, we need the space and we’ll take the loss)
                      But money itself does not have an absolute value, other than the frame of reference you create by using it. It is like sea level, only referred to by the things that use it as a reference.

                    • Keep in mind that when the currency issuing government runs a defecit it is in that government’s interest to inflate the money supply more than is necessary for reasonable economic growth. Inflationary policies have the “virtue” of distributing the government’s debt to savers and holders and can depress economic growth by increasing the required return on investment to make investors whole upon liquidation and reinvestment of their capital.

                      Similarly, government’s running up debt are prone to increase the tax burden which further suppresses capital velocity.

                    • The biggest problem I see with deflation is that it can become self-reinforcing. If the value of money is increasing then I can earn a positive return with zero risk by putting my money under my mattress. This effectively reduces the money supply, which causes more deflation (unless the economy shrinks faster than the money supply, which isn’t exactly an improvement), giving me more incentive to put more money under my mattress. Eventually the economy is starved for money and seizes. Inflation encourages investment. It only really becomes a problem when the rate of inflation exceeds reasonable returns on investment.

                    • This is why the Monetarists advocate for a money supply growing at a consistent, steady rate. Growth in supply permits economic growth while keeping the rate steady discourages inflationary policies. The growth enabled can be enhanced by wringing inefficiencies out of existent processes, such as we’ve seen in the computer industry where economies of scale have produced significantly more output for less input.

                      It should be noted that such increased efficiencies are available even in the face of mild contraction of the money supply, supposing the benefits of the efficiencies exceed the drag of the contraction.

                    • That could work. You’d have to consign yourself to alternating periods of deflation and inflation as economic growth lagged and surpassed the growth of the money supply, but that doesn’t sound terrible. The only problem is figuring out a system that would actually accomplish that goal. Specie won’t cut it, and any fiat currency will be just a susceptible to manipulation as our current system.

                    • Personally I don’t fear deflation, but it might be because since we’ve had the Fed I don’t think we’ve had any in over 100 years.
                      If everything else were the same, the benefit that specie has over fiat is that it offers the greatest freedom to the participants, and unlike fiat systems, it allows the individual to opt out for a round or two and not loose the value of their saved money. It also allows for anonymity which I suspect is why governments do not like it, since they can’t tax what they can’t see.
                      I would distrust any steady-state inflation policy, I don’t believe that any group can withstand the lure of printing, “just a little more, just this once” forever, no matter how principled and hemmed in by rules and constitutions. And then bit-by-bit you are back where we are now, so why bother?

                      The book that really got me thinking about this was FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE, How It Came, What It Brought, and How It Ended by Andrew Dickson White

                      The most complex element of the book is the title, once you are past that it is a moderately quick read.

                    • We have had periods of deflation since the creation of the Fed, some quite severe. One of the worst was the Great Depression, which is why the Fed is so hell-bent on printing money.

                      Someone once pointed out that the Great Depression was deflationary in the US and inflationary in places like Germany, which is why the US response to the Great Recession has been to print money while the German response has been to avoid inflation at all costs.

                      Fiat money is risky, but so is nuclear power. Both will screw you if you don’t respect them. But they’re also very powerful.

                • To address another area, I know that Spain brought vast amounts of Gold and Silver back from her colonies, and this was essentially a detriment to Spanish manufacturing and agriculture since the Spanish economy could afford to buy pretty much everything from out of the country cheaper than it could manufacture it at home, but I don’t know if this affected the European value of an ounce of Gold or Silver. The major exploitation of the colonies was from the 16th to the end of the 18th Centuries which is also the time of the English renaissance and the start of the English industrial revolution. I wonder if anyone has tried to explore any linkage between the influx of Spanish Gold with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution – in that the extra wealth being brought in from the Americas and spent in Europe was the influx of capital to spark production that led to greater demand?
                  That would support your implied argument that a greater supply of specie would provide more money to increase the economic growth.

                  • The big example I have of the dangers of specie money is the British opium trade. Britain wanted goods from China. China wanted only silver in exchange for those goods. The British economy started to suffer from lack of silver (i.e. money), so the British started exporting opium from India to China in exchange for silver.

            • 1.) Just to cover this, I do not believe the NY Sun editorial policy is Libertarian.

              2.) It has been many years since I got into the nuts & bolts of economics, but when I was I leaned toward the monetarist school. I suspect their argument would be that the government does not set the price of gold, the government sets the price of (in this case) the dollar. Fixing the price of (ITC) the dollar to gold is not generally the goal, but using the price of gold to measure the current value of the currency has certain practical effects. For example, the price of gasoline at the pump has about doubled under the present administration — is that because of a rise in the price of gasoline or a drop in the purchasing power of the dollar? (Obviously, it is both, to varying degree — but it is only by knowing how much of each that people can properly interpret and react.)

              • Maybe I’m misunderstanding the arguments, but there are quite a few people out there – the gang at Zero Hedge come to mind – who seem to think that gold is the only real money, and that dollars are only real insomuch as they can be exchanged for gold.

                Looking at the price of gold as a metric for purchasing power is flawed because the price of gold can fluctuate for the same reasons the price of gas can. The best way to look at purchasing power seems to me to be compare the prices of a wide variety of commodities. This eliminates most of the problems with the CPI (unlike computers, a billet of aluminum today is identical to a billet of aluminum 30 years ago). By using a broad basket you can isolate effects limited to only one commodity. Looking at the price of gold over the last decade I think it’s in a bubble.

                • That was the logic behind the arguments for purchasing power parity that were common on the Wall Street journal editorial page at least as far back as the Eighties.

                  ANY metric will suffer as a measure over time because the quality of goods available can change so rapidly, as recent discussions here of the cost of a megabyte of memory have explored. PPP measures essentially assume contemporaneous comparability of the goods in the market basket of the two currencies.

                  It is, I think, an obvious “given” that no truly reliable measure of comparability of currencies can exist, just as there is no absolute value of a unit of human labor or the “proper” price for a good. There are good and varied reasons why people will pay $10 for a beer at a ballgame but not at the grocers’.

                  • Which is why your basket should be limited to commodities that are pretty much constant over time, more or less metals. Gold, silver, platinum, and iron are the same now as they were 10, 100, 1000 years ago. They’re also fairly independent from one another, so price effects seen in all of them would point to a decrease in purchasing power (or an increase in mining efficiency. It might be useful to put some agricultural products in the basket as a check, though those are going to show more variability).

                    • Electronics rather warp the inherent value of gold and sliver– not sure about platinum and iron.

                    • Electronics don’t warp the inherent value of gold or silver for the simple reason that neither gold nor silver have inherent value. When catalytic converters were introduced they caused a significant disruption in the platinum market, and iron is going to be a function of, among other things, construction.

                      My point isn’t that commodity prices are independent of all factors other than the value of the dollar, it’s that a broad base of commodities would have only the value of the dollar as the common factor in their price. You’d probably have to do something more sophisticated than take the mean of their prices, though.

                    • How can they be pretty constant over time when their uses skyrocket and methods of obtaining them likewise vary widely?

                      On a side, I’d say that gold’s beauty and non-rusty-ness is a matter of inherent value, but that’s pretty far in the weeds for looking for a way to calculate value.

                    • The commodities should be constant over time, fundamental elements or compounds rather than things like electronics, so that you can make a meaningful comparison across time. The prices are going to change based on supply and demand and inflation considerations, but the commodities themselves will remain the same.

                      There’s no reason you couldn’t use technology or agricultural products in your basket, but they have extra inputs into the price that you’d have to filter out to find the purchasing power data we’re after. This isn’t exactly a trivial problem, why make it more complicated?

                      And beauty and corrosion resistance are inherent properties that have value depending on the application. Gold makes for excellent jewelry, but sub-optimal sacrificial anodes.

                    • Ah, that kind of constant makes sense– though the classic example of oil means that it’ll be largely based on personal gestimation.

                      The only really unchanged measure I can think of is “hours of human labor,” where tools and technology make all the difference.

                    • Oil is pretty variable. The stuff that comes out of Venezuela isn’t the same as the stuff that comes out of Saudi Arabia, which is different from what’s coming out of Canadian tar sands.

                      An ingot of iron, on the other hand, hasn’t changed at all in the last hundred years or so, and isn’t terribly different from what was produced a thousand years ago.

                    • An ingot of iron, on the other hand, hasn’t changed at all in the last hundred years or so, and isn’t terribly different from what was produced a thousand years ago.

                      Now I KNOW that’s not right– classically, that’s why the Japanese had samurai swords. Their iron sucked.

                    • Their steel, not their iron. Nobody has ever made swords out of iron, it’s far too brittle. The Iron Age is more properly called the Steel Age since that’s what everything is actually made out of. There are only slightly fewer recipes for steel then there are for bread, and steel is a lot less forgiving. Accidentally put in a couple tablespoons more water in the dough and you can salvage the bread. Change the carbon content by a couple percent and your steel is going to be radically different. And it’s not like you can give it a taste as you go.

                    • Different flour also changes the result with the bread.

                      Besides the Japanese issue, there’s also things like that big scientific surprise where they found that the emptying of the English monistaries after the founding of the Church of England set back the science of extracting iron from ore, because a couple of monasteries had figured out how to get modern levels of extraction.

                      while “chunk of (metal) is more consistent than a loaf of bread, it’s still got a lot of variables cooked into it.

                    • If you were to attempt to examine purchasing power over historical time frames you would need to take such things into account, but modern smelting technologies (which are around 100 years old) produce a product that is pure enough to be fungible, allowing it to be used as a basis of comparison.

                    • Mining techniques are not the same, though, nor are the demands.

                      The best metric would be to look for the period of time you want to look at, and then figure what has changed the least in production.

                      I was going to say “like cows or something,” then wanted to smack myself– I know that, say, pure black angus cows have gone up in size at the same age in the last two decades, let alone a hundred!

                    • while “chunk of (metal) is more consistent than a loaf of bread, it’s still got a lot of variables cooked into it.

                      Exactly. Historically, this is why “Damascus” steel was so very good. The ore had the right impurities to make a better quality steel than most other areas. The processing method helped, but the same processing using different ores did not produce the same results.

                    • An ingot of iron, on the other hand, hasn’t changed at all in the last hundred years or so, and isn’t terribly different from what was produced a thousand years ago.

                      Now I KNOW that’s not right– classically, that’s why the Japanese had samurai swords. Their iron sucked.

                      The famous “fold it a thousand+ times” method lets you hammer impurities out of the metal.

                    • The difference being in how much human work plus the cost of energy required to produce that ingot. A thousand years ago, that ingot would represent hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours of mining, refining, and casting, in dangerous conditions. Today, one ingot represents a small fraction of the hundreds of man-hours required to mine several thousand tons of ore, refine them, and cast them into some large number of ingots, mostly handled by machines.

                    • My issue with the Bundle-of-Goods commodities for setting the cost of one unit of currency is that you need a commission to review prices and fix any discrepancies. No matter how carefully you try to balance the commodities you will have fluctuations in their value, which means you are back where Specie has an issue, or you ignore it, which means you are essentially a fiat currency that takes its cues from interpretations of the market prices. If the central banks get to manipulate the currency anyways, why move from the system we have right now with all its known problems, or on the other hand, why add a layer of bureaucracy onto what should really be priced by market forces and force regulation onto what should be a consensual arrangement between freely choosing participants?
                      Good engineering requires that the forces you are using be allowed to run pretty much the way they want to (within reason), and good economics should be the same. My favorite quote out of an SM Sterling book is the complaint that the engineers would fix a tendency for a part to leak by putting in two force pumps, extra sealing and two elbows, where any common sense person would just turn the part over because it wouldn’t leak upwards. I think basket-of-commodities is too much engineering.

                    • “The Iron Age is more properly called the Steel Age since that’s what everything is actually made out of. ”

                      I am not sure that is correct. For example the dome of the US Capitol is made of iron not steel. There were other parts of the building made of iron, but none of the structure was iron. When the US Capitol building was built the strongest structural material was stone piled on stone which is why many of the basement walls were 6′ thick granite.

                      By the time the Rayburn House Office Building across the street from the Capitol was built, structural steel became available. I believe the Rayburn House Office Building was the first significant structure built using structural steel. Today all but very small buildings are made with structural steel frames.

                • Just to be clear on my own position (which I am quite ready to shift for any good reason): Gold has a value only to the extent people believe it does, it is a currency like any other and has no intrinsic value beyond its practical applications in computer equipment, protective edging for the pages of books and the adornment of such objects as have their beauty enhanced by its application.

                  It is a trade good, less valuable than its weight in bacon on a lifeboat.

            • Carl Henderson

              The obvious libertarian solution is to allow competing currencies, and let the market sort it out. Like what already takes place in international economics.

              • Except currencies are subject to extremely strong network effects, so you would end up with one dominant currency and maybe a few auxiliary currencies. Like the international scene where pretty much everything is done in US dollars, and almost all of the rest is in either Euro, Yen, or GBP. There’s also Gresham’s Law to take into account.

                • Not true. If you look at the.middle ages a crazy patchwork of currencies was the norm. In the renaissance bankers and merchants issued what was essentially fiat money. It was only the growth of centralized, statist governments that created national currencies.

                  • One of the first people who described Gresham’s law was Copernicus who was tasked by his bishop to explain why, for all the 4 recognized currencies accepted in the area, there were so many Prussian slugs, and all the good Polish silver pennies had disappeared.

                  • Sarah, were the bankers issuing fiat money or promissory notes redeemable by other branches of the banking house? I only know the bare bones about Templar notes that were redeemable only at other chapters. I would have thought that the merchants and such would be reluctant to honor another house’s note without a discount for the chance that it was stolen, forged or repudiated.
                    (Templars used a form of cryptography to act as a check-sum to verify their notes)

                  • The middle ages were also a crazy patchwork of economies, with limited interaction. I doubt most people dealt with more than three or four different currencies their entire lives.

                    • Maybe not the lowest classes, who may never seen hard money at all. But the middle class (albeit much smaller proportionally than ours) saw more trade than you might believe, even in the Middle Ages. Coin hordes that are discovered have a greater variety of coins in them than you’d guess.

                    • But were they hoarded as currency or for their metal value? Modern “coin hordes” would contain coins from the US, Canada, Austria, South Africa, etc. That doesn’t means people use Austrian Philharmonics to buy groceries.

                    • The research from Shakespeare’s time and before indicates they used them.

                    • Yep. One found under grandma’s house had Chinese coins

                    • There was a hoard of coins found in Lancashire thought to be from 10th Century that had Danish coins, Frankish coins, Arab coins, and Byzantine coins.


                    • Coins in the middle ages were measured by weight an purity of metal because of clipping, and sweating (taking metal from the coins to sell separately) an because of adulteration by various governments. Some English kingdoms used lead to “fill out” the mint, and so apparently did the Teutonic Knights in Prussia at one point. A coin was valued by the wieght and not the value assigned to it by a king or his mint, and a money changer used a gouge, touchstone, balance and acids to assure the value of the coins..
                      Further, the Vikings made it as far as Constantinople both via the Mediterranean and by the Volga, the Moors traded and raided to France, England and Scotland were deeply involved in the wool markets in Germany, Flanders and France. The Knights Templar were acting as bankers, shippers and mercenaries from the Holy Land to Ireland and at least the Hebrides.

                    • Isaac Newton invented milling, such that you couldn’t clip the edges.

  21. “Cursed is the ground because of you. You will toil for your daily bread.”
    Unless SNAP.

  22. “If only the right people were in charge.” People don’t agree on who “the right people” are, so this concept never works. But it would work if I were ‘the right person.’ My first diktat would be: “You, your families, and your neighbors must figure out how to make things work and how to get along with one another. The government is closed.+

    • Government performs several important functions, including but not limited to protection of property rights, enforcement of contracts and defense of rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

      Can anybody credibly defend the proposition that this present US government is not destructive of those ends?

      Armed revolution will be necessary to restore our inheritance of liberty unless we act soon to tell the looters their abuses will no longer be tolerated. They excel at deflecting their responsibility for the turn of affairs, but they are the aggressors and we either defend our rights or forfeit them.

      We are not bound to comply with unjust laws and regulations. As shown at the WWII Memorial when we stand up they back down. As was said in an earlier day against a no more tyrannical despot: “if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

  23. But you see: I do want the Right People In Charge, *because* I want to see the mass graves. And if I end up in one, what boot it? I’m already not being allowed to do what I wanted to do in life, due to various physical defects (none of which are my fault, BTW; I didn’t ask to be myopic, or lactose-intolerant, or unable to process alcohol, or…); I would be spared having to deal with seven billion mental-defectives who don’t quite comprehend that Politics works on the same principle as “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”….

    The problem is: Power structures are inherent to any human system — like a human itself: There must be a Brain controlling the Hands, Feet, and all. And some Brains are better than others — more clever, more cunning, more willing to do whatever is required to be the Brain.

    The *really* clever Brains have figured out, tho’: The absolute *worst* course-of-action is to Micromanage the Slaves — to lord over them. Better to be subtle — to create layers of false leadership which can be blamed when things go south; to offer the Slaves the Exercise Of Meaningless Choice in order to conceal the Slaves’ status (“31 flavors of ice cream; two political parties — if that” [G. Carlin]). It’s only when the Slaves realize their status that they start running away, or rising in revolt. For a literary example, see the description of what the interstellar banking concerns did to the planet Paley in Drake’s _Hammer’s Slammers_ universe. (Putin comes close; but too many have twigged to what he’s up to. It may well be the future of world gov’t is Anonymous and 4chan….)

    “There is a secret song at the center of the universe — and its sound is like razors through flesh… I’m here to turn up the volume.”
    [Pinhead, _Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth_]

    • Carl Henderson

      CF wrote, “It may well be the future of world gov’t is Anonymous and 4chan.”

      It would still be a big step up over the United Nations.

      • Courtesy of Mark Steyn, The Song of the National Park Service:

        This land is our land, it sure ain’t your land
        From downtown DC to the Lake Mead shoreland
        From the Arctic Refuge to the Gulf Stream waters
        This land is closed to you and yours

        So don’t go cruisin’ that endless Skyline
        And quit your fishin’, put down that fly line
        Don’t pay respects to your country’s war heroes
        Their land is closed to you and yours

        Don’t even look at that view of Rushmore
        Don’t volunteer now, you need to hush more
        Don’t even think of parking near George Washington’s
        This land is closed to you and yours

        This land is our land, it sure ain’t your land
        From Cuyahoga to the old Claude Moore land
        From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the yellow police tape
        Red lines are made for you, not Assad.

  24. One thing that I note about the whole “shutting national parks” thing is that people aren’t buying into this. Everyone can see that it is BS and the act of a spoiled whiny child.

    And as a result, we’re seeing civil disobedience from people who normally wouldn’t dream of it. 90 y.o. WW2 Vets for example. This is actually not a good thing for the jobsworths because its going to lead to the generally law abiding deciding that they don’t need to obey these laws as they are being imposed and enforced entirely capriciously. And that of course combines with the way that IRS audits, EPA, ATF etc. inspections etc. take place.

    I assume the jobsworths and blood-suckers expect all this to cow the law abiding into obeying them. It seems to me that what it is actually going to do is drive the law abiding into revolt. And that is a problem because – for the most part – the law abiding are the ones with the resources, the guns, the discipline and the ability to co-operate. Essentially the statists who call the tea party a threat to the current power structure are almost certainly right, but hysterical attacks on them aren’t going to be the way to stop them

    • There’s only two ways to get people to cooperate: Persuasion, or force.

      Persuasion covers a lot of territory, from appealing to better natures, to shaming or guilt tripping. We used to (he recalled, probably creating a childhood that didn’t really exist) have our better natures appealed to. We were all citizens of a great land, and we were helping to make it better. A love of country was instilled in us.

      Then, I think in the ’60s everything shifted. There wasn’t the pride in making a cohesive, functioning country – there was shame instead for what went on in Vietnam, and we were told we should feel guilty because of (fill in cause of the week) – and thus we were bad, bad people.

      Guess how cohesive groups are when they’re told that they’re bad, bad people? When they actually internalize these conditions, they’re ripe for being controlled through communal shame and guilt.

      See the rise of the PC police, with the subsequent shutting down of discourse when offended – (“You used a term I don’t like! I’m going to focus on that, and it renders everything else you say a lie!” “Wait – I said 2+2=4 – how is that a lie?” “ADDIST!”) – as an example – or you can look at Mao’s Cultural revolution and their ‘struggle sessions’ where people were denounced and often executed for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about the glories they were going through.


      And that worked – as long as the dissenting voices could be shouted down. But I think enough people are getting to the point where they realize something is badly wrong – and they’re aware of other sources that won’t tell them it’s all right, that crushing weight is normal, and they’re bad, bad people for daring to think otherwise. You see that in a shift away from newspapers, and the decided shift against mainstream News.

      We’ve been shamed and guilt-tripped long enough – yet the shrieking harpies infesting the Capitol want more devotion, more money, more time to do more things to us – and there has to be a quid pro quo, in that we need to get BACK from them something we see as valuable.

      And we’ve been getting less and less back, as they take more and more.

      I’ve often thought we’d hit a point where government says “You can’t do that!” and we go “Sez you…” – and do it anyway. That point may have been reached, and it’d be funny if some barricades around a memorial turn out to be the trigger of a badly needed renovation.

    • Two of the long term effects of that “Noble Experiment” prohibition where the funding and mainstreaming of organized crime and a general disregard by the typically law abiding public for laws that they believed ill conceived and against their better interests. Respect for authority took a body blow during and following prohibition. I expect what we are going through now will drive a nail in its coffin.

      • Giving credit where due, Watergate pounded a pretty significant additional nail into that coffin. The defense that all Nixon was doing was following precedent established by LBJ & JFK was a remarkably unpersuasive argument. Coming at the end of a decade of social dissatisfaction with the political process (the Southern Democrats having proven the falsity of “majority rule” as a standard) Watergate pretty much put paid to several generations’ cynicism toward government.

  25. “Obama is scheduled to hit the campaign trail Thursday to publicly repeat his refusal to negotiate with Republicans over his health law or to offset increases to the federal borrowing limit. ” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/10/02/partial-shutdown-clips-obamas-wings/?intcmp=obinsite

    You know how many federal employees we could afford to pay if Obama kept his sorry @$$ at home and did his job? Instead of gallivanting around and blaming Republicans for his hissy fit?

    • “I’ve bent over backwards to negotiate!” vs “I’m not going to negotiate!”

      Talk about mixed messages.

      • Oh there’s nothing mixed in the message at all if you just understand ObamaSpeak:

        “I’ve bent over backwards to negotiate!” means simply “I’ve given them an opportunity to give me everything I demand.”

        While “I’m not going to negotiate!” means “They must give me everything I demand.”

        See? The only difference is tense. The first is past tense, the second is future tense. The only confusion is that ObamaSpeak happens to superficially resemble American English.

        • Past tense plus future tense equals a pretty tense present.

          Which is what he wants, I do believe… after all, what does a community organizer do but stoke and direct hatred to his own ends?

  26. Apropos of unavoidable annoyances . . . has anyone yet determined why a loving G-d created mosquitoes? Or is it like Ogden Nash’s musing on flies:
    “God in His wisdom made the fly/
    And then forgot to tell us why.”

    • To encourage humility.

      “So nat’ralists observe, a flea
      Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
      And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em.
      And so proceeds Ad infinitum.”
      — Jonathan Swift

    • bats, swifts and dragonflies need prey.
      And I obviously need an excuse to stay inside on perfectly nice evenings and itch.

    • How would malaria spread if we didn’t have mosquitoes?

  27. ‘ey – Law people? What would be the likely effect of a class action suit against the Federal government charging that the shutdown precludes them from putting up gratuitous barriers to public areas? Funds for such obstructionism are not appropriated nor appropriate.

    • “Taxpayer” standing is rarely a valid standing in Federal court. You’d have to assert a more concrete standing, such as being denied the ability to visit / enjoy / conduct some legal activity that one had an explicit right or privilege to do.

      I think the fishing guides who had permits but were denied the right to fish off Florida might have a case – depending on the terms of the permit itself.

      • Perhaps all persons and parties denied rightful use of the space? That would mean the WWII Memorial, all those scenic overlooks of the Smokies, Blue Ridge Parkway, Grans Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and all those weddings that have been forced to find other venues? Mount Vernon and the Claude Moore Colonial Farm are just two private enterprises to have suffered harm from the illegal government blockade and deserve reparations.

        Certainly a Cease & Desist to enjoin the feds from unlawful interference with private conduct of affairs is appropriate? Shouldn’t there be a process of Discovery to determine who authorized such invasive actions and to discern whether they had the legal basis to so act?

        • I believe there is a FOIA request currently to find out who called for the closure of the WWII monument. It was reported on PJ Media.