Lighting A Candle on the Road to Damascus a Blast From The Past from July 2017


Lighting A Candle on the Road to Damascus a Blast From The Past from July 2017

Science fiction and fantasy icon Ursula K Le Guin  has a rather tiresome essay saying that she was once “a man.”  Because, she says, once upon a time the only role models available for women were male, and therefore she viewed herself as a man.  Yes, I’m rolling eyes as I type this, just as I rolled them while reading the nonsense the first time.

I’ve often expounded my theory that people who need someone who is exactly like them in external characteristics to enjoy a book or a movie, have never left the early toddler stage, where having your name in a book really helps you enjoy it.

I never had that problem, and reading stories with men or boys never made me less of a woman.  Perhaps, of course, because I knew a lot of women in normal, every day life.

Books about humans interest me more than books about aliens, now, but books about aliens are usually so badly written and I keep visualizing humans in rubber suits.

Of course, perhaps I’m doing  Le Guin a disservice.  Perhaps, she, rationally wrote the article for mercenary reasons knowing that the way to advance and be considered an icon in the field is to be as leftist as possible.  Or even more.  And that the most prized form of leftism is “feminism” as we wind our way to a full misandrist society.

(It is not wrong nor bad to seek one’s own advancement.  In fact that I can’t do it and still look at myself in the mirror in the morning vexes me greatly.  I blame dad and his notions of honor.  They have crippled him all his life, so of course he shared them with me.  Honorable as an idealized Roman patrician, proud as the devil himself, and yep, inevitably, poor as church mouse.  Okay, he managed to defeat the last due to sheer insane work and self-denial, but it’s not a patch on the life he could have had. What does it say about me that I’m proud of him for it?)

Which brings us to the topic of this post.

By Ursula Le Guin’s definition, before 1992 I was a leftist, in the sense that there were no role models in movies, books, even news or my personal circles, that had non-leftist people who loved liberty.

I was never leftist in the sense that the most leftist people would consider me such.  I was always more or less a reflexive anti-communist, which exempts me from being considered in the same category as, say, Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton. It also shields me from ever being considered “cool” by most editors in my field, who, by the time I broke in, had convinced themselves that communism was where it was at, and that belief in that scourge of human life demonstrated their massive intellect.

However, if you’ve graduated from a Western university in the last forty years, you can say that you were once a leftist.  And that goes double if you graduated from a university in Europe.

Unless you went in fortified and determined to resist brain-washing, (and I was in Europe, where the options, from the US pov are international socialism or national socialism.  there no non-left option) they got under your skin in one way or another.

One way they got under my skin was via my hobby of reading science fiction and fantasy, most of whose practitioners were, at the very least, soft left and many of whom were communist or very very socialist, back when I was young.

Oh, sure, I could resist the outright communists and groan at things like saying capitalism had died because it wasn’t viable, in their so-much-better communist future.  Look, I read Heinlein too.

I even fell for “feminism” (remember I grew up in a Latin country) until I came to the US where the first thing to make me give them the hairy eyeball (besides the fact that honestly, to an outsider the US read as a matriarchy) was their tendency for raping the language (Herstory, pfui. Every time I saw that written anywhere, I knew the leading lights of the movement were exquisitely indoctrinated morons.)  No sane movement does that, inventing meanings for words that the words never had, just so they can change language.  I’m a linguist.  A decent respect for language and etymology is needed for me to consider you a sane intellectual option.

But where they got under my skin were the things that even Heinlein bought into: ecological destruction that needed government intervention, the sense that we were living in the last viable generation on Earth, the idea of massive, destructive population explosion, the idea there simply weren’t enough resources to go around and some extensive  form of government control of private life was inevitable.

Mind you, I still wanted children (I’d also read The Marching Morons) but apparently there was gloom in my heart for what the future held for my descendants.

I worried about crazy things that the left pushed in the news.  The industrialization of China, and its relative opening up to the free market meant more pollution.  The US’s rejection of mass transportation meant – doom and gloom – we’d all run out of oil and have to bicycle everywhere in the not so distant future. Computers were destroying person-to-person communication. Increased pollution was giving us all cancer.  Everything that made human life more comfortable had to be curtailed, removed, destroyed so we could scratch a living from the surface of the Earth a couple more generations.  And then if no miracle occurred, we’d die or return the the stone age. All the good life was gone, and only the husks remained to my generation and succeeding ones.

Looking at that list, it’s no surprise that science fiction publishing and reading retreated howling to fantasy.  After all, what future was there to look forward to?  By the nineties most science fiction was just scolding humans for their sins. (Okay not all, and later I found out my reading habits followed Jim Baen around.  As he moved houses, so did my buying even though at the time I had no idea who he was, and never looked at the editorial house name.)

I was 29 and my son was 1 when I got a gift magazine subscription from an anonymous donor.

The magazine was Reason – then under the redoubtable Virginia Postrel – and I still have no clue who sent it to me.  If you ask me, EVERYONE I knew at the time in the US was at least soft left and some of my friends were considerably hard left.

But someone did send me the magazine.  I don’t remember what the issue was, precisely, but I remember it took on a series of ecological issues, and it had a lot of facts about why these weren’t precisely so.  For the first time in my life people were telling me the future was NOT all doom and gloom.  There was hope for life, liberty and yes, even the pursuit of happiness.

I have stopped subscribing to Reason – sometime after 2001, when liberaltarian became a thing – but I can’t describe the effect those first few issues had on me.

It was like opening a window in a dark, moldy room, and letting the sunshine in when I didn’t know sunshine EXISTED.

All of a sudden, I could integrate what I’d seen with my lying eyes – that people were generally living better, that the world as a whole was safer and cleaner – with facts and theories.  I could understand and integrate the fact that poverty was always greater under socialism and less under a free market, and consider that maybe we were not running out of resources, we were being stamped out of our liberty, and oppression took all our wealth.

I stopped fearing runaway global warming – and how I managed to do that, frankly, when I still remembered the global cooling panic is a testimony to the power of biased media – and world war three, and running out of gasoline, and nuclear energy, and wearing non-organic-material clothing, and pollutants in my beauty products, and guns in the hand of the common folk, and—

I don’t mean that the magazine converted me overnight.  It didn’t. It took at least five years and a lot of thinking for me to become anti-statist and to fully digest the enormity of the lies I’d been told by people in positions of trust.

BUT that subscription to reason was the beginning.  It made me see the contradictions that had been bothering me, but which I thought must mean I was missing something, since everyone who was someone seemed to agree the world was a dark, evil place and becoming more so.

Of course, part of this was the result of the false “uniformity of opinion” created by the mass distribution and control of news, which is fast becoming a thing of the past, as the new media rises in power.  Back then, if your lying eyes showed you something the media — all of the media — said was false, you wondered about your sanity, and the tendency was to fall back in line with the central narrative, unless you really, really couldn’t justify it.

I still don’t know who sent me that subscription, much less why they thought there was hope for me, considering the things I believed and the way I talked at the time.

But without that person, there would have been no Darkship Thieves, no According to Hoyt blog, and none of the PJM  posts, either.  I’d remain anti-communist, but also convinced that the free market and liberty weren’t the answer, and I’d futilely seek a “third way.”  I’d believe socialism was close to the answer, if we could just hold in that state, without falling into full communism.

I hope whoever it was is happy with the results.  I am.  And in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve sent many a person copies of P. J. O’Rourke’s Eat the Rich or All the Trouble in the World, both of which have the same message as those first Reasons I read. There are other books of course, but those are the ones I normally send.

I’ve also sought to break the chains of leftist-induced depression in blogs and posts, many, many times.  I’ve tried to open the windows for others, so they see there is hope – lots of it – if only they’re willing to work towards it.

The world isn’t coming to an end.  Only the statist world.  And that leaves the future wide open for humanity and liberty.

Be not afraid.  Light a candle and let the hope of a bright future into your life and maybe even into someone else’s.


145 thoughts on “Lighting A Candle on the Road to Damascus a Blast From The Past from July 2017

  1. > people who need someone who is exactly like them in external characteristics to enjoy a book or a movie

    This seems to be entirely from the Left. Which is reasonable; it’s all about *them*; they don’t have enough self to be able to enjoy a story through someone else’s point of view.

    1. Ah, but they do! I’ve seen them reading Harry Potter, and Sarah Maas’ Throne of Glass series, as well as devouring on-screen entertainment like Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones with great passion and emotional investment.

      In fact, I’ve watched ’em read GRRM’s Game of Thrones books – though I think they didn’t make it all the way through, preferring the video version. So it’s not true they can only read things they see themselves in, or read small, shallow books.

      Which is interesting, and I’m still trying to figure out what manages to cross that barrier and catch and hold them.

        1. Entirely correct! After all, getting through Game of Thrones has proven more than George R. R. Martin has been able to do.

        2. Indeed! But watching someone sitting there with a Beto tank top (yes, at work. Sigh.) plowing through a Big Thick Book, and enjoying it, reminds me that I need to not let myself fall into easily dismissive steroetypes.

  2. > the things that even Heinlein bought into

    He wasn’t the only one by far.

    I’m currently re-reading John Stormer’s “None Dare Call It Treason” from 1964. I’d read it long ago, before I understood about politics; now… it’s about my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but so far, I’m nodding like a bobblehead. The Left captured the schools and the media a *long* time ago…

    If you want, I’ll do a guest post on it.

    1. I remember watching Reagan’s time for choosing speech and seeing just how none had changed, or if it had had just gotten worse

  3. > Computers were destroying person-to-person communication.

    Translation: they were letting people spread Badthink without proper oversight.


      Down at the bottom there’s a link to Bridgeify, a Bluetooth mesh network. Working great in Hong Kong this week.

      The next generation killer app is going to be a self-assembling mesh network that bypasses the cell network and the establishment internet. Somebody will be doing this in the next 20 years, maybe the next 10 if GoogleAppleMicrosoft really start to piss people off.

        1. Obviously this is a city thing, where I live it wouldn’t work at the individual phone level. Bluetooth is 100 feet at best, my driveway is longer than that.

          BUT, at the household level a peer-to-peer mesh network could easily work. Stick an antenna on the roof and use WiMax. Bounce it off a satellite or a blimp, maybe even a tall tree. Or run glass fiber. Lots of ways to do it.

          I don’t know if it would be any good at streaming video, but the point of a mesh-network is to route around attempts to control it. There’s no backbone to snip, no servers to take off-line. If your problem is that the government controlled cell phone and telephone network is your enemy, streaming Netflix is not a big priority.

          I can also see something like this becoming a nightmare for phone companies and cable TV/internet providers. There are plenty of places in the USA and Canada with no cell service where a mesh network would be excellent.

          Faster, please. >:D

          1. if there’s no cell service, there’s not going to be a density of cell phones necessary to support a mesh network. as you said, bluetooth is too short range and well.. doing it by wifi is just inviting someone into your phone.

  4. It’s a mark of just how far out of step with the rest of academia my late Father was that my instinctive reaction to a conflict between what my senses and sense tell me and what is reported by Teh Narrative is to think, “Well, they screw it up again”. I don’t have to wrestle with it. In any matter that I pay any attention to, I know that even absent any Leftist bias, the reporter of any news piece has been working under a deadline and distilling the half-remembered remarks of ten or a dozen people, half of whom were lying to him. He most likely isn’t an expert in the field, and neither is his editor. Furthermore, his job isn’t to get it right, his job is to sell newspapers (or sell the Lefty viewpoint). And this has ALWAYS been true. It was true of the political broadsides that were the beginnings of newspapers in the 17th century. It’s true now. And it was true the entire time in between, no matter what heroic myth the Left has tried to sell on the subject.

    1. The job of a traveling bard was never to ensure the dissemination of truth, that was the job of God’s Prophets. The job of a traveling bard was to be entertaining enough to get fed, sheltered, and clothed, and hopefully make a bit of profit. And if he had to lie his ass off to do it, so be it. If he actually spread real news, that was just a bonus.

      1. That is the sting in the gift given to Thomas the Rhymer. That he could no longer lie. OTOH, the gift made him a Prophet.

        As a sidelight, I commend Kipling’s ‘The Last Rhyme of True Thomas’ to the attention of anyone who has missed it.

        Also, there is a Kipling Society web site. Lots of fun to explore.

    2. “even absent any Leftist bias, the reporter of any news piece has been working under a deadline and distilling the half-remembered remarks of ten or a dozen people, half of whom were lying to him. He most likely isn’t an expert in the field, and neither is his editor. Furthermore, his job isn’t to get it right, his job is to sell newspapers.”

      I got my degree in broadcast studies. This. Exactly this. Even with the best intentions in the world, it’s impossible to get things right—and if you introduce dishonesty in any level, it has a geometric effect on the end product.

      One of our video assignments was about something on-campus, and my group decided to do a video on the theater ghost. And to do the video, you needed interviews, right? So we interviewed a bunch of theater people on their experiences.

      … at the twice-weekly meeting of the improv group that two of the three of us belonged to.

      We got some great stories. Some of them might have even been true experiences—I mean, we didn’t come up with the theater ghost off the top of our heads. But if we wanted complete and total honesty, going to a group of people whose very purpose is to take a suggestion and come up with something on the spot… well, that wasn’t going to happen.

      1. This is why I recommend Mencken’s NEWSPAPER DAYS, HEATHEN DAYS, and MY LIFE AS AUTHOR AND EDITOR toanyone who gets hot under the collar about media bias.

        Yes, the Media is biased. Yes, that bias is strongly tilted to the Left. But much of the inaccuracies stem from deadlines, lack of background knowledge, and the tendency to consult people who will give you good quotes in preference to those who know what they are talking about.

        The News has ALWAYS had bias. What the Left did was sell the idea that unbiased news was even possible.

  5. Two things changed my mind about Ecologism (totally a word) and the Left.

    First, when I was at university I went to the engineering fair and talked to some kid about windmills vs. nuclear power. The kid said “It would be hard to run the Steel Company of Canada off a windmill.” And I did not have an answer for that, which made me think. And thinking killed the whole eco-thing right there.

    Second, I read “The Probability Broach” by L. Neil Smith, which introduced me to the notion that more/better/bigger government might not be the great thing everybody said it was. Again, I did not have an answer for this argument so I was forced to think. Thinking killed Lefty socialism for me in very short order.

    1. I pick up copies of “The Probability Broach” and “The Nagasaki Vector” at used book stores when I see them and give them away. Turned a few non-readers into readers with them, and seriously twisted some social and political thinking…

      Smith was also amazingly prescient; the Telecom handsets were, for all practical purposes, modern smartphones. And there was also the immortal line: “even with fifteen hundred channels, there’s still nothing decent on afternoon TV.” Back when we only got two and a half channels, that was surely fiction…

    2. I was studying chemical engineering in the early 1970s, and one of my professors was talking about the costs of cleaning up air pollution from smokestacks. The first 50 percent was fairly easy, but after that, each few percentage points of reduction cost more and more. I began to consider that the typical environmentalist tactics, to get regulations passed and sue people, were entirely the wrong approach for addressing technical and engineering problems.

      1. I heard something similar. Law of diminishing returns kicks in at about 50% or so? The enviros seem to think all this is magic, and if companies weren’t such infernal cheapskates the air would come from the stack cleaner than it went in.

        My diesel crew cab produces less emissions rolling down the highway at 70mph than a 1972 Volkswagen parked inside my garage, sitting still and stone cold. You can tell by the smell when you open the door, it smells like the 1970s in there. But I’m destroying the world because its bigger than a Dumbcar. Assholes.

        These are the same illiterates who keep voting for windmills in Ontario. 😡

    3. The first thing I noticed about the Left’s Eco-activism was that it tended to distract from real problems and practical solutions in favor of splashy outrage.

      Take the Love Canal. The company who had maintained a toxic waste site had exceeded all the existing safety requirements. The site was SAFE, unless disturbed. The company warned the town government what was in the site, and was reluctant to sell. The town pushed through the sale, threatening to use eminent domain, and then ignored the warnings and disturbed the site. So the fault was with the local government.

      But Lefties love Government and hate companies, so they made sure the company got saddled with the blame.

    4. For me it’s a simple question based on stuff I learned back in grade school: If humanity has to be the cause of climate change then how do you explain the ice ages? We weren’t around for those.

      1. According to Harry Turtledove, our use of fire ended the last ice age. 😈

        Note, this was tongue-in-cheek on his part. 😉

        1. One of my takes on the Eco-romantics is that we finally found out what people who are so reactionary they disapprove of fire are really like.

  6. I’m beginning to wonder just how weird I am. I didn’t catch the indoctrination – I did pick up the unthinking “the idea that everyone gets the essentials is nice”, but I knew it was impossible in real life. Maybe it had to do with geology being my first degree – cycles and mass extinctions and knowing darn well the poles have been completely ice free even in past winters will make climate scares seem kind of… erm… silly?

    Heck, I recall one of my professors commenting that if we are in an interglacial that’s well past due to end, then a runaway greenhouse effect if such a thing actually occurred would be a really good thing.

    I am weird enough to have figured out my personal morality from first principles, so who knows? I also grew up in a culture or microculture (I’m not sure which) that considered the “fair go” vital – and regarded equal opportunity legislation as a warped attempt to legislate a fair go. Warped because it enforced equality of outcome. Said culture also had no concerns about playing with words or taking the piss, so it generally took less than 24 hours before the latest proclamation of political correctness was being used in mockery.

    I may not be immune to brainwashing, but somehow it seems the worst of it missed me.

    1. > I am weird enough to have figured out my personal morality from first principles,

      You’re not alone. What I wound up with was:

      I don’t give any ****.
      I don’t take any ****.
      I don’t lie.
      I don’t steal.

      It’s funny, you ask most people to put down their morals/ethics/rules, and they just wave their arms and claim “everyone knows”, …but apparently not well enough to put them down on paper.

      Maybe my four rules are a little sparse for most people, but they work for me…

      [I doubt Sarah would object to the unbowdlerized originals, but just in case some people are browsing from behind a nannywall…]

      1. I suspect is started with people who COULD have ‘put it down on paper’ but were embarrassed to because they would clearly have been cribbing from the Ten Commandments. Of course, after decades of resolutely ignoring the Christian origins of our culture, the Lefties mostly can’t recall the Commandments, they just know they are evilbadthink.

        Funny how cultures based in Protestant Christianity somehow come out less murderous than those based in Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or (Gods help us) Socialism.

        1. I’m not embarrassed to be cribbing off the ten commandments. That’s a really darned good list, right there, designed to work whether you’re a bronze-age tribe nomadic in the desert, or today.

        2. Protestant Christianity is the evolutionary result of Catholicism…the kinder, gentler version that wasn’t seeking control of Europe..which explains why our country wasn’t QUITE as violent as it could have been. Hinduism and Buddhism have their own problems but have also calmed down a bit over the years. Izlam (my spelling) is just plain mad and I’ll leave that off to the side for now. And Socialism? Well it works well with izlam (Hitler proved that) which speaks not at all well for either and puts them in the same category to be reduced to ashes and poured down the sewer….It is my hope that mankind will eventually evolve a completely sane religion that doesn’t promote violence or control of the masses.

          1. Are you for real on Protestant Christianity not trying to control people?
            Sure, not now. Catholicism doesn’t really do it now either. They annoy people, mostly.
            BUT when it started?

          2. It is my hope that mankind will eventually evolve a completely sane religion that doesn’t promote violence or control of the masses.

            It seems unlikely to occur. For one thing, History indicates that “sane” (by which I think you mean non-violent) religions tend to have very short shelf lives, especially if neighboring theologies are not non-violent. For another, indications are that contemplation of the ineffable drives people insane.

            Minor religions (and all religions start out as minorities) tend to threaten the status quo. Threatening the status quo engenders persecution. Persecution seems to produce paranoia. Paranoia seems to drive people a little bit off-kilter.

        1. As Dan says. I keep this among my wisdom quotes.

          I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them. –J.B. Books (John Wayne) from “The Shootist”

        2. Never saw the movie, never came across the quote until I saw Frank’s post. That’s 100% mine, even if some scriptwriter thought of it first…

        3. Well Pilgrim, if it works, it works. Some may think me odd for saying this but I think J. Michael Strazinski came close to getting it right with the religion of the Minbari in his classic Babylon 5.

      2. The second half of Heinlein’s speech at Annapolis serves very well as a basis of morality. As does the 10 Commandments, which I prefer to summarize as, “Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.” Especially when combined with both parts of the Golden Rule.

          1. Mark 12:28–31
            The Great Commandment

            28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    2. “Heck, I recall one of my professors commenting that if we are in an interglacial that’s well past due to end, then a runaway greenhouse effect if such a thing actually occurred would be a really good thing.”

      Imagine ice half a mile thick reaching all the way down to Nebraska. I want one of these Greenies to explain to me how a longer growing season in Canada is worse than that.

        1. oh, they’re absolutely convinced it is. I told Dr. Pournelle as much the first time i saw him on here.

    3. Exposure to the poor showed me something that destroyed the idealistic bullshit that socialists like to spew:

      The very poor have often very completely different priorities, than the basics. The ones who do have the basics in mind do have a better grasp of necessities and often do not stay poor, and work to get out of it.

  7. I had a severe allergic reaction to leftism while in college. At the time, I thought it was because of being inundated with the idea that my country was the source of all evils in the rest of the Americas (ah, Central and South American movie night in Spanish class, how I detested thee…)

    Looking back over *coughcough* years, it was because my country was being picked on and bullied, just like I had been. I had the same visceral reaction to being singled out and beat up, albeit metaphorically instead of literally. Interesting, how I projected and absorbed.

    1. I was lucky in that respect. Getting a BSEE in the early 70s, the engineering professors were either apolitical or hid their political viewpoints really well.

      About the only lefty instructor I had to deal with was the teaching assistant for the Rhetoric 10[?] class I had first semester. I tended to ignore the two semesters of Sociology I had to take–did well enough, but they never sunk in.

      OTOH, I was moderate-to-liberal in my misspent youth, though I did vote for the Republican governor at the same time as for George McGovern. Alas, the gov’ lost, though he distinguished himself by being one of the few Illinois governors in the modern era to avoid adding “Federal Prisoner” to his resume.

  8. The industrialization of China, and its relative opening up to the free market meant more pollution.

    Admittedly, this one is sort of true although (a) I’m inclined to blame it on the fact that it’s only a RELATIVE free market, (b) whether the massive pollution in China is a problem for the non-Chinese really depends on whether or not you buy into the GW panic.

    1. Not even that. Moving from a rural agrarian to an industrial one ALWAYS means more pollution, matter what system you do it under.
      It’s just that the Chinese government and corporations have no incentives to even try and rein it in, which means that the problems are worse than they have to be.

        1. oops put something in the wrong topic…As for the point about Chinese pollution, the Chinese government and corporations are basically the same thing. Therefore there is no incentive at all to rein in their pollution. The Soviet Union demonstrated this habit very well when their ecological disasters were revealed after the fall of the USSR…One way to demonstrate the concern of the Chinese oligarchs for their serfs, take one look at the Paris Treaty in which carbon “credits” were invented…The Treaty affects China and India not one bit…..The two greatest polluters in the industrialized world and they are not reined in at all.

    2. The problem with China is that if they ever do go Capitalist we are in a world of hurt. First they do FAMILY Capitalism. The Family is a corporation that everybody is part of, including the extended family. They think and plan in decades or longer while Western Capitalist think in terms of the next Quarter. They also have Far more loyalty to the Corporation (Family).
      The Chinese have been doing Family Capitalism for thousands of years. They have only been hobbled by their governments. If the Government of China were to start HELPING and getting out of the way. Look Out.

      But no worries that isn’t going to happen. The Chinese Governments no matter the type ALWAYS seeks CONTROL and I believe always will. It is just the Chinese Way.

      1. “They think and plan in decades or longer while Western Capitalist think in terms of the next Quarter.”
        Why is this seen as a good thing? Often times the idea that long term planning is good leads to the idea that government controlled long term planning is even better! (Looks at the Soviet Union- check that.)
        Markets, politics, tech, culture- all those things change so rapidly and unexpectedly that any decades long planning is either a straightjacket or so vague as to not really be a plan.
        Remember when the Japanese were praised to the heavens for their decades long planning?

        1. What has been proven is “planned economy doesn’t work” not in a technological society. Flexibility, creativity, adaptation do.
          IOW: adapt, improvise and overcome.

          1. It doesn’t really work all that great for business either. Often times the long term plans are what kills the big players- because the new up & comers aren’t shackled to an increasingly out of date business plan.
            Once can imagine someone at Sears/ Borders/ et al saying “Seriously guys- shopping mall stores are the way to go. This mail order stuff is going to fade away.”

            1. Our division manager in Silly Valley made a huge bet on the continued high growth rate of internet and municipal area networks. We went all in, just in time for the collapse of the dot-com bubble in 2001.

              OTOH, said division manager had a great gift of blarney; he ended up as company CEO after the entire semiconductor group (multiple divisions) was sold off. He lasted several years as CEO while the company sold off bits and pieces, too. Not quite sure how he survived, but once my 401k was IRAified, I didn’t have to care.

              1. What amazes me is the “big thing” is still computers. That is where they push for dislocated workers. I still remember the look on the employment employee’s face when he presented me with “where I should be looking for work” in ’96. Top 25 were all computer related. My response? “No kidding. I wrote software for the timber division.” Then again in ’02 after the .dot com bust. Not only that but I know the foresters who got retraining in computers (ditto, but I started the process 20 years earlier, instead of a mere 6 years) got riffed, again, during the bust. What was the employment office hawking? Yes. Computers. Any bets on what they are hawking still? With all the STEM talk?

        2. When property rights are respected, it cab be a good thing in specific circumstances. The wood and paper industry owns vast tree farms, and the cycle of harvesting is a years-long one. In places like the Amazon basin, where property rights are subject to change without much notice, people who at the moment have the rights to some piece of land have no incentive to take good care, so they do short term exploitation and the environment suffers.

          Naturally the Left’s solutions somehow never seem to address this.

          1. The Ottoman Empire became the Sick Man of Europe for the same reason. Fiefs were not usually passed from father to son, but to favored vassal from unfavored vassal.

            1. That and the practice of killing off potential contenders led to the weaker heirs hiding themselves away and waiting for the stronger ones to kill each other off. Also led to the smarter nobles protecting weak heirs in return for substantial favors after they “helped” the heir to take the sultanate.

      2. “The Chinese have been doing Family Capitalism for thousands of years.”

        No, they’ve been doing “know your place” feudalism for thousands of years, and they’re still doing it. That’s why their economy is F-ed right now, everything is fake. The “lords” of the Communist Party are stealing the labor and the savings of 1.4 billion peasants, the same as always. Peasants exchanged starving to death on shitty farms for working to death in shitty factories. Small step up from starving, but they’re getting cranky about it.

        That’s why Pres. Xi is President For Life lately, why they’re frantically zip-tying together a Social Credit surveillance system, and why there’s a real estate bubble that reaches low Earth orbit.

        1. Given what’s been going on in Hong Kong the past three months, my question is how soon and how hard the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship takes its fall, because it looks like it’s heading for one.

          1. Indeed, I’m hearing that China’s economy is increasingly shakey since the change of regimes here…I’m wondering if the current problems in HK are not the beginnings of mainland China beginning to eat it’s children in an attempt to extend the life of the rotting body? Hong Kong generates enormous amounts of capital which the mainland needs now. The trade “war” we’re having right now is not helping them and in fact appears to be lost by them already….again, victims of their own “planned economy”…Will Taiwan be next?

        2. How long has it been since the last Warring States era?
          About 70 or so years since the Communist won, I’d say.

      3. Chinese clan corporations are a beautiful example of something that looks familiar on the outside (a corporation) but has a totally different function and purpose on the inside.

  9. Life is good. Life is getting better. And me, I’ll just keep being me, working on improving myself, increase the happiness of our marriage, and trying to make the world a better place.

    The fact that this finds me explaining to a coworker what tariffs are, and how our current president is using them on China to force North Korea to the table – so they’re not as terrible and out of nowhere as the business article her econ prof gave out seems…

    Well, that just means I’m a geek.

    1. Re Tariffs: Few people seem to know that US tariffs were traditionally high, and were the primary source of Federal government revenue from 1890-1914.

      From the link:

      “The tariff represented a complex balance of forces. Railroads, for example, consumed vast quantities of steel. To the extent tariffs raised steel prices, they paid much more making possible the U.S steel industry’s massive investment to expand capacity and switch to the Bessemer process and later to the open hearth furnace. Between 1867 and 1900 U.S. steel production increased more than 500 times from 22,000 tons to 11,400,000 tons and Bessemer steel rails, first made in the U.S that would last 18 years under heavy traffic, would come to replace the old wrought iron rail that could only endure two years under light service.[47] Taussig says that in 1881, British steel rails sold for $31 a ton, and if Americans imported them they paid a $28/ton tariff, giving $59/ton for an imported ton of rails. American mills charged $61/ton and made a good profit, which was then reinvested into increased capacity, higher quality steels, higher wages and benefits and more efficient production.[48] By 1897 the American steel rail price had dropped to $19.60 per ton compared to the British price at $21.00—not including the $7.84 duty charge—demonstrating that the tariff had performed its purpose of giving the industry time to become competitive.[49] Then the U.S. steel industry became an exporter of steel rail to England selling below the British price and during WW I would become the largest supplier of steel to the allies.”

      1. Tariffs used to be a huge part of US history class. That, and banks, and financial panics,and evil political machines. My dad has history books full of that stuff.

        1. To quote SleepyJoe, “C’mon, Dude!”

          The Left has always objected to the United States defending ourselves, both individually and as a natioin.

      2. Tariffs were a big part of Presidential candidate McKinley’s platform … in contrast to William Jennings “Print More Money!” Bryant.

        Funny how over a hundred-twenty-five years later the Democrat party hasn’t come up with a new idea.

    2. Pretty much, yes. Or me telling someone, “I’ve read books about parasitology in archaeology, and read articles on large and small strongyles in horses. You can’t gross me out.”

  10. Off topic, but you might be interested: Hurricane Dorian has sped up to 10 mph and moving NE. Hopefully the eye will miss landfall in NC; there have already been a few tornadoes on the outer edges of the storm as it has approached the Old North State.

    Also, this headline: “Hurricanes travel 17% more slowly than they did 75 years ago. Here’s why.” Any guesses? Natural variability? Small sample size? Better, more consistent measurements? Global warming?


      1. We’re well inland; if it were not for the radar map we wouldn’t think it anywhere near us — but the radar showed it right overhead earlier this evening. Some breezes (under 20 mph) is apparently what we’re going to receive.

  11. To be fair to Heinlein, he did not live to see the defeat of the Soviet Union. And everybody was worried about starvation until Norman Borlaug started an agrarian revolution in the Third World that dramatically increased crop output.

    But I figured out in my teens that the Left was talking up scares to grab power.

    And I never quite lost hope. Worried…I knew just how bad things were in the late 1970s. What I did NOT know at the time was that there were things going on behind the scenes. People don’t realize just how much of an impact Dr. Pournelle had with “The Strategy of Technology.” The military machine that Reagan took over was starvation-weak, but sound in the bone, sharp in the mind, and ready to fill out to titanic strength if given proper nourishment. THAT was the force that went to the Gulf War…and as Tom Clancy put it, “It was the War of the Worlds…and we were the Martians.”

    1. I figured out in my teens that the Left was talking up scares to grab power.

      I have long thought of the Left as the Chicken Little Party of American democracy. Although I do sometimes spell “Little” somewhat differently.

  12. I knew the leading lights of the movement were exquisitely indoctrinated morons.

    I believe you’ve committed a minor typographical error. That should probably read:

    “I knew the leading lights of the movement were exquisitely indoctrinating morons.”

  13. I feel it is past time to point out the absence of Marsupial Main Characters — or even supporting characters — in SF and Fantasy. Not just the lack of wallabies, although that would be egregious enough for any genre* but also the absence of kangaroos, opossums, wombats, koalas and Tasmanian Devils.

    This lack of like-kind role models in a genre claiming to be so open-minded most of its brains have fallen out can only be due to rampant marsupialphobia in the industry. The harm this has inflicted on impressionable young marsupials is incalculable!

    *It should be observed that one notable exception is the genre of Hard-Boiled Detective fiction, most famously in the novels My Pocket Is Cold and The Flatfoot From Down Under.

    1. The Star Trek franchise only brought one in (The Altarian Marsupial) as a slave. Star Wars only represented your people as criminals! (The Hutt).

      Clearly reparations are in order.

      As a marginalised class (Agaricomycetes) frequently fetishized by negative representation in SF, I feel your pain.

  14. ecological destruction that needed government intervention

    In fairness, what we have learned about the Soviet Union’s treatment of the environment (e.g., the destruction of the Aral Sea) and what we’ve observed here in the US (e.g., the Tennessee Valley Authority Flooding or the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill) indicate that for truly massive ecological destruction government involvement is absolutely required.

    1. One question: does anybody know of a single Superfund site which has been successfully restored?

      Asking for a friend.

      1. Two that I know of in the town I grew up in. I think where the old gas ball was is still just a parking lot, though I could always call home and ask my mom if they’ve done anything with the place. The other, an old watch factory, is luxury condominiums now.

    2. Because only government can afford to not worry about an uninsurable toxic waste pool on their property, or flooding the Mississippi because they were asleep at the switch. They’re the government. Its not their money.

    3. I’ve recently watched the Chernobyl miniseries*, and yep- it’s the type of environmental disaster that only a big, tyrannical government could produce. From the lack of safeguards, to the utterly sloppy design of the RBMK, to the operator failures, to the utterly messed up response.

      *should be required viewing

    4. Well yes, but that point it becomes a matter of it that being because the government has the resources to implement such projects, and private enterprise does not, rather than inherent virtue or vice.

  15. Computers were destroying person-to-person communication.

    Oddly, this has proven true even though nobody, not even SF’s most perceptive writers, envisioned Facebook and Twitter mobs.

    Of course, who anticipated China and Google would read 1984 and think of it as an instruction manual?

    1. It’s not just 1984. It’s also Brave New World with its bizarre sexuality. Although somehow the left have combined that with the Anti Sex League. That’s some real talent there. Honestly can someone explain to them that one does NOT want to live in a Dystopia?

      1. Part of it is the stories we tell. THey started viewing the future as dystopia when Reagan won. And now they just have the idea that that’s the future…
        This is the power of stories. Be careful with them.

        1. naah not really. The future as dystopia thing started before that. I can present a signiticant case that ‘the future as dystopia’ came out of the 70s malaise…

          i can even present feature films as evidence.

        2. HMM Madame Hostess You have a point. Perhaps less when Reagan won and more when it was clear that their Utopia (the USSR ) was obviously in it’s death throes. They seem to have moved to the “let the world burn if it’s not good enough for our chosen religion” position. Gotterdamerung as their eschatological position rather than the New Jerusalem.

          1. the dystopic obsession predates Reagan being president- tho technically, at least cinematically, did start when he was governor of CA. hmmmm….

            1. I presume you mean in general culture Draven. Certainly in scifi it goes back further, though is not universal. In cinema there are things like Soylent Green and Logan’s Run and Planet of the Apes. But of course these are directly derive from a variety of sci-fi sources. And there’s always the doomsday scenario’s like Fail Safe and On the Beach. And ultimately things like Threads and The Day After. There is also nonsense like The Late Great Planet Earth although that feels like late 70’s early 80’s though my memory may be bad. Certainly after 2001 (movie not the year) most cinematic SCI-FI is dystopic (or at least a wicked downer) until Star Wars. TV is a split, Star Trek Vs Space 1999 and UFO, although none of those were really big when they showed, Star Trek really becomes main stream when Desilu breaks tradition and puts a 3 season show into syndication.

            2. And they were already so focused on him one of the stupid shit books I had to read in Portugal for English class was written by an Englishman ranting about how he would end the world.
              AND I had NO idea who he was, even.

        1. I’m not sure that counts as other than rank stupidity. Although a free country of free men and women with limited laws might classify as a dystopia to a socialist/communist. Perhaps dystopia is in the eye of the beholder…

  16. poverty was always greater under socialism and less under a free market

    Funny thing – in free market economies you can, largely through your own decisions and actions, escape poverty whereas in socialist economies it seems the only escaping involves rafts made of planks and old tires.

  17. Thank you for this light in the darkness. As so many people rip off their masks and show how influenced they are by the media, I feel adrift. So, yes, I thank that anonymous person as well.

  18. “and later I found out my reading habits followed Jim Baen around. As he moved houses, so did my buying even though at the time I had no idea who he was, and never looked at the editorial house name.”

    [goes off, looks up dates]
    Huh. So did mine, pretty much, at least since he came into editing.

    Aside from that, I own a huge pile of the yellow-spined DAWs (used to just grab ’em all), but rapidly lost interest when they went to a conventional cover ….. lately someone told me that was about when a drastic change of editors happened.

    As to feminism… from the horse’s mouth (can’t remember who related that she said this to his face, mighta been John Stossel):

    “It’s not about equality. It’s about power.”
    — Gloria Steinem

  19. I realized that most of the “environmentalists” had an agenda other than saving the world when the same people predicted over 30+ years-

    *Global cooling (i.e. we’ll all freeze to death!)
    *Global warming (i.e. we’ll all bake to death!)
    *Acid rain (i.e. we’ll all dissolve into sludge!)
    *Resource depletion (i.e. we’ll have wars over the last few oil wells!)
    *Famine (i.e. we’ll all stave!)

    -and their solution was the exact same thing. Massive multi-national agencies run by the UN or the “elite” that knew how to solve everything.


    1. Note that that point is not only clear with the benefit of hindsight. A thesis very close to that was carefully written out by a British MP, Bryan Magee, in an article in the summer 1975 issue of _Horizon_ magazine titled “Getting Along Without Doomsday”. I enthusiastically recommend reading the article if you get a chance. (I was able to find it in the UT Dallas library after my father remarked on vaguely remembering it from reading the original.) It runs to four typeset pages so I can’t really do it justice by just a few quotes, but I will give two, each illustrating a different virtue of the article.

      First, the pattern is described in some detail and seems to me to have help up pretty well over the decades. E.g., “There inevitably comes a point in the analysis at which we are told that the imminent cataclysm is so apocalyptic that the pluralistic freedoms of open societies are going to have to be sacrificed (alas) so that all resources can be devoted to the aim of survival. Although this is always presented as a lamentable necessity, it is seldom backed up by serious argument. […]”

      Second, it’s a useful time-capsule, e.g. “As an activist in left-wing politics I have been touched by each of the modern doomsday movements I listed earlier, except for the ice-age movement, which hasn’t had time to catch on yet.”

      1. Ben Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
        It seems like the SJW acknowledge that they cant reason us into this kind of idiocy but perhaps they can scare enough of us into it to get what they want. I often wonder if I am attributing malice, knowledge, and planning to them when it is mere fecklessness that drives them.

  20. I’d like to (re)recommend any of Thomas Sowell’s books. I put him up there with RAH for authoring stuff that molded my outlook. Along with Pournelle and Ben Bova (The High Road)

  21. “I stopped fearing runaway global warming […] and world war three”

    I’m pretty sure it’s still well worth fearing world war three. The second world war was sorta foreseeable, and the US Civil War as well. If you analogize from those, the fact that we don’t see escalating fighting with absurd brinksmanship could be very reassuring. It’s also reassuring to most people, including me, that we have backed off from various obvious hair-trigger aspects of the Cold War standoff. Neither of those are really reassuring enough, though. Consider that the first world war didn’t take all that long to go from situation fairly normal — after a long period of reasonably low level of warfare — to a heckuva direct bloodbath, plus strongly related geopolitical disasters (notably USSR and dysfunctional Germany) that killed millions more people directly and also helped kill even more millions of people by being the proximate cause of WW2. And historians searching for a hair-trigger instability to explain the WW1 blowup often invoke the instability caused by the military importance of being first with “fast” (meaning several weeks) mobilizations enabled by railroads. Since that time, technology has advanced somewhat… Today we not only have “faster” military instabilities (such as various 6-hour-or-so first strikes as in Pearl Harbor and the Six Days War, enabled by post-WW2 tech such as aircraft and probably more effective with newer tech such as precision guidance), we have “hold my beer” military instabilities (various technically plausible 30-minute-or-so scenarios primarily involving the ridiculous cost-effectiveness of nuclear destruction, plus some fallback options of destructive applications of other modern tech too).

    And were something to set off a serious war, fighting that war with modern tech could be really depressingly impressive. In particular, a war using nukes and other modern toys to go after the enemy’s productive capacity, as broadly defined as in “war crimes trials are for the losers” WW2, really could be rather bad. I vaguely remember people wryly remarking of knife fights roughly that “the winner is the one who goes to the hospital [instead of the morgue].” I don’t think it is only a Gramscian-damage motivated-reasoning talking point to claim that nukes and advanced biological weapons have some of the same character, writ large. Without appealing to any particular authority, I think I know enough to assess that claim as basically technically correct. Granted, some of the other popular anxieties built on that claim, such as the further claim that the the Earth will be rendered uninhabitable or merely that we would fall back to the Stone Age, do seem more like talking points pushed by fifth columnists than conclusions that honest analysts would arrive at. But “merely” losing 10% or more of the world’s population — indeed, even without invoking terribly implausible scenarios, possibly losing more like 50% of the world’s population? With the most productive and/or hard-to-replace areas heavily overrepresented in the deaths? And in the process, maybe falling back to the 1960s or so? It is an error to confuse such an outcome with the end of the world, yes, and it is likely Gramscian damage to encourage that confusion, yes. Nonetheless it is well worth worrying about such an outcome.

  22. I wish PJM paid a reasonable price for the time, effort, and knowledge necessary to do a libertarian blog for them. I miss your insights.

  23. my theory that people who need someone who is exactly like them in external characteristics to enjoy a book or a movie, have never left the early toddler stage, where having your name in a book really helps you enjoy it..

    How much of this has to do with the primacy of the character arc in modern novels? The quasi-universal viewpoint character, who is little more than a bundle of tropes, Doing Something Interesting in an Interesting Place is not merely another choice but actively frowned upon. This makes the viewpoint character (defaulting to tight third or first person – which I hated as a kid) very, very specific. And if his personality rubs the reader the wrong way or feels wrong, he legitimately cannot “relate”.

    Being marinated in Everything Is Racist(TM ) just means they can score points by callinng a victim play. “You didn’t like that book because you weren’t represented.”

    It doesn’t explain Le Guin, though. Maybe it’s just a function of her socialism + the echo chamber. It’s part of the grand unified field theory of internationalism after all. So for her and the or he ideologues it’s nor “can’t enjoy” but “won’t.”

    1. Nah. Seriously, some of us like TIGHT first or third person narrative and if it rubs us the wrong way, WE READ ANOTHER BOOK.
      Mostly? it’s infantile people who think if there are no one armed Hawaiian lesbians in books, those are left with “no role models.”
      It’s confusing fun with a pulpit, AGAIN.

      1. But it is totally true. If I hadn’t read about George Washington Carver when I was young, I wouldn’t have grown up to be an insane warmonger.

      2. I’ve grown to appreciate both. But yes, I might be reaching. You really don’t think it’s plausible that it’s a reaction that rejects “read another book” as the first option, but goes straight to “So therefore oppression”. Because that’s how they’ve been raised and taught for kindergarten? Combined with a form that makes the viewpoint character’s personality more ..hmmm… specific, so that it makes not being able to get “into” the book more likely?

        Fair dinkum.

        Also around the mid 90s I started seeing requests for fiction that would address every possible issue a kid could have – bibliotherapy. It’s only gotten worse.

        1. around the mid 90s I started seeing requests for fiction that would address every possible issue a kid could have

          I want one addressing one of the most pressing issues afflicting kids across America, inordinate fear of therapeutic reading: Bibliophobia.

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