The Sofa And The Cat’s Tail

I wonder if humans were always so prone to thinking “if we can control everything from one central point, that will save time and money and make everything perfect” or if where we are is a deformation from generations taught this fallacy which is at the heart of socialism/communism/totalitarianism.

As much as I like blaming everything on Marx (the fact that there is no dedicated pissoir installed on his grave is a reproach on our civilization) the truth is that there was this kind of insane idea at the back of minds going back as far as I can read. You know, the idea that it’s all mechanical, and that most humans are interchangeable widgets who can be controlled by the ‘superior beings’ in the center.

I’m going, however, to assume that it got worse with the industrial age and mass production. Because humans are very good at reasoning from one incident and creating a whole category/class/order. Arguably this was largely responsible for our survival and ascendance to dominant species. Because we learn from very little, and extrapolate whole classes.

We don’t go “Grorrg went into the forest alone and all we found was a mangled hand and a bit of his liver. It’s an isolated case, and we can all totally go to the forest alone.” No. We go “Very bad things in the forest made this happen. Don’t go into the forest alone, particularly at night.”

Of course, half the time this is a misfire. I mean maybe Grorrg was a complete ass who was having affairs with half the women in the village, and he didn’t in fact go into the forest alone. No, he went into the forest followed by every man in the village, plus Mkrog’s pet tiger, and he got no more than he deserved.

But “Don’t go into the forest alone” still makes sense, since we know there are things there that could eat us, except for the little bit of liver.

So, because we are prone to doing that, it’s common to think and say things like “I did this, it worked for me. You do this.” In fact, half the people in the world go around pissing off the other half on any given day by doing that. Only, of course, you know, the halves switch regularly, so it’s impossible to catch all the assholes and beat them with the two by four with the nails in it. Sometimes we are the assholes.

But why is that incredibly annoying? If something works for someone, why wouldn’t it work for you?

Well– yeah. Okay. Look my best friend, growing up, who was closer to me than any sister could be, was very good at ballet. Fortunately she had known me from birth, so she never told me “well, if you need to relax you should learn ballet. I always feel happy and energized.”

She didn’t do that, because she KNEW me. She knew I had two left feet, no spacial visualizing ability and no memory for movement. Which means even in normal aerobics classes (which was the gym classes we had, by and large) I usually looked at what the teacher was doing and then executed it backwards, sideways and tripping on my own two feet at the end. In fact, it should be impossible to mess it up as badly as I did, and most gym teachers refused to believe I’d done it accidentally and instead insisted that I was mocking them…. Add to that that while she was this lithe, elfin critter, I was taller than most men by 12 (for those who met me, yes, Portuguese men were tiny back then) and had shoulders like a lumberjack.

In the same way, knowing she was desperately dyslexic, I never told her if she wanted to know the end of the story to something I’d started, she could d*mn well write it herself. (No. I’m dyslexic too, but …. something happened to things that went in her head and needed to come out on paper.)

So my solutions didn’t work for her and hers didn’t work for me.

We all have had relationships like that and understand that. It’s just when you go from there to characteristics that are…. less tangible, like will power, ability to concentrate, ability to memorize, or even — just — ability to keep interest, we forget we’re not all the same and attribute the worst possible motives to someone — including ourselves — when the good example fails to stick.

Look, take me (please. Most of the time I’m very tiresome.) I’ve been blessed with more talents and opportunities than I ever believed possible. Particularly when I was crying every night before gym class. So, if I am so smart, why ain’t I rich?

Well…. many things. In theory I know what to do so we can be debt free and doing very well indeed. In theory I know what to do so my career takes off, too.

The devil is in the fiddly bits. (Not those fiddly bits. Take your minds out of the gutter.)

For instance, sure, I know the theory of how to save money and invest, and…. but my brain finds investments all too risky. And besides, it rather have food and things, so we have them if we need them.

As for the career….

I figured out part of the problem — besides ADHD etc. — yesterday, because I was talking to younger son who said something like “Portugal is choc full of talent. Choc full of people who can perform miracles with inadequate materials and training ONCE. Then abandon whatever they just did and go off to try more difficult things.”

Not only is he right, but holy hell, did it hit hard. You see, as I’m packing my hobby materials, and realizing some I’ll never do anything with ever again (and getting rid of them) I realized that I tend to buy/find things to do and be obsessive about them till I do them well. And then lose all interest. Worse, I don’t really have any interest in the things I make. I just want to be able to do them. (Hence the strange saga of egg carving. Don’t go there.) Now this was part of son’s pitch for “Since you’re going to make weird crap, let me sell it” but you know, temperament is in some measure inherited, and–

Well, you see, that’s the problem with writing. Writing is very easy to succeed at if you do the same book over and over, with minor variations on a regular schedule. So, of course, I need to write in multiple genres, and my books CHANGE because well, otherwise I get bored. And….

Now the second is semi-controllable. I have after all managed to write sequels. And I’m working on it, because unfortunately professional success passes by series these days. But it took forever to discipline myself enough to approach it this way.

Hell, it took forever to even understand it about myself. And the dime only fully dropped this week.

You’re probably going to say most people are not that complicated. But I really think that most people are. They just appear simple from a distance.

So “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need” sounds great…. from a great distance. But who determines what each needs, when some of us take years to figure it out and have to make mistakes to find out.

I mean, look, how would I guess I was an introvert who needs to see some people every day? I should have been happy in the suburbs. I love not seeing other people from my windows (or not that many people.) I like well tended gardens. I — I go berserk and put myself under house arrest, because when I walk out it’s like walking through blasted land, with no human beings in sight. And the back of my brain panics and goes nuts…. and then depresses me, because it’s obviously not safe out there — where is everyone? — and so I shouldn’t go out either.

Now try being a central planner, planning for millions and millions (or if the one-world-government ever got their way) billions of people.

To do that, you have to imagine people as spherical balls, all alike. We know if we roll them down a slope of niches, most will end up in one, right?

Humans are not like that. Humans are like pieces of a very complicated, intentionally designed to deceive puzzle, so it’s impossible to tell if you’re looking at part of a sofa or a cat’s tail.

You make it impossible for humans to find their own niches, do what they want, and adjust to their peculiar brains and circumstances and you’re going to have unending misery, uneeded death and terrible suffering. Or as we call it: communist countries.

You give humans the same basic start and conditions: like, you know equality before the law, and stability and let them act each in his own self interest and boy, howdee, you have miracles of tech, more food produced than could ever be needed, and a world full of wonder.

No, people won’t all end up in the same place. How could they? Not only do they all have different abilities and capacities and problems, but they deal with them differently. So, yeah, some people will be a lot richer than others. But the point is, in a free society, “poor” is what middle class is in a lot of the other world.

Oh, sure, there will be the very poor and dysfunctional, like the homeless. But there is a level of damage at which you can’t really make people function and work in society. At best you can ensure they don’t starve to death, which mostly the free world manages.

But you can’t save every one all the time. Horrible things will still happen, because humans aren’t all the same, and some are completely messed up, whether it’s their fault or not. (And we can’t know.)

It’s a terrible thing to accept, if you’re halfway competent, but no. You can’t bring everyone up to even half your level. Best you can do is look after yourself and those you love. And even then, sometimes, you fail with those you love best. Because humans are complicated.

But central planning doesn’t solve that problem. It solves the problem of making sure that all identical spheres end up in identical places.

And because humans aren’t identical spheres, it tries to grind, shave and shatter the irregular puzzle pieces into spheres.

Which works about as well as you’d expect. In the end you have useless pieces, and a complete mess.

It’s time we start proclaiming loudly that humans aren’t identical widgets. And refuse to oblige them when they insist on shoving the cat into the sofa.

151 thoughts on “The Sofa And The Cat’s Tail

  1. when they insist on shoving the cat into the sofa.

    I’d “point and laugh” when the cat shows them what the cat thinks of That Idea. 😆

    1. I had a 6 pound kitteh that schooled my roommate’s younger daughter that picking up a cat without permission was going to be painful. Daughter was wearing a very light top, and Isis was *pissed*.

      1. one of our cats was named Ninja because if you petted him wrong, you would find your wrist slashed before you noticed.

  2. I decided to re-read Isaac Asimov’s robot detective novels. And one thing that struck me (among many) is that the public meal rooms had yeast-based foods. All well and good, except I had just had another friend find out that they had an allergy to yeast. Well, too bad for her in that scenario—she’d either be chronically sick or dead in there.

    Or hey, how about a time a few years back when I was getting chronic fatigue symptoms, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. A friend of mine had similar issues. For me it was critically low iron—for her, it was a blood clotting disorder (“you’re lucky, we usually find this POST-mortem,”) for which there’s too much iron in her blood and she needs to avoid it.

    One size only fits all if you cut off those who don’t fit.

    1. Yeah, I never figured out how a Jewish guy would think that, “Yeah, everybody can just eat yeast blocks!”

      Also, foods made from yeast that are not, say, bread or beer, are generally pretty disgusting. People can get used to them, but nobody wants to eat nothing but. And it probably would give you allergies, or yeast infections in tender places, if you tried.

      1. Heh. Usually when I encounter absurdities like that in scifi, I assume the writer hasn’t got a clue in that particular area and just grabbed something he thought sounded neat. Or had heard something crazy about. 😀

        1. He wrote that back at the beginning of the mass-produced artificial food craze, didn’t he? The same benighted impulse that led to veggie-burgers, tofu-turkey, algae-as-food, and other such horrors as have been inflicted by hippie relatives upon the dinner table while the rest of the family replies to “meat is murder!” with “Yeah, and soylent green is people. Pass the bacon!”

          Yeast-based everything sounds like you could get rid of all that terribly icky farming and make neat, clean, controllable vats churning out food to central planning and control, doesn’t it?

          I’ll have the steak and the sushi!

            1. Wasn’t that also an issue on Earth in Farmer in the Sky? I do recall them having to track calories to satisfy TPTB, but not what they were eating. Time to see if it’s available on Kindle.

              1. Farmer in the Sky – On earth they had to track the calories consumed. Big deal because the kid stated his dad, for all that dad was an engineer, always got the calorie accounts messed up. Implied that any food not cooked but not consumed didn’t count because it went into a specific food waste to be used elsewhere to produce food. Which made the tracking more complicated than just entering the calories from the original food package. But not explicitly stated.

                1. Checked, and for some reason Farmer isn’t available on Kindle. OTOH, Door Into Summer and Farnham’s Freehold are. (Much of my RAH was in paperback, and those had to be jettisoned when we moved in ’03. Sigh. OTOH, I’m rebuilding that collection as time goes on.)

                  1. I have Nook for most my ebooks. Including “Farmer in the Sky”.

                    Starting a Kindle collection. But so far only 5 books.

          1. Plus Asimov was a believer in the World Is Going To Be Over-Populated idea.

            The Earth of the Robot Mysteries was highly over-populated and everybody were living in Super Enclosed Cities (the Caves Of Steel which was the title of the first one).

            So to feed everybody, Earth had to use “manufactured” food not grown food.

            1. E.E. Smith took that in Subspace Explorers and then gave it a twist: Earth was overpopulated and most people ate synthetic foods; the rich ate synthetics and vegetarian and only the very rich had meat or dairy. Then the culture discovered cheap interstellar travel and entrepreneurs exploded out to claim oil-rich, metal-rich and extra-fertile planets and started plowing investment money into them. Real food became plentiful and since it tasted better than synthetics the synthetic food industry eventually went away.

              1. Zenna Henderson did the same thing with her People stories, in that the folks who settled a less human-friendly world ended up having to eat synthetics. Her spin was that by the time the great-grandkids had never known anything but, they were freaked out to try natural. Not just meat, but say, a carrot pulled ouut of the dirt. Yuck

                1. I’ve seen the “carrot pulled out of the dirt, yuck” response in people now. If it isn’t in a bag, at the grocery store ….

                  No fiction needed.

            2. I just re-read the first two of those; the backstory was that the Cities, artificial food, and rigidly controlled society were imposed for survival after atomic war and subsequent ecological collapse. The Cities saved the maximum number of people, but the price was totalitarianism, groupthink, and an inflexible hierarchical social structure.

              The Earth had largely recovered, but the Cities were self-perpetuating power structures; most citizens were under the impression Earth was still uninhabitable, and anyone who wanted to go Outside was suicidal. The story behind the overt murder mystery was that the Spacers were sabotaging Earth’s culture, trying to drive people back Outside. The character part was how Baley, formerly a happy government functionary, came to largely agree with the people who were starting to push back against the Cities.

              As far as yeast allergies and whatnot, the kind of government that is going to build Cities probably isn’t going to worry much about defectives who can’t eat the only allowed foods. Shame to lose their other genetic potential, given the losses and mutations from the war, but in the end totalitarianism always comes down to “conform of die.”

              Somehow, most of the people who The Caves of Steel got the idea that Asimov thought the Cities were a good thing; the exact opposite of what he put into the story.

              note: I hit the Wikipedia page for The Caves of Steel. It turns out the BBC made a movie of it in 1964; Baley was played by Peter Cushing and the film adaptation was done by Terry Nation, who was working on that new “Doctor Who” series.

              The Beeb, of course, wiped the tapes, and only fragments still exists. And they did The Naked Sun, and wiped that, too.

          2. I insist on eating beef from only vegetarian cattle. Same thing for Bison burgers and steaks – no carnivorous Bison need apply.

            Chickens I eat I allow that they can eat bugs since they are little crazed velociraptors and can’t help themselves.

            So I claim credit for second order vegetarianism and whatever the word is for trendy bug-eating.

            1. **coughs** I have some bad news for you about bison/cattle/deer…

              Turns out, they’re as opportunistic when it comes to extra protein as anything else, and have been caught on camera eating, oh, snakes and dead critters… 😀

              Watching a cow chomping down a snake was a bit horrifying, actually…

              1. I’m OK with fallen vegetarian cattle. Judge not and all that. It’s the principle of the thing, after all, that’s important, as our betters show us every day when comparing their public pronouncements vs. their personal actions.

              2. I’ve seen sheep nibble on a dead sheep. I’ve also seen ewes try to horn in on a fresh placenta.

                Given that protein is metabolically expensive, I’d hazard if one looks closely, there are NO true vegetarians.

                1. There are recipes for human placenta. It’s some kind of yuppie thing. They have parties and invite all their friends.

                  These are probably the same type of people who will spend five figures for the eventual ‘gender reveal party.’

              3. The “natural vegetarians” were horrified when video of chimpanzees eating meat started circulating. They aren’t above killing it themselves, either.

                Meat is good stuff as far as nutrition; something else already took care of the “convert from plant matter” work.

                1. Chimpanzees hunt down and eat monkeys. There’s video.

                  Like I always say:

                  If we’re not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?

                  We didn’t spend three million years clawing our way to the top of the food chain so we could live on cabbage.

                    1. The left hates people. Just take a look at all the wildlife shows that promote the idea that what they are showing is ‘untouched nature” as if people and thus the creations of people are not natural. Beavers who build a damn are wonderful engineers; people who build damns are murdering ‘Mother Earth”.

                      Once you understand that they hate people, everything they spout is a logical consequence of that hatred.

            2. I have a button which reads, “I only eat organic food. That silicon stuff tears up my innards.”

                1. Ghost in the Shell – an interesting anime setting.
                  Not-quite-dystopian: The future has problems, but the problems are being worked by people who aren’t depraved (universally so, there is evil in the setting) and haven’t completely given in to their base natures. Extremely advanced cyborg-technology isn’t an inevitably corrupting and dehumanizing influence: One of the main characters owes her life to it. I knew Hollywood would get it totally wrong, because Hollywood only knows how to tell one kind of story – there’s only one kind of mind in there, one philosophy about the world: One in which mankind and its works are evil, no one is clean, etc etc.

                  One of the characters has an affectation for giving his robots “natural oil”, which the other characters roll their eyes over. “You know synthetics last longer!” (He also insists on acting like a gym-rat even after a full-body-cyborg conversion. “I don’t know what he thinks exercise equipment is going to do, other than wear out his joints!”)

          3. The correct response to “Meat is murder!” is: “Yes. Tasty, tasty murder. Quick, eat the evidence!”

          4. and they’re actually doing heavy experimentation with vatgrown meat now…

            1. Because they have 0 clue that grazers are critical to the preservation of grassland habitats and that you can’t just turn the remaining bison loose and “paradise!”

          5. I recall a jack Bennie radio show where he was being his cheap (radio persona) self and planning on serving “turkeyfurters” – to the amusement/disgust of all. And now… damnit, it’s not so funny any more.

            Now, the fellow who scrapped up enough change to be able to buy a can of turkey SPAM the night before Thanksgiving… well, that’s rather sad.

  3. Dealing with people as individuals takes much more work and effort than simply treating them as interchangeable widgets where the only variation, if any, is based on their defined group membership. Leftist ideology is at its core one of rewarding laziness and sloth and encouraging people to sit back and simply wait for “free stuff”.

    In such a system, those who show excellence and who work hard, especially those in the defined “oppressed” groups, must be destroyed, because it undercuts the entirety of their core ideology.

    The essence of Marxist ideology in practice is that since all people can’t play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, guitars must be banned as fostering division and inequality.

    1. Or consider Bob’s desire to avoid acoustic guitars, largely driven by involuntary exposure to one particularly disturbed guitar player.

      In a sane world, you do not give Bob the power to ban acoustic guitars.

      Communist regimes collect that power, and also in practice select for more than one type of dysfunctional destructive leader. Obvious type is the folks who live to cause harm to others. Less obvious is the deranged fruitcakes with an overwhelming desire to make human society conform to this or that monomania.

      Relates to the discussion on utility functions. When people imagine central government/the King fixing everything, they imagine it doing so according to only their own personal utility function. In reality, bureaucracies are implemented by bureaucrats, each chasing the personal utility function valued by that bureaucrat.

      The more power granted to bureaucracies, the greater the chance that policies driven by some lunatic bureaucrat’s insane utility function will wreak something important. With enough bureaucratic power accumulated, you are talking about ‘when’ or ‘how often’ instead of ‘if’.

      1. The point of a bureaucracy is to standardize the utility function. (In American usage, this mostly means “eliminate all possible traces of discrimination”, to the extent that charitable functions don’t work because they require discrimination between the deserving and undeserving.) In practice, this means that the utility function gets designed by committee, and since it must cover all possible circumstances in advance, it gets so unwieldy as to — oops — allow the bureaucrat’s personal utility function to operate in administering it, especially in unforeseen circumstances. So, “harass the Tea Party” is okay because nothing in the rules says they can’t. And so forth.

        1. Belushi’s “sorry” afterwards is priceless (and apparently was ad-libbed).

      2. > When people imagine central government/the King fixing everything,

        It astounds me how many people think the President is a King, and that he has unlimited power to do anything he wants.

        The number of people salaaming the Lightbringer in 2008, and babbling about how he was going to use his phone and pen to Fix Everything, was scary, considering how many of them were supposed to know better.

        1. Or look at the Democratic mayors screaming last week that the President needed to Do Something about “gun violence,” right now!
          One of the many things Ringo riffed on in “The Last Centurion.”

        2. They love presidential rule by decree when they are doing it, and consider anything done by their political opponents who hold the same office to be proof that said person is “literally the next Hitler”.

  4. Do something once and more on….

    I, as I do that sometimes, OK often, OK, OK, very often, prefer to think of it as testing, as proof of concept. once I’ve proved the concept, of course I mover on to something else interesting.

    1. Sigh, move on, not more on, move, not mover.

      Dang I wish the comments had an edit function or that my brain had a, pay attention to what you’re doing stupid and don’t let your thoughts run faster than your clumsy typing fingers you asinine careless dolt! Hey, me, you talkin’ to me?

    2. Or you could think of it as giving a hobby a fair try and not giving up too soon.

      1. Another valid, I think, viewpoint; working toward proof of concept is building up skill sets.

        The broader one’s knowledge and skill base, the more likely they’ll be able to deal with whatever the world throws their way.

        That t’ain’t, in my opinion a bad thang.

        1. I think of hobbies as learning how to do things that I really hope I never _have_ to do to survive.

          Currently working on growing veggies.

  5. Oh, sure, there will be the very poor and dysfunctional, like the homeless. But there is a level of damage at which you can’t really make people function and work in society. At best you can ensure they don’t starve to death, which mostly the free world manages.

    And now we have Sacramento deciding it will provide housing for the homeless–and force them to live in it. Sure, THAT is going to work out just great!

    1. Oh, are they recreating insane asylums in the most bass-akwards way possible?

        1. New York City under DeBlasio:

          Oh wait, the NYC of Escape from New York is safer:

    2. Hmm. Just realized WP apparently doesn’t recognize the quote tag. Sigh.

      But yeah, sure seems like it don’t it? Only even WORSE than before!!

      (And I think the asylums were necessary, but also most of them were really badly done. As such things are, especially the state run ones.)

      1. recognize the quote tag

        Like this? Use “blockquote” and “/blockquote” in the usual less-than greater-than wrappers.

    3. “Build houses for the Masai” “catch the Masai and put them in houses.” “Wait for the Masai to strip the houses and disappear in the night.” “Build houses for the Masai.” “Catch the Masai–“

      1. Had to look them up. I do like their mindset that you need to have both herds and children to be wealthy, though.

        We should definitely culturally appropriate the heck out of that mindset.

      2. Yeah try and forcibly round up people who spear lions for fun into a lifestyle they would hate. That should work swell.

        1. They DID. The idiot (Kenyan?) government tried that game several times. The mildly puzzled Masai took whatever they thought was cool and wandered off. Then they tried again. And again.

          1. We have, or had, Masai folks at our local university. Since I’m not familiar with the various African accents and facial features, I wasn’t aware of this until I served some folks at work a couple years ago.

            It was fall. There were three Masai girls wearing nice warm puffy coats and other warm Ohio clothes, and then there was one young Masai man who was still wearing the traditional outfit. They were skinny, but nothing that stood out. He was super-skinny, super-handsome, and was apparently in the midst of acquiring a puffy coat and warm clothing. They bought a pizza or two from us, which was enjoyed and inhaled.

            It was refreshing, because all the young people had a very confident air about them of being ready for anything, and they were very cheerful. I haven’t seen them around lately, so I assume they transferred to another school someplace like Florida; but I hope everything is going well for them.

            1. I had a point here… I guess my point was that the kids struck me as very sensible, even though their culture was obviously pretty different. I can’t imagine that their parents and grandparents are any less sensible. So I’m not really clear why one would want to force stuff on people who think they’re doing okay as they are, as long as they aren’t actually starving.

              The other thing is that they totally seemed like people who would totally carry out a long-form practical joke until they ran out of amusing things to do with it.

              1. One problem (for those around the Masai) is that they believed that the deities had made all cattle for the Masai, and so if some cattle ended up with, oh, the Kikuyu or another group, then the Masai had the right to go fetch back the cattle from their temporary care-takers. Frequently, the care-takers didn’t agree with this philosophy, leading to some “mild” tribal disputes.

                  1. Chuckle Chuckle

                    One of the Great Epic Tales of Ireland is about a Cattle Raid. 😆

                  2. Chuckle Chuckle

                    One of the Great Epic Tales of Ireland is about a Cattle Raid. 😆

    4. Akshully, it is genius. Concentration camps for the win! The only other thing they need to do is corrupt the health systems to sign off on all the ‘accidental’ deaths in the ‘delousing showers’.

      Seriously, the way you manage to handle things worse than open air free range asylums with cops instead of psychiatric nurses, is to try to round them up and confine them without any supervision at all. In my younger more naive years, I would not have realized it was possible. Sheer genius.

    5. Step one of improving the problems with how California provides services to the mentally ill is staffing the state capital building with enough psychiatric nurses.

      “I passed a new bill!”

      “That’s nice. It is time to take your meds, dearie.”

      1. And orderlies. Very LARGE orderlies.

        Come to think, most politicians would be much improved by a straitjacket… 😀

    6. Noo Yawk tried that at least once. As I remember, it didn’t work out too well.

  6. There’s an idea that I’ve had for the longest time that is based around the old “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” expression.

    Central planning is a set of tools, like all others. Sometimes it’s useful. Sometimes, it’s not quite as good but if all you have IS a hammer… And, often, it’s the wrong tool for the job. Wisdom is knowing when you should use the tools you have at your disposal-and when to get other tools.

    The problem is…central planning is so very tempting. There’s something in the heads of far too many people that want either to be in charge on that kind of scale-or have someone else be in charge because that absolves them of responsibility for themselves. It’s easy to have other people do the thinking for them.

    1. Well, the thing about central planning is that, up to the level a large village or small town, it actually works fairly well, because at that level it is possible for the planners to know everybody involved well enough to make sure that tasks and abilities / inclinations are matched pretty well. Additionally, since everybody knows everyone else, personal pride / honour can serve as an acceptable motivational substitute for the profit motive. These considerations go a long way to explaining why the idea keeps coming back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t scale worth a d@mn; once you get to the point where there are too many people for everyone to know each other, the planners lose the ability to make appropriate assignments, and the workers lose most of their incentive to work, and the system collapses.

      1. It’s also the illusion of direct control, which is the hallmark of oligarchical and fascist systems. Hitler promoted a kind of Social Darwinism to ensure that lines of control and authority were always confused and required his intervention to correct things. Stalin both required his subordinates to be active and actively punished anyone who got too far out of line, often by execution, which kept them from planning on how to remove him.

        In a good system of central planning (which is rare), there’s properly descending levels of both authority and responsibility, and upper management doesn’t override lower management unless a terrible mistake is about to be made. This, of course, requires competent management and that is rare.

  7. Adam Smith wrote about the “man of system” almost a century before Marx. The perfectionist mindset has been around for a long time. Appeals to it (“collect the whole set!”) have also been around a long time. Don’t know what evolutionary advantage it may have originally conferred, if any, but it seems to be original equipment. Perhaps it’s just a consequence of simplified mental models of the real world (and all models are “simplified” compared to the actual real world).

    1. Most group-living animals don’t tolerate oddballs. It’s probably rooted in selection for conformity (ie. perfection) of behavior: don’t act different and attract new and unknown predators, or come home with new and exciting parasites and diseases, or lose your offspring because you decided to stash ’em in an unusual place. Any of which removes your genes from the pool, and maybe removes others too, making you a hazard to be preemptively removed.

      Humans are not immune to instinct, tho we often wrap it up in complex structures.

  8. I realized that I tend to buy/find things to do and be obsessive about them till I do them well. And then lose all interest. Worse, I don’t really have any interest in the things I make. I just want to be able to do them.

    That’s so very much an ADD thing.

    As a grognard tabletop RPG player/GM, I often use the metaphor of character sheets and skill points. In GURPS, a standard starting character has maybe 50 skill points after buying attributes and advantages, while an experienced character has maybe 100 points — not the best gunslinger in the West, more like the best gunslinger in eastern Wyoming. When I put effort into learning something new, I think of it as adding a skill point. At this point my 100-skill-point character sheet has about 30 skills on it with one or two points each.

    It occurred to me the other day that I should start making videos of all the projects I work on around the house: building stuff, gardening, home maintenance/repair, sewing, etc., and especially developing Tierra de Balzacq. Who knows, maybe a Youtube channel would make enough to pay for new tools and materials.

    But on the other hand, around 2007 I started a political blog and wrote around five posts and lost interest, so I wonder if it’s worth putting skill points into “Videography (Int, medium)” and setting up a channel with all the expectations of regular output, or should I just continue to putter along intermittently the way I do now.

    1. That makes sense. And the diminishing returns part too. I get to a point where I’m competent, but taking it to the next level requires an order of magnitude more dedication than simply playing at it, so it’s easier to move on and get the “feel good” of improving at something else.

      But that way, I never finish anything, and just clutter up my life with half done projects. I need to just stick with one and finish it.

    2. My mom was like Sarah, but I never attributed it to ADD. I’ll have to think about that. I mean, she would take on new projects that required learning new hands-on skills but she always finished the projects and often reached a high level of craft. Then she’d stop doing whatever it was. When my oldest nephew was born, she got a plan for a wooden cradle. She made it. But the first wasn’t as quite up to the level of finish that she wanted, so she made another. I think she sold one and gifted one to my brother. But she never made another one. I always thought of her as talented and creative but more interested in learning and making something really well than in settling into a rote repetition of it for money. I know a glass artist who isn’t at all interested in making jewelry and churning it out to sell at craft fairs and artisan shops. She bids on large public art projects that require her to customize glass installations for each space. She uses the same skills over and over but creates something unique each time (much like a novelist who isn’t writing to formula.

      1. I knit and crotchet. But none of us can wear knits. Have made a couple of afghans, no desire to make them to give away. I needle point, cross stitch, embroidery, what do you do with that? I’ve macramed, again if not selling …

        The deal with selling what I make? Then it is a, Job, and not Fun.

  9. Tim Pool had that North Korean defector on his show (speaking of the homeless) who said that in North Korea anyone homeless would be taken to a work camp. They don’t have homeless or vagrants because no one is allowed to be.

    Can you imagine if we put homeless in the US in work camps or even hospitals? (Some of them really should be in hospitals.)

      1. I think the left is more likely to force their political opponents out of their homes and give the homes to illegal immigrants and homeless, while sending the removed political opponents to “work camps”, i.e. concentration camps/gulags.

        1. No. They can’t, unless they convince us to disarm. They’d like to, but they can’t. And at some point they’ll figure out the homeless are inconveniencing THEM.

          1. They’d be a source of transplant material to make the proletariat happy. The Elites would source their own material from [oh, look! a squirrel!]

          2. One. that won’t stop them from trying, and two, watch them do the disarming very gradually, through things like high taxes for guns and ammo. They will use operation chokepoint type tactics to go after manufacturers to eliminate supply, particularly ammo, and will cut off gun owners from the financial system. Own a gun, no mortgage, bank account or credit cards for you. When people balk at this, THAT will be their pretext for property seizures and mass arrests.

            Yes people will fight back, but can you really count on enough to do so. How many people meekly accepted the lockdowns, even in “red states”. In the end they are likely to fail, but only after rather brutal civil warfare and a complete destruction of the economy and civil society.

      2. Optimist side of the brain says “But they won’t make them work.”

        Pessimist side of the brain says “Of course not. We’ll be in those camps too, to finally make us socially useful.”

        1. Ah, but THESE “monkey” know how to improvise and use wrenches. Central Planning meets de-centralized “The HELL YOU WILL!” And it’ll be somewhat closed system – that means entropy wins… enough to be an ungovernable pain.

  10. I think a lot of this goes back to the dominance hierarchy that is inherent in human social structures. Marxism’s allure includes the chance for a low status person (Like Marx) to leapfrog over people above him on the social ladder, get revenge for real or imagined slights, and ride the crest of the storm to power using the fools he duped into being his followers. Scratch a marxist and you will find a loser screaming for blood.

      1. He has *my* stuff, that should be mine by right, simply for existing. Any action I might take to right the inequity is not only fully justified, but ideologically mandatory.

        1. My sister-in-law’s cat spends most of her day in a cat bed. A heated cat bed, on a glassed-in porch.

  11. ” So, if I am so smart, why ain’t I rich? In theory I know what to do so we can be debt free and doing very well indeed. … I know the theory of how to save money and invest, and…. but my brain finds investments all too risky.”

    in 1986 reported income was $2400. Having a family that was hurting, I decided to shelve my contempt for money and general life strategy of waiting to see what happens next and DO something. (I already worked three jobs.)

    I bought the first property (advertised on a bulletin board) VA assumption for less than $2000. Three years later I owned 13 properties valued over a million. So I quit doing that and got a full time job teaching. The rental income was more than my salary.

    Nearly all of that wealth has been spent and given away. But I’m glad I did it. What’s three out of 79 years?

  12. Facebooks creepy new censorship policies smack of this. They see you as a defective widget that can be fixed with propaganda. You express some wrong think and your post will be replaced with some re-education on the subject, as if this will honestly change minds instead of just pissing people off.

  13. Hi, Sarah. I have no idea if you’re a music fan or not or, even if you are, if you would enjoy a capella. Nevertheless, when I heard these two songs I thought of you. I post them, therefore, in the hope that they might provide a ray or two of sunshine to a patriot such as yourself on the 4th of July weekend.

  14. I once wrote a paper describing human interactions as creating a multi-dimensional mesh. Each individual has connections with n degrees of freedom. When a dislocation occurs, as long as the dislocation is of degree n-1 the individual can adapt and the dislocation can’t propagate. When constraints are applied to the mesh the dislocation propagates further causing dislocation
    in a wider area. The tension arising from the constraints may be suppressed, but not for an extended time period. When constraints fail, disruption follows.

    What can cause constraints to fail? Expectations cause failure, more correctly, negative divergence of realization and expectations can destabilize, resulting in failure. The key is the negative divergence.

    If individuals expect things to get worse, but they don’t get bad as fast as expected, this is a stable situation, or if things get bad at the rate expected, it’s a stable situation. If things get worse faster than expected, instability exists.

    Likewise, if individuals expect conditions to remain the same and they get worse, instability.

    If individuals expect things to get better and things stay the same or get worse, instability. Even if things get better, but not at the expected rate, instability!

  15. OT:
    My thanks for mentioning the book “The Washing of the Spears” in a post. My copy arrived today and it is a very good read so far.

  16. “Fancy what a game of chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but a little uncertain also about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly; if your bishop, at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deductive reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be especially likely to be beaten, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt. Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments.”

    (from Felix Holt: The Radical)

  17. If I had a prioritized list of things to do in my life, egg carving would never, ever, ever even enter my mind.
    I know we’re all different. I’m just being honest.

    1. Athena T. Cat has the right to be wherever she likes.

      –Gertrude Small Darkness Shadowcat, aka Tru-you-idiot!

      1. As do all four of my kitties, especially the youngest two running wild right now!

        1. The one place the cat will not sleep is the specific cat bed. It does get used by her for toy storage sometimes.

          1. My sister-in-law’s cat spends most of her day in a cat bed. A heated cat bed, on a glassed-in porch.

  18. I definitely get the putting in effort in something interesting before dropping it thing… That’s always been a bad habit of mine, especially if I struggle to get it right from the start, which usually ends in me giving up on it too quickly. One more bit of that bad training I need to figure out a workaround for, which is as slow going as you’d think given the previous statement. How you tie all of this to the folly of central planning is appreciated, too. Shame that the people who believe in this crap have gotten so far, especially since it’s getting harder and harder to be not afraid these days.

  19. You just described me and my children. Thank you for doing that, it saves my brain from having to so some needed introspection. At my age of course, it is way overdue. I don’t plan to change, no point in going against my own inclinations. I know my limitations and have actually on a few occasions decided that, no, I don’t really need to learn to do that. Trust me, that is such a relief. Other times I don’t have the sense God gave a rabbit and keep going down different rabbit holes trying to be perfect. It never works. But it is fun trying, until it get tegus.
    A song from my childhood came to mind with that.

  20. The song is wonderful . Somehow my life won’t get tegus, things bounce from challenge to crisis day by day. A string of boring weeks would be welcome as there is so much to catch up on. I will write soon about all the challenges that come up daily, but first I’ll get some sleep tonight.

  21. > So “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need” sounds great…. from a great distance.

    It works fine… when it’s mommy wrangling her children.

    The problem is, too many people imprint on “the government” when mommy isn’t around any more, like baby ducks. And “the government” not only isn’t your mommy, it’s not your friend, either.

    The same government that do desperately wants you to take “the jab” is the one that deliberately gave soldiers syphilis so they could follow the disease through its end stages, that slipped citizens LSD to see what they’d get up to, and irradiated thousands more to see how much radiation it took to give them cancer. “It’s all for the greater good! And besides, individuals don’t count.”

    1. It’s the same government that told us ‘COVID19 is totally a natural virus’ and ‘Masks do not prevent corona virus’ and ‘This novel virus is no big deal, Trump is Racist and Xenophobic’ and ‘Everybody must wear masks’ and ‘COVID19 is the End Of The World As We Know It!!’ and ‘Chloroquine is not effective’ and ‘Your doctor will go to jail for prescribing Ivermectin’ and…

      1. All pushed by the same Democratic Party media arm that is openly celebrating and cheering the 100th birthday of the CCP.

  22. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!

    I’m one of those people who starts lots of projects, gets distracted by something more interesting, and rarely finishes anything. My performance reviews at work should reflect the nature of never finishes anything but so far most of the people I work under are the same. My garage still has a box that my wife wrote on before we moved 15 years ago that says, “First project for new house.”

    1. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!

      Oh, that’s easy. I want to be a professional dilettante.

        1. Rich, free to write and do research wherever I want, and taller. (Is 5′ 4″, same weight, too much to ask? Apparently it was. SIGH.)

    2. You must try to finish things. Look, hon, 25 years ago, when I tried to die, it sharpened things very clearly to me.
      Not saying you should try to die. You very definitely shouldn’t. But what would it bother to leave unfinished? DO THAT.
      Love you. Hugs.

  23. So, if I am so smart, why ain’t I rich?

    It strikes me this fine morning that this is rare in the other direction – i.e., those that find themselves rich simply assume they are smart. See: Successful Hollywood actors.

  24. A lot of people have a hard time understanding how the “chaos” of “unplanned” activity can ever be better than “orderly central planning”. Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov, who served as deputy manager of a Stalin-era Soviet factory, provides a revealing story about what the contrast looks like in actual practice.

    The factory was a lumber mill, and one of their worst problems was obtaining sufficient supplies of raw lumber. Gennady, whose father had been in the lumber trade before the revolution, was contemptuous of the chaos into which the industry had been reduced by the Soviets:

    “The free and “unplanned” and therefore ostensibly chaotic character of lumber production before the revolution in reality possessed a definite order. As the season approached, hundreds of thousands of forest workers gathered in small artels of loggers, rafters, and floaters, hired themselves out to entrepreneurs through their foremen, and got all the work done. The Bolsheviks, concerned with “putting order” into life and organizing it according to their single scheme, destroyed that order and introduced their own–and arrived at complete chaos in lumbering.”

    As Gennady says:

    “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”

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