Friday, October 30, 2009

The Divide

I think about what is right and wrong.

If people do not agree with me, then I am ready to discuss how they think about the subject.

A good friend of mine did an excellent job of teaching me about the other side of the argument. She said that she does not think about what is right and wrong. She just knows what is right and wrong.

My friend and I are divided. Since we are extremely tolerant, we are able to remain friends.

I first read about such the divide in a book by Thomas Sowell over a decade ago. I have heard/read similar libertarian discussions over the years. These discussions did not come home to me until my friend gave me the viewpoint above--she knows what is right and wrong, just like Sowell, et. al. said she does.

How do the people on either side of the divide view each other? Since my friend is so tolerant, I will leave her, in particular, aside in this analysis.

To me, the folks on the other side should think--should do analysis. They do not have impure motives. They are honest folks that have faulty methods.

But the folks on the other side see right and wrong as obvious observation that needs no method of analysis. So they view me--who differs from them--as purposefully choosing evil.

These are the two worlds.

A few years ago I was in the DMV, listening to a conversation between two young women.  One was telling the other how to achieve the good life.  "Have your baby.  Apply to this place for your housing.  Apply to that place for your support check.  Apply to this place for your medicaid.  Apply to that place for . . . " 

The one was teaching the other a life plan.

Young women like these end up being supported by government--never learning personal responsibility.  For me, that is no life at all.  Such a path gives no hope of achieving any meaningful purpose.  Typically, those mothers remain single and poor.  Their children will be poor.  They will more likely fall into a life of crime.

My heart breaks for these young women.  My heart breaks for their children.  I hate the system that robs them of the opportunity for achievement--though they are willing participants, I understand that a corrupt system will corrupt them, too.

But this is on my side of the divide.

On the other side of the divide, my friend's heart goes out to the single mother with no means of support.  How will her child live?  Where will they live?  We must give her housing and food and medical care and other necessities.  It is only right.

On my side of the divide the answer is to tear down the system that encourages the terrible existence.  A child must be a burden to the girl's parents if she is to be seriously taught not to bear children that she cannot care for. 

That is tough.  For me it is tough love--and the only kind of real love. For those on the other side of the divide it is hate.

Part of the divide is analysis vs. emotion.

Part of the divide is short run vs. long run.

But there is little hope convincing someone on the other side because both see the other's approach as alien.  Now and then someone has an epiphany. 

The people to whom I have spoken that have come over to my side of the divide have felt the ephiphany as powerful as being hit by lightning.  And the epiphany is as rare as being hit by lightning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My seventeen year old has been taking part in online political discussions lately.  Maybe because he was raised by me, he lives in my world--the world in which one cannot spin straw into gold.

My son is amazed by the ability of people to deny and denigrate arguments that come from basic assumptions that one cannot live without.

One bugaboo that these folks are worried about is "net neutrality," which, in his community seems to have no concrete definition.  There is some agreement that if a law were passed guaranteeing net neutrality, your internet service provider could not limit massive downloads that take up lots of bandwidth--such as downloading movies.

But, it turns out, that if you force your ISP to accommodate the big downloaders, you also force them to inconvenience moderate users.  So which is best?

The invisible hand smacks everyone around in this way.  The ISP wants to maximize its profit by creating a service that people are willing to pay for.  The ISP has no incentive to hurt a user for the sake of causing hurt.  The ISP likes happy users.  And when some users make others unhappy, the ISP is out to provide the most overall value for users, whomever they are, since the ISP is rewarded more for providing more value--and this works whether the ISP is a monopolist or a competitor.

We can let ISPs and individuals both have freedom.  Or we can have government decide which users are angels and which are devils and set up rules by which some are hurt while others are helped. 

But government does not have skin in the game.  The ISP loses money if they have more unsatisfied customers.  The government does not.

In addition, who knows which unintended consequences the government will create when it tries to solve peoples' problems?

When my son is overcome by the strange view that comes form the other world, he has to unburden himself. 

And that is the sound of thinking.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Truth About The Balloon Boy

I was home when the balloon blew across much of Colorado, pursued by helicopters and ground rescue, possibly carrying a six year old named Falcon, possibly alive, possibly dead.

The balloon touched down lightly.  Maybe he was alive!

He was not there.  Falcon's brother said he saw the him fall out.  Could he still be alive?

He was hiding in the attic the whole time.

Yes, the hoax cost multiple law enforcement agencies lots of money.

It was the best thing on television since the chase of the white Bronco.

Good entertainment at any price.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bread and a Lie

I was an only child at age three.  My mom walked into the room and saw a loaf of bread on the seat of my high chair.  It was squashed flat.

She asked, "John, did you squash this loaf of bread."

I said, "No."

Kids have no idea how transparent their lies are.

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Time Writer

I saw another first time writer tonight.  They always start their stories the same way.  Two years ago, I was one of them.  Here's the story.

Jorgamundor laced up his left work boot, stained with oilfield muck.  Jenny was still sleeping.  Jenny had been so upset lately.  But Jorgamundor knew why.

He remembered when Jenny's mother had yelled at her in front of him last week.  His poor wife had been so ashamed.  "She never loved me," Jenny had sobbed to him that night.  And now she walked around morose all the time.

Yesterday Jenny had even forgot to pick up Smolish, their 6 year old, from school.  Now Jenny was worried that the school might report her to social services.  And they might, too.

Then Jorgamundor put on his right work boot.

First time writers want to tell everything all at once. So it's twitch a finger, long flashback, twitch another finger.

It's cute, in a way, seeing it being done over and over.  "Awww, wook at the widdow witer.  I wemember when I was wike that."

Now I have other problems!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Before It Happens

Some things cannot be taken seriously until they happen, especially for the young.  After all, the young have not seen much of the world.  (This is something I need to keep in mind while writing fiction.)

My students do not believe me when I tell them how to study for my tests.  Then they get the test back and start asking me how to study for my tests, though I already told them.  I even put it in writing on the web.

Here we go again.