Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Block the Vote

    I keep wondering why people defend the idea of democracy so fervently, when it should be obvious to even the stupidest observer that it is not the end-all, be-all of human political systems. Why have we stopped looking for something better? And I keep hearing the same distraught platitudes about how many people have died to give us democracy and to preserve it. I note that plenty of people died to preserve the monarchy, but nobody's getting all teary-eyed about that.


    Why vote when random chance would probably do just as well, if not better? A friend of mine (a political scientist, no less) and I recently discussed ways to choose Washington types without voting. One suggestion we came up with was to draft the President at random from the 50 governors, and to draft the House and Senate at random from the 50 state legislatures. There are several reasons why this is cool:

    First, it completely eliminates campaign financing and all of the arguments about it.

    Second, it stops politicians from campaigning when they should be attending to business.

    Third, it keeps politics local.

    Fourth, it provides natural term limits while making sure that the people in office have some idea of how to do the job.

    Wow, four wins in a row, and all developed over a bottle of Dr. Pepper during a work break. Makes me wonder what all of our political thinkers are doing these days, that they're too busy to come up with something at least as good.

    Posted by Tom, 10/21/2004 5:46:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Economy and State

    I just re-read some Ayn Rand, and found a line where she advocated "separation of economy and state", much in the way we supposedly have "separation of church and state". I remember reading this the first time, but I think that I finally understand it in more concrete terms than I did before. My exposure to the Austrian school of economics has really helped in that regard. It seems to me that such a separation is necessary if we are ever to undo the boondoggles of the last century or so.

    Speaking of the Austrians, Hans-Hermann Hoppe recently posted an article at Mises that makes an argument for property rights directly out of the irreducible prime of human existence. I found it quite engaging. I will have to review it a couple more times before I can really grasp the path from A to B, but I think he's on the right track. He addresses the State, communism, and property law, among other themes, and shows how a simple system of property rights is preferable to the mess we currently have.

    Posted by Tom, 10/21/2004 5:42:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    DNI around the corner

    For those of us more than a little entranced by William Gibson's vision of direct neural interfaces, we have this cool new gadget. Get ready to plug in.

    Posted by Tom, 10/20/2004 7:21:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    TV Worth Watching

    If you haven't seen "Extreme Makeover Home Edition", this is a show worth watching. It's on at 7 pm Central Time on ABC, and the show is absolutely beautiful. Families are selected by the show's producers as being "worthy" of getting some help. Typically, they are families who have suffered some tragedy and/or are the types of people who give of themselves tirelessly. The crew shows up, in many cases completely demolishes the house, and rebuilds it for the family's needs. The show is just one giant promotion of philanthropy, and on this basis alone everyone should be watching it. It beats the crap out of the latest "humiliate yourself for cash" sludge being shoveled out.

    Posted by Tom, 10/11/2004 6:40:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, October 5, 2004

    Rutan the Man

    By now you probably know that Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne have won the X-Prize. This is an object lesson in three parts:

    1) Design by committee doesn't work. The space shuttle and its two spectacular crashes is a perfect example of design by committee, but you'd think we would have learned from France's failure with the chauchat.

    2) Iterative design does work. Burt Rutan's process of designing, testing, analyzing, and then redesigning was a spectacular success. His use of "virtual wind tunnels" and other computer-aided construction tools allowed him to save millions, if not billions of dollars in the push to the final product. The astute among you have probably noted that his designs have very little in common with the airliners we see at the local airport. And yet he's reaching into space. It's high time the airline industry suffered a major shakeout and some new blood came in -- we'd get safer, faster, cheaper air travel, and the dinosaurs would be extinct like they should be.

    3) KISS works. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Rutan's designs are "no frills", and that's what keeps them going. The more so-called "safety" equipment that gets designed into a product by government fiat, or other extra googaws designed to make it sound cooler than it really is, the greater the chance of serious failure. Fewer moving parts = fewer breakages.

    Congratulations to Burt and crew. Heinlein's ghost is smiling down on you right now. I only wish I'd bet money on your victory. And here's hoping the government stays out of your way. As Burt's brother Dick once said, "if people are free, they can do anything".

    Posted by Tom, 10/5/2004 7:15:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...