Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jackie Chan! Jet Li!

Oh, Rapturous Joy!

Fixed link?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Freedom can't exist without trusting the untrustworthy

This is an extension of the commentary from this post from MichaelW.

Have you heard the truism that a person is smart, but people are dumb?

On the one hand it's profoundly true. On the other hand we fail to understand that the opposite is also profoundly true. A person is dumb, but people are smart.

Dumb people, making sub-optimal individual decisions, somehow manage to combine in aggregate into communities that most often are remarkably robust and remarkably effective.

It works with a market, where individuals make poor decisions about what to produce and what to buy. Somehow, with all those individual mistakes the result is highly effective and highly responsive. Compare that flawed mish-mash of poor decisions to what happens when there is directed organization and decision making, usually by experts, and the unwashed masses directing their own lives come out on top. Waaaay on top.

It would also work in education, given a chance.

Do I trust my fundie neighbor to do the best possible job teaching her children? Do I trust the secular unschooler down the street? Do I trust the Muslim who recently immigrated and would rather not have his child in public school? Do I trust the Amish who don't (I'm told) educate past 8th grade? Do I trust the polyamorist wiccan coven who wants to start a day school?

Not only no, but hell no.

But do I trust them in aggregate? Do I trust the robust nature of the way all of our various choices work together to optimize the end result? Do I trust the flexibility and diversity of knowledge and ideas to mesh into a whole that is by far the most desirable and effective totality of education to advance our country and perhaps our world into an unknowable future?

Yes, I do.

I trust people.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Maybe we're turning into Victorians

Or: What I Learned About the World from Reading Historical Romances.

I learned that sometimes people get *more* uptight over time rather than less.

Victorians, according to custom and any number of novels, were concerned with propriety above all. Certain things were not spoken of and certainly the rougher aspects of life were hidden from young ladies. They were prudes.

Read enough novels and eventually a consumer of these delightful escapes will come across one that isn’t Victorian at all, but set in the Georgian era or earlier, or at the very least has a foul mouthed old grandmother who insists on wearing her wig and powder and scandalizing her adult children with accounts of her wild youth.

What brought this to mind (in a rather random fashion, which is typical for my brain) was this post of mine and what Joshua said about History.

Deeply partisan divide using fear is nothing new… hell, we could take a page from the 19th century if we want to feel better about how bad it really isn’t—

And it got me thinking of all the ways we seem to imagine that things are so very bad when, in fact, they are so very very much better than they’ve ever been. Race relations, economic opportunity, acceptance of diversity and lifestyle that really is unheard of before now, yet we’re supposed to be up in arms about the assault on this or that thing… on freedom and decency.

And I wondered… maybe it’s not just that we’re unaware of History. Maybe it’s that we’ve become prudes. Maybe it’s that our ideas of what *should* be are so constrained and so utterly… straight-laced… that any small violation seems like a slide into disaster.

We’ve never *seen* such negative campaigning. Or such division in politics. Or abuse of our privacy. Or fear of minorities. Or rushes to war. Or domestic poverty and joblessness.


I think we’re turning into Victorians who faint over the too direct glance of a young lady toward a man, while pretending we don’t hear dear Grandmother, with her quizzing glass and powder, expound on Prinny’s well known appetites.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

WIP - pt 4