Saturday, January 29, 2011

Anti-neighborly Americans

Version 0.2

This is actually a combined reaction to some news and reading. The news was the recent spate of shootings in America. All of them involved the police at some point, but I was most impressed by the ones that started out with shooting at police. In particular, I was struck by the case of the armed lunatic who apparently walked into police station and managed to shoot four policemen (actually starting with a policewoman) before going out in a blaze of non-glory.

The reading was another passage from Little House on the Prairie. Though I've read a lot of related books, I've never actually read this one (at least since I started keeping records in 1971). It actually comes up in my Japanese study, so I'm only getting it second hand through the translation. However, the thing that struck me about it was not so much the independent streak as the dislike of neighbors and the selfishness. Probably some contribution from The Selfish Gene, too, but I plan to write more about that in my book review blog...

What it made me realize is that many people came to America for bad reasons. Yes, many of them had positive reasons like ambitions and dreams and a love of freedom as they imagined it existed in America, but many of them had bad reasons like disliking their neighbors and relatives or selfishness and greed. As it applied during the period of rapid growth in America, it meant that there were many small and rapidly growing families spreading across the country--families of people who basically didn't like the neighbors wherever they came from.

It drove a lot of expansion across America, killed a lot of Native Americans, and produced a lot of new Americans, but now there's no place for them to go. Too bad they still hate their neighbors, eh?

So they go nuts and shoot people or various other craziness. Now I'm reminded of the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin about a year ago...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Money is infrastructure

Version 0.2

Money is infrastructure. Early forms of money were basically accidental, in the same way early roads were basically accidental. The first roads were just the worn paths where many people had gone before. The original forms of money were just things that seemed valuable to people for various reasons. Later the standard units of money were defined by governments as coins. Greater convenience, but they already had to introduce laws against shaving coins, debasing them, or counterfeiting them.

Modern money is advanced infrastructure, basically made up out of whole cloth. The value of a pretty little scrap of paper is essentially zero, but our governments legally define a much higher value and actively work to protect it. Just one of many infrastructure-related services the government provides as part of our advanced civilization.

Wanting to have lots of money without paying taxes is like wanting to have all the benefits of civilization without paying for them. The proximate cause for noticing this is actually WikiLeaks, which apparently just received a list of prominent tax evaders who are hiding their money in Swiss banks.

The reality is that we need infrastructure. Try to imagine the situation if every road was a privately owned toll road that forced you to pay your share every time you used it. Each time you entered the stretch controlled by someone else, you'd have to stop and pay the toll. Without government to organize freeways, every trip would be incredibly inefficient and troublesome. Actually, that's kind of what they have now in Afghanistan, but that proves my point about civilization.

Another example is that everyone benefits from education--but it's quite difficult to see the direct linkages. Lots of selfish and short-sighted really people hate the idea of helping to pay for other people's education. It's not just that the benefits are years down the road. In many cases they are ignorant fools who don't even appreciate what little education they received.

This is under the America's fall because the anti-government anti-paper-money rants seem to be pretty clearly concentrated in America. They are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution.

These days America seems to be an almost boiling pot just under the insanity point. Last week in Arizona, the pot boiled over again, and we had yet another mass shooting.


About Me

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...