Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

A Parable About Roofing

November 27, 2009

A parent and their child live in a house together. One day, the child comes across the parent, working on the house’s roof.

“What are you doing up there?” the child asks.

“I’m working on the roof, it needs fixing.” the parent says.

“But,” the child says, confused, “You don’t know anything about how to fix a roof.”

“Be that as it may, someone needs to fix the roof and it might as well be me.”

“I think we should get a roofer to do it,” the child says. “So get down from there before you fall or something!”

The parent huffs stubbornly, “We can’t trust a roofer. They could do shoddy work or overcharge us and we’d never know until it was too late.”

“Well,” the child says, “We can do it ourselves, I guess, but we need to learn what we need to do first. Let’s go to the library and look up how to roof a house.”

“Nope!” the parent says. “Can’t do that.”

“Why?”

“Because the books on roofing are all biased towards what roofers think.”

The child says, “Well… yes? Books about roofing are written by roofers.”

“Ah-ha!” the parent says triumphantly, standing upright on the roof, swaying slightly in the breeze. “You see? It’s all biased towards roofers, instead of us everyday folk who can’t roof a house!”

“But why not learn to roof the house so you can know what you’re doing!?” the child yells, exasperated.

“But I do know what I’m doing!” the parent said.

“You asked a roofer how to do it?”

“No!”

“Oh, so you already read a roofing book.”

“Of course not!”

”…You got on the internet and found a guide?”

“No!”

“Okay, I give up.”

The parent states proudly, “I joined The Nonroofer Organization.”

“The what?”

“The Nonroofer Organization. We’re a bunch of people who don’t know how to  roof houses, advocating for the right to be able to roof our houses without roofers telling us what to do! Roofing freedom for all!”

“I, uh… but… Now my brain hurts.” the child says, eyes closed and fingers massaging temples. “But what if you screw up and the roof collapses or something?”

“Risk is a necessary part of freedom,” the parent says, looking towards the horizon. “It’s just something we all have to accept.”

“But I don’t want the roof to collapse on me!” the child says.

“Don’t worry, it won’t collapse, I’ll do this right.”

“No you won’t! You don’t know what you’re doing! You’ll make the roof collapse and squish us!”

“Hey, I told you not to worry – I’m trusting my gut, and I’m trusting God, and that should be enough.”

“Uh…” the child says, “Can I spend the night at a friend’s house?”

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Dealing With An Overadvertised Government

October 14, 2009

In the US, campaign advertisements improve a politician’s chance to get or keep a seat. Lobbyists give money to politicians to fund campaign advertisements. Politicians make laws that lobbyists like so they can get more money. So we end up in a government where politicians make laws for lobbyists, not voters.

Thanks to that system, our democracy does not function.

We need to change that.

We can’t change it with the politicians, though – if the politicians don’t do the lobbyists bidding, the lobbyists will pay other people and our politicians will be replaced with people who obey the almighty dollar.

And we obviously can’t change it with the lobbyists – they’re rich.

But maybe we can change campaign advertising, the foundation of the system that renders our representative government ineffective.

There’s a dangerous assumption behind the idea of political advertisements – the idea that if you spend money on them, you can get votes. That is to say, political ads buy votes. And if votes can be bought, our republic can not possibly function.

Why the hell aren’t we offended by the very idea?! Each and every political ad, crafted not to inform you but to influence you, is like a message straight from our nation’s government at Washington saying, “We think you’re a tool.”

But what if, whenever someone saw a political ad on TV, they called the network airing it to complain about it? Or whenever they saw an ad on a website, they sent an email to the site’s administrator? I think we could concievably harass political advertisement out of our society entirely – or at least, make the lives of the people facilitating our cash-for-votes government miserable, as they rightly deserve.

So.

If you think this is a good idea, I have two requests for you.

  1. DO IT. If you see a political ad on TV or the internet, harass the bastards who put it there! Print this out and put it next to your computer and/or phone so you’ll know where to go for the major networks, and if you see it anywhere else, visit the network’s website and find their “Contact Us” section (the link will frequently be at the very bottom of the page, in tiny print). Maybe if we raise enough hell, we can accomplish something.
  2. Email this (by copy/pasting this whole thing into an email if necessary) to any friends or relatives you have you think might also be interested in the idea. No, don’t just spam-forward it to everyone on your address list, I hate it when people do that. Just send it to people you think might be as fed up about this as you are.

Anyway, I took the liberty of making a form letter for such complaints. Make sure to replace the stuff in brackets!

Sir or Ma’am,

I <saw/read> a political advertisement on your <network/website> today. I find it personally offensive that you permit such advertisements. It is impossible to meaningfully inform individuals politically in the <timeslot of a commercial/space of a banner ad>; leaving the sole possible function of a political advertisement as manipulation to ‘dupe’ individuals into adopting a position on a political issue which may or may not be realistic or sensible.

By permitting political advertisements on your <network/website>, you belittle my intelligence, and the intelligence of every American, and you degrade the quality of my government by promoting the importance and influence of campaign money used to buy advertising over that of an informed vote.

In light of this insult to my intelligence, to my people, and to my nation, I insist that you remove the offending political advertisement from your <network/website> immediately.

Mentioning the show/timeslot or specific webpage you saw the offending advertisement on may also help, but is not necessary.

Also, I collected  some contact information for some of the major TV networks:

ABC:
ABC Contact form – http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us
ESPN Contact form – http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/contact
Disney Contact form (Best to specify channel for this one) – http://corporate.disney.go.com/responsibility/feedback.html

CBS:
CBS Contact form – http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.php
CBS News Contact form – http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/feedback/fb_news_form.shtml
CBS Sports Contact form – http://www.cbssports.com/help/contactus/usersspeak

FOX:
Fox Entertainment email – askfox@fox.com
Fox News phone – 1-888-369-4762
Fox News email – yourcomments@foxnews.com
FX email – user@fxnetworks.com

NBC:
NBC Contact form – http://www.nbc.com/Footer/Contact_Us/
MSNBC email listing (by show) – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10285339/
CNBC Contact form – https://register.cnbc.com/email/EmailSupport.jsp
USA Network contact form – http://www.usanetwork.com/feedback/#theForm

Time Warner:
CNN Contact form (Pick a show) – http://www.cnn.com/feedback/cnntv/
TBS phone – 404-885-0758
TBS Contact form – http://support.tbs.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=5475
TNT phone – 404-885-4538
TNT Contact form – http://support.tnt.tv/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=5477

A Rational, Self-Interested, Free Market Argument for Socialized Health Care

September 14, 2009

Private health insurance is worthless. Purchasing it does not benefit me.

Let’s say I purchase private insurance. So long as I don’t get very sick, it don’t actually get any benefit – as I could have just saved the money that goes into my insurance and paid for it out of my own pocket (and had the rest as, y’know, actual money).

So, the only way private health insurance could possibly benefit me is if I become so sick that the insurance company would necessarily lose money by paying for my sickness.

So all the people who actually need health insurance are people who are non-profitable for health insurers.

Which leads to a fascinating Catch-22: as any company whose objective is to make profit (all private health insurance) is encouraged to immediately cease to do business with me when it becomes apparent I need their service – because, as noted, I’m not profitable for them.

Even worse, the more sick I am, meaning the more I need their service, the greater their incentive becomes not to provide me with that service.

Furthermore, a free market can not solve this problem through the introduction of honest health insurance companies.

Any market in which an honest health insurance company must compete against a dishonest health insurance company, will have business flowing from the dishonest health insurance company to the honest health insurance company, as interested and informed individuals change their service. However, interested and informed individuals are the ones who need the service, and are thus by definition not profitable (as previously established). So honesty can only ever net a health insurance company reduced profits, ensuring their inability to compete in a free market.

Even a free market in which, somehow, only honest health insurance companies can resist this effect – as it is the nature of free markets to encourage innovation which increases profits, and there is no greater boost for the profits of a health insurance company than refusal to provide health insurance.

Ultimately, this means that I can not trust any health insurance company to actually provide health insurance – while there is a chance that I may receive health insurance if I need it, there is a chance I may not, and the very company which is supposed to provide me with health insurance would conspire that I do not get it.

Health insurance, like all forms of insurance, is a service in which I pay money in exchange for reducing my risk – in this case, my risk of not being able to pay for health care. However, private health insurance does not fulfill this function.

Instead, it shifts my risk – from the risk of being unable to pay for health care, to the risk that my private health insurance company will refuse to do so, leaving me without even the money I would have had if I’d never used private health insurance.

An insurance system that does not reduce risk is a nonfunctioning insurance system.

Furthermore, no amount of regulation can solve this.

Regulation is by its’ nature static and slow-to-adapt, while the market is quick to adapt towards the objective of increasing profits. The government can not be trusted to keep up with a dynamic and strongly motivated private system dedicated to refusing to provide me with service.

Furthermore, successive layers of regulation will increase the system’s complexity, ultimately making it easier for the highly-competitive private health insurance industry to scam me out of providing service, as I must not only contend with the health insurance industry itself but with the additional bureaucratic structures created by the government in an attempt to make public health insurance function.

So ultimately, all government can do to private health insurance is make it even more so a waste of my money.

So I gain nothing from private health insurance. The market can not fix this (and in fact enforces the worthlessness), and the government can not fix this. There is no way a private health insurance company can provide me with a service that I can trust and remain in business.

Ergo, private health insurance is worthless.

Meanwhile, the very problem that most plagues social service – a lack of profit motive which encourages unprofitable spending – is the only thing that can produce a trustworthy form of health insurance. If I need socialized health insurance, the government won’t care! They’ll happily pay the bills at my time of greatest need, not worried that I’m costing them money that they could conserve by simply letting me die.

The government does not need to make money – so they have no reason not to provide me with health insurance.

So I can trust them – socialized health insurance can function to reduce my risk of being faced with health care bills that I can not pay.

So, to reiterate:

Private health insurance: Absolutely, uncorrectably worthless for me.

Socialized health insurance: Accidentally perfectly functional for my needs.

As a self-interested, healthy member of America’s socioeconomic middle class, the only tenable option for me for health insurance is the government.

And I’m pretty sure that applies to everyone else too.

Now the question is: To flowchart this, or not to flowchart it?

The Political Philosophy of World of Warcraft

September 3, 2009

My generation of my culture is one that thinks in terms of systems.

Previous generations in America thought of people (and still so think) in terms of freedom or repression, but my generation believes only in freedom to function in the system that has been built around you.

Those older generations think in terms of control and power, but my generation acknowledges the power of control only to influence circumstances, which in turn dictate all behavior.

Those generations were individualists, and they believed that everyone could be special – or that if everyone was special, then nobody could be. My generation knows that ‘special’ is more often than not a denotation of your position in the system, often a matter more of luck than of merit.

Those generations preached that by stepping up to play the game of life, you could win. To my generation, so dearly wedded to the power of multivariable analysis and the study of complexity, the imbalances in such a game seem painfully obvious.

Go, if you would, to a forum to discuss a major video game (preferably an online one). In human history there has not existed a more naturally politically liberal group as the one you will see, one so keenly and casually understanding of the principles behind the meritocracy and the reality of its’ nonexistence.

Will exists only within the parameters that the game dictates. Advantages towards one work out to the disadvantage of others, even outside of non-zero-sum systems. One’s fortunes are influenced by one’s community. All of these things are taken as obvious and in-stride that other generations would disbelieve, or only hold halfheartedly.

And yet, these people understand that there are correct and incorrect approaches towards these problems. The disadvantaged do not complain – instead, they describe the nature of the problems, and offer and discuss solutions. The individualists among them, claiming that advantages and disadvantages are trivial and that everything gained is earned, are mocked and derided as worthless to the community.

Video gaming, and the community of system analysts it is raising, stands as a political force fundamentally opposed to the underlying philosophy of conservatism.

And it is ever-so-slowly producing people with the skills to understand, and improve upon, systems.

Of course, having contemplated all that, now I’m wondering about the exact political composition of various MMO playerbases.

A Story Regarding Ownership

June 5, 2009

Okay, story time!

A house owner comes along hard times and goes to talk to someone who is renting out a room in his house.

The owner says to the renter, “Sorry, I’m kicking you out.”

The renter is necessarily shocked. “What? Why!”

The owner says, “Well, money’s tight, you’re eating my food and taking up space I could use to have a home office, and the rent you’re paying me just isn’t worth it.”

The renter says, “Well, if you’ll give me a few months, maybe I can get a promotion or something and be able to pay you more rent?”

The owner replies, “That really wouldn’t align with my best interests, and the way things are, I’d much rather prefer you out as soon as possible.”

The renter grows desperate, “But without a place to live, I’ll almost certainly lose my job and starve to death! Don’t you care that you’d have my life on your hands?”

The owner says, “I don’t really see how your life is any of my concern – this is my house and I’ll do what I want with it, as is my right.”

So the owner kicks the renter out, and the renter, without a place to live (and before long also without any job prospects), eventually dies of exposure.

The moral of this depressing story? There is none – it’s a parable, I must confess to having planned a bait-and-switch.

What I want you to do now is consider your sympathies between the owner and the renter, and I want you to think of what your position on abortion is.

If you felt for the owner, are you pro-choice, and support a woman’s ownership of her womb and her resulting right to do whatever she wants with it, even if it kills someone?

If you felt for the renter, are you pro-life, and feel that the welfare of those in need outweighs the rights of those with privilege?

It seems strange to me that the american political movement nominally in favor of the rights of ownership is the same one in favor of government control of the means of production (pun extremely intended), while the american political movement that would prefer welfare for the disadvantaged is the same one that advocates that gestation needs to be privatized (and if there’s a good pun there, I intend it too).

So, yeah, just a thought I had. Plus, a story. Everyone loves stories, right?