Ideology is Infrastructure

Will Wilkinson has written an excellent Tech Central Station article, explaining the greatest challenge we face in our quest to help transform Iraq into a modern, liberal, capitalist country.

In order for that to happen, there needs to be a wide-spread moral infrastructure that views respecting property rights and honoring contracts, the rule of law (and, I think, tolerating offensive non-aggressive behavior and speech) as important. This goes against longstanding traditions in many places.

This moral infrastructure is something that we can’t buy, build, or force upon people. It has to come about as changes in people’s thinking and behavior.

Many of us hope, and the president seems to believe, that people will jump at the chance to adopt this perspective once it has been explained because people are rational and liberty is so valuable.

I think this ideology is best and will prevail in the long run; but bad traditions are difficult to overcome. Nobody seems to know the best way to grow these changes, but, perhaps, this experience in Iraq will help improve our knowledge in this vital area.

Too Smart to Teach?

Ok, we all know that public high schools suck (private ones do too, but differently), but this is ridiculous!

A bright, young, prospective teacher was turned down by an Atlanta high school with this note from the principal:

Though your qualifications are quite impressive, I regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate. It was felt that your demeanor and therefore presence in the classroom would serve as an unrealistic expectation as to what high school students could strive to achieve or become. However, it is highly recommended that you seek employment at the collegiate level; there your intellectual comportment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck.

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

The Nanny In Chief

That’s the title of Andrew Sullivan’s new essay in Time magazine subtitled “Bush thinks he knows what’s good for you, and he’ll spend money to prove it”.

It should come as no surprise that Bush is no libertarian. His rhetoric is full of talk about liberty, and limited government; but his actions indicate he wants the government to control many personal choices and to spend like a Kennedy. This has many people, like Sullivan, who support the war but also genuinely believe in limited government scratching their heads about whether his irresponsible actions are worse than those the likely rival will perform (especially constrained by a Republican congress).

I suspect that Bush will win in any case, but I wish he would consider that he might be costing himself more votes than he’s buying himself with his profligate spending and his religion-guided domestic policy-making. The fans of these policies are unlikely to change their votes because of it, while the critics are seriously considering it.

I also wish he’d consider that the money and liberty he’s using to buy re-election via policy are not rightly his to dispose of. But, I know that’s not the area of morality he cares about.

Google Bombing

The New York Times has an article on Google bombing (organizing many web sites to link a string to a particular site, like “miserable failure” to the GWB bio page, in order to manipulate Google results) today.

I made a comment on this a couple of months ago on a blog [old dead link removed]. I think it’s pretty silly. One interesting side-effect I noted, though, is that Google weights the links of sites that are heavily linked-to more strongly, so the target actually is helped a bit by making his links more influential.

So, feel free to Google bomb this site as much as you’d like.

Pork In Space

I just posted a criticism of The World’s support of Bush’s new NASA projects here.

Three posts down, I had already expressed my opposition to tax-funded space projects and there’s more detail in the comments to that post.

I’m not utopian. I realize that we’re not living in a world that’s ready for private property respecting anarchy, or even a libertarian night-watchman state. But, that doesn’t mean that we should support the movement in the wrong direction; and that’s what I think an expanded government space program is.

I even recognize gray areas where there might be some role for the government to promote public goods or to reduce “public bads”, but space programs seem to fall well outside these areas. There is no reason that private initiatives can’t provide us with the goods that space research and development will produce. Basic research can be funded privately, technical challenges can be met by voluntarily funding creative challenges like this
Profits can be made by providing tourism and entertainment to willing customers.

I love the idea of people exploring and developing outer space. But, I think it’s wrong to force others who are unwilling to pay for it, and to crowd out opportunities for those willing to pursue them privately.

I’m Baaaaack

I’m back from a fun week in Vegas.

I stayed away from the news for most of the week. Did anything important happen?

I gather that Bush has come out for some ambitious new NASA projects. I might revisit my criticisms of that soon, but otherwise I’ll take a while to catch up and find something to rant about.


I’m going on vacation for a week (Vegas, baby!), and I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to post anything while I’m gone.

So, don’t be surprised if there are even fewer posts than usual; but don’t stop visiting the site indefinitely, either.

Perhaps an interesting discussion will start up in one of the Comments sections.

The Final Frontier

I’m opposed to government space programs that are unrelated to defense, but I have to admit that these missions are pretty cool.

I think it’s wrong to fund these projects with tax revenue; but that doesn’t mean I have to ignore how great it is that we can do things like this.