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Image credit. In Germany, firms of a certain size are required to employ specialised personnel whose task it is to police gender issues, i.e. to enforce a whole range of privileges intended to protect women against the oppression and exploitation they are with certainty assumed to have to face from men in the absence of such guardianship. The German gender equality officer reminds me of the Blockwart ("snoop") in olden days, whose task it was to ensure amongst other things that on a certain day of the week all Germans were eating a vegetarian dish, so as to save meat for the soldiers at the front. Or make sure that everyone had a portrait of Hitler on the wall and a neat Nazi flag on the birthday of ze Führer. I never understood why female as well as male business owners should instigate against themselves a deteriorating profit-and-loss-situation by paying men substantially higher wages for a job than women available to do the same assignment equally well. I thought, "dirty capitalists" were supposed to exploit employees rather than themselves. I do understand, though, why mighty special interests would find it useful to present such a preposterous claim as sheer fact. Reminds me of Armen Alchians dictum, quoted in my Property Rights, Alchian on Politics, and Why the State Persists: I know of no way to reduce the prospective enhancement from greater political power-seeking, but I do know ways to reduce the rewards to market-oriented capitalist competition. And so, like the Flying Dutchman, recreated by light and water in the above image, the myth that women earn less money than men for the same type of work seems doomed to follow a course of eternal persistence in the disseminations of the media. According to all the media headlines about a new White House report, there's still a big pay gap between men and women in America. The report found that women earn 75 cents for every dollar men make. Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's misleading. According to highly acclaimed career expert and best-selling author, Marty Nemko, "The data is clear that for the same work men and women are paid roughly the same. The media need to look beyond the claims of feminist organizations." On a radio talk show, Nemko clearly and forcefully debunked that ultimate myth - that women make less than men - by explaining why, when you compare apples to apples, it simply isn't true. Even the White House report: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being explains why. Simply put, men choose higher-paying jobs. And "An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women" prepared, under contract, for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1/09, sums it up: "This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers." Read more at the source. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Not the best sound quality, but still highly enjoyable. Sonata for violoncello and piano in f-major, op. 6, by Richard Strauss: Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Kelvin Kemm asks what are the lessons learned from Fukushima? Once you pierce through the propaganda to the facts, the answer is: nuclear energy is amazingly safe. Indeed, thanks to events that have occurred at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power has been proven to be much safer than anyone had previously imagined. Read the entire article at the source. See also Fukushima - Sobering Up in Japan, and further links contained in that post. Of interest also: Hormesis ... and Hiroshima Victims Live Longer. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Continued from Why Law (1/2): 1. Freedom as Method and the Social Space On my smart-phone, I have noted: Freedom as method is the ongoing endeavour to corroborate the hypothesis that by working out a consistent notion of the public we are able to comprehend more fully the consequences of our actions than by following ideas invoked in ad-hoc fashion. I am not sure, whether the analogy is a good one, but perhaps we should think of an astronomical object whose large mass causes curvature in space -- by which I mean to suggest that extra human effort that allows us to trace from an element immediately known to us its hidden consequences as they play out in the vaster system to which it belongs. I have further noted on my smart-phone: Freedom as method is the attitude whereby we construe the community as an order systematically connected by costs and benefits (or other interrelated effects). Certain types of individual or isolated action bring about changes in the distribution of costs and benefits in the community, thereby causing curvature, as it were, to the social space. 2. Law and the Social Space Man being a social animal, characteristics of the human community (on which each of us depends) are always significant objects of personal and cultural self-perception. This being-together, interacting and constantly-affecting-one-another is like an elemental condition, like wind, rain, and climatic states that impose themselves upon us and challenge us to react to them. In that way, the idea of the public is ever present in the life of mankind. In other words, we are being permanently facing puzzling questions such as: What is the public, how should it be defined, how ought we to organise it? What sorts of relationships between the public and its members are admissible, desirable and deserve to be enforced? Is it possible for us to relate to one another in such a way as to improve common objectives - in other words: is there a common weal? How is the common weal to be achieved? Do we have to deal with different groups and individuals differently to achieve the common weal? Or are there circumstances such that we have to require all members of the community to be dealt with equally? It is the function of law to come up with enforceable answers to these questions. 3. Fundamental Elements of Modern, Freedom-regarding Law Ancient law comprises also social norms dictated by custom, religion, tribal and kinship mythology, and other belief systems supported more by tradition than by rational investigation. Modern law embraces methods of rational corroboration. It becomes freedom-regarding law when ever larger sections of the population are ensured the right to rational corroboration -- the poor farmer proving the king wrong, and winning the case against the authorities. What makes modern, freedom-regarding law possible are three ingredients: (1) a theory of the relationship between the individual and the public, (2) the widening of the concept of the public, to include the entire adult population, and (3) the introduction into law of the basic heuristic of modern science - the critical method - an open-ended subjection of legal propositions to the method of hypothesis-testing. This latter approach implies the possibility of rational contestation of law, its finding and alteration by approximation, i.e. by piecemeal probing and change. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Why Law? (1/2) Freedom as Method Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. 1. Freiheitlich - freedom-regarding I prick up my ears when I hear of claims that certain expressions in one language cannot be rendered in another language. Often there is merely self-important half-knowledge behind such insinuations. English-speaking academics like to puff themselves up by claiming that German terms such as Realpolitik ("politics in reality," as opposed to some ideal political vision) or Ersatz ("substitute") or Schadenfreude (enjoying pain and other harm affecting others) have no equivalent in English. They do. Perhaps it takes a sentence or two to make the meaning clear, but translation is no problem. Sure, it may be more handy to use one word instead of a sentence, and occasionally that one word may be more readily available in German than in English. And such is the case, I presume, with the German word "freiheitlich" - "freedomly." "Freiheitlich" might be translated as "freedom-regarding." The term's charm: it does not ascribe concern for freedom to one party, political school or ideological trend. And, indeed, freedom is not the prerogative of its self-appointed libertarian trustees. 2. Freedom as Blueprint - the Illiberal Ambition in Liberalism The key misconstruing of freedom that is common to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists lies in their tendency to think of liberty as a predefined set of principles that is capable of orienting those in the know infallibly about all issues that might turn up to be decided along the line: good or bad for liberty. Put differently: these doctrinaires of liberty feel equipped to decide at any moment and under any circumstances what is conducive to and compatible with freedom and what is averse to her. This approach I call freedom as model or better, perhaps, freedom as blueprint. This approach is fundamentally illiberal. It is authoritarian and paternalistic. Only an elite, the select few in the know, are entitled to decide what liberty is. Of course, liberty just does not work that way, and, hence, the doctrinaires of liberty are always a tiny moping minority that is politically ineffective and rather given to the intolerant bigot's passion for sectarianism. 3. Freedom as Method - Democracy, Law, and Freedom, a Cross-fertilising Dependency By contrast, freedom is an evolved and powerful, yet imperfect method adapted to improving society by expanding personal freedom so as to include every citizen in the ameliorative project. Freedom as method applies the critical method to the concerns of the human being in his capacity as a social actor in a large, populous society. Democracy is one method of building freedom to trace and try social amelioration and progress. The other method is law. Thus, freedom is indispensably a democratic project, a bulwark of protection against the cartelisation or monopolisation of political competition in favour of an elite-minority characteristic of the limited access society that has dominated human history until very recently. Freedom presupposes the possibility of political participation by every citizen, i.e. every adult person. Helpfully, the German constitution - das Grundgesetz ("the basic law") - is referred to as "die freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung" - Germany's "freedom-regarding-democratic basic order." Freedom is a public affair, not just a matter of first principles and their implications, but one concerned with what we may achieve by both rivalrous and cooperative human encounters; hence the pivotal station of democracy, which invites all citizens to speak up at society's open fora, where we vent and negotiate our concerns and ambitions, and from where democracy sends impulses for change and shifting power. Law and Democracy The law helps define what the public is and what its organs are allowed to do to the citizens, and what these, in turn, are allowed to do to the public and its organs. The law informs, filters and collates democracy's impulses for change and shifting power. Together, democracy and law form institutions designed to improve the search for societal amelioration and progress without admitting inordinate negative repercussions from efforts at improvement. Freedom has space for movement (democratic demands for change and shifting power), and she needs brakes and channels (legal guidelines and restrictions) to ensure that the overall system is not damaged by the (intended) changes in its vital working parts. If freedom is to thrive, emphasising the mutually dependent and cross-fertilising connection between freedom, democracy, and law is of the essence. In denying and even fighting this vital triple linkage, the doctrinaires of liberty are actually working against freedom. Continued at Why Law? (2/2) See also Socrates - Understanding Understanding, Socrates - Objectivity, Socrates - Sciences and Politics. Of interest too: Freedom as Method, Freedom Limits Liberalism, and Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm. Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. There are areas of life where no such thing as the good old times exists. The IT sector seems to be such a field. If you do not put restrictions on human curiosity and creativity, the natural thing happens: continual change and progress. Man is a natural innovator. Transforming the world is an anthropological constant, a fundamental need inextricably tied to the human condition. Liberty is about ensuring conditions that allow man to act out this natural human need. Liberty is about making sure that government facilitates this human propensity rather than hindering it. Obstructing the drive to change our world is a way of dehumanising men. See also Greed versus Self-Interest, where I argue that man must and ought to strive for ever growing wealth. If this desire for more wealth is crudely equated with greed (which is silly) then greed is morally desirable - as one might argue for rhetorical effect, while correctly speaking greed is bad, of course, and self-interest good in the above sense. In fact, what is bad about greed is that it represents an overdoing, a transgression of the right measure of something, an excess beyond the harmless or wholesome, whereas an excess of self-interest does not make conceptual sense as defined above, since it would imply a violation of self-interest by self-interest. The crux: the way in which human beings adapt to their environment is by having and satisfying desires/needs. The greater the variety, variability and degree of differentiation of a specie's ability to have and satisfy needs/desires, the greater its ability to fit successfully with the wider environment. So the ability to constantly renew, extend and grow this ability is key to survival and advancement. Now, what is wealth? Wealth consists of things and practices that enable man to satisfy his desires/needs. Hence, if an open-ended development of desires is an anthropological sine qua non and the key to continuous successful adaptation to a changing and changed environment, then incessantly growing wealth is just as important. See also The Courage to Think, and The Amazing Julian Simon (1/3). Related articles Freedom - A Force of Creative Destruction in the Moral Realm How Law Changes - The Forgotten History of Jaywalking Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Writes the Lincoln JournalStar: Laura Ebke is in the arena now. A political scientist who has taught American government classes at Southeast Community College and other institutions, Ebke was elected to the Legislature in November and is the student now. "It's a learning experience," she said during an interview in her Capitol office. "I thought I was pretty savvy, but now I can see what goes on behind the scenes. It's very interesting, and I enjoy the gamesmanship." Twelve years on the local school board was good experience, Ebke said, but it "did not really prepare me for the give and take" of the Legislature or the fact that "people actually are interested in what we're doing." On a recent weekend, the Crete senator's email box filled with 150 messages from Friday night to midafternoon on Sunday. About 10 percent came from within her legislative district. Make sure to read the entire article. For more background information and a more comprehensive portrait of Senator Laura Ebke, read For Ebke, public service runs in the family. See also Senator Ebke - First Speech on the Floor. Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "The blunt truth is that even libertarians and other defenders of small government should support the basic constitutional framework that gives public officials extensive powers to control against infection and disease by devices such as quarantine and vaccination." Writes Richard Epstein: The current struggles over sound vaccine policy raise a tension between public health on the one hand and competing versions of individual liberty on the other. This conflict was, if anything, more acute a century ago when infectious diseases cut a wide path for which vaccines and other treatments provided only a limited response. The main constitutional lens through which these issues were viewed at the time was one of police power. This all-pervasive notion has no explicit textual authorization in the Constitution. But a moment’s reflection makes it clear that the Constitution’s various provisions protecting individual liberty must at times give way to government control in response to health hazards. From the earliest times, therefore, the police power has always been construed to allow public officials to take strong action against individuals who posed threats to the health of others by the spread of communicable diseases. In perhaps the most famous statement of this sort, Justice John Marshall Harlan, himself a champion of limited government, wrote in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that while the Supreme Court had refrained from defining the limits of police power, it had “distinctly recognized the authority of a State to enact quarantine laws and ‘health laws of every description,’” and then proceeded to sustain a Cambridge Massachusetts compulsory vaccination statute against smallpox, a disease for which Edward Jenner had developed an effective vaccine as early as 1796. The basic soundness of the constitutional recognition of a police power to deal with communicable diseases is beyond dispute. Even in a free state, quarantines are the only reliable remedy to protect the health of the public at large from the spread of disease. It is sheer fantasy to think that individuals made ill could bring private lawsuits for damages against the parties that infected them, or that persons exposed to imminent risk could obtain injunctive relief against the scores of persons who threaten to transmit disease. The transmission of disease involves hidden and complex interconnections between persons that could not be detected in litigation, even assuming that it could be brought in time, which it cannot. Public oversight should be able to achieve the desired end at a far lower cost. In making his broad defense of the police power, Justice Harlan did not mean to eradicate the substantive protections otherwise afforded by the Constitution. Thus, only three years later in Adair v. United States, he struck down a mandatory collective bargaining statute on the ground that its interference with the contractual liberties of the employer and individual employees could not be justified on grounds of either health or safety. That said, the categorical defense of compulsory vaccination statutes raises serious questions of its own. [Emphasis added.] Read more at the source. Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "The idea of wind chill indicates how cold it feels on the skin's surface as opposed to the actual temperature," explains Steve Cleaton, forecaster for BBC Weather. "Wind chill relates to a combination of three things - wind speed, moisture content or humidity and the air temperature. Conditions feel coldest on your skin when they are particularly windy and dry. This is because the moisture on our skin evaporates readily in dry air compared to moist air, causing evaporative cooling on the surface of the body. Our bodies work harder to maintain its core temperature, leading us to feel colder." The source. More on evaporative cooling and calculating wind chill. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. L'Arroseur Arrosé. Rightly, in my opinion, Arnold Kling is unhappy with the mainstream ultra-Keynesian treatments of the financial crisis and its aftermath, whose all-purpose causal variable is a glut of savings and a dearth of government spending. By contrast, he favours the explanation offered by Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus in their book Engineering the Financial Crisis: The Friedman-Kraus story is one in which regulators suffer from the socialist calculation problem. With risk-based capital regulations, regulators determined the relative prices of various investments for banks. The prices that regulators set for risk told banks to behave as if senior tranches from mortgage-backed securities were much safer than ordinary loans, including low-risk mortgage loans held by the bank. The banks in turn used these regulated prices to guide their decisions. In 2001, the regulators outsourced the specific risk calculations to three rating agencies–Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch. This set off a wave of securitized mortgage finance based on calculations that proved to be wrong. Friedman and Kraus challenge the basic mindset not only of DeLong but of 99 percent of all economists. That mindset is that the socialist calculation problem, if it matters at all, only matters for full-on socialists, not for regulators in an otherwise capitalist system. In the conventional view, regulators can fail for ideological reasons, or because they are manipulated by special interests. But Friedman and Kraus offer a different thesis. When information discovery is vital, regulators, like socialist planners, are doomed to fail because they are unable to mimic the market’s groping, evolutionary approach to learning. The source. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I. In Freedom Limits Liberalism (European, not American meaning of liberalism) I note: Most likely, freedom survives - with or without the support of the classical liberal - because [in] civil society as it has emerged in some 25 countries or so in the last 300 years [...] we have grown accustomed to practice freedom as method as opposed to relying on her in the form of a monolithic and socially predominant political creed. A momentous implication of this is that even if there were only one liberalism possible or extant in reality it would still not be the voice of freedom but one of the voices contending to shape our society and the face of liberty within our social order. We compete with our liberal opponents as well as our non-liberal political rivals (a) to define what liberty means and to try (b) to determine what impact she may exert on us. At the end of the day, the kind of liberty that proves feasible in the real world will be the result of interaction between many parties holding different views as to what liberty means and which elements of her deserve emphasis and support. Liberty as method (see my Freedom as Method) is not only (1) a disposition to check whether our rivals tend to diminish or violate the robust conditions of liberty, i.e. the arrangements, devices, and rights that make for civil society, and (2) an ambition to advertise further, perhaps more specific substantive visions of liberty (for instance a world void of the welfare state), liberty as method requires also that (3) we reflect the tension between our concept of liberty and the latitude that freedom provides for the supporters of alternative views that - in order to uphold the robust conditions of liberty - must be recognised as legitimate (contributions to the process of political competition) even though they deviate from our political ambitions. II. Take the issue of marriage licensing, which a liberal may oppose on the grounds that government is not entitled to authenticate a valid marital relationship, leaving such power to individuals and the institutions they form under the right to free association--one of the rights that constitute the robust conditions of freedom. Under such a provision one may choose to treat marriage as a holy sacrament to be dispensed by a church--a grand tradition that has been formative of social order for hundreds of years. But even within the Christian tradition, marriage, the features of morally acceptable marital status and behaviour, have left a trail of very different patterns including concubinage, and other arrangements alien to the contemporary Christian. (See Roman Church Pioneer of Liberty and Free Markets.) Asserting the various rights that constitute the robust conditions of liberty, not only does freedom defend the practice of a diversity of faiths and denominations, she also protects the heterodox and unbelievers, who, incidentally, in some important ways are the upshot of communities embracing greater freedom. Like Christians themselves or believers of other confessions of faith, non-Christians subscribe to differing concepts of marriage, including secularised variants in which government may take a significant role, perhaps even entirely ousting ecclesiastical institutions from the authentication of marital status. My point is that while it is perfectly legitimate to champion a Christian understanding of marriage in the Great Western tradition, this can only be done in the context of an open pluralistic competition to which all other exponents of matrimonial concepts are given equal access. Thus, there may be this or that Christian-and-liberal concept of marriage, but there cannot be a certain concept of marriage uniquely implied by freedom. One is not entitled to appeal to freedom as the justifying ground for a certain concept of marriage, but one may appeal to her as the justifying ground to take a certain position on the issue and add political weight to it, i.e. to vie for social acceptance of one's conviction in the matter. Freedom is the framework within which we come to settle - often with considerable latitude - the issue of socially valid features of marriage (and other vitally important social institutions, which is not to deny that marriage may be more than a social institution). Historically, liberalism has been closely tied to the Christian faith; ultimately, however, the Christian liberal impulses have been the pioneer of freedoms which have served to contest and undermine the Christian faith, and establish rival world views equally protected under the robust conditions of freedom. So what freedom accomplishes is the subjection of modern society to something like the analogue of creative destruction in the field of morality and social norms. Freedom defends the rights of our fellows to question what we believe in and persuade the community to tend toward cultural values that conflict with ours. Freedom is also an environment that ensures open access to the political process and conditions furthering peaceful reconciliation for those at strife. Which is why politics and democracy are inextricably built into the blueprint of freedom. See In Defence of Democracy and Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse - Thirteen Conjectures on Politics (1/3). III. Freedom has privatised religion. By the same process she has enabled the broader populace to interpret and manage in new ways social institutions once monolithically administered by the ecclesiastical(ly influenced) powers-that-be. The advance of religious freedom has been accompanied by the advance of secular freedoms. In fact, the former could hardly be achieved without giving rise to the latter. People have come to use the worldly technology of government, whose power has grown with freedom, to define and foster social institutions such as marriage. Therefore, it is likely to be very difficult, even impossible, to cut through the manifold ties between marriage and the social technology called the state. Freedom has empowered people to revolt against oppression by religious authority or at least experience the possibilities of dissent and alternative approaches. Next to the great Christian tradition, freedom has placed a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by entrepreneurship, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for the entrepreneur. Materially and economically, our culture is made possible by oil, yet ideologically our culture is dominated by disdain or at least negligent regard for oil - try and find an image in the Internet with a positive message concerning oil. I am not sure which impresses me more, the enormity of the daring deception at hand, or the thrilling suspicion that our political order is remarkably good at having people let off steam by engaging in cheap talk, while the scapegoat - here the oil economy - is left alone in sufficient measure to do its job, despite its misrepresentation in the political discourse. I suppose, by a lot of rent-seeking and other forms of political competition, it is possible to achieve in many vital areas of human survival a roughly workable equilibrium between figment and reality, even for extended periods of time. It may well be that we are facing a precarious balance between the (widely unacknowledged) costs of ideology and the benefits of realism and reality, but humankind always depends on both, myths and facts. Every culture is based on the most preposterous assumptions that will be gradually revealed in their delusion, and every culture survives only by avoiding too hard a bumping into the limits of reality. Can it be possible that the marginal cost of producing oil was $110 per barrel in June 2014 and is only $50 per barrel in January 2015? Yes. Here is how: in the first half of June 2014 oil consumption was very high relative to the then-existing world oil production capability. In addition, existing oil production capability is always declining as producing fields deplete. The marginal cost of a barrel of oil under such tight market conditions has to cover the capital cost of developing new resources as well as the operating costs. Toward the end of 2014 additions to world oil production capability exceeded growth in consumption, meaning additions to production capability were no longer necessary, meaning the marginal cost of producing the last barrel of oil no longer needed to cover that capital cost. Sure, some oil company somewhere had to make the capital investment necessary to develop the resource, but most of those costs are sunk and competition in the market means they cannot make some consumer cover those costs. The market price under today’s looser market conditions only needs to cover the operating costs of production. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I use the term liberalism to refer to political schools that like classical liberalism, libertarianism, and anarcho-capitalism, do not or hesitate to recognise that freedom is of necessity productive of a highly politicised society. Only a narrow view of liberalism creates the impression of a monolithic ideology as the one true faith. Liberalism is not a voice, but a many-voiced choir within a much larger choir of innumerable choirs, all of which are legiitimate particpants in the process of political competition, unless ... Well, see below: Freedom is ultimately a political phenomenon, for she is uniquely characterised by the possibility of political participation by every citizen who chooses to take part in politics. (For special cases like Hong Kong, see section 1 here.) (1) The Pluralist Proviso and the Limits of Liberalism Any citizen is entitled to participate in the political competition of a free society, with the exception of those who undermine this pluralistic condition of liberty ("the pluralist proviso"). In an open society, a communist is perfectly entitled to join the political race, but he is not allowed to hinder others from participating in that race or obstruct or even abolish open political competition. This being so, liberalism faces natural limits to its ambitions. And these limits are set by liberty herself. Liberals will tend to condone a set of policies that is only partially, perhaps even hardly congruent with the set of policies approved by other partisans equally entitled to pursue their policy variants under the pluralist proviso. If a party B campaigns under the slogan "no welfare state," whereas another, ultimately victorious party A promises to introduce the welfare state, A is perfectly entitled to implement her campaign promise, as long as A does not violate the pluralist proviso. This is a fundamental and unalienable requirement of freedom. Non-liberals tend to dominate the corridors of political power for at least two reasons: (2) Freedom Demands, Enables, and Protects Political Action The pluralistic proviso, i.e. freedom herself, admits far more political action than is palatable to the classical liberal. Within that margin people will try out all sorts of policies rejected by the classical liberal. In this manner, not only will they discover popular and successful arrangements, but they will also create a delta of path dependency in such a way that soon novel political action will be genuinely needed to react upon past political action. The simple fact of the matter is that the number of people expecting politics to take action is larger than the number of people who reject such action on classical liberal grounds. So the experimental work of politics will be dominated by non-liberals. They will tend to build the political order, the infrastructure of political participation that freedom demands and protects. Sure enough, there are policies that are blatant dangers to freedom, but it simply is not true that all or even most of the policies not condoned by liberals are in that class. Furthermore, (a) the political system has safety arrangements to deal with severely malignant policies, (b) notably a robust pluralism, and, not least, (c) there is freedom's corridor of success, which is difficult to leave once the institutions of liberty have taken root: (3) Freedom as Method and Mean Reversion toward Liberty Most likely, freedom survives - with or without the support of the classical liberal - because civil society as it has emerged in some 25 countries or so in the last 300 years is (a) hardwired to grow around the rough contours of freedom, and (b) in an open society we have grown accustomed to practice freedom as method as opposed to relying on her in the form of a monolithic and socially predominant political creed. [C]apitalism-and-freedom survive because they work so much better than anything else. Sooner or later, people find out about it, adapt to this condition, and avoid the pain that afflicts them when they move away too far from robust conditions of freedom. In this way, we travel within a corridor of success whose middle lane may be thought of as its most workable and efficacious part. The farther you veer away from the center section, the more the deviation begins to hurt - and people tend to return to the middle, as the Germans's did after 1945. The source. Liberalism, as I absorb it into my world view, is not a doctrine whose adepts know all the answers to everything, including a perfect blueprint of the way the world should be. My liberalism is perhaps best described as the application of Sir Karl Popper's critical method to societal affairs. My liberalism is thus rather a way of questioning and probing into claims of how society works or should be run. My liberalism is a method by which we test policy proposals by investigating their remoter consequences. The more people revert to such testing, the better the outcome, that is: the lesser the damage from zealotry, myopia, and superficiality. Related articles Freedom as Method How Law Changes - The Forgotten History of Jaywalking A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (2/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. "Liberty as method" is a catchword that I have come to use in the course of my studies of liberty; it is meant to signify the fact that those conscious of liberty must compete with many other ideologies, and that to the extent that liberal pluralism admits of rival political views and policies, and their (relative) dominance in government and real life, liberty may still have a decisive role to play as a method of questioning and challenging these rival political beliefs, and thus still be a very influential part of reality, though not overly visible. For example: to the extent that the classical liberal system of law is being honoured in everyday legal practice, liberty may be rather strongly enmeshed in the goings-on of our society, even though classical liberals may not be very prominent politically ("the paradox of freedom"). Yet, liberty is present as method - and in this way she may be a very important corrective and guarantor of "robust conditions of freedom" - which do not bring about an ideal world of freedom, but still one with substantial liberty in place. Freedom as method may also be an important early warning system, when society is deviating too strongly from the legal requirements ("robust conditions") of freedom. In arguing this way, my concern is to encourage a more willing participation, intellectually and practically, of those conscious of liberty in politics and the state, so as to be able to advertise and defend freedom not only by denouncing politics and staying away from it, but by taking part in it, learning from it, discovering freedom and her conditions in it. See also The Corridor of Success and A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3). Related articles A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. The Coyote on the left's fishy dollars: The Left spends a lot of time railing against the rich and large corporations. But in practice, they seem hell-bent on lining the pockets of exactly these groups. Today the ECB announces a one trillion plus euro government buyback of public and private securities. Between Japan, the US, and now Europe, the world's central banks are printing money like crazy to inflate securities values around the world -- debt securities directly by buying them but indirectly a lot of the money spills over into stocks as well. This has been a huge windfall for people whose income mostly comes from capital gains (i.e. rich people) and institutions that have access to bond and equity markets (i.e. large corporations). You can see the effects in the skyrocketing income inequality numbers over the last 6 years. On the other end, as a small business person, you sure can't see any difference in my access or cost of capital. It is still just as impossible to get a cash flow loan as it always was. The source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Here is the transcript of Senator Ebke's first speech on the floor of the Nebraska legislature, which she gave during the Rules debate on Thursday, January 15th. For a video clip of the speech, go to the bottom of the post: The chair recognises Senator Ebke. Thank you, Mr. President. I rise today in support of Senator Kintner's proposed amendment to the rules. As a lifelong Nebraskan, I remember actually coming to this great building on an elementary school field trip, and I remember the semester of 8th grade Nebraska history that we took. I remember the great stories about George Norris, and I remember how we were told about how we are the only unicameral legislature in the country, and that our unicameral works because the people are the second house. Mr. President, unlike other legislatures, there is no other body across the hall that can provide a counterweight to our mistakes or simply our impulses. Our counterweight are the citizens who sent us here -- and they deserve to know how we vote, on everything, including those leadership votes. Because, even though this is only my seventh day in this august body, it is clear to me that those we elect as leaders have a lot to do with how the legislation moves through the body. I understand the impulse for maintaining secret ballots. It's a very human impulse. Most of us don't like to hurt others' feelings, and we operate under the expectation that a ballot cast in secret amounts to the avoidance of hurting those feelings. But we are all adults here. And we owe each other honesty, more than we owe them a promise of comfort. We are all elected to serve the people of our districts, and we owe our constituents transparency in our actions so that they can hold us accountable, or maybe even occasionally they will pad us on the back. The second house cannot do its job if we cast secret ballots. I ran on a promise of transparency. I told the voters in my district that I would post every vote on social media -- and I did that before anybody was running against me -- whether I had a Republican or a Democrat running against me. That was part of the deal. I was going to be as transparent as possible. And I have posted all of those votes, including the leadership votes that I made, last week on social media. I told voters that they might not always agree with my decisions, but I would listen to them, consider their positions, and tell them why I voted the way I did. I have enough confidence in the people of the 32nd legislative district to believe that they will judge me fairly, should I decide to run for reelection in four years. I hope that my colleagues trust their constituents as well, and will vote to support the amendment, and vote for more transparency. Thank you, Mr. President. In the below video, Senator Kintner outlines the spirit of the proposed amendment: In the below video Senator Ebke's first floor speech (transcribed above) is recorded, beginning at time mark 05:45. See also Secret Votes and The Swearing-In of Senator Laura Ebke, including lots of links tracing her campaign, ultimate victory, and first days as Senator-elect. Related articles Secret Votes in Nebraska Legislature Secret Votes A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (1/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. There was a time when the law actually supported jaywalking. "Before formal traffic laws were put in place, judges typically ruled that in any collision, the larger vehicle — that is, the car — was to blame. In most pedestrian deaths, drivers were charged with manslaughter regardless of the circumstances of the accident." For more, see the article referenced below. I. Americans never walk, never leave their cars to get from A to B. This is a stereotype of American life that seems to be shared by many of my compatriots. To the limited extent the impression is true, it may have to do with the fact that America is just so much larger than crammed Germany, so it simply makes sense to drive to places, to where in Germany one might walk. Be this as it may. There used to be a time when walking was much more popular in America, by default. In the days when automobiles were only starting to become a prominent feature of everyday life. A lot has changed since then, including the (traffic) law, whose evolution I see as an instance of building a new public good adapted to a world that is beginning to cope with mass automobile transportation. In Germany, and many other second mover or latecomer countries, we have benefited greatly by the pioneering experience of America, helping us save many lives and avoid other "teething troubles." Private car ownership would become a mass phenomenon in Germany only after the Second World War, when the last major obstacle was removed: an inordinately high motor vehicle tax -- cars having previously been paternalistically classed as "toys for the rich." II. Here is a fascinating account of the forgotten history of jaywalking. To me, it shows how historical and public forces come to exert influence on the contents of the law. This is part of our culture of pluralism and democracy, which ultimately sustains a free society. It is part of the project that I call "improving government" - the duplex effort to improve government (i.e. making it interfere only where it should) and make government improve our lives. See more on traffic law and freedom in section 3 of Why It Is Not True That Politics Makes Us Worse ... (1/3). When the term "jaywalking" came to be used ever more widely the word "jay" meant something like "rube" or "hick" — a person from the sticks, who didn't know how to behave in a city. So pro-auto groups promoted use of the word "jay walker" as someone who didn't know how to walk in a city, threatening public safety. At first, the term was seen as offensive, even shocking. Pedestrians fired back, calling dangerous driving "jay driving." But jaywalking caught on (and eventually became one word). Safety organizations and police began using it formally, in safety announcements. The source. I try to convince people of any political description who take a jaundiced view of politics that we need politics and the state to improve our lives and continue to live in a free and open society. It is not good enough to focus exclusively on the dark side of politics; if you lack the knowledge of the good brought about by politics, the state, and the law, you will not be willing to face the tough challenges of the legislator etc. who defends our free and open society. A world dominated by political cynics is a world in danger and decline. Tracing the good in politics is just as important as denouncing the bad in it. Related articles A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (2/3) Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Stunning. Image credit. Lovely glimpses, and a fine tune that took me twice to listen to before I suddenly liked it -- very much. Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I find it difficult to appreciate the arguments presented in favour of a continued regime of secret votes for assorted leadership positions in the Nebraska legislature. Senator Ebke refers us on her facebook page to a short synoptic article on the issue which I recommend to read in its entirety. 1. From this article I gather the following argument against dropping secret votes: Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley said he is concerned that open votes would encourage partisanship in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. The GOP already tries to pressure members into voting only for Republican candidates for committee chairmanships. Who has the majority of votes in the legislature - the GOP? If so, why then do they not vote by the majority for an open ballot, if inordinate partisan pressure is their desire? Are Democrats, in different legislatures and other significant political contexts, free from partisan bias? I would argue, it is their right to exercise such a bias, while they are well advised to see to it that they do not overdo it, lest the public punishes them for it, or politicians highly concerned with inordinate partisanship leave the Democratic party, join another (less partisan) party or become genuinely independent. If you get involved in politics it is hard not be affected by and participate in partsianship. Indeed, if we did not disagree in vital matters, we would have no need for politics. Politics is ultimately about partisanship (not necessarily along party lines, but concerning contested issues). In the final analysis, good politics is about dealing well with partisan conflicts. The electorate should have an opportunity to know where their candidates are positioned in the contentious business of state politics, and an open ballot will be helpful to that purpose. It is for the informed electorate to decide whether politicians have been acting in an unduly partisan manner. 2. State Senator Tommy Garrett noted that voters cast secret ballots in elections. Secret ballots in elections are resorted to so as to make sure the voter can vote any way she pleases without having to face undue pressure, precisely the opposite reason why we want legislators to vote openly. Secret ballots are not resorted to for electing the voters to hold an office, let alone an accountable public office. By contrast, open ballots of the kind demanded have the function to ensure accountability by those who are seeeking or holding positions associated with a promise and a duty to be accountable to the electorate. Related articles Secret Votes in Nebraska Legislature WeVote Keystone XL - Pro and Con Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. I'm sure there's a law against this (see video). I'm only half-joking, but I do wonder how hard it is for legislators to get rid of a law. Is it easier to establish a new law than to void an existing one? It's against the law of correct head-line spelling to write "It's Against the Law" - as "against" is a preposition and thus not be capitalised, I would have thought. But, I can't help it, the wrong thing looks overwhelmingly right. Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. More good stuff from Senator Laura Ebke's facebook page. Thanks, Senator, for drawing our attention to WeVote. Indeed, let us use modern digital technology to make government better. Explains Senator Ebke [T]he WeVoteProject was created by a number of young folks, as a non-partisan project, designed to bring people closer to their representatives, and to allow them to interact with other citizens, as well as their government. It allows you to log in using whatever email you choose (or via Facebook login), and then you can "verify" your status as a voter in a particular legislative district, follow what your legislator and others are up to, follow particular bills, and even "vote" on those bills. I encourage you to check it out. I'm attached to the system as a legislator, and will check in from time to time to see what people are interested in WeVote strikes me as an experiment with an upside, and presumably a downside, too. I see it as an opportunity for us voters to become more capable and more responsible principals in the political process, rather than passive consumers of politics. If we wish politicians to perform well, it is indispensable that we make our contributions to a workable operating environment for them - for instance, in the form of articulating our concerns in ways more informative than mere sloganeering. WeVote might make us experience what politicians experience constantly - the need and difficulty to shape common concerns responsibly in the face of variety of emphasis or outright disagreement. Related articles The Swearing-In of Senator Laura Ebke Secret Votes in Nebraska Legislature A Culture of Freedom - Oakeshott on Liberty (2/3) Improving Government Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Justin Amash explains his pro-Keystone vote: I voted present on H R 3, Northern Route Approval Act. The Keystone XL pipeline is a private project owned by TransCanada Corporation. This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation—and no other company—from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals. I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong. It's improper, however, for Congress to write a bill that names and benefits one private project, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems that allowed such delays to occur. The Constitution gives Congress the power "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations," but the Rule of Law requires that legislation be of general, not specific, applicability. A proper bill would address the circumstances that allow *any* such project to be held up for political reasons, not just Keystone XL. Read the entire declaration at the source. The source. I was reluctant to publish the below clip portraying the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska, as I am in no position to know what the involved parties especially WWF stand for politically, and whether I like their position concerning this issue or not. But having declared my initial agnosticism, my genuine interest in this fascinating area of Nebraska and my desire to gradually understand the issue more fully, I feel I can publish the clip without giving the impression of partisanship. If anything, I begin to understand , how little I know about Keystone XL. At any rate, the film gives you a sense of what a great place Nebraska is. See also Keystone (2/2), Keystone (1/2), and Is There Anything Behind the Delay of the TransCanada Pipeline? Keystone certainly represents an interesting case in terms of studying how people try (or fail) to define and establish the public interest - a topic that preoccupies me at the moment. UPDATE: Keystone Pipeline Pros, Cons, Stes to a Final Decision, Keystone XL Pipeline Facts ..., State Department ..., New Report ..., Keystone XL ..., these are some of the summaries of the pros and cons I have skimmed so far. First impressions: Remarkably, much of the (national) debate over Keystone XL entirely ignores locally Nebraskan concerns, focussing amongst other things on world climate or US energy independence. The environmental arguments, even the ones referring to local issues, do not convince me of the presence of dimensions of danger that merit a calling-off of the project. In a country criss-crossed by pipelines that never have brought about serious environmental damage, I see no reason why we should not expect further progress and wholesome business in that field. So far I seem to be looking at the customary pattern: The environmentalist is typically ignoring risk-return trade-offs (because her hidden agenda is full of absolutes in the form of unsubstantiated foregone conclusions), feeling victorious in an argument simply by stating "x could happen," usually without offering facts to back up the concrete and reasonably substantiated processes, proportions and consequences of the presaged events of impairment. Of course, I am open to new insights and better arguments. Where I am still pretty much in the dark is the entire vast and complicated subject-matter of eminent domain, whose careful study - especially of the laws and legal practices in Nebraska - will probably take care at least of the frivolous claims of crony capitalism that are so easily bandied about. The way the project has been dealt with so far does not exactly suggest that a certain company is "wagging" government. Of course, I am open to new insights and better arguments. But the eminent domain issue may well contain very weighty and knotty problems - many of which may not be visible to the national eye, but only to him who studies the local circumstances carefully. More generally, consider that in the case of Keystone XL a private economic decsion may turn into one of high public relevance - or would you be willing to apply eminent domain in favour of a project that according to your calculations is not viable? Tricky. What worries me far more than the prospect of TransCanada "wagging" the governments of Nebraska and the USA is that the likelihood of destroying a project like Keystone by slander, crucible-type of malice and political obstructionism is as high as it is, presenting a massive handicap that stands in the way of getting a complex business project properly accomplished, thanks to a massive nationwide industry geared towards stopping projects like Keystone as an absolute aim in its own right, the majority of whose vast constituency being not fact-driven but entranced with a false faith. In an awkward way, is it not a case of abuse of eminent domain, when a local project gets effectively prohibited by a national audience driven by an agenda not shared by those most affected by such remote interference? Of course, I am open to new insights and better arguments. Related articles Nebraska Supreme Court Backs Keystone XL Pipeline Route Justin Amash Explains Keystone XL Vote, Shows Why He Should Be CLONED Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. A new development since Keystone (1/2): Despite the promise of a veto from President Obama, House Republicans approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday with the help of 28 Democrats. The vote came just hours after the Nebraska Supreme Court delivered a blow to the White House and pipeline opponents by dismissing a challenge to its construction. The pipeline has been in limbo for the past six years and has become a political football in campaigns and on Capitol Hill. The Senate is expected to take up Keystone legislation on Monday, and several moderate Democrats have already signed on, almost ensuring passage. But the president will reject the bill, arguing to let the process play out at the State Department. The House bill passed, 266-153, but fell short of the number required to override a presidential veto, with 10 members not voting. So far, the Senate also appears short of the votes needed to move past the president. The source. Say, the federal powers-that-be finally okay the project, is there any chance that it will be stopped by parties inside Nebraska? The political complexity of the project must be enormous. There is already a Keystone pipeline running through Nebraska? I never heard complaints about it. In terms of acceptance, what is it the old pipeline has that the new one is lacking? Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Image credit. Following up on Pot(ty) - Or (K)Not(ty)? - (1/2), I find this article by Jacob Sullum instructive: Last week seven Republican members of Oklahoma’s legislature, including five of the most conservative, publicly criticized that state’s Republican attorney general, Scott Pruitt, for trying to reverse marijuana legalization in Colorado. “Oklahoma has been a pioneer and a leader in standing up to federal usurpations of power on everything from gun control to Obamacare,” they wrote in a letter to Pruitt, who last month joined Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Colorado from regulating marijuana businesses. “We believe this lawsuit against our sister state has the potential, if it were to be successful at the Supreme Court, to undermine all of those efforts to protect our own state’s right to govern itself under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” The letter, spearheaded by state Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), was a striking illustration of the split that the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition has created among Republicans, pitting their anti-pot prejudices against their avowed devotion to federalism. For Ritze, the choice was clear. “This is not about marijuana at its core,” he said in a press release. “It is about the U.S. Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and the right of states to govern themselves as they see fit. If the Supreme Court can force Colorado to criminalize a substance or activity and commandeer state resources to enforce extra-constitutional federal statutes and UN agreements, then it can essentially do anything, and states become mere administrative units for Washington, D.C….If the people of Colorado want to end prohibition of marijuana, while I may personally disagree with the decision, constitutionally speaking, they are entitled to do so.” Pruitt and Bruning, by contrast, elevated their antipathy to marijuana above their fealty to the Constitution. “It is curious—and disappointing—to see a suit like this filed by two states that have taken the lead in defending state prerogatives in other policy areas,” writes Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. “It is as if their arguments about federalism and state autonomy were not arguments of principle but rather an opportunistic effort to challenge federal policies they don’t like on other grounds. It makes Oklahoma and Nebraska look like fair-weather federalists.” Read the entire piece at the source. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2015 at RedStateEclectic
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Ultimately, what Senator Laura Ebke and her colleagues at the Nebraska legislature are endeavouring to bring about can be expressed in two words: improved government. Either by (1) having government do what it is better at doing than non-government actors--which watchful task includes amongst other things the decommissioning of governmental services and the barring of unwholesome state interference. Or by (2) ensuring that government does what it is supposed to do in the best possible way. I believe that government does do us a lot of good, and that the efforts of Senator Ebke and her colleagues are utterly important to make sure that government is an improver of our lives. For all of those who doubt that (a) government can be an improver or that (b) government can be improved, and for those who (a) believe in the possibility of improving government and (b) consider it their calling or duty to improve government, I urgently recommend reading Matt Ridley's fascinating piece on government digital service in Great Britain which is not just trying to make government services online as easy as shopping at Amazon or booking an airline ticket. It is also reshaping the way the public sector does big IT projects to make sure cost and time overruns are history. What Mr Bracken calls the “waterfall” approach to such big projects in the past consisted of “writing most when you know least”. The people in charge wrote enormous documents to try to specify the comprehensive requirements of the end users, did not change them as technology changed and issued vast, long and lucrative contracts to big companies. Instead, Mr Maude and Mr Bracken are teaching the civil service to start small, fail fast, get feedback from users early and evolve the thing as you go along. So those designing an online service begin with a discovery phase, lasting six to 12 weeks, then build an “alpha” prototype of a working software service in less than three months, followed by commissioning a private “beta”, to be used by a private audience of specialist users. Only once rigorously tested is this opened up to the public, sometimes in a controlled way. And only later is the old service turned off. This is exactly the sort of recipe for success championed by the economist Tim Harford in his book Adapt. Harford pointed out that whether pacifying Iraq, designing an aircraft or writing a Broadway musical, those who succeed allow for plenty of low-cost trial and error and incremental change. It’s the mechanism Charles Darwin discovered that Mother Nature uses. Rather than a grand “creationist” plan or a big leap, natural selection incrementally discovers success through trial and failure. From the English language to an airliner, everything successful has emerged by small steps. The successful IT systems we all use, from Facebook to BBC News, were all built this way. Yet government kept trying to do things by grand plan. The history of information technology explains how we went wrong. In the beginning all things related to the web, in public and private sectors, became the property of the high priests in the IT department, as the only people who understood the technology. They thought mainly of the needs of producers of content, rather than users. Much of the private sector wrestled digital content out of the hands of the IT department long ago, but in much of Whitehall that’s where it still lay until recently. Mr Bracken and his lieutenants have turned Whitehall upside down, collapsing the profession of chief information officer (head of IT) altogether. Do make sure to read the entire fascinating account - at the source. Image credit. Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at RedStateEclectic