Search This Blog

Friday, September 19, 2003

Skepticism Regarding Universal Skepticism

I have to say that I'm skeptical about the comment that I'm universally skeptical. Nonetheless, that reminds me of a right-wing alternate verse to Imagine by John Lennon (some friends and I played the original version at a musical get together recently).

Imaging no possessions. No food or water too.
No children's toys or comforts. And there's not much to do.
Imagine all the people living in the dirt.

You may say I'm a cynic, yeah I'll admit I'm one,
I've seen great ideas ruin millions of lives, and this is just another one!

I agree with most of Jim's points, but want to add some comments (Jim's stuff in quotes):

"I may have to write a book".

Yeah, this stuff is all so complicated that to really comment in depth requires an amazing amount of effort. I'm hoping to write some mini-essays describing my basic approach which will hopefully reduce the length of my comments because I can then just refer to the background stuff. In addition, by writing, I hope to clarify my own thoughts for myself.

"people are skeptical of changes because they have a natural tendency (recently well-documented) to irrationally overvalue the loss of what they now have and undervalue those things they might gain"

I might add that in addition to irrationally assigning too much value to the current system and not enough to the new, there might also be a rational component. For example, many of the "isms" of European origin (communism, fascism, etc.) promised huge social benefit but ending up being total catastrophes due to unintended consequences. Applying that difference between expectation and result to virtually any large program could cause somebody to rationally oppose it.

I'm a strong believer in incrementalism (I know, yet another "ism" but at least I wasn't born in Europe). In other words, I think we should encourage lots of small experiments to try policies out on a small scale first, and then scale them up slowly before they are tried at the national level.

"I agree with Krugman's analysis of the economic direction the country is heading."

Too much gloom and doom for me to get behind it. I feel I've been inundated with gloom and doom predictions my whole life. World War III in the 1960s (remember air-raid drills in elementary school to get ready for nuclear attack?), heading into an ice age (late 60s remember that?), American competitiveness (70s), running out of oil and other natural resources (70s), deficits (80s), river of American blood (Gulf War I 1991), quagmires (Afghanistan and Iraq), to name a few. None of them ever happened. Instead, different catastrophes happened (e.g. 9/11/2001). It's almost as if once someone (like Krugman) predicts it, it's guaranteed not to happen. Only things that aren't predicted seem to happen.

"we cannot immediately redirect most of the half trillion dollars a year we spend on defensive and offensive capabilities, but it must be our stated goal to do so over time."

I think we're just going to disagree on this one. I believe in the old (roman?) adage: "If you want peace, prepare for war." Obviously, we didn't quite succeed at the peace part of the adage. But 9/11 was possibly partly because bin Laden didn't think we were prepared for war.

Now, I'm not claiming we should keep the defense budget at $.5T. I have no idea really what it should be.

"Last but not least... Vote for Boot in 2016! (I wonder if the world can wait that long.)"

I didn't see you on the California recall ballot. How come? I would've voted for you there for sure.

No comments: