Sunday, December 30, 2007

How do you know you’re a geek?

I’ll tell you how. You know you’re a geek when you and a friend of yours meet to give each other Christmas gifts, and you have both, unbeknownst to the other, bought Robert E. Howard books.

Though not the same book, sadly. That would have been cool; like an O. Henry story, but with more brutal violence and rippling thews.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New libertarian science fiction forum

This is very neat - via Geoffrey Plauche comes news of the Libertarian SF Forum. It’s always nice when two of my nerdly interests combine. If, like me, you always find yourself finishing a new science fiction book and thinking, “You know, that was cool, but there weren’t enough privately owned arbitration firms,” check it out. This could be great if it takes off.

Cross-posted at In Darkest Geekdom.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

A woman's body, a government health regulator’s choice

I suspect far more people would be libertarians if they actually thought through the possibility of the statist measures they support being put to use by their opponents. Coyote Blog points out an interesting incongruity. The National Organization for Women is adamantly pro-choice, and vehemently opposes any attempt to have the government restrict a woman’s right to have an abortion. This is usually phrased in libertarian terms- it’s wrong for the government to deny a woman control over her own life and body.

But NOW also supports universal government-provided health care. In other words, NOW (and I would imagine most pro-choicers who aren’t libertarians), wants to create a system where the government will have massively increased incentives and justifications for controlling private decisions affecting health- what people do with their own bodies, in other words.

Now, in purely philosophical terms, there’s no contradiction, slogans like “A woman’s body, a woman’s choice” notwithstanding. Feminists, being predominantly liberal/leftist, generally don’t derive the right to abortion from some broader right to control your life and body in general, a few libertarian feminists excepted. On the contrary, abortion is a rare exception to the general rule that the individual doesn’t have any right to control those things.

It does, however, strike me as a potential strategic risk for feminists, and for anyone else who doesn't want the government controlling women's reproductive choices. If we had a Canadian-style system, where the government not only provides health care but outlaws private alternatives, it would be a quite simple matter to make abortion de facto restricted or illegal. Don’t outlaw abortion- simply make all health procedures a government monopoly, and then refuse to fund abortion in some or all cases. This would, I suspect, be quite popular, at least for more controversial areas like late-term abortions or abortions for minors. Such a result would be appalling to members of NOW, but it would hardly be the first time liberals found themselves unhappy when someone else managed to seize control of the oppressive state machinery the liberals built.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

To be fair, they DID teach me to cope with spirit-crushing boredom

In the comments section of his blog post about home education, Rad Geek says something that brought back some old memories:

"My main memory of third grade is all the time I spent sitting around after having finished worksheets of division problems that I learned how to do in second grade, and multiplication problems that I learned how to do in kindergarten."

That takes me back. It's depressing to think of the hours upon hours wasted doing absolutely nothing because I always finished my reading assignments ahead of time and wasn't allowed to do anything else-and what we read in school was usually a dumbed-down version of something I had already learned from all books my grandfather had given me. I was lucky: my grandfather gave me dozens of history and science books, so I maintained a positive attitude towards learning despite my hatred of school. But it makes me wonder how many kids are soured on it forever.

At conferences, the teachers would tell my parents, “John’s such a bright boy; we don’t understand why he always seems so unhappy in school.” Well, the constant bullying (y’know, the valuable “socialization” public school advocates are always talking about) I faced because I was the class nerd/weirdo and the teachers didn’t really give a damn didn’t help, but above all there was the fact that I was bored out of my mind. Luckily, I was pretty good at escaping into my imagination, otherwise I would have snapped.

In a sense, I was lucky: my grandfather gave me dozens of history and science books, so I maintained a positive attitude towards reading and education despite my hatred of school. But it makes me wonder how many kids are soured on learning forever because of the way the educational system works.

In my more cynical moments, it also makes me wonder whether the architects of our educational system would consider that result a good thing, or a bad thing.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

And Pat Buchanan is a liberal, too!

One of the principal reasons I lost respect for the Right and ceased to consider myself a rightist was the realization that so much of what I hated about leftists was reproduced on the Right. It irritated the hell out of me that liberals would invariably accuse me of being a Republican because 1) I had the temerity to disagree with them about something, and 2) they couldn't comprehend the difference between Pat Robertson and Murray Rothbard. The realization that most conservatives aren't any brighter (or more honest) was a bit of an eye-opener.

This comment thread at Unqualified Offerings, (and now this one as well) was a valuable refresher course. (Background: Jim Henley misattributed a quote to Mark Steyn in the course of calling Steyn a racist, National Review linked to the post pointing out the error, and a battalion of NR readers came swarming like a plague of locusts.) I spend so much time bashing the tyranny of leftists, I sometimes forget how goddamned stupid the average warmongering conservative is. I know it's hard for some people to understand that people who dislike George W. Bush are not all part of some monolithic bloc called "liberals" that agrees on every issue, since that requires the ability to mentally divide the world into more categories than "us" and "not us," but at least make an effort. It's not terribly hard.

Previous comments on this issue here.

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