No Country for Old Men

Nobody asked but …

I’m reading The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness by John Prados.  The narrative references a CIA operative who admired Tommy Lee Jones, particularly his character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, in the movie, No Country for Old Men.  She (the spy) builds her motto on something the Sheriff said, I paraphrase: You can’t stop what’s coming, but you’ve got to try.  I would recast that to say, one has to deal with all of the consequences for all choices one has made.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Sundowner

Nobody asked but …

When I was below the age of five, I was not expected to do physically demanding things, such as hod carrying or bicycle riding.  I was not required to do things that required experience or problem solving skills.  I was not held responsible for things that were assigned competence levels.  Some of these institutional hold harmless agreements stayed in place until my voice changed, or I reached 16 years of age, then 18, then 21.  I had to reach 35 to be held out of selective service eligibility, or to serve as POTUS.  Lastly, I ran into a smattering of bedraggled annualizations which marked my being eligible for lifelong learning, senior discounts, early retirement, regular retirement, extended retirement, and various age-related, statist benefit programs.

Maybe when we become superannuated, we should have reversed our trajectory a la Benjamin Button.  Our competencies are not so easily misperceived when we are wet behind the ears.  Although the spirit is still willing, the body becomes weaker everyday … and the spirit begins to follow.  I am getting smaller.  I am getting weaker.  I am more susceptible to adversity.  I am more weary of the constraints that other generations impose — see TSA, the cartelization of education, and air travel in general.

Why is there not a lessening of responsibility as we re-approach infantility?  Why?  The arrow of time has not been reversed.  Consequences at time B must be arising from human action at time A.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Trial and Error

Nobody asked but …

Almost two months ago, I wrote a blog article in which I felt gratified that my teen granddaughters were experimenting with civil disobedience.  They participated in the worldwide climate strike.  It is OK if they took the wrong side, because they were right to speak out.  Experimenting is good.  The worst thing that can happen is that they might favor a wrong philosophy, but never re-examine that decision.  People who never re-examine their positions are candidates for the Darwin Awards.

In a more recent blog, I admitted to some egregious naivete, in the past, and I promised to address it directly in a future post.  In retrospect, I have always been an individually conscious voluntaryist, but I admit to the following mistakes along the way:

  • I liked Ike, but was too young to vote,
  • I would have gone all the way with JFK, but was still too young to vote,
  • I was atracted to the non-authoritarian hippy lifestyle, but I was anti-war (for the wrong reasons),
  • I was pro LBJ, before the Gulf of Tonkin incident,
  • I voted for Nixon, in the mistaken hopes that he would quickly end the Vietnam War,
  • I voted for Carter, in hopes of ending White House corruption,
  • Until 2008, I voted, believing in the system, and that the right POTUS would not be incentivized toward war, irrationality, and corruption,
  • Until 2000, I believed that history could show us examples of successful POTUS’es.
  • Now I know, beyond believing, that no human can be a successful master of other human beings.

Each of these mistakes taught me a lesson.  I will continue to try, and err, but I will not forsake my hard-won principles of anarchism.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Underwear in a Wad

Nobody asked but …

I don’t even want to hear my opinion on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby, but here it is anyway.  There are rules for voluntary participation.  And sometimes the rules may be misapplied.  But the basic rules of voluntary behavior are 1) end it, and 2) move on.  Nobody wants to recontend the Derby, except those who have direct skin in the game.

There was a bump, apparently, and the lead horse was involved.  Why have a voluntary rule prohibiting bumps, but then disregard it based on the feelings of the majority?  Why have replay, if you can’t review it, and rely on the officials to interpret the rules to make the call in a reasonable time (it might be noted that the time involved may have been unreasonably stretched)?

We are in a newer world where detailed, multiple angled replays are available, in most sports.  Some people think this means that the findings are open to debate and determination by clamorous democracy.  What is it that they don’t understand about their explicit and implicit risk of not liking the outcome?

— Kilgore Forelle

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Electrocuting Dogs

Nobody asked but …

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell,” wrote Carl Sandburg.  Although this is specific advice for lawyers, it can be general advice for us all.  Unfortunately, the less beneficial aspects of this advice are often explored.

I am in the middle of a good book right now.  The novel is The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.  It is about the competition between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison, with the involvement of Nicola Tesla, for the electrification of America.  I am fascinated by this kind of stuff, as I come from a line of engineers, started college as an electrical engineering student, and have stayed in college, learning and teaching, as a software engineer for the rest of my life, so far.  As a voluntaryist, I am even more fascinated by the human dynamic of the open market which resulted in the current (no pun intended) worldwide dependence on the infrastructure of electricity.

The time period in question, the mid-19th century, was an early beneficiary of the scientific method, propounded by giants like Newton and DesCartes.  But many of the people involved were not Newton or DesCartes.  Like the first attempts at illumination, the era often generated more heat than light.  Charlatanism had also been handed down by phrenologists and alchemists.  Getting something for nothing proved to be the same siren song for humans as it always had.  Wishful thinking, magical thinking, and confirmation bias abounded.

Insincere spokespersons advocated making the architectural choice between AC or DC by making theatrical presentations involving first shocking then electrocuting dogs and horses.  Eventually the stakes were raised to Edison’s film about the electrocution of an elephant, and further a doctored film of human electrocution (where the state intervened in the argument).  None of these shows were dispositive of careful scientific principle, but the presenters made sure that lots of reporters were there.

How many humans and other animals have died since, based on the choice?  One would hope, when decisions with such a long tail are made, it is done with less show biz but more careful consideration of principle.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Obsolescence

Nobody asked but …

One of the frictions that promotes change is obsolescence.  I have looked, this morning, at a drone photo of Hong Kong.  As a species blessed (cursed?) with rational problem solving skills, we seem at the same time to lack problem avoidance skills.  In Hong Kong the traditional problem solving algorithm will eventually kill Hong Kong.  There are too many people.  The solution that becomes a new problem is effected by people doing what Ludwig von Mises says they will do — seek to avoid unease.  Too many people in Hong Kong have an irrational need to remain in Hong Kong.  The unease they seek to avoid is the fear of living apart from Hong Kong.  The natural response, in any urbanization movement, is to act together in ways that will increase density.  Taller buildings increase the density of people who can live in them, while smaller compartments on each level increase the density of people who can live on each level.  Since the invention of multistory buildings, the answer to the problem of population has been to go up and to squeeze in.

Looking at Hong Kong, more than anyplace else, we can see a logical conclusion to the obsolecence algorithm.  Every available segment of verticality will be absorbed.  Horizontal shortcuts will enweb the complex, making it a hive.  Skyscrapers will approach the limits of structural capacity.  People will approach survival occupying only personal space-time.  But that’s enough speculation — we don’t want to gaze upon the Medusa.  The good news is as follows:

  • Misean behavior takes on infinite forms, paths, and interlocking consequences.
  • There are infinite mixtures of events and trends.
  • The requirement that human action arises from unease is not a stricture but an enabling prerequisite.  Anything, real or imaginary, that generates in any experience a feeling of unease will generate behavior hoped to reduce the unease.

Make no mistake.  This is not a description of a Leibnizian best-of-all-possible-worlds.  Hong Kong is a demonstration of the absurdity that will arise from a set of variables — the humanity in Hong Kong keeps fighting the battle of urbanization without asking do we need to change the pattern.  The pattern is obsolete.  A larger pattern applies — that which will end, will end.

— Kilgore Forelle

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