Many Different “Problems,” Identical “Solution” in Every Case

Terrible working conditions
Lots of poor people
Industrial and financial instability
Economic depressions that won’t self-correct
Inadequate supplies of “affordable” housing
Widening economic inequality
Racial and ethnic discrimination
“Market failures” of many kinds
Environmental degradation
Threatened or disappearing species of animals and plants
Global cooling
Global warming
Climate change

These are among the many problems that people have perceived as plaguing economically advanced societies during the past century or so. They differ greatly and involve different causes, mechanisms, and consequences.

Yet in every case the solution has been widely seen as the same: vastly enlarging the power of government. It’s almost enough to make a skeptic wonder whether each perceived or proclaimed problem has been intended from the start to serve as a pretext for a government power grab—especially when one appreciates that somehow the problems that enhanced government power is supposed to solve never get solved to the satisfaction of those who sought the power, but only cry out in their view for even greater augmentation of government power.

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With Wilson in the Wilderness

I’ve mentioned the business “Wilson” had which was shut down by government meddling. Well, due to our similar interests in that area he and I used to hike in the wilderness area outside of town. He wore a camo army jacket with cargo pants and army boots and I wore my buckskin clothes and mocassins– in other words, I didn’t dress any differently than normal for the hike, although I did carry extra gear.

Most people find me a frustrating person to hike with– one former wife said I don’t hike, I wander aimlessly from spot to spot. But Wilson seemed OK with it.

Those hikes gave us chances to hone some of our less-critical survival skills. We had to cross racing, ice-cold rivers on foot going in and coming out– during the spring melt that was pretty exciting. We sometimes encountered serious mud traps. We nibbled on various plants, tracked animals, watched game, and met whatever other necessity cropped up for us to tackle.

Until we’d get a long ways down the trail, when we used the trails, we would also encounter the occasional hiker or two. When I’m out wandering like that, I tend to go a bit psychologically feral. When that happens I usually don’t like encountering other people, so when we’d hear someone crashing noisily down the trail– and that’s what they all did– we would step off the trail, sit and wait for them to pass.

When we did this we were never noticed. Not once. We especially enjoyed seeing the female hikers pass, but we never spoke to them. We didn’t want to get pepper sprayed as a result of trying to be polite.

We were never more than a few feet off the path. Not hidden. Just sitting still and silent. I suspect people don’t like to suddenly notice you under those circumstances.

Once, however, I was in the open, sitting on a boulder in an open area in plain sight, and still just about scared a hiker’s dog to death when I said “Hi” as he came to sniff the rock. That time I was seen, but I wasn’t trying to not be.

Needless to say, Wilson and I were not very impressed with people’s observational skills. Of course, who’s to say we didn’t miss people doing the same as we hiked past. We were a lot quieter than others, though; while most of them never stopped talking, we rarely spoke. And we saw a lot of deer quietly watching us pass. But who knows.

Of all the Wilson stories, these were the times I enjoyed hanging out with him the most. It was always hard for me to turn around and come back to “civilization”. But that’s always been the hardest part for me.

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A History of a Human Being – In Toys

Today I went to a warehouse after work to help sort toys from a charitable toy drive. It was a fun afternoon challenge – I got to help a good cause, spend time with coworkers, and learn a lot about what toys are popular with the kids these days.

The whole experience brought back childhood memories of my own toys (I found a boxed up exact version of a toy I received for Christmas in 2002). And after talking with a coworker, I started to think about how much our toys impact the course our lives.

As I looked at piles of toys sorted for toddlers, for 5-7 year olds, for 8-12 year olds, and so on, I started to realize that I was seeing a timeline of human development. You could tell a history of a human’s formative years in terms of the toys they played with the most.

Put another way, toys determine a child’s destiny (at least a little).
As smarter men and women than me have noted, play itself seems to be behavior evolved to (safely) teach the essential skills of life to young animals. Through the safe mimicry of play, animals and humans learn how to perform the tasks of adults. Just as baby lions might engage in play fighting, so small children in play may already have taken up the tasks of building or fighting or hunting or cooking or making or taking care of babies.
My own history with toys was with a series of construction and farming equipment toys, NASCAR matchbox cars (youngest), Star Wars LEGO, toy swords, and toy warriors of various varieties (G.I. Joe, Playmobil, green plastic army men). While I didn’t turn out to be a farmer, a construction worker, a racecar driver, a starship pilot, or a soldier, all of these toys “trained” me in their own ways. I spent countless hours in imaginary worlds with them, in playtime that shaped my imagination and creativity and instincts as an adult.
How different would I be if I had played more with dinosaurs, or chemistry sets? How different would boys and girls be if people started to “branch out” and give more traditionally masculine gifts to girls? Would our world be more or less violent if soldiery got left out of our toys for kids? These are all fascinating questions. We can be sure those hundreds and thousands of hours of play add up to something in every human, so the core question of “what toys made you who you are?” is all the more interesting.
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“Is It Political?”

When I mention what I’m writing, my dad often suspiciously asks me, “Is it political?”

Here’s how I always want to respond.

If by “political,” you mean “emotional, innumerate, dogmatic, tribal, unfair, and dishonest” then the answer is, “Of course not.”  These negative adjectives are a fair description of virtually all popular media – including popular media that agrees with my conclusions.  But where popular media go low, I go high.  If you want to know what good thinking looks like, start with Superforecasting.

On the other hand, if by “political” you mean “discusses government and society, and evaluates the desirability of government policies and social practices,” then the answer is, “Of course.”  That’s what I do for a living, after all.

In a world where almost all political discourse in the second sense is also political in the first sense, it’s easy to see why people would tend to conflate the two.  Logically, however, they’re two different animals.  And conflating them reinforces this sad intellectual state of affairs.

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Nobody asked but …

On the way to work this morning, I saw a cassowary.  Right or wrong, I saw a cassowary (two of them, in fact).  Let me be quick to point out that casuarius casuarius does not occur by Darwinian nature in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.  But it does occur by the workings of the law of unforeseen consequences, and this too is a part of nature.  To help you crack this mystery, I will add that a very nice family maintains a farm on a ridge out my way, and on that farm they maintain many exotic animals, including the cassowary, along with wallaby, coatimundi, bison, dromedary, llama, alpaca, palomino mules, Texas longhorns, and so forth.  That all of these have arrived here on my drive to work, may be an oddity, but it is by nature.

Other oddities are Brexit, the current POTUS, teenagers, the Canadian government’s alleged policy of sterilizing indigenous women, The Caravan, reality television, bonfires, The Constitution, and further so forth.  These are oddities but also natural occurrences.  None of them arrived by magic.  Unicorns, leprechauns, and Disney princesses are figments of the imagination, but the people who believe in them are both natural and odd.

Look around you.  Anything can happen (including pictures of deities in pizza) and usually does.  Many of the things that happen are recognized to be good.

— Kilgore Forelle


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Moral Philosophy and Deer Hunting

Set aside the ethics of hunting itself, and you find that within the act of hunting, there’s a whole world of right and wrong.

Tonight I sat in a tower stand for hours without seeing any activity from the deer population. Then, right as darkness fell, three deer came out. All of a sudden I had some decisions to make.

Whatever your opinion of the moral agency of animals, you’d probably agree if you were there with me that the decision I had to make was a moral one. I had life and death power (in the form of a rifle) in my hands – and that lends a gravity I don’t normally have in my decisions.

Should I shoot even if I don’t have a clear visual of the target? On one hand, I could see pretty clearly that I was dealing with deer. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell how large or how old they were. This is a question of responsibility and due diligence. Is it appropriate to act before I know the full details?

Should I shoot if it’s a doe? On one hand, does are great for meat provision. On the other, this doe was taking care of two yearlings. My answer was no.

There are more questions that extend beyond a single hunt:

Should you pay your local government for permission to hunt? On one hand, you don’t want to have to lie. On the other, your local bureaucrats don’t own you, your land, or the animals that live on it.

To what extent should you feed and attract animals to your land and to certain spots on it? On one hand, this removes only some of the randomness from hunting and supports local wildlife. On the other hand, this may unfairly reduce the hunter’s workload relative to the animal’s riskload.

It’s interesting that so many non-vegans take such care to these questions. The hunting community operates from a code of honor – which applies very much in how we relate to animals. Many of us feel a certain sense of obligation to the creatures we’re hunting.

How those obligations emerge and where they start and stop is a topic for a much longer post, but it’s interesting to see just how complicated the decision to hunt (and to shoot) can be. And it’s powerful to have the live test of making these life and death decisions of ethics.

Originally published at

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