Flying By: My Experience of 2018

It’s that time of year again! The time when the planet Earth is at that one particular spot in its orbit around the sun where a lot of us like to pause, reflect on our lives and the world we live in, and get wasted. So here are my own reflections on the year-that-was, 2018, and my experience of it.

In a number of regards my experience of this year was a boring repetition of the same-old same-old. I lived in the same apartment, worked the same job at the same location, drove the same car, and had the same friends, the same family situation and the same coworkers as the year prior. I don’t view that as being a necessarily “bad” or “good” thing, it just is. It is/was the bedrock of stability from which I can look at everything else.

Traveling-wise, this year I traveled out to Las Vegas, New York City, West Virginia, Michigan, South Dakota and Chicago. So I was able to get some traveling in this year, albeit each one of these trips was a little short trip. I had the most fun in Las Vegas, which is kind of what the city is designed for. But going to New York City was my favorite of them all, simply because: I ❤ NYC.

My time in NYC this year was also probably the most eventful time for me, as far as different big events crammed into a small period of time goes. During my time there I saw a few long-time friends of mine, I ended the friendship with one of those friends, I narrowly missed meeting up with some new friends of mine, I met up with someone who was once a member of a cult that I was once tangentially involved with that nevertheless had a huge impact on my life, I became disillusioned with NVC (which some people also call a cult), and I realized there that going to public anarchist events is a waste of my time. Oh, and I also saw the remains of real-life dinosaurs!

This year I got involved with a bunch of different things/groups that go by Three Letter Acronyms: PCT, NVC, NFP, DSA, LSC. With each of these I went through cycles of thinking that they were quite interesting and that I had a bright future with them, to eventually thinking that they were quite boring and overblown. My thoughts on all of these things now is that they each have their place in life and the world at large, but also that putting too much faith or importance in them is best described with a Two Letter Acronym: BS.

Belief-system-wise, my heart is still with The Beautiful Idea of anarchy/anarchism. There is no particular hyphenated ideology of anarchism that I am tied to, I am more interested in the whole thing in general. Yes, the whole social scene/subculture that surrounds anarchism is total shit, but I am lucky to have some friends who are anarchists as well as a body of thought that speaks to how I see life and the world at large.

Speaking of the world at large, 2018 has been a big year for Politics! I spent a lot of time paying attention to mainstream politics this year, mainly in the U.S., but also in some other countries as well. I view mainstream politics, particularly in the U.S., as being a kind of team sport, and this year I treated it as such. My team that I root for is the Democrats, and so as the scandals, investigations, testimonies and elections wore on, I cheered as my team scored points, booed when the opposing team scored points, and strategized as to how the next few moves can and should play out. I have no illusions that the Democrats, nor any other political party or politician, will ever bring us freedom, meaning, a brave new future, or anything else worthwhile. The whole system is based on deception, death, destruction and despair, it is all propped up with outright violence and the threat thereof, and while it all plays out the Sixth Mass Extinction Event for this planet is continuing on unabated. But team sports, be it political or otherwise, can be a fun way to pass the time, and so that was a game that I partook in this year as well.

Speaking of entertainment, in the world of science fiction Star Trek and Star Wars surprisingly were not that big on my mind this year. 2017 was a big year for me for both of those franchises, but not 2018. This year I would say that my favorite sci-fi TV show was The Expanse, my favorite new sci- movie was Prospect and my favorite new publishing sci-fi author was the wonderful Kim Stanley Robinson. Yes, I acknowledge that there are other genres out there besides science fiction, I just don’t see them as being interesting enough for me to write about here. 😉

Real-life science had an interesting year this year as well, what with SpaceX doing some cool things, a robotic lander successfully touching down on the surface of Mars, the first genetically engineered humans being born, and the details of our impending doom being laid out for all to see and ignore.

Speaking personally, one notable thing for me this year was that 2018 was the year that I turned 40. 40! There is no more pretending that I am a youngling anymore! Ten years ago, when I turned 30, I went through a huge existential moment of trying to figure out who I am and what I am doing in the world. Turning 40 was far less dramatic, more subdued, more accepting of my place in life. I wonder if turning 50 will be similar?

Happy New Year to all! And good luck to New Horizons as it flies by Ultima Thule!

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On Social Justice Warriors

Can you spot the similarity in these two groups? 1) conservative parents who wail against swearing and sexuality in public broadcasting, and 2) social justice warriors (and their liberal feminist compatriots) who wail against conservative speakers on college campuses. If you spotted both groups’ infantilization of others, you are correct! Infantilizing children is, in my opinion, mostly disrespectful, but not too unreasonable considering how impressionable and ignorant they are. I may not agree with the particulars, but a parent’s job is to protect their child, after all. Is it the job of self-appointed social justice warriors to protect their supposedly more impressionable and ignorant peers from “obviously” racist and sexist ideology? They sure seem to think so, which tells us quite a bit about what these social justice warriors think about the intelligence of their fellow students. And that’s today’s two cents.

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Exercising Power Based on a Whim

Life isn’t fair.

That being said … Most of the time I hear someone say the phrase “life isn’t fair” it is merely used to justify assholery.

Teachers, parents and other central planners decide certain aspects of how people, usually children, are treated. People like to think these people are objective, considerate, and have a sense of justice in how they treat people. When a person believes that this person of authority violated their implied objectivity, consideration, or sense of justice … it will often come in the form of telling them that they aren’t being fair.

In response the “authority” tells them, “Life isn’t fair”. This is akin to admitting that you have no sense of objectivity, consideration and sense of justice. In this moment, the child feels like he has to heed what you say, not out of a sense of principle, or ideology … But rather just due to the fact that you have power and you really just told him that you exercise that power arbitrarily based off of your whim.

Sure, people can say something isn’t fair when it actually is fine given the circumstances. This makes for a great opportunity to learn, grow and communicate with people and to show them the boundaries of your beliefs and power. Saying “life isn’t fair” in this circumstance is just being an asshole and you will lose the respect of the people you are leading.

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Nationalism Is a Weird Ideology

Nationalism is a weird ideology. It would be easy to imagine that it was cooked up by rulers looking for a means of keeping their victims submissive and cooperative.

A nationalist gives moral priority to others within the boundaries of his nation-state, or at least to his fellow citizens there, and he acts accordingly in political affairs. Yet even in a small nation-state, practically all these people are complete strangers. One has never met them, never will meet them, has only the foggiest idea of the sort of people they are. Maybe they speak his language, but many do not. Maybe they are of the same race, but many are not; and even if they are, so what? Maybe they share his cultural affinities, but maybe they don’t. Maybe they are not even decent people; in fact, many are complete creeps or criminals. Why should anyone give any kind of priority to them merely because they happen to be located within the boundaries of the same tax farm?

Nationalism is, among other things, a gigantic aggregation error. It takes a huge, enormously diverse collection of people and imagines that each and every individual in the collection is somehow better than each and every individual in other nation-states. The more you think about it, the more idiotic it becomes.

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On Sandboxes

Do you find it as difficult as I do to put your voluntaryist principles aside in order to engage with other people on questions of public policy? Here’s a metaphorical trick to make it easier: view every ideology as a sandbox. Some sandboxes, like voluntaryism and stoicism, or filled with pure, clean sand. Others are more or less filled with nasty things, like dog shit and blood. Although you may have to take a shower after, it’s alright to leave your sandbox to go play with others in theirs. You don’t have to make their sandbox your sandbox, and your sandboxes will be there waiting for you when you’re ready to return. And who knows, maybe by generously playing with others in their sandboxes you’ll attract them to come play with you in yours. You might even discover new sandboxes that are just as fascinating as your favorites.Yay! Sandboxes can be fun! And that’s today’s two cents.

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The Siren of Democratic Fundamentalism

In an otherwise outstanding primer on Scandinavian economic policy, Timothy Taylor remarks:

I won’t try to make the case here either for or against the Scandinavian model of capitalism. Strong majorities of people living in those countries seem to like the tradeoffs, which is all the justification that is needed.

“All the justification that is needed”?!  Frankly, this is a textbook case of what I call “democratic fundamentalism.”

Almost all economists, regardless of ideology, would scoff at the following argument: “Market decisions are voluntary, so we should respect market outcomes.”  But say, “Political decisions are democratic, so we should respect political outcomes,” and even economists salute.

Every economics textbook explain how market outcomes can go wrong.  Externalities.  Monopoly.  Asymmetric information.  Irrationality.  Democratic outcomes can easily go wrong for all the same reasons.  Is it possible that Scandinavians simply underestimate the severity of the disincentives their policies generate?  Is it possible that they ignore the externalities their welfare state imposes on others – most obviously, by providing a rationale for immigration restrictions?  Is it possible that Scandinavians vote for what sounds good, even if the actual effects of their preferred policies are bad?

Sure, you could object, “Couldn’t Americans be making analogous mistakes?”  The answer, of course, is: “Of course.”  My point is simply that political popularity proves next to nothing.  Scandinavians could be wrong.  Americans could be wrong.  Both could be wrong.  And if they are, bad policies will normally win by popular demand.

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