27
Oct
10

All linky, no thinky: special issue on anti-authoritarianism

Okay, I guess it’s not so special, but have some links anyway:

——

First we hop up a meta-level and present a Matt Ridley link post:

Ridley first finds an article by Brendan O’Neill that savages the psych experts brought in to keep the miners sane:

The way the men were treated was like a microcosm of today’s therapy industry. The censoring of letters spoke to the idea that people are psychologically fragile and easily harmed by other people’s words. The deprivation of certain ‘prizes’ if they didn’t speak to the mental-health team revealed the authoritarian dynamic behind today’s therapeutic interventions. The notion that they wouldn’t survive without external expertise highlighted the general view of all of us as needing guidance from the new gods of emotional correctness.

Next, he links to Daniel Henniger, who points out that the tool used to get the miners out — and the company that developed it — has earned rather more credit than it’s thus far received:

This is the miracle bit that drilled down to the trapped miners. Center Rock Inc. is a private company in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill’s rig came from Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center Rock’s president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive.

[…]

The Center Rock drill, heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo, is in fact a piece of tough technology developed by a small company in it for the money, for profit. That’s why they innovated down-the-hole hammer drilling. If they make money, they can do more innovation.

——

Joe Biden might disagree with that last paragraph.  See, good ol’ Uncle Joe* sees the hand of government in all good things, even — we presume — cute little puppies that scramble into your lap and lick your face with pink tongues and deep brown eyes.

Here’s Joe:

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”

Funny how rail infrastructure gets so much gushing praise, both here and abroad, when the vast majority of it was intended to make 19th Century armies far more efficient at killing people — hence the “in the middle of the Civil War” there.  (Makes me wonder to what use we’ll put aircraft carriers when wars are being fought in space.)  But back to the story — Ken elaborates:

I actually think Joe Biden is partially correct. Certainly in the 21st century, and for most of the 20th, every single great idea has required government involvement, as a result of government’s steadily increasing ubiquity.

Where you stand on the role of government depends on this: do you think those great ideas were imagined and implemented because of government — that they required government involvement? Or do you think that great thinkers were able to bring their dreams to fruition despite government involvement?

Uncle Joe’s self-satisfied gloating is rather like the Mafia taking credit for the success of every business from which they extort protection money.  I have no doubt that Center Rock Inc. pays taxes, submits to OHSA regulation, and otherwise gives up its requisite pound of flesh to federal, state, county, and municipal governments.  Taking credit for their success on the basis of that interaction rather adds insult to injury.

——

This is of course not a novel observation on my part, and by and large progressives are clever enough to address it.  They will claim that while specific government impetus — like Lincoln’s $16,000-for-40-miles-of-track — may not be present in this case, Center Rock Inc. was only able to innovate as they did because of the support they received from society at large.  They’ll point, not unconvincingly, to the state-funded colleges where CRI’s engineers earned their degrees; to the courts and patent offices that define, uphold, and enforce CRI’s intellectual and physical property rights; and in general to the social gestalt that allows innovative (and, grudgingly, profitable) companies to emerge in Pennsylvania as opposed to, say, Somalia.  Governments, they will claim, direct and oversee the operation of all of these essential features; thus, governments deserve a full measure of credit for the developments that take place thereby.

Of course, not all that directing and overseeing enables innovation, which might make some people skeptical.  Radley Balko links to this video:

D’oh!

——

Now, no properly sophisticated progressive will be put off by a simple cartoon, or even by real stories like that of Clearwater, FL’s “Complete Angler” bait shop and its non-permitted mural.  “Anecdote!”, they will cry.  “Granted, the system isn’t perfect, but in general the system functions due to the presence of well-respected institutions.”  Point to the internet as a counterexample, and they’ll rebut: sure, any random glib-dilettante dickhead can write a blog about current events, but those blog posts inevitably trace their content back to sober and authoritative reporting by real journalists at well-respected institutions like the New York Times.

By way of a counterexample, I present these articles from Techdirt:

The latter gives us this graph, presumably of the sales of a particular graphic novel:

BngBng is commonly held to be a well-respected institution of “what’s cool on the internet” by the sort of people who think they know what’s cool on the internet.  4chan is, of course, a pit of anarchic depravity.  What does that graph tell you about well-respected institutions?

(“But that’s just anecdote!”)

——

* By analogy with Uncle Sam, of course.  Why, who did you think I meant?

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