It annoys me when I tell someone I’m doing computer graphics research and they reply “Oh, like Photoshop?” It also annoys me that I’ve spent more of today in Inkscape building diagrams than I have in vim writing code. These two annoyances feed on each other.
Another annoyance: comfortable well-educated middle-class white adults generalizing their experiences to damn near everyone. This usually comes up because I’m a comfortable well-educated middle-class white adult, and so are a good two-thirds of the people I talk politics with. (Complaining about the TSA to a Persian guy with scars from his stint in the Iranian Army is a good way to feel like an asshole.) Most of these people are some variety of moderate left-progressive paternalists; most of the rest are some variety of moderate traditionalist-conservative paternalists; and they tend to react to criticism of, say, airport pornoscanners or ever-stricter drunk-driving laws with irritated apathy. “Well, if some security guy at the airport wants to see me naked, he’s not going to get much of a show! Har, har.” (See also Kevin Drum and Michael Kinsley.)
Of course, the overwhelming problem with most of the things I complain about isn’t that they’re going to inconvenience folks like me (although they often do). The problem is that they’re prone to abusive exploitation against people who aren’t comfortable well-educated middle-class white adults. The TSA, for example, has been picking on people with disabilities for far longer than they have libertarian-ish people with cell phones. But ask paternalists to put themselves in the mindset of a rape survivor, say, or a three-year-old kid, or a Muslim woman whose headscarf gets her “randomly” selected for extra screening every time she flies, and you run smack into a wall of cognitive dissonance and they call you a terr’ist.
More concretely, E. D. Kain has written on the subject over at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen:
Having discussed some epic fail in a few public-school systems and repeated the dismal story of no-knock drug raids based on dubious paid-informant warrants, Kain notes that this isn’t exactly a universal problem:
For the most part white, middle-class Americans can choose to some degree where their children go to school. For the most part white middle-class Americans do not need to worry that the police will come knocking in the middle of the night.
Read the whole thing.
We also have Les Jones, who made a point I’ve been waiting to blog about for over a year now:
Politicians and food nannyists will tax candy bars, but not creme brulee. They’ll tax the Mello Yello at McDonald’s, but not the Espresso Macchiato at Starbucks. The distinction isn’t the nutritional content of the food – it’s who’s eating it. Poor people’s cheap food will be taxed. Expensive foods won’t. Nanny foodism isn’t about health. It’s about social class, political power, attacking corporations, and demonstrating who gets to tell whom how to live.
As ever, paternalism is about authority.
Another thing that annoys me is the constant background assumption that of course Keynes was right about aggregate demand. Russ Roberts gives forth an epic rant on the subject:
- What’s wrong with Keynes (Cafe Hayek)
Go thou forth and read.
Finally, and speaking of consumer spending… fuckin’ Christmas, man. Back when I held the real job that drove me to grad school, I tried to work through the Christmas week and bank some vacation time for later occasions — mostly because the vast majority of my cow-orkers would be on vacation somewhere warm and hepatitis-y and I’d be able to get some fuckin’ work done. Alas, my manager had other ideas, and I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s playing video games. (It was a simpler time in many respects.)