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A Pox On All Their Houses

Friday, February 17, 2006

Disciplined Minds

This is the title of a book written by Jeff Schmidt, who worked for 16 years at Physics Today and was fired for writing it.

The subtitle is "A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System That Shapes Their Lives"

Christopher Bradley wrote a very interesting review of this book over [here]

Let me pull out some choice bits:
Schmidt hits on the head when he talks about "constrained curiosity". They are disciplined to have internalized the system to such an extent that they are free to "do what they want" -- because they have been so rigorously vetted by the system, in the first place, that employeers know that very few professionals are capable of framing a thought that is incompatible with the system they serve. So a journalist working for the New York Times is simply incapable of writing a story that doesn't support the status quo; by the time they are even considered for employment by the NYT their ideological credentials have been demonstrated a thousand times in a thousand ways; any ideologically incorrect thought that such a journalist presents is likely a transient misunderstanding of the desires of the NYT management and swiftly changed (and by that time, likely without even a twinge of remorse). Professionals are workers that the management, the employeers, the people in charge of the system, can trust.
That's a big difference and it explains why the education system is designed the way it is -- to eliminate so many from professional jobs. Most people can't do it. They might be able to turn off their consciousness and just do a job for eight or ten hours a day, just pass the time in thoughtless repetition of the job, but to be at work for eight or ten hours a day and to be thinking would draw their attention time and again to the strangeness of what it is they're doing. Get too many people like that together in an office, thinking but not thinking about the creative task at hand, and you're asking for a revolution. So people in these creative jobs, well, a different sort of compulsion is required. The non-professional worker the employeers can just compel through force (not just the stick to the head, but the slower but equally deadly unemployment); the professional worker has to be tricked into accepting their role in the system because their creativity and energy are needed in specific ways that different qualitatively from non-professional workers. Since most people lack the ideological discipline necessary to be professionals, well, you gotta get rid of them. Efficiently and in a way that doesn't reveal the ideological nature of the selection. Through the use of the "neutral" arbitrarion of education and professional credentials to create the illusion that when a student fails it's "their fault" -- because most people believe education is largely value free.
The book is explicit that most people actually learn the technical skills on the job -- the education and certification process is largely ideological; so, if every physicist on earth vanished today the technicians who set up the experiments, grad students, interested amateurs and the rest could largely pick up where the "professionals" left off with little trouble. For me this was an important piece of information, as well. I have long felt there is an arrogant bias in the professions concerning the depths of their knowledge, but often when talking with professionals I have felt sorta surprised about how little they know. Or, rather, they seem to know a great deal about a very narrow sub-set of a field and often lack what I'd consider to be the basics and often lack an ability to qualitatively describe what they're doing, or have done.

I mean, I've known for a while now that professionals aren't necessary for a field to continue and advance, and often a hinderance to it -- but only historically. The example I use is the massive glut medical knowledge that happened in Revolutionary France when all the learned aristocrats were thrown out of medical practice. The quality of medicine dramatically improved when the doctors were fired . . . or, y'know, executed 'cause it was Revolutionary France. There are other examples as well -- like the reason why 19th century German chemistry and physics was so much better than everyone else's was because Germany opened up their universities to the middle classes, letting a large number of people with different values into the system to its great benefit.

...anyway you should probably go ahead and read the whole thing.


Monday, February 13, 2006

On private defense agencies

What I think is a good basic way of understanding how private defense would play out:

McDonalds makes way more money than Sardis.

I have a feeling that most of the vulgar libertarians are right to be afraid of anarchism, because it's not going to result in a world that they (or their heroes/bosses) will be very comfortable with.

At least in the early stages, when the nature of property rights manifestation is worked out, there will be something akin to the dreaded "class war" going on. However, the hope for the soft landing is that, knowing what we do (and I mean 'we' as 'all of humanity in general'), this will be a cold war.

There may be enclaves of plutocracy that hold out quite a long time, but for most of us, it will be much more of a worker's paradise than that. Not that everyone will be utterly equal, but that someone from our current society wouldn't be able to tell the moderately rich from the moderately poor. They would suspect we keep all the poor people locked up somewhere slaving away in the satanic mills. "Nahh, we've got machines to do that..."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More on Currency, Part II

To pick up from where I left off, I'm not saying that there should be either of these "options" at all.

What I'm saying is that even if the "unthinkable disaster" of deflation actually did what they say it will (which it won't, because money isn't wealth) it would hardly constitute a disaster for most of us.

What the "economists" actually claim, once you get through the bs, is that by shortening people's time horizons, you are compelling them to accellerate production. And this is true, in so far as it goes, but that's not really a good thing. It's a keynesian/bureaucommie way of looking at the economy, like there's some "production machine" that just churns things out willy nilly and you're turning up the accellerator on it.
But the only reason to produce something is because someone wants it. Otherwise you're just wasting capital and land that would otherwise be used to make things people do want.

Sooner or later prices get all distorted because you've got a surplus of all this crap that no one wants and not enough of what people do want, in a nutshell. This is a simplification, but not an erroneous one. It's basically like that.

But even this claim is not the real reason why economists get paid to promote inflation. Yes the accelleration factor means something to the ruling class, but it's who gets that newly printed money that is really important to them.
They want the price structure to be distorted in just the right way. Which is why they hire these "economists" to figure this stuff out.

I mentioned time horizons before, and I'll get more into that in the next post in this series. It's an important, maybe the most important, semi-obscured factor in the Inflation Game.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The subjective value component.

"Each of us, unless we are infants or otherwise incompetent, is the best judge of what we want or need. It is arrogant to suggest that one knows the needs of another better than that person. "

Exactly. The basis of it all. If you read the Allan Thornton piece, you know what I'm talking about.

from this very good post by Vache Folle, on the St. George Blog.