Sunday, May 29, 2005

Equality in sports...

As someone who lives in NASCAR country, I've never been a big fan of Robbie Gordon. My children know this enough to be able to repeat my complaint. My 4 year old will, during a race, announce the following to whomever listens: "Robbie Gordon is a hothead". That being said, most of NASCAR is full of hotheads. I guess in a system where your own winning matters more than anything, you're not likely to see a lot of empathy or understanding for someone else's point of view. Too much empathy can have a negative impact on your ability to force someone else to lose.

But still, Robbie Gordon strikes me as even more hotheaded than average. And his latest complaint about today's Indianapolis 500 just seems really dumb to me. Basically, he's saying that Danica Patrick, a 100 lb woman, has an unfair advantage over the men in that sport who average 200 lbs. Doesn't an unempathetic hothead have an advantage over an empathetic competitor in NASCAR? Why is one advantage fair and the other not?

Personally, at 5'8" it doesn't matter how smooth my jump shot is, nor how well I can handle the ball. In a basketball game, I have a huge disadvantage against a 6'4" person with the same level of skills. Basketball is a tall person's game. Racing is to the swiftest. And that puts a premium on weight. Robbie Gordon should just get over it. And so should anyone else who happens to think that their particular advantages are fair, but someone else's advantage is not.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

3 Little Words

It is impressive to me the difference that only 3 words can make on an entire essay. I read this article and was entirely on board for the entire thing up until the last 3 words.

I think that Adam Smith was onto something, but he miscalculated the origins of our deference.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Highest Cost Producer

Starting with an article at Marginal Revolution, I read the earlier referenced article, and ended up reading this guy's article, which contained this comment:
Now what needs to be brought into the picture here is that the federal government is not like a big corporation. Governments don't go out of business. Governments don't experience unexpected new competition for their customers. Corporations can't just generate new revenues by taking a vote. And of course corporate managers are supposed to have a different attitude vis-à-vis their employees than elected representatives have vis-à-vis their constituents.
I'm struck by how the author of the comment thinks that all of these things actually support leaving social security as it is. Meanwhile, I see them as an argument for changing social security. Of course, I start from a basic distrust of any government program, mainly because they usually result in the highest costs of production.

Governments not going out of business and not experiencing new competition means that there's no incentive for a government to improve. Corporations not being able to generate new revenues by taking a vote means that they have to come by their revenues by efficiently making things that people actually want. And corporate managers view of their employees is generally better than the governments view of its constituents. Employees are the engine that makes production and profit possible. Citizens are the suckers from whom taxes are forcibly extracted. In other words there is more stability in entrusting investments to a diversity of corporations than entrusting it to a governments guaranteed inefficiency.

How are this guy's points at all useful to support the Social Security status quo?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Yuk-Factor

This is an interesting quiz (thanks to MarginalRevolution for the pointer). I took it and got the following scores:

Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.40.
Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
Your Universalising Factor is: 1.00.

Take it yourself and then come back here.

Ok. So you're back. Here's the thing that I wanted to comment on. After the quiz, they gave you some of what they're trying to get to and their rationale for the quiz. This I found interesting:
Nevertheless, it is probably right that we are suspicious of moral judgements which are rooted in the "yuk-factor". Steve Pinker, in The Blank Slate, puts it like this: "The difference between a defensible moral position and an atavistic gut feeling is that with the former we can give reasons why our conviction is valid. We can explain why torture and murder and rape are wrong, or why we should oppose discrimination and injustice. On the other hand, no good reasons can be produced to show why homosexuality should be suppressed or why the races should be segregated. And the good reasons for a moral position are not pulled out of thin air: they always have to do with what makes people better off or worse off, and are grounded in the logic that we have to treat other people in the way that we demand they treat us."
I find it interesting, because I think you could put forth the argument that says that everything, including those things listed, all fall back on some feeling of "Yuk, that's bad." CS Lewis made this argument in "Mere Christianity" when he tried to define the "Law of Human Nature". Even if we say that "harm is caused", on what basis of reason do we say that harm is inherently wrong? Don't we just feel that it's wrong? Perhaps it leads to uncomfortable consequences if pursued, but what makes uncomfortable any more inherently wrong than comfortable? They rely on the golden rule; what makes it any more inherently right than it's opposite?

Ultimately, I fall on the side of "there is unverisal right and wrong", which is demonstrated in my score. Our "feeling" of something being wrong, is part of our innate ability to sense those universal truths. That feeling is no less of a sense (IMHO) than the sense of touch or smell. And as such, I have little doubt that we can be confused by what we're sensing, and that we can perceive things individually that others cannot. That means that responding to that sense is no more or less rational than responding to something smelling bad or responding to being poked by someone else. It doesn't matter that no one else smelled that thing or felt the poke; responding to it is rational. In the same way, responding to the sense of "yuk, that's wrong" can be seen as equally rational.

In fact, it *should* be seen as rational. One of the lessons of Christianity is that much of the evil in the world is a result of our sense of wrong being dulled by sin. In other words, its the fact that we have irrationally ignored that sense that has lead to more wrong and more evil.

Count me on the side of the "Yuk-Factor".

Monday, May 09, 2005

When I'm wrong...

...I'm way wrong. Yet another blogger with substantially the same comment that I had.

Totally Free Market Employment?

Is it possible to be employed in a market that is completely free? I wonder about this because I read that Duke Energy (a local company) is merging with Cinergy. Initially I wondered, "Would I want to work for Duke? They're clearly a growing concern." And then I thought that I wouldn't because they are in a far too regulated market. I'd like to be focused on doing a job so good that customer satisfaction is what drives my profits. Of course, I'm after the profits, but I want to get there by being really good at what customers want. And in the energy market, where there are locally granted monopolies, the thing that motivates the organization isn't customer focus. I thought to myself, "Man am I glad I work for a company more governed by the free market. At least we're more responsive to our customers."

Except, I work for a bank. We're super regulated, too. And I witness this stuff every day when we've got internal auditors and corporate information security running around telling us to stop doing something that's beneficial to the customer and instead focus on something that makes our services more expensive for the customer. And they're doing it because they've got pressure from the above referenced regulators.

So it got me wondering. Is there any job I could take that's in a totally free market? Probably not, because no matter what job you do, you're regulated in how much you must pay people even if they're willing to work for less (minimum wage). What would a job in a completely free market look like? I don't even know what that job would look like, how do I know I'd want it?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Not alone...

In previous post, I lamented the feeling that I was alone in the beliefs that I espoused. Well I've since been proven wrong many times over. But here's a wonderful entry by the coyote blogger. Have I mentioned that I'm really starting to like this guy's stuff?