Sunday, May 13, 2018

Scott Sumner VS Utopia

We also need to understand the different roles played by different people in society. The democratic system helps to prevent policy from getting too far out ahead of the public. The immediate implementation of Bryan's open borders proposal might lead to a backlash against immigration, whereas this sort of backlash is less likely from a more cautious proposal that advances through both houses and is signed by the President. The role of intellectuals is (and should be) very different from the role of policymakers. Broad policy goals (not details) should reflect the wisdom of voters, even if the average voter is not very smart. Intellectuals should try to shape public opinion (although they will always be less influential than filmmakers.) - Scott Sumner, How much idealism is ideal? 

The wisdom of voters?  Is there such a thing?  Here's a list of books...

The Origin Of Species
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Handmaid’s Tale
A Tale of Two Cities
50 Shades of Grey
The Bible
War and Peace
A Theory of Justice
The Cat in the Hat
The Wealth of Nations
The Hunger Games

Imagine if this list was sorted by a bunch of college students. One group of students would use voting to rank the books while another group would use spending.  To be clear, the spenders wouldn’t be buying the books, they would simply be using their money to express and quantify their love for each book. All the money they spent would be used to crowdfund this experiment.

How differently would the voters and the spenders sort the books?  In theory, the voters would elevate the trash while the spenders would elevate the treasure. This would perfectly explain the exact problem with Google, Youtube, Netflix, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Medium and all the other sites where content is ranked by voting. Democracy is a major obstacle to the maximally beneficial evolution of society and its creations. Of course I might be wrong.

Am I wrong?

The role of intellectuals is, or should be, to have an insatiable desire for the truth.  They should voraciously devour all sacred cows.  Democracy is a sacred cow.  Is Sumner hungry enough to eat the entire sacred cow?  Is he attacking it with a big fork?  No, he's not.  He's petting it... caressing it... nuzzling it.  Now he's taking a selfie with it.  Now he's taking another selfie with it from a different angle.  I'm pretty sure they are planning to get matching tattoos.  No intellectual should have this kind of relationship with a sacred cow.  It's very inappropriate.

Sumner really doesn't have the heart to slaughter and consume the sacred cow of democracy.  That's sad.

Seriously though, evidence is something that all reasonable people expect.  Reasonable people expect medicine to be supported by enough evidence.  Reasonable people expect executions to be supported by enough evidence.  Reasonable people expect evolution to be supported by enough evidence.  Reasonable people expect love to be supported by enough evidence.   Reasonable people expect important things to be supported by enough evidence.  So when it comes to democracy... where are all the reasonable people?   Where's the expectation for enough evidence that voting is more effective than spending?

It would help to have a filmmaker coax the reasonable people out of hiding.  What we need is a filmmaker to show people that democracy is standing between them and utopia.

A few weeks back I e-mailed Richard Schenkman, the director of The Man From Earth, but I haven't heard back from him.  More recently I e-mailed, indirectly, Andrew Niccol.  He's responsible for Gattaca and Anon.  No response yet.  Who is next?  Right now I'm loving the show Legion, so perhaps I should e-mail Noah Hawley and try to persuade him that democracy is worth creatively destroying.

I noticed that somebody recently added an interesting puzzle piece to the Wikipedia entry on creative destruction...

In the Origin of Species, which was published in 1859, Charles Darwin wrote that the "extinction of old forms is the almost inevitable consequence of the production of new forms." One notable exception to this rule is how the extinction of the dinosaurs facilitated the adaptive radiation of mammals. In this case creation was the consequence, rather than the cause, of destruction.

It's funny that when we think about Murray Rothbard and his strong desire to vigorously and repeatedly push a button that would instantly annihilate the government, we really don't have much confidence that the new form of government, which would probably quickly fill the void, would be any better than the current form.  To be clear, I really don't advocate random, or any, destruction for creation's sake.  But I do recognize that this is why we are here.

Eventually the creation of markets will destroy democracy.  I just want it to happen sooner rather than later. 

Bueller's Basement

So about Legion... *spoiler alert*...

Here's what happened.  Noah Hawley magically pulled three of my favorite shows from my mind...

1. Flight of the Conchords
2. Parks and Recreation
3. The League

He took one main character from each show... Jemaine Clement, April Ludgate and Jenny MacArthur... and put them into the strangest scene he could think of.  Well, the strangest scene he could think of... that the network would allow.  Now I'm wondering what would be the strangest scene that he could think of.  I wouldn't be surprised if it involved my favorite fruit... watermelon. 

As I'm watching the scene, naturally I'm unable to set aside my substantial connections to the characters in my favorite shows.  I'm perceiving that it's Jemaine, Jenny and April but intermixed to some extent with their characters in Legion.  The scene is complicated but basically Jemaine transforms Jenny into April, who had been a ghost, kinda.  What?!  This is especially weird for me because I love all three characters... so I'm sad to lose Jenny but happy to regain April.  It would be much better if Jenny could simply park her body inside April and come and go as she pleases.  This is how it works, more or less, with two other characters in Legion.  It seems like April does retain some of Jenny's memories... so there is that.

Honestly, if I could have a threesome either with Jenny and her real life husband Mark Duplass or April and her Parks and Rec boyfriend Chris Pratt... it would be a pretty tough choice.  Just throwing that out there.

While I'm at it I should say at least something about the previous episode in Legion.  If I was going to make a list of the most exceptional episodes from any shows, then this episode would be pretty high up there.

Most of episode 4 in season 2, like many of the others, does not take place in the real world.  The main character David is with his girlfriend Sydney in her head.  She makes him watch selected memories of her life sequentially starting with her birth.  The mission she gives him is to figure out something really important that she wants him to understand, but he fails and has to do it all over again.  In one scene her mother is reading an essay and she mentions Sisyphus, the King who was doomed with the task of rolling a bolder to the top of a steep hill.  Whenever he got the boulder close to the top it would roll back down and he'd have to start all over.  It's an epic exercise in futility. 

When I was in Afghanistan I took a photo of two iridescent dung beetles that had the same exact fate of Sisyphus...

A little above them was an overhang that kept defeating them, so they kept failing and trying.  It was stupid, but their tenacity was kinda beautiful.  I theoretically could have given them a hand.  Unfortunately for them I work in mysterious ways. 

It takes a lot of work for people to understand each other.  David was certainly struggling to try and understand what Sydney wanted him to understand.  Her past was an open book that he kept reading over and over in order to try and find the hidden significance.  It was all really beautiful.  I've watched my fair share of romantic movies and they mostly fail at depicting intimacy.  It comes off as shallow.  But it's a different story with this Legion episode.  Naturally my words really don't do it justice. 

Right now, because of Scott Sumner's love for the sacred cow of democracy, I don't have the freedom to earmark my Netflix subscription fees.  But if I did have this freedom, and Legion was on Netflix, then I'd want to allocate a substantial amount of my fees to episode 4 of season 2. 

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