Thursday, September 15, 2011

Think Tanks and Second-hand Ideas

Think tanks, of which there are hundreds throughout the world, rose to some prominence during and after World War II.

Ostensiby, the purpose of think tanks is to create and promote new ideas on how society may be managed and organized for the greatest good, but do they succeed in this endeavor?  Hardly.

Adam Curtis has written an interesting piece on think tanks and second hand ideas titled The Curse Of Tina, which delves into the history of think tanks tying together Hayek’s influence on think tanks, pirate radio in England, factory farming of chickens and a number of other interesting bits of information which seem to indicate that think tanks, overall, are a rather abject failure in coming up with new ideas, but successful promoters of the political status quo.  From the opening of Curtis’ piece.

The guiding idea at the heart of today’s political system is freedom of choice. The belief that if you apply the ideals of the free market to all sorts of areas in society, people will be liberated from the dead hand of government. The wants and desires of individuals then become the primary motor of society.

But this has led to a very peculiar paradox. In politics today we have no choice at all. Quite simply There Is No Alternative.

That was fine when the system was working well. But since 2008 there has been a rolling economic crisis, and the system increasingly seems unable to rescue itself. You would expect that in response to such a crisis new, alternative ideas would emerge. But this hasn’t happened.

Nobody - not just from the left, but from anywhere - has come forward and tried to grab the public imagination with a vision of a different way to organise and manage society.

It’s a bit odd - and I thought I would tell a number of stories about why we find it impossible to imagine any alternative. Why we have become so possessed by the ideology of our age that we cannot think outside it.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/15 at 09:16 AM
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Letter To Obama

Billy Beck submits a letter to Obama.  It begins this way.

Mr. Obama

I write to you now in a truly bi-partisan spirit; my greatest hope in being understood as an American, without party interest.

You see, my first political value is freedom...

Billy’s letter is submitted through the “proper” channels.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/14 at 07:44 PM
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The Unyielding Minority

The question as to how freedom, liberty and free market enterprise can be restored to America is often on my mind.  Though I see many individuals mouthing platitudes to freedom, liberty and free market enterprise, often in the next breath these same individuals advocate this or that government intervention in support of some particular social engineering project which, without government force, would not, and could not, be accomplished.

In the past I’ve noted that massive, passive civil disobedience could be the answer to restoring freedom, liberty and free market enterprise in America, but this idea never seems to reach the critical stage of massive.  I have also pointed out in these pages that the real American revolution is not a taking up of arms, though that may one day once again be required, but rather the realm of ideas.

Do my ideas and thinking regarding restoring freedom, liberty and free market enterprise in America put me in the minority?  Undoubtedly so, and this can be discouraging, but a new study of network theory offers a bit of encouragement.

In a piece from The Atlantic titled From Sushi to Tunisia: A Guide to Swaying Majority Opinion we read the following regarding the effects the minority can have on the majority.

How do you topple a tyrant or popularize a foreign cuisine? According to a recent study in the journal Physical Review E, mobilizing an unyielding minority of 10 percent may be enough.

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Network Science and Technology Center created and analyzed various models of networks where a minority strived to overtake the majority’s opinion. They found that three conditions are key: a majority that is flexible with their views, a minority that is intractable, and a critical threshold wherein about a tenth of the population advocate the minority opinion. They also saw that the time it takes to reach social consensus drops dramatically as the minority grows past this tipping point, a phenomenon they observed in the growth of anti-government sentiment in Tunisia and Egypt…

Andrea Baronchelli, a complex-systems scientist in Barcelona’s Universitat Polit`ecnica de Catalunya, agrees. “It’s important to point out the minimal ingredients that may originate a given phenomenon, with no pretension to claim that this is necessarily how things go,” he says. “This suggests that the minority should convince new people to join them before worrying about convincing the whole world. Once they reach the critical size, the [network] dynamics will do the rest.” He also notes that the study’s demonstration of “the old saying that in a negotiation process the less reasonable will eventually prevail” at the societal level is particularly brilliant.

Are you part of the unyielding minority?

Link to piece in The Atlantic via Fred Lapides.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/14 at 09:19 AM
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Is Drudge Feeding Anti-Semitic Idiocy?

Matt Drudge links to a Washington Post article titled Republican wins Democratic New York House seat with a headline placed front and center on his site, in bright red letters, which reads,

REVENGE OF THE JEWS; DEM SEAT TURNS IN NYC

I don’t know about you, but I think Drudge’s headline is tasteless and feeds anti-semitic idiocy.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/14 at 08:09 AM
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

System Rebooting

I am uncertain what combination of letters and 1s make up the virus which has had me in its grips since last Friday, but the last time I was laid so low was 1979, and then I was afflicted with mono.

I must be on the mend, though, because currently my anger is rising rather than my body temperature.  I’ll take this as a positive sign that my system is rebooting.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/08 at 08:47 AM
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Gun Control Quote of the Day

Joe Huffman in a post titled Murder or suicide points and links to the two individuals below on the subject of gun control.

Carl T. Bogus says it was murdered.

Linoge says it was suicide.

Joe then states the following.

I say it was neither murder nor suicide. It is a cancer which is currently in remission.

I think Joe’s analysis is correct, and will be until these words of Billy Beck are fully and clearly understood.

I have more principled reasons for my stand on owning firearms, and I don’t care one whit in the world for the Second Amendment. It means nothing to me. My rights have nothing to do with the U.S. Constitution, and when it dawns on people that it has finally been erased—the principal danger of all political premises posed as “social contracts”—my rights will still validly exist, even if I die defending them. I own firearms because I have a right to private property. That is the First Thing.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/01 at 03:11 PM
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Solyndra News

While Glenn Reynolds is compiling links on the Solyndra fiasco, with the comment “Oft evil will shall evil mar,” Kate at Small dead animals is juxtaposing two headlines regarding Solyndra which ran within two weeks of each other.

August 15th, 2011 - Discover Sustainable Business Practices and Tour Solyndra!

August 31, 2011 - Solyndra, a major manufacturer of solar technology in Fremont, has shut its doors, according to employees at the campus.

I wonder if participants understood what was discovered during their tour of Solyndra?

Posted by John Venlet on 09/01 at 12:11 PM
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I Salute Michael Allison

The State of Illinois wants to send Michael Allison to jail for 75 years for filming the police in the performance of their duties, in an attempt to perpetuate a falsity, i.e. that it is illegal to film cops in the performance of their duties, which it is not.

Why do I salute Michael Allison?  Because he will not get down on his knees and beg.

The state of Illinois is trying to charge Allison with five counts of wiretapping, each punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Allison refused a plea deal which would have seen him serve no jail time but would reinforce the hoax that it is illegal to film police officers, as well as acting as a chilling effect to prevent other Americans from filming cases of police brutality.

Allison has chosen to reject the plea bargain and fight to clear his name via a jury trial, arguing, “If we don’t fight for our freedoms here at home we’re all going to lose them.” (bold by ed.)

Man Faces Life In Jail For Recording Police

Via Drudge.

Posted by John Venlet on 09/01 at 10:54 AM
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