Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Admin Note: ISP Problems
Due to connectivity problems at home, posting and comment moderation may be erratic over the next couple of days.
The Software Nerd takes a look at Barack Obama's popularity.
Today, I think the best objective measure of his more enduring (non-honeymoon) popularity is to look at people who actually voted for him. He got 53% of the popular vote. This is a good number, but nowhere near a "vast" majority.Going back only as far as JFK, Obama is tied for fourth -- with George H. W. Bush!
I was thinking about focusing on a news story out of Texas I heard about yesterday, but I see that Doug Reich at The Rational Capitalist has already beaten me to the punch.
A Dallas-area basketball coach has been fired, basically for doing his job, after his team defeated another school 100-0. What explains this bizarre turn of events? The ethical ideals of his employer, of course.
I agree with the administration that this win was not "Christlike". In fact, I would argue the whole notion of competition is not Christlike. The purpose of religion is not to be great at something "earthly" - it is to live a life of asceticism in glorious sacrifice to the almighty God. Would Jesus have played basketball with his disciples much less run up the score on them? The fundamental problem is not that the coach ran up the score - it is the attempt by the school to act out a contradiction. The contradiction lies in reconciling the Christian moral code of altruism with an activity that requires selfishness. [bold added]I would note further the complete lack of accountability awarded to the losing side. There was no "mercy rule" -- so, apparently, its coach was not expected to consider forfeiting or pulling his team off the court (if the experience was really so traumatic). And then, as if passivity, or blind obedience to authority, or the refusal to recognize a hopeless situation were virtues, the losing team, Dallas Academy, "has been recognized for refusing to give up during the lopsided contest."
How inspirational! Maybe it's not too late for me to pursue a career in the NBA!
And into Adulthood...
The above situation may seem bizarre to many, given the clear goal of team sports, but the underlying lesson -- that an incorrect morality can cause someone to ignore practical considerations -- applies even more so to the game of life.
Brian Phillips notes a huge pile of evidence damning land use regulation for making housing less affordable, and observes:
With so much economic evidence that land use regulations are destructive, why does a single city still have any regulations regarding land use?The list of the ways that altruism hinders one from fulfilling the basic need for shelter is overwhelming, and it reminds me of the following quote from Leonard Peikoff's memoir, "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand."
The answer cannot be found in economics. It can be found in morality.
The premise underlying all land use regulations is that the individual must place the "public good" or the "general welfare" before his own interests. This premise holds that the individual is subservient to the community, and that the individual must sacrifice his values to others. This premise holds that service to others--altruism--is the standard of morality. According to altruism, land use regulations are moral. [bold added]
If you went up to an ordinary individual, itemized every object and person he cared for, then said to him seriously: "I intend to smash them all and leave you groveling in the muck," he would become indignant, even outraged. What set Ayn Rand apart from mankind is the fact that she heard the whole itemization and the intention to smash everything in the simple statement that "reality is unreal." Most people in our age of pragmatism and skepticism shrug off broad generalizations about reality as mere talk -- i.e., as floating abstractions -- and react only to relatively narrow utterances. Ayn Rand was the reverse. She reacted much more intensely to philosophical ideas than to narrow concretes. The more abstract an evil formulation, the more territory it covered, and the greater, therefore, the destructive potential she saw in it. (from The Voice of Reason, pp. 337-338)The ethics of altruism does not cover as much territory as, say, a mystical epistemology, but it is quite destructive enough!