Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Paying for property rights

The more money one has, the easier it becomes to accumulate even more. The poor can barely keep hold of the little they have, so easily it slips through their fingers. Unchecked, wealth gravitates into ever fewer and larger piles. There must be some way to reverse this trend.

What if we were only taxed on the proportion of society’s wealth to which we laid claim? What if we forfeited all rights to whatever we refused to declare?

(In a country where the government spent 6 trillion and the top 1% of a population of 300 million owned 50% of the nation’s money and property, those 3 million would pay on average 1,000,000 in taxes, the other 99% would pay approximately 10,000 each, some more and many almost nothing, of course.)

October 31, 2012

Un pour tous et tous pour un

The first pollykaryote arose quite by chance. Someone had started a co-operative insurance group with es neighbors so they could protect one another from foreclosures. Needing a constitution of sorts, they had found a set of governance rules online which looked to do the trick. But as it turned out, there lay a clause somewhere in that code stipulating that any section could be changed, added or removed on a vote. Naturally, members began to suggest new uses for their polity, slowly shifting, nudging, extending its initial function. As it matured and friends or neighbors asked to join, the leaderless society swelled beyond its earlier, more manageable size, and so, after much deliberation and a vote, it split in two.

October 27, 2012

On the origin and basis of economic inequality

Perhaps the cause of most economic inequality is that the wealthier, less needy of two trading partners seems to always make out a bit better. Or is it the smarter, wilier of the two? Would this not over time result in some accumulating exponentially more wealth than most others? The direst need must always concede — and so the differential value of every transaction naturally trickles up.

October 24, 2012

From Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind i learned that the human soul once transformed itself beyond recognition in a second of nature’s time, implying that the liberated, self-aware persons we are today could quickly become tomorrow as incomprehensibly naïve as appear to us already the god-controlled, blind heroes of Homer’s proudful day.

October 23, 2012

From John Fowles’ The Magus i learned that a novelist could not only narrate the tortuous, involuntary process of one man’s psychological enlightenment at the hands of another, but at the very same time trick his condescending reader into becoming that wide-eyed protagonist.

October 21, 2012

From Quentin Meillassoux’s Après la finitude: Essai sur la nécessité de la contingence i learned that the laws of science mightn’t be as strict as i had once imagined, but could instead prove to be approximate, superficial explanations that should soon give way to an infinitely stranger world, one out of which, pace the genius philosophe, something like gods might reappear to enchant us.

October 17, 2012

Religio delenda est

Having arrived at the end of his career, Prof. Dawkins became so distraught at his failure to achieve his life’s goal — totally eradicating all religions — that he finally resorted to consulting someone on the matter. 

Someone: What are these religions you want so desperately to eliminate?

Prof. Dawkins: Those that are poisoning the world with their outdated moralities and destructive certainties! Those that brainwash children and the weak minded into believing in some future paradise, so they will blow themselves up for a stupid lie. Those who preposterously claim to know all truth about everything because it was written down ages ago in some book. The preachers who tell stories about God creating the universe six thousand years ago, and who will end up destroying it sooner than that with their pointless wars!

Someone: I see your problem.

Prof. Dawkins: What is it? Tell me!

Someone: You are fighting the wrong battle; religion is in fact much more pervasive and pernicious than even you realize. These movements you speak of are already old and dying; the kind of religion you should be worrying about has already moved on and found a new, much healthier host!

Prof. Dawkins: I don’t see what you mean.

Someone: The new religious attitude is much more sophisticated, and already so deeply entrenched that few can recognize it any more, though some may discern it when the right parallels are drawn. This higher form of religion has no morality at all; it claims that such is not its business. Neither does it make much by way of specific predictions about the future — and yet it still gives people the means to blow themselves up, millions at a time! It also claims to be the source of all truth, its adherents supposedly possessing the one and only method for accessing that truth; while its preachers tell stories about how the universe and life began, adding a few zeroes and despair to the older religions’ tales. And now it, too, finally appears poised to transform our planet into a rather inhospitable place.

Prof. Dawkins: But science is true, and scientists can’t be held responsible for what engineers and politicians do with their discoveries!

October 14, 2012

There once was a judge who broke every law, ignored juries’ verdicts, cut barristers off mid-sentence, and never refused a bribe. But not one plaintiff or defendant ever denied es decisions were just.

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October 7, 2012

Tricky operations

A despondent prince stumbled into Tchouang Tseu’s hut early one morning, complaining of an inexplicable anguish he felt in his chest. The old man rummaged through his toolbox and brought out a large pair of rusty pincers, saying, lie down on the floor and i will rip this crooked emotion straight out of your heart! The prince was so startled, he forgot his troubles and dashed back into the street.

A few months later the prince’s mother died, and the despair which overtook him grew so great he again resorted to the unsettling philosopher. Upon hearing him out, Tchouang Tseu opened a cupboard and brought out a dusty vial, saying, drink this potion and you will forget you ever had a mother. No! cried the young man as he once more sprung for the door, i love my mother!

Later that year Tchouang Tseu heard this same prince had been passed over for a high position at court, so he set out to visit his acquaintance and offer condolences. On being shown into his chambers, the philosopher was shocked to see his host beaming with joy. Noticing his guest’s puzzled look, the prince laughed: My dear friend, this time i used my own knife and extracted my disappointment on the spot!

October 6, 2012

Through a glass darkly

Leaving a truly brief spiel by Dr. Hawking on the history of time, the prophet warned: Beware of our scientists’ weak and crippled stories! Everyone within earshot gasped, thinking it a gibe at the speaker’s infirmity, so the old gadfly added: Cosmologists base their tales on that 5% of the truth they have so far discovered — which is certainly much better than the theologian’s 1%, but even so, as likely a picture of the whole as panoramas of Martian civilization based on half an alien jaw and a nail!