The Grantification of Academic Writing

In my day job I read a good number of academic articles.  They are written in specialty journals with audiences consisting of spine surgeons and researchers.  Regardless of the narrow scope and intimate audience of the journals, the authors invariably feel compelled to fill the introduction of every article with the prevalence of back pain, its cost to society etc.  Enough!  We've got it.  Move on to the interesting part.  As the reader I'm not sitting on your grant committee, so I don't need to be sold on something I already know and am quite tired of reading slight variations on the theme of how much this topic costs "society."

Don't we need regulation?

I was taught, through the lens of the Great Depression and the so-called progressive era, that the nation learned the virtues of moderation and threw off the shackles of the dangerous laissez-faire experiment with social programs and government "regulation" of industry and markets.  I was taught that our "mixed" economy was a harmonious compromise between greed and restraint.  I inferred that greed was powerful and functional; a little greed was good but too much was dangerous.  The corollary of course is that a “reasonable” amount of profit is ok, even good, but too much is bad, even evil.  The conclusion to this line of thinking is that “regulation” of industry is necessary and justified, even if it is cumbersome and costly.  What I have learned since about the historical narratives told in any venue is that they do little more than to demonstrate the preconceived notions of the narrator.  I now see the story as fantasy and the conclusions as false.

Regulation is neither morally justified nor necessary.  Less fundamental but more obvious, it has a demonstrably poor track record of efficacy.  The fact of human nature is that people trade.  Some are honest, others are not and the rest of us play for either side at one time or another.  The situation an individual is in greatly influences his/her propensity to dishonesty.  The existence of systemic protections creates moral hazards resulting in ignorant consumers and unscrupulous marketeers.  Responsibility in a broader field of things is shifted to the bureaucrat who has less incentive and less specific knowledge to make appropriate decisions in real time.  Further, the conundrum arises, as immortalized by Dr. Seuss, “Who will watch the bee watcher?”





Government - A Means of Laundering Our Conscience

How many insist that the government must do something to help the poor but pay little attention to those of us who say it does a poor job of it?  Are they bad, stupid, ignorant people?  I like to think most of them are not.  Rather, government is a short-cut -- an easy and insufficient answer to many difficult questions.  So long as one advocates that the government steps in to help the poor, the sick, and the huddled masses, one is off the hook from actually doing or thinking of anything for themselves.  In this way the government (whatever form it may take) is a convenient and insidious means of laundering our conscience when it comes to the matter of helping our fellow man.

Where Have I Been?

Loyal readers may have noticed that I have been absent lately, and by "lately" I mean for the past year.  It is not because I have stopped being interested in writing, I simply haven't been prioritizing on it.  I have been teaching myself Android app development, which has been a great deal of very frustrating, tedious fun.  I have finally released by first app, GYMer, which is for tracking weight lifting progress (sets, weight, reps, rest time and all that Jazz).  I'm very happy with the result, but I am far from done.  I have dozens of tweaks and additional features in mind that I need to further vet and develop.  Still I hope to have more free time to devote to writing now that the app is in the store.

Rand on Government

I used to be a pretty strong advocate of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, but there is one thing I still cannot wrap my head around.  As far as I can remember, she based her political philosophy, rightly so, on an axiom of non-aggression -- no one should initiate the use of force against another.  But how then did she arrive at her advocacy for a government with a monopolistic power to use physical force?  What happens if someone refuses to participate in the government system?  Are they to be forced?  

Another Thing that Annoys Me

This is probably going to offend a lot of people at least a little bit, but I have to get it off my chest.  I am really annoyed by people who say "Q1", "Q2", etc. when they are talking about quarters of the year.  I may be alone, but I find it to be one of the most subtly annoying bits of corporate-speak imaginable.

An Original Affirmation

Is it my lot in life to wait patiently? If I want to stay where I am, it will be.  I do not want to stand by and cower in the shadows of 'great men', hoping that someday a few rays of sunshine will come my way. I want to bask in the sunlight of my own creativity, my own foresight, and my own sweat. I will take both risk and reward in that.  I have been looking for my door into summer, hoping that it would be around the next corner, all the while not knowing that all I had to do was cut a hole in the wall.
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