Monday, February 27, 2012

Quelle surprise

Sustainability and subsidy may be fairly close together in the dictionary, but out here where performance matters they're worlds apart.

To be fair, it is possible to argue that many businesses of many kinds are directly or indirectly subsidized by the state to a greater or lesser degree.

Why bring this up? The dictionary definition of "sustainable" is here. Of particular interest are the second and third entries:
2. pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse: sustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.

3. able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process: a sustainable negotiation between the two countries.
 In business the first rule of sustainability is: "I have to be able to open the doors tomorrow." I know farming the government is a time-honored tradition and all, but at some point the field is no longer fertile, the turnips bled dry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Better than the real thing

Earlier this afternoon...

The New York Giants carried a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter against the visiting Cleveland Browns, on the strength of a couple of bombs from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham and a defense that stymied Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy, limiting the Browns to one score and no sustained drives (the Browns got one score on a pick-six on a flat pass).

But McCoy got the Browns up off the mat and led them on a 78-yard drive to make the score 35-21 with about seven minutes left; after a defensive stop, McCoy ended another drive by finding tight end Ben Watson in the end zone to make it 35-28. A bit later the Browns punted with just under four minutes to play, banking on getting one more stop on defense and one more opportunity on offense. They got it, taking over at their own 32 with 1:30 the clock and two time outs. McCoy moved the Browns to the 49 with 45 seconds left, prompting the Giants' coach to remark, "I've got butterflies in my stomach."

Three deep passes to Mohamed Massaquoi came up empty, though, and the Giants got out with the 35-28 win. The Giants' coach was my elder son (the Browns' coach was your correspondent), and the game was Strat-O-Matic Pro Football (2010 season player cards). I've been playing the game off and on since the 1974 season set, when I played with my dad and my brothers.

Football at its best can be a great game.

Six! Five! Four! Three! It's the De-on-to-lo-gy!

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [dreaming] I am not a Frankenstein. I'm a Fronkensteen. Don't give me that. I don't believe in fate. And I won't say it.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: All right, you win. You win. I give. I'll say it. I'll say it. I'll say it. DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME! DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME!
Got the preceding from IMDB, quoting one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein (many thanks to my parents for turning me on to Mel Brooks in my youth).

Sometimes I find myself in much the same circumstance, having arrived at liberty via deontology. I recognize the consequentialist arguments for liberty, because I think liberty does produce better outcomes for all (including the poor). However...

...the end no more justifies the means in this case than it does in any other. Even if liberty were consequence-independent, I would be obliged to argue for liberty as the only possible moral arrangement.

Here's how it goes: We are, whether one believes (as I do) that one is made in the image of G_d, or at any rate inherent to one's nature as a human being, each of us endowed with the right to our own lives. More to the point, perhaps, there is no reliable or incontrovertible basis (none that I can find, at any rate) for saying, "This one is born to rule, that one born to serve."

I have said before and say here again that temporal authority claims are nothing more than warmed-over Filmer backed by naked force and more or less will to use it. One points to the talisman clenched in one's hand and says, "This thing in my hand, this (pedigree, patent of nobility, warrant/badge, electoral result) affirms that I am G_d's anointed, and you are morally bound to obey (again more to the point, one is bound to render up some portion of one's life, for my benefit, on pain of fine, imprisonment, door-kicking-in-at-3-am-and-dog-shooting-followed by imprisonment, or all of the above followed by death)."

If we each of us are truly endowed with the right to our own lives, then it follows that we are enjoined from aggressing against the life of anyone else. And if we each of us are enjoined from aggression, how do we delegate the right to use aggression to anyone, whatever talisman they might wave at us by way of justification?

The sole alternative to the non-aggression principle is, in the end: might makes right. It can't, in the end, be anything else.

What does this have to do with the title of the post? Because that way lies statelessness, and the unknown but potential consequences occasionally do weigh on me. I don't think statelessness necessarily leads inevitably to Somalia (and I certainly don't claim it will immanentize the Eschaton), but neither can I rule it out.

But neither can I start writing exceptions to non-aggression. All bases for exception are by definition arbitrary.