Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Potpourri LII

The weirdness continues...

The Orion launch abort system (LAS) is under criticism.

Brief commentary from South of the Equator Scott:

[N]ow that the world is climbing out of recession, despite what’s been happening in Washington, how long will the US government keep trying to impose its communist ways on everything and everyone?

Thankfully, voters in Europe have rejected Labour/the libs/the socialists in the latest round of elections. It’s looking like the US will be the only socialist government standing after a year or so.

Also from Scott, a Bloomberg column about Obama's relationship with the economy.

New from Hu: a do-it-yourself manual for building Apollo 11. Every home should have one.

The NASA Human Spaceflight Panel will be holding a series of town halls, er, public meetings regarding NASA's human spaceflight program. Locations include:

June 17, 2009 - 9am - 5pm EDT
Public Meeting (Washington, D.C.)
July 28, 2009
Public Meeting (Huntsville, AL)
July 30, 2009
Public Meeting
(Cape Canaveral, FL)
August 5, 2009
Public Meeting (Washington, D.C.)

A planet might have been found in another galaxy. Wow. I mean, really. Wow.

I encountered a couple of "future-minded" societies on Facebook recently, including:

Both of these groups seem to have big problems with capitalism and money. They also steer clear of religion and a lot of philosophy, except where it emphasizes progress or getting along. And, if you dig deeply enough, you find admiration for Marxism, socialism, etc.

Here's my moral objection to such socialist schemes: it substitutes the freedom for individuals to choose what they want for the freedom of "experts" in government to decide what is "equitable" or "fair." Individuals are not created equal in abilities. They are morally equal under the law. It's the difference between Rawlsian social justice ("If society were allowed to collapse and/or hit the reset button, free people would choose for everyone to have material equality") and the American Founders' belief in equality of opportunity ("Society comprises human individuals with different, unequal capablities--we're going to make everyone follow the same set of rules to achieve their own levels of achievement or incompetence"). Some folks don't like the Founders' experiment--many of those folks are, distressingly, in positions of political power.

There was a short-lived TV show starring Malcolm McDowell and Rhea Pearlman ("Pearl") where they actually had a Rawlsian experiment: set in a classroom, McDowell tried to teach his students (including Pearlman) the nature of justice by having everyone grade each other's papers. Pearlman led a student "revolt," which ended with her making a self-righteous speech about how it was wrong, immoral, etc., for the prof to insist that individuals judge each other's papers objectively, and that the only "right" solution was for everyone to give each other A's. I found myself screaming at the TV set, "No, no, no! You've missed the whole point!"

And here's the point: let ALL of the students grade everyone else's paper anonymously by applying a price to said paper: $5 for an A, $4 for a B, etc. Let the market decide whose products are better. The cumulative decisions of individuals, making individual decisions about quality, will come up with a better answer than some notion of "fairness." Because, again, everyone is not created equal. Would you really insist on paying $5 for a $1 item? No. So why do you find it reasonable for the government to tell you that it's more "fair" to buy from X supplier instead of Y because X is disenfranchised somehow or is a favored friend of the government?

That's all for now. Heading to Florida Friday. Huzzah!

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