Monday, May 04, 2009

Freedom

In which Aviatrix tries to get to the point that eluded her last time.

My last blog entry wandered off on a tangent, but I hope not before making the point that equally intelligent people can come to completely different conclusions from the same data just because they believe the world to be constructed of different kinds of cheese. What is self-evident to me may be a crazy idea to you, so if I want to convince you to take an action, I must create a logical path to that action that begins with something that is self evident to you.

A while ago I had a long e-mail exchange with someone whom I knew to be intelligent, logical and compassionate. He was, and still is, very concerned about the spread of the Muslem religion in the world. He believes that it will lead to a global decrease in human rights. He exhorted me to act. "But what do you want me to do?" I asked. And at every iteration he responded by saying that hope was not enough. I finally said, "Are you asking me to take up arms against every Muslim I see? Write letters to my congressman? Sneer at women in headscarves?" I of course didn't think he wanted me to shoot anyone, as he is respectful to his Muslim neighbours and customers. His problem is with the proponents of fundamentalist law. I was hoping by my question to get him to say what action he was actually asking for. He is very concerned about people being complacent to the threat, and spent a lot of energy urging action.

We remained cordial, but he never answered the question in a way that made any sense to me. After a few revolutions of the argument we both accepted that it was something that just wasn't going to cross between our minds. He said "I've made it clear enough.....We just don't speak the same language." And we dropped it.

It came to mind recently as an example of a baffling impasse and I mentioned it in an e-mail to someone who was helping me understand why Texans were getting angry at me for being scared of them, and he had an explanation for this too. It still doesn't entirely make sense to me. It may not be the correct explanation, but it is an explanation, and even brings this whole thing back to an aviation example. He wrote:

Ah! Ok, he wants people who believe in the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution, to defend those rights. He won't tell us how to do that (though he may give advice if pressed), because one of the things he believes we need to defend against is one group of people telling others what they should do. He may not have understood your question, but if he had I would predict it wouldn't help. He would probably say something like "Do what ever you can".

It's really quite extraordinary that we have this invention caled language, that, most of the time allows me to make noises, or transmit squiggles, and you to hear the noises or look at the squiggles and a reasonable facsimile of my thought appears in your head. I should really be amazed by how often it works, rather than being confused by the times it doesn't. Sometimes the gulf can be bridged by stating the obvious, but it's a skill to articulate the obvious. The people who have, say Newton giving his La ws of Motion or Descartes equating thinking with being, are lauded as philosphers. They say things that we kind of already knew, but never knew we knew. What 17th century farmer hadn't noticed that stuff stays where it is unless you push it, the same push has a greater effect on smaller stuff, and that if you push something, it pushes back at you? But to recognize those as axioms of motion -- that took Newton.

Thomas Jefferson is also held to be a great man, and he put into words some things that he and free thinking people of his time were coming to believe.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

If you don't consider these things to be self-evident truths, then you are going to be baffled by some of the arguments made by people who do, unless those people are clever enough to build their case from another direction.

And finally, I promised to bring this back to aviation, my correspondent gave this example.

You have run up against one of the principle differences between Canadians and Americans. Canadians believe in building consensus and the few making small sacrifices for the good of the many. Americans believe in personal freedom and personal sacrifice to defend it. The rules around VFR flights are a good example of this. In Canada we can't fly more than 25nm without telling someone else where we're going. In the US as long as we avoid controlled or restricted airspace we don't have to tell anyone. Personal freedom trumps making it easier for SAR to find us.

47 comments:

david said...

I don't think the old Canadian-American cliches apply any more. Try asking a Canadian employee, for example, to pee in a bottle for a random drug test, or try permanently restricting the airspace around *our* national capital, or try fining a Canadian parent $5,000 because his child downloaded an MP3, and you'll quickly see the difference between *talking* about freedom and actually *caring* about it.

Aviatrix said...

That is odd. But they still protest things Canadians don't.

When the price of gas skyrocketed last year, the Americans went apeshit, while Canadians shrugged and said "oh well."

Americans protesting what may be the lowest income tax rate in the western world have been throwing teabags around, or at least seeing how many times they can say "teabagging" on prime time news, lately. Canadians watch them with bemusement and wonder if they will protest death next.

david said...

Both are problematic, though. With gas prices, you could argue that Canadians accepted the free market (though there were some political protests, etc.), while the Americans cried for government regulation.

The 15 April tax protests came from the remnants of the Republican Party, desperately looking for relevance. That said, U.S. taxes aren't all that low: I suspect that Americans in states like New York, Massachusetts, and California pay as much or more in taxes than Canadians (at least in Ontario), and possibly more than some European countries as well. Canadian aircraft owners would make a lot of noise if they had to pay property taxes on their planes, the way owners in some U.S. states do.

Colin said...

I had no idea that if I flew more than 25nm north of the border I had to tell someone. Fortunately, I am risk-averse, so I am ALWAYS telling someone (and asking them to watch me, too), but that detail slipped past my perusal of the "So You Want To Fly in Canada?" web page.

Oops.

Matthew Flaschen said...

I don't agree with you about Newton and Descartes. Newton's laws of motion are anything but obvious. Do you really think a farmer realized that their plow will continue at constant speed forever if not acted upon by an outside force? Or that they realized they were pulling the earth towards them just as strongly as it pulled them down.

As for Descartes, what he said may be obvious, but that doesn't make it logically sound. In my opinion, "I think therefore I am" is bogus. In order to have "I think", you need to already have an "I", and "I" is the same thing as "I am". This is similar to Søren Kierkegaard's critique.

Ward said...

>>> It's really quite extraordinary that we have this invention caled language, that, most of the time allows me to make noises, or transmit squiggles, and you to hear the noises or look at the squiggles and a reasonable facsimile of my thought appears in your head.

There's a lot of redundancy in language and you can get by* with barely making part of your thoughts known to someone else. (*maybe not for expressing truly deep thoughts, but for day-to-day communication).

My wife is Chinese and we mostly interact with her family and lots of our friends are also Chinese. I'm continually amazed by how ineffectively they communicate, but that they do manage. One example is on the Chinese TV channel here (Fairchild, in Vancouver, which is mostly Hong Kong shows), there are more and more interviews and discussions where one person is speaking Cantonese and one Mandarin. Another example is that you always here "written Chinese is the same, regardless of dialect," but that's not completely true, there are variations. And even to the extent it is true, people reading, say, a newspaper article, don't necessarily know all the characters, but they fill things in from the context.

Ward said...

First of all, although I'm about to use the term "right-wing," I want to mention that left-right isn't a good enough way to divide political thought. You need at least 2 axes to uniquely locate political opinions, the guy who first wrote about this was Sci-Fi author Jerry Pournelle:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pournelle_chart

Anyway, one thing that I think that right-wingers in the US are likely to take as an axiom is that "the Constitution says (whatever) is wrong, therefor there's no room for any discussion, it's absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong." One example of this is the attitude towards Obama's citizenship. It's pretty much certain that he's a citizen, but because "THE CONSTITUTION" says you have to be a natural born citizen, many right-wingers are portraying the issue as a grave crisis of the highest magnitude, that the US will practically crumble because Obama won't prove to their satisfaction that he was born in Honolulu.

An EMS chopper pilot whose blog you used to link to is an example of this sort of thinking. I stopped reading his blog because I couldn't stand his blind parotting of certain right-wing positions.

A Squared said...

I don't agree with you about Newton and Descartes. Newton's laws of motion are anything but obvious.

Agree. Because most objects we see are subject to forces that aren't apparent, and they do not continue to move indefinitely, I would say that it wasn't obvious that motion would continue unchanged if those forces were removed. It's pretty clear Newton's laws weren't obvious to Aristotle. In fact his laws of motion were approximately the opposite of Newtons. Aristotle divided motion into Natural and unnatural motion. Natural motion was gravity (not so much in conflict with Newton, but he had that one wrong too as Galileo demonstrated) "Unnatural" motion was any motion other than reacting to gravity. According to Aristotle, unnatural motion required force to be applied to sustain motion. He explained the phenomenon of objects continuing to move after, for example leaving hte hand that threw it, by theorizing that the air rushed in behind it and imparted a force that sustained the "unnatural motion" It seems pretty laughable today, but it was the product of what was considered to be one of the best scientific minds at the time.

A Squared said...

or try fining a Canadian parent $5,000 because his child downloaded an MP3, and you'll quickly see the difference between *talking* about freedom and actually *caring* about it. OK, I'll bite... how would a Canadian Parent respond differently in this case, and how, precisely is this a freedom issue?

david said...

A Squared:

Canadians have already successfully challenged that kind of action by record companies in court and won. As a result, in Canada, it's not illegal to download an MP3 or video that you happen to find on the web.

Before the last election, the government proposed changes to the Copyright Act to make it more like the U.S. DCMA, and was overwhelmed by the nationwide reaction against the change.

Of course, I've deliberately picked cases where the U.S. doesn't seem too concerned about actual freedom. There are many counterexamples, such as the willingness of Canadians to let the CRTC tell radio and TV stations how much Canadian content they have to have.

jinksto said...

David,
Your difference between "talking" and "caring" is confusing to me. What action do you recommend for those who "care". In one post you challenge me to "care" and in the next you revile the recent protests as "remnants of the Republican Party, desperately looking for relevance" thereby discarding the relevance of those who DO care. In still another comment you hold your own government being "overwhelmed by the nationwide reaction against the change." as a shining example of the way things *should* be but discount Americans trying to do the same thing? Methinks Aviatrix is right in that you're using different meanings for the same words that I would use.

Aviatrix,
Teabaggers and teabagging are not what these people call themselves. These are derogatory terms applied to them by those with a counter point. These folks aren't protesting taxation itself, though that is a part of it. They are protesting excessive and uncontrolled spending. The taxation is a result of that. Americans may have the lowest income tax rate in the western world as you state but many of us are rather happy about that and wouldn't mind keeping it that way. Our more liberal friends say that the president will not raise taxes for 95% of the population but many of us can do simple math. When you are Trillions of dollars in debt that money has to come from somewhere and 5% of the population can't support that weight no matter which 5% you pick. At some point taxes will have to be raised. Smaller government and responsible spending is where these people are coming from.

david said...

jinksto: you're right, the tax protests are an example of caring. It's curious, though, that they weren't very prominent as long as the high-spending president happened to be Republican.

As for "caring", what I mean is not rolling over every time the government or an employer takes away a right in the name of "fighting drugs" or "protecting you from terrorism". Every Western country has been guilty of that to some extent, but the rest of the world has been amazed and dismayed at how easily Americans (Democrats and Republicans both), who once set the example for the world, are willing to give up a basic right or freedom every time a politician screams "9/11!".

fche said...

Canadians believe in building consensus and the few making small sacrifices for the good of the many. Americans believe in personal freedom and personal sacrifice to defend it. The rules around VFR flights are a good example of this.That's not at all clear. For example, you would need to make the case that there is a "good of the many" resulting from mandatory SAR participation.

A squared said...

David,

I wasn't aware of the history in Canada of intellectual property legislation, but that's a bit of a stretch to say that it's a freedom issue. It's interesting that as technology has made it very easy to violate copyright laws, people have come to view that as acceptable, apparently, merely because it is easy. That is not unlike saying that stealing bicycles is not a crime if the owner leaves them unlocked. One can see an example of this as you refer to "download(ing) an MP3 or video that you happen to find on the web." as if it was something you casually stumbled across, a rare occurrence, aberration, really. This ignores the reality that there was a huge infrastructure that developed which had no purpose at all other then to provide a simple convenient way for folks to rip off copyrighted material for free on a staggering scale. I have no particular love for entertainment production and distribution companies, but that doesn't justify stealing from them. I don't see this so much as a freedom issue, unless freedom, to you means the freedom to help yourself to the fruits of someone elses efforts, at no cost to yourself.

FWIW, I tend to agree with you on the drug testing and the erosion of liberties under the banner of 9-11.

dpierce said...

AviatrixAs someone else has stated, the protest isn't about the tax rate per se, it's about government spending in general, which is ultimately a burden of the taxpayer. (We don't quite have the lowest personal rates, but they are on the low half. Our corporate rates are on the high half.)

WardIn my experience, the constitutionalists simply want the constitution properly amended if something is going to be accepted that goes against its letter. That said, I think only the fringe nutjobs really question Obama's eligibility. Of course, in a political fight, both sides will use whatever tools they can dig up. Many will find that waivering from your root laws without due process is a dangerous game.

DavidIt's not curious at all. Certainly, Bush was a horrible example of conservative spending principles. But just as certainly, the current levels of spending proposed are on an entirely new plane. <-- (I tied in aviation) I agree we give up freedoms for security far too easily.

david said...

A squared:

I won't pretend there are no moral problems around downloading MP3s, but the bicycle-theft analogy isn't very good. How about this: if you owned an automatic replication machine, would you create an instant copy of the bicycle (without touching the original), thus depriving the manufacturer of potential profit from selling you one?

Intellectual property has always been *different* from physical property. For example, physical property has no fair use rules, and doesn't automatically pass into the public domain after a fixed amount of time. Copyright laws were originally designed not solely to protect producers, but to balance the interests of the producers and those of the public. Unfortunately, through decades of lobbying, the balance has shifted far too far to the producer side (especially, but not only in the U.S.), to the point that works remain in copyright for over 75 years, and can be handed down for several generations -- imagine if Dickens' novels had still been under copyright during WWII! What if Shakespeare's descendants still owned copyright on his plays today?

When governments impose unfair laws, it's not surprising that people find technological workarounds, just like the early American patriots used illegal printing presses when the British tried to limit their access to information.

david said...

dpierce:

From north of your border, I can't see the difference between wasting ~$1 trillion on a pointless war in Iraq (which Obama looks likely to continue anyway), and wasting ~$1 trillion on pointless stimulus spending (much of which Bush had already approved anyway).

It seems that the only difference between so-called "liberals" and "conservatives" is what they decide to waste money on, and even that difference isn't as big as one would expect.

dpierce said...

David: Regarding Iraq versus stimulous, I get your point, but that's not going to be settled here. (Obviously, if you value one and not the other, you'll see a difference between them.) (I'm not thrilled with either.)

With regard to your next statement, I'd agree if you changed "liberal" and "conservative" to "Democrat" and "Republican". There is little difference between the parties, but large difference between the philosophies, neither of which is well represented by either party. The parties are just cliques that give people a false perception that they're participating in a philosophy.

david said...

dpierce: I think we actually agree on almost everything, except that I support Ward's argument that "conservative" and "liberal" are not useful terms. How would you classify a country that allows both gay marriage *and* school prayer, for example?

fche said...

@david: I support Ward's argument that "conservative" and "liberal" are not useful terms.
They are useful to those thinking about ideologies.

How would you classify a country that allows both gay marriage *and* school prayer, for example?
Not with a single word.

John Lennerton said...

After being amazed that you took less than one paragraph to bring in a "cheese" metaphor, especially in light of your previous metaphor derailment, I settled down to finish reading your piece, and then read some of the comments.

One thing that is self evident (and by that, I mean it is self evident to MYself) is that people are different.

The greatest gift, it would seem to me, is to embrace the differences.

Keep writing; your voice gets better and better.

Roundman said...

I'll resume reading this blog when/if it again covers aviation. I have no objection to philosophical or abstract blogging; but some always seem to hijack and thread and bring in politics and the name Bush.

dpierce said...

How would you classify a country that allows both gay marriage *and* school prayer, for example?"Diverse" or "compromised", depending on your point of view. :)

Aviatrix said...

Roundman: I respect that, and am glad you stated it.

I am on a bit of an involuntary break from actual aviation, but elected to continue the blog on a reduced schedule with some other topics, rather than cut it off all together. There are some leftover aviation posts (and a return to full time aviation) coming up soon, and I do try to remember to tag posts "non-aviation" as appropriate so people like you can pass them by. These two are the only ones in this thread, and you must admit someone learned an important point of Canadian air law from the discussion, so it's not a complete waste.

Everyone else: thanks for having so many interesting opinions, and for stopping short of fighting. I am enjoying this so far.

I agree that codification of Newton's Laws was not something any farmer could come up with. But before you can come up with the concept that an object continues in its state of motion or rest until acted upon by an external force, you have to be willing to formally state some obvious things, like stuff just sits there until something happens to it, when you shove it it moves, and that it's easier to keep things moving than to get them moving. It took a brilliant mind and a lot of thought to codify Newton's laws, but that process included stating things so obvious most people hadn't even noticed them as facts.

Aviatrix said...

P.S. SAR notification and mandatory ELTs are a small sacrifice by the few for the good of the many because a pilot has to spend a few minutes filing a flight plan or setting up a flight itinerary so that when an aircraft goes missing we know where to look, saving the taxpayers as a whole a great deal of money, and allowing resources to be allocated where they are actually needed.

The fact that it also hastens rescue is an incentive for the pilot to file accurately.

fche said...

P.S. SAR notification and mandatory ELTs [...] the good of the many because [...] that when an aircraft goes missing we know where to look, saving the taxpayers as a whole a great deal of money [...]
That's a good start for the argument. But if the benefit is economical, it'll take more homework to make the case well, including factors like the rates/costs of false alarms, the actual costs of search/rescue in the US vs. Canada, the per-capita costs of FSS.

It's not obvious enough to support the simple "canadians opt for communal utilitarianism" thesis at its face. There are plenty of counterexamples too.

dpierce said...

I had a discussion with a libertarian about the use of ELTs not too long ago. His position was that if he didn't carry an ELT, he didn't expect the service of a SAR. I appreciate his position, and I'm sure the bears would appreciate an easy meal. But the general public does benefit from the resulting crash investigation, so I can see a philosophical justification in requiring an ELT.

jinksto said...

David notes:
jinksto: you're right, the tax protests are an example of caring. It's curious, though, that they weren't very prominent as long as the high-spending president happened to be Republican.I think that's almost fair but not quite. There were a lot of people angry last summer when the auto bailouts happened and again last fall when the initial TARP legislation started. That anger grew as more spending was announced. That anger boiled over at the first of the year when already angry citizens were ignored. The spending continues unabated today and the protests will get larger as more and more Americans are shocked into action.

The fact that the current president is on a spending spree puts him at unfortunate odds with much of the population when that population has had enough of waste and enough of being ignored. I'm sure that there ARE some republicans involved in the tea parties solely for their own gain just as I'm sure there are a racist or two "out to get" the man but largely the people that I've talked to make it clear that they don't want another republican either. The president campaigned on a platform of change... of hope. I don't think anyone, whether they voted for him or not, expected the price tag that his "change" is generating.

To turn the question around on you though... sure Bush spent 600 Billion on the war (not the Trillion you cite) and "liberals" protested it (literally) daily. Obama has spent more than that in about 4 months and promises to continue the trend by offering a budget 2 Trillion in the red. Where are all of those protesters now that "their" side has the checkbook?

Partisan politics gets us nowhere. Applying labels is only amusing among friends because they usually miss the target enough to be funny.

Aviatrix, I'm assuming you're ok with this discussion... if not say so and I'll happily shut up. :)

Aviatrix said...

It isn't what I expected, but it's interesting and civil.

I was under the impression that government spending was a normal and standard action by governments of all stripes to try and get out of a recession. I don't know if it works, it's just one of those things that governments do, like dropping the prime lending rate and encouraging consumer confidence.

I'm certain that the US bank bailout was initiated by the previous government and endorsed by the new one, so that can't logically be a red/blue issue. I suspect it's more of an emotional fear issue, because OMG that's a lot of money.

A Squared said...

David,

No analogy is perfect, by nature there has to be some degree of difference from the instance at hand , otherwise they serve no purpose. That said, I used that analogy because it address many arguments that are often used. (you may have guessed that this isn't my first discussion on intellectual property rights) In my experience, a substantial portion of the arguments folks advance against enforcing intellectual property rights, when deconstructed, become essentially: “It's really, really easy to do, therefore it can't be wrong.” ( most of the rest can be deconstructed to: the companies are evil, therefore it is ok to steal from them) Perhaps you are not making the “it's easy, so it's OK argument” so playing along with your analogy....it depends. Is it just a bicycle, one that does not incorporate any protected technology? Sure, copy away. Huffy has no particular expectation that other folks might not also make bicycles to the same design that they do (a design that they did not originate) On the other hand, if it were to copy the Shimano Uniglide cassette hub and rear sprocket design, clever technological advances which revolutionized bicycles at the time and changed Shimano from “what you got if you couldn't afford Campagnolo” to what Campagnolo wanted to be like, I would say yes, you have taken something from Shimano by profiting from their patented design at their expense.

“the balance has shifted far too far” ....... “When governments impose unfair laws”Those are assertions based solely on your own personal view point. This gets back to Aviatrix's prior post. You are expecting me to accept as axiomatic your opinion that the balance has shifted too far, and the result is “Unfair”. I don't

to the point that works remain in copyright for over 75 years,

If you're interested in convincing me that 75 years is an unreasonable time period, you'll have to present some sort of coherent argument supporting that position, merely stating it with the implied expectation that it is obvious doesn't work. As a point of reference, I'd be perfectly happy with perpetuity, so you have a long row to hoe.

and can be handed down for several generations

Why should intellectual property rights not be passed on to heirs as is physical property? Intellectual property isn't something physical, but that doesn't rationally or inevitably require that it extinguishes at death. Again, you're you're merely stating conclusions as if they are obvious and inescapable. They are neither.

imagine if Dickens' novels had still been under copyright during WWII! What if Shakespeare's descendants still owned copyright on his plays today?
I'm imagining, and hard as I try, I am unable to imagine a world that is substantially different if the heirs of Dickens and Shakespeare were still collecting royalties. Not to diminish the contributions of either, but the only consequence that I can imagine is that printings and performances would be slightly more expensive; Not unobtainable, not unavailable, just that A Tale of Two Cities would cost 75 cents more at the book store. Unless the heirs behave irrationally, they will not require royalties which make it so no-one can afford it. Hard to get rich off of royalties if nobody can buy it. Can you provide some compelling reason why a publisher should be able to profit from selling a work of literature to which he contributed nothing, merely because that work was written more than some arbitrary number of years ago?



When governments impose unfair laws, it's not surprising that people find technological workarounds, just like the early American patriots used illegal printing presses when the British tried to limit their access to information. It's a bit of a stretch to equate the right to enjoy the fruits of your own labor to the suppression of general information for political ends. Regardless, that particular argument resembles very closely the “they are evil therefore it is acceptable to steal”argument to wit; “It's unfair, therefore it's ok to rip them off”

Paul said...

"Personal freedom trumps making it easier for SAR to find us."

Are you sure this isn't just the mechanics of 3 persons per sq km? I think you are one of the least populated countries on Earth (219th). The US has 31 persons per km**2.

Actually, Wikipedia says the top federal marginal tax rate for Canada is 29%.

We seem more similar all the time...

--paul

Aviatrix said...

Wikipedia is correct on the 29%, but that's just the federal tax. The top tier in Canada pays quite close to fifty percent (between 40 and 48%) on the last dollar earned, when you count the provincial income taxes as well. Punch in an annual income of $130k to this tax calculator to see the breakdown. I think Quebec has the most and Nunavut the least provincial taxes.

I have no idea if US state taxes are comparable. It's just that Canadians don't really think in terms of federal and provincial taxes as separate entities. We pay them both together in April with the same cheque.

My combined marginal tax rate is less than 29%, so if I make an extra ten bucks in a year, I get to keep at least 71 cents. Whee!

A squared said...

My combined marginal tax rate is less than 29%, so if I make an extra ten bucks in a year, I get to keep at least 71 cents. Whee!You can send the remaining $6.39 to me

Aviatrix said...

Ack, you know what I meant. Dunno why I changed dollar to ten. Hope I don't change litres to American gallons that way next time I'm doign fuel math.

Jim Mantle said...

And then let's add in Provincial Sales tax (8% in Ontario), and Federal GST (5%), and fees for permits and licenses, and sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and CPP, and UI, and a big tax on gasoline, and property taxes, and what am I missing? Probably lots more.

There are multiple levels of government, but only one level of taxpayer.

Type "Tax Freedom Day" into Wikipedia... Canada is on day 165 (June 14), USA is day 103 (April 13).

dpierce said...

Aviatrix: can't logically be a red/blue issue ... It is red and blue issue in that reds and blues have differing ideas about which beneficiaries of such money constitutes an effective stimulous versus a political payback, pet project, or wholesale waste. In Washington, amongst both parties, it often tends to be more about the latter than the former.

Jim Mantle: but only one level of taxpayer ... I guess it depends on what you mean. If you're an LLC in the US, your money gets taxed as you receive it into your business, then at the end of your fiscal year, you're required to disburse it, where it gets taxed again. It sorta feels like multiple levels sometimes.

nec Timide said...

fche said...

That's a good start for the argument. But if the benefit is economical, it'll take more homework to make the case well, including factors like the rates/costs of false alarms, the actual costs of search/rescue in the US vs. Canada, the per-capita costs of FSS.Ah but the major cost of SAR is not economical, it is human. When ever lives are lost because SAR resouces aren't available; when SAR personnel are injured, maimed or killed.

I'm curious how you get from:
Canadians believe in building consensus and the few making small sacrifices for the good of the many.to:

"canadians opt for communal utilitarianism".

Aviatrix said...

New T-shirts! A red maple leaf with the words "I opt for communal utilitarianism."

I don't think they'd be big sellers.

I did work/live on a commune one summer though. I can milk goats and cows and make lentil soup for 200.

I don't think they'd like the t-shirts there either, though.

A T said...

I can't resist weighing in. In the US, we complain about taxes because we see a third of our income withheld from our checks for "the greater good," all while we are paying to have a tire replaced after blowing it out on a huge pothole. Then we pay a thousand bucks a month for health insurance and still get a bill when we go to the hospital. Combine that with the fact that my state is among the worst in education spending, and infrastructure is falling down around me. Point is, tax me all you want, but I'd like to point to at least one thing in my daily life that receives some of that money or some benefit. And please don't throw freedom in my face as the payoff; I served in the current conflict with pride.

Most of us realize (or would if we'd stop blindly reciting the party rhetoric so loudly) that we have different beliefs and the opposition isn't going to convince me to change them. The problem is that the people who yell loudest are the ones that get heard, and none of them are willing to find any common ground and work out a compromise. I don't believe in abortion, but I know I can't stop it. Instead, I'd love to find ways to reduce the abortions that are had each year, which serves a universal goal, reducing unwanted pregnancy, without demanding that anyone compromises their beliefs. Unfortunately, many see cooperating with "the enemy" as compromising their beliefs.

Our language has all the elements needed to make this work, but I fear that people lack the basic kindergarten lessons of cooperation necessary to work for the greater good. Incidentally, check out yourmorals.org for an interesting take on political affiliations. Basically it is an ongoing research project that links moral and ethical decisions to the subject's political affiliation. It has been enlightening for me to see why it is that the "other" side thinks and acts the way they do.

viennatech said...

The more things appear different. The more they really are the same.

or for the musically inclined...

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

At least we can still go flying on nice days in certain areas after filing certain paperwork and remaining clear of other areas. It's still fun! :)

Sarah said...

Wow! Has this entry set a record for responses yet? Turns out that politics & economics is even more controversial than religion.

@Aviatrix:
New T-shirts! A red maple leaf with the words "I opt for communal utilitarianism."
Sounds good, I'll take one! I'm looking for a "whats so bad about socialism" tee shirt not featuring the Swedish bikini team.

Have you photoshop & time?
http://www.customink.com

fche said...

I'm looking for a "whats so bad about socialism" tee shirt not featuring the Swedish bikini team.
Hey, if you leave room for an answer, and maybe dangle an attached marker, some strangers may donate a written explanation when your back is turned.

Sarah said...

me: I'm looking for a "whats so bad about socialism" tee shirt not featuring the Swedish bikini team.
fche: Hey, if you leave room for an answer, and maybe dangle an attached marker, some strangers may donate a written explanation when your back is turned.
Sigh. It was a joke, but your (joke?) response reminds me why I prefer to have political discussions face to face. And not, say, on the interweb. Over & out.

zb said...

The more I think about it (not just since this or your last blog entry, but for quite a long time already), I believe in the fact that the world just is not as simple as red/blue, liberal/conservative, left/right or god-ist/sci-ist, Canadian/American or even something as silly as Austrian/Bavarian. Any strong belief in either of these opinions/groups/whatever just won't do any good. I have the strong feeling that the compassionate someone you were trying to understand seeks answers in embracing or opposing some of the groups mentioned above and, when asked about his opinion, talks more about any of these groups than his true opinion, maybe because being afraid of admitting that there is too much frightening stuff going on in the world for any individual to solve.

The nice but also very dangerous concept about these groups is that they make answers seem very simple and they disguise the fact that any answer is actually anything but simple.

I like the concept of the axioms of thought, and I really think that no conversation about the great confusing puzzle leads to anything but kittens with strings once someone calls somebody else "a leftist liberal" or a "right wing idiot", which happens even with logical, well-spoken and enthusiastic folks.

There is wisdom in these words:
"Don't encourage the wind,
the candles will retire."
(see here and here)

I have found pretty much any conversation start turning into candle-killing wind once it got away from personal opinions and towards the groups mentioned above, leading to something like "... now you tell me how any liberal has a better concept about..."

dpierce said...

It's certainly true that people and issues are more complex than the simple groups we place ourselves and others in. I've always thought what was more dangerous was the options we are given (or that we give ourselves) on an issue are so polarized. That is, on many issues, the vote is to do it 100% or not at all -- to ban a thing or allow people to do it with abandon.

But it seems politicians -- and I'm not sure if this is a fault of our process or a fault of group consensus in general -- can only frame issues in a highly polarized way, and give us highly polarized options for dealing with those issues.

The reasons for this are legion and well-studied, but it's a shame nonetheless. Examining shades of gray requires more braintime than the average voter is willing to give (or in some cases, more than the voter is capable of giving). Framing issues in polar extremes incites passion, makes action clear-cut, and creates results. And the information we're given to make decisions with itself is meager and biased.

ZuluDelta said...

Any indication of when this philosophical fog is going to lift and we can get airborne again?

A T said...

dpierce I think you hit it on the head re: examining shades of gray. The reality of our society (at least in the US) is that we're a "right now" society and people by and large don't take the time to examine things. There are a great deal of people who get the majority of their news from the nightly news teaser. I think that we can all agree that it is self evident that you can't possibly get all the information needed to examine the complex issues in one sentence.

Case in point: the bank bailouts are based on significant research that concludes the severity of the great depression was a result of the banks collapsing so rapidly. Much of the public sees them as a sort of charity, when in fact the effort is intended to reduce the effects felt b the general populace. Whether we should keep propping them up indefinitely...well let's just say that even the best laid plans can go awry.