Thursday, June 30, 2005

Friendships vs. Stuff

Will Wilkinson ( yes, I know - again) has a thoughtful post on the foundations of happiness in our consumer-oriented world. This was prompted by Robert Lane's book The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies. Basically, the thinking is: research shows that friends, family, marriage and the like are much more important than money in determining our happiness. Yet we spend a far greater portion of our lives working towards obtaining greater material wealth, often at the expense of those things that "really matter". Why is this? Read the whole thing for Will's persepctive. My personal addendum to this is that the other thing we probably undervalue is time. It's easy to give up lesiure time for more money, and so many people do it very frequently. But I've long been wary of this paradox: having the money to spend but no time to enjoy it. Hence my choice of career up to this point: not much money but lots of time to enjoy whatever you are able to save.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mount Mitchell

Here's a photo from my trip west. This is the view looking (I think) northwest from the summit of Mount Mitchell (highest peak east of the Mississippi) in western North Carolina.

The Lowest of the Low

It doesn't get much worse than this: using political power and intimidation to disuade Major League Baseball from allowing a political opponent to purchase a baseball team. This should be a major scandal. Sadly, it's just not surprising enough to make much of a splash.

Strong Reservations

John Tierney has an op-ed in the NY Times that suggests that the dire economic situation faced by Native Americans corresponds very nicely with the rise of federal burecracies created to "solve" the situation. I'd like to see how the situation compares in Canada for First Nations people.

The Connectedness of Individuals

Will Wilkinson has a piece berating Barack Obama’s recent commencement address at Knox College that included an excellent point illustrating how the modern market economy, rather than being a cacophony of individuals all battling out for their share, is really one where we are intensely interconnected and dependent on one another:

To provide citizens with a bigger stake in the market through ownership is to integrate them more fully
into a web of mutual support that is vastly more intricate and organic than the pattern of government transfers could ever be. People in societies like ours, who grow none of our own food, make none of our own clothes, and would not know how to build shelter if our lives depended on it, are truly "in this together."

The level of implied and unspoken trust we put in our fellow human beings in modern society is indeed staggering. Most of us are dependent on other people for almost ALL the basic necessities of life, yet few of us really have substantial worries about whether or not we will be able to find food and shelter. As Wilkinson notes:

Market societies -- ownership societies -- are wealthy because they rely on and reinforce a high level of social trust and norms of cooperation.

And what’s incredible about it all is that all (or at least most) of the cooperation we observe in our society is purely voluntary. Mutually beneficial trade - it really works.

Incidentally, this also brings up the question: who would you have more faith in bringing you a reliable and interesting food supply – individuals and private corporations like we have now, or the government?

Oh La La Canada

In a move that I strongly endorse (but still feel that it's sad we even have to have government involved in this, because it should just be a basic human right that people should be able to marry whomever they want), the Canadian Parliament has approved the same-sex marriage bill. It now moves the the taskless thanks of Canadian politics, the "senate", where it will likely pass easily. The Conservatives are saying that the fight isn't over, and I'm sure it's not, but surely they must realize that they are just delaying the inevitable?

It's a great day for Canada.

Markets in Everything!

Even fire rescue. Check out this funny ad from the on-line auction site

Google Earth

This seems like a seriously cool new tool. It goes beyond the excellent Google Maps which I wasted a few days playing with this winter and adds a bunch more features and better resolution (so I hear). I read about a guy who did a flyover of a hiking route he will be taking in the Grand Canyon later this summer. Sweet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Save the Garden State! (Tuesday Fun Link)

Sign me up to defend my adopted state! If only this proposal was actually implausible enough to be 100% humorous and not just a little bit scary. There's also one floating around to use eminent domain to sieze Justice Souter's property in New Hampshire and build a hotel. (Hat tip: Julian Sanchez at Reason)

MIT Blog Survey

If you've got a blog, take this survey from those pesky researchers at MIT.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The perils of party-ism

Radley Balko has a nice little post (fueled by the Kelo and Raich decisions) that touches on something that I've really noticed a lot in the past year (and it was an absolute epidemic back before the November election): the tendancy of a great number of people to place "winning" in the political arena as being the loftiest goal worthy of fighting for. Witness how many would probably rather see the Iraq adventure fail miserably than be successful, because that would be better for "their" side politically (I touched on this issue earlier). It's all about getting and keeping the power. And the more we resist this and try and have some real principles that stand above that, the better.

The Kelo verdict

If you're interested, the opinions can be found here.

Oh, THOSE Supreme Court decisions

OK, now I have a few minutes to be able to RANT on what surely are two of the most upsetting Supreme Court decisions in recent memory: first in Raich, they side with the drug-warriors over terminally-ill patients. Then comes Kelo, where they side with land developers over homeowners. I hereby state that I have lost complete respect for the justices who sided with the majorities in these cases, and I really only have time to listen to the dissenters from this point forward. Sad as it may be to my left-leaning social policy heart, the so-called "conservative" judges (O'Connor, Thomas, Rehnquist, Scalia) were the only ones willing to stand up for the rights of the individual over the government's ability to control us. I can't really express with any sense of composure and tact how upset I am over these cases. So utterly disappointing, and from a Court that I usually find comes much closer to my position on issues than most government bodies do. It almost makes me lose hope.

But after I eat something, I'll be ready to keep fighting.

Back to the Great White North

I'm back in my hometown, Saskatoon, for the next month or so. I had a great drive across some of the southern states I'd never been to before heading north. I'll post a few photos soon. And now I should be able to keep up with this blog much better than I have been lately! More to come...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005's a little TOO easy

I totally agree with this article by John Tierney in today's NY Times. The fact that people are retiring as young as they are now, while we are living even longer, is burdening young workers today with the costs of sustaining a relaxing lifestyle for the elderly. Sorry, Mom and Dad. But that's the way I see it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Return to normalcy...but better

Sorry the the lack of posts lately. I've been busy with exams, grading, and comment-writing. But it's all over now! (see post below to see how I spent my first weekend of the summer). I should be back on track now for a few posts this week before I take my road trip across the country back home.

The Catskills

The view north from the col between Slide Mtn. and Mount Cornell