Sunday, July 13, 2008

American Politics

There's an example from Economics that I keep thinking of. Say there is a long stretch of beach, and there are two food stands, one on each side. Where would each of them move to, to maximize profit? Well, if both are on the far end of the beach, one could move closer to the middle, and get a greater percentage of the customers (assuming the customers choose to go for whichever one is closest). While the optimal placement for customers (shortest walking time) would be one at each of the 3/4 points along the beach, equidistant from both the edge and the center, both businesses will move to the very middle, to prevent the competition from moving over any more and taking their customer base. This assumes that no other competition can move in.

This is pretty much what American Politics seems like to me. By November, McCain and Obama will be barely differentiable, but everyone to Obama's left will vote for him, and everyone to McCain's right would vote for him. This is what a two party system does; going back to the beach analogy, if given no other choices, and Hitler were running for the Republicans and Stalin for the Democrats, right at the edges of the beach, then the voting results would be fairly similar.

This is what happened in the 2000, election, at least. Bush was a moderate-conservative and Gore was a moderate-liberal. That was just branding, of course, because both have turned out to be quite different than they were when running.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Brave New World III

What interested me most about Brave New World was the character development, in particular the element of solitude in the development of the people. The people who 'fit in' the best were all useless human beings. Lenina, the closest thing to the female protagonist, was little more than a cookie-cutter member of the upper class. So I figured that Bernard would be the 'good guy,' as his isolation from society due to his small stature would have given him the opportunity to develop a more independent set of values. But, given the chance, he turned into someone just as petty and superficial as those who fit in. He was isolated from society, yes, but he was resentful about it. John, the Savage, was also raised in isolation, due to his mother being from out of the reservation. He was not overly resentful over this, except in the society's unwillingness to allow him to participate in the religious ritual, and thus was able to develop an independent set of values from his society, aided by his unique ability to read (on the reservation).

The real thing that interests me is how, in the real world, isolation from the mainstream results in the development of individuals. My premonition is that those who were the most popular and accepted in High School, say, have a difficult time getting by in more real social situations. Some degree of independence is required to become a successful human being, and sometimes that independence is unwillingly forced upon someone - the key is to not be resentful about it.

The book I am reading next is Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. I'm thinking that it will just be a silly-fun alternative history.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Brave New World II

Something that I found interesting about Brave New World was the lack of a 'good guy.' The point of the novel seemed to be that 'this is bad this way, and this is bad this way.' John, The Savage, was provided as a counterbalance to the established civilization; this did not make his way of life better than the civilization. The 'Savage' lifestyle, at least to me, was as flawed as the 'Civilized' way of life. While one permitted only contentment, as prescribed by the central authorities. Dulled happiness is not less good than self-destruction. It seems that if you averaged the happiness of the civilized, and the happiness of the savage you would have the same amount. The only difference is the extremes.

More later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Huxley and Utilitarianism

"Consider the matter dispassionately, Mr. Foster, and you will see that no offense is so heinous as unorthodoxy of behavior. Murder kills only the individual - and, after all, what is an individual?" With a sweeping gesture he indicated the rows of microscopes, the test-tubes, the incubators. "We can make a new one with the greatest ease - as many as we like. Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself..."

-Brave New World pp150

It appears that Brave New World is a diatribe against Utilitarianism - and a rather effective one, at that. This Utilitarian paradise - a place where the lower classes are created as genetic and mental inferiors, conditioned to love their menial labor, while the upper classes are forced into prioritizing society above all else - hence the taboo long-term relationship; we wouldn't want someone to prioritize their partner over any one else - everybody belongs to everyone else.