Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The morally (un)credible Santorum

 "Santorum is the only candidate who cares about the moral breakdown of society"

Me: "He cares? What is that worth? I want a president who will actually address the core issues.  No more reflexive and fruitless odes to traditional values.  So what, exactly, will he do?"

"He's against abortion. And he'll serve as the moral inspiration for Americans to follow."

Me: "Ok, ok.  First off, nobody's ending abortion.  Second, it doesn't work like that. Leaders have the potential to do great things, but they can't shift a decades-long process that is unfolding due to the immutable laws of human nature and human society. Even if it were possible, Santorum doesn't have the charisma to be that man."


I was arguing with a friend about feminism, women's rights, and the moral disintegration of the West. I replayed the various ills feminism has wrought: he spouted politically correct platitudes to the tee.   I offered nothing original, just pointed out the verifiable effects of women's economic and political empowerment, but he still failed to grok the connection between women's rights and societal breakdown.  After a few minutes of fruitless bantering, the conversation made way for the subject of political elections when he, against all reason and rationality, he had the chutzpah to defend Rick Santorum because of his unwavering "defense of moral values and hard position on abortion." Talk about not getting it.

I replied that restoring moral value to the country and outlawing abortion was a whole lot harder than anyone imagines, a task Santorum or any of the candidates would be impotent in implementing, not with the technological miracles of contraception and reliable abortion, thinking at the time of Ferdinand Bardamu's excellent post on technology's intractable caper on hedonism. 

On second thought, the only way to restore moral sanity to the U.S would be to hand it a one-way ticket to economic abyss, so it looks like Barack Obama would be the best candidate after all.  But I digress.

Of course, technology isn't the only source posing problems, so the moral argument for Santorum may still have some relevance. In that vein, I will present a few policy prescriptions that, if it could be demonstrated that Santorum not only would support, but would do his absolute best to implement, then I will publicly endorse him for President.  Here it goes.

End no-fault divorce.

End female suffrage. Alternately, limit the suffrage to weed out parasitical voters.  

Provide women significant incentive to leave their corporate job to become stay-at-home mothers. No one is exempt from tradeoffs.  If women devote all their energies in competing in the endless horse-race that is corporate America, the necessities of the home and the nuclear family, the self-evident foundation for any moral society, will be neglected and its function will deteriorate.

End to Alimony and other single-mother welfare programs.   

In other words, he pretty much just has to spot the elephant in the room, an elephant that is conspicuous to any thinking person but remains invisible for the self-serving cyborg elite.  So while a great deal more policies are necessary to remedy our moral plight, any politician going this far would be so out of the mainstream that he would merit my vote.  Santorum, man up!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why you should never work out with more than one person

The small sign that read Fitness Connection hung over a narrow door,  giving the gym an unassuming appearance, one that belied it enormous size.  It's like a warehouse, with a line of fifty-some-odd cardio machines at front with just as many weight machines in the middle.  The long rack of free weights, from 5 to 150 lbs, lied in the back.  You don't have to wait for a machine. 

One of the things I like about this gym is that everybody is serious.  And while it doesn't host VIP's like some of the gyms in Mami or Santa Monica, there is no shortage of individuals who could enter the WBFF. 

But much like you don't realize how loud a constantly-beaming generator is until it turns off, I didn't fully appreciate the caliber of the gym I work out in until I got up from a set of inclined bench press and saw three kids, no older than 17, walk to a bench press near me.  One couldn't help but noticing the incongruity. They were guffawing as if they were at the arcade while they sipped their Monster energy drink. WTF? They probably think Monster is healthy for them because it has vitamins. 

Being in the zone, I didn't pay much attention to them as I went back and forth doing my chest and back super-dropsets, but from what I saw it was apparent that they weren't working out like they thought they were.  When they weren't chatting up a thoughtless storm of words,  they were lying on the bench trying to see how much they could max, as if that does anything other than fill some void. 

This is why you should never work out with more than one person.  You end up getting distracted.  While one is working on his set, two guys can talk to each other.  In eye of memory, whenever I work out with more people beyond my usual workout buddy, epic failure ensues.  The workout isn't so much as poor as it is nonexistent.  So, while you should have one partner that will be there to keep you accountable, having anymore more than that will, unless their extremely motivated people, jeopardize your workouts.    

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Europe beat China

In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond outlines a convincing case that geographical differences in certain regions serve to either hinder or jumpstart a society’s overall progress.  Early success then generates more success, and thus a little head start can lead to the difference between a Civilization capable of seafare, metallurgy, and centralized government, and a huntergatherer tribe whose main characteristics are, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish, and short.” Diamond highlights the geographical sweetspots to be the Fertile Crescent and Asia, which accounts for the rise of two superpowers: Europe and China. 

However, his explanatory model, which precludes any nongeographical  explanations, has gaping holes when it comes to comparing the relative success of Europe with that of China in the middle ages. 

More than anything, a society’s ascension is based strength of its technological base.  Much of what can be attributed to Europe’s ascension can be numbered on a list of new inventions.  Including:

The water wheel marked a huge improvement in productive efficiency, allowing workers to labor on something else, either on more concrete appliances or intellectual endeavors, such as reading and writing.

Eyeglasses doubled the working life of a skilled craftsman.  Whereas before an artisan’s skill would plummet with the decline of his sight, rendering him all but impotent by the age of 40, eyeglasses allowed fine workers to continue their vocation decades longer.

The importance of the printing press can hardly be exaggerated. Although originally invented in China, the printing press never caught on because of the inflexibly of the Chinese Block type.  But when Gutenberg invented the printing press for alphabetical languages, the world would never be the same.  The literacy rates shot up, people began to read and think more, productivity increased from more reliable documentation and communication. 

For all the progress that Europe witnessed in the centuries preceding the Renaissance (11-1300’s), China was actually its superior at the time.  The Chinese invented the wheelborrow, stirrup, compass, paper, printing, and gunpowder.  But as Europe witnessed progress going into the Renaissance, China endured a steep decline.
Therefore, the question of why Europe, as opposed to China, emerged as the world’s premier superpower can be restated as to why Europe was more amendable to invent new technologies than China, and why China actually went backwards.  As for China’s regress, the Hungarian sinologist Etienne Balazs attributes it to its totalitarian constraints on private initiative, where monopolies reigned, bureaucracies were all-powerful, and Chinese ingenuity was sapped by the prevailing regulations that gripped its citizens from cradle to grave, all creating an artificial plateau that the Chinese could surmount.

As for Europe’s relative success, David Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, attributes it to several factors. 
  • ·           "The Judeo-Christian respect for manual labor, as summed up in a number of biblical injunctions.” He gives the example of when God warns Noah of the flood, and how God doesn’t just save him, but instead tells Noah to build an ark.
  • ·        The Judeo-Christian conception of Man being in control of nature, contra pagan nature worshippers.
  • ·         But most importantly, just as China’s decline could be extrapolated from its command economic system, Europe ascended due to its relative economic freedom. The institutions of private property and free enterprise gave the Europeans more incentive to innovate and create than the Chinese. It wasn’t the pure, Laisse faire Dickinson capitalism, but it was sufficiently close to it.
Admittedly, this article only scratched the surface of the issues involved, but intentionally so.  One has to start somewhere.