It feels like ages since I’ve written an edition of The Morning Roar. I’ve had a wonderful few days celebrating Christmas with family and friends. The last couple days must have had a few extra minutes tucked in them. Maybe the many delicious Christmas ales I’ve enjoyed helped to slow down the progression of time the last couple days. Enough rambling, let’s get to the Roar!
2014 Sure Seemed Like a Terrible Year, But Was It Really That Bad?
I could be way off base, but if your holiday conversations with family and friends were anything like mine, then some of them likely centered on how bad things are getting in every aspect of life.
It seems everyone can agree that the healthcare system is falling apart. There’s even a fair amount of bipartisan support on both sides who fear violence caused by Islamic extremists in the Middle East could cause the third world war. Some people even fear a race war could break out as a result of opposition to recent controversial police killings of African-Americans. This is only naming a few stories that have the general public flustered.
We are constantly bombarded with information everywhere we turn. Social media feeds are full of click-bait stories that often lack facts and the mainstream media seeks to elevate the most ambiguous events in order to create a story with sustainable buzz. Everywhere we turn we our offered a view at the worst in our society. But are things really that bad? And more importantly, what should our expectation be regarding health, safely, and prosperity in this crazy thing we call life?
To try to find answers to these questions, let’s first turn to an article from The Telegraph. This article provides a very optimistic viewpoint on the status of humanity. Do you find yourself nodding along as you read the quotes below or do you find yourself asking why things can’t be even better?
We have recently been celebrating a quarter-century since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which kicked off a period of global calm. The Canadian academic Steven Pinker has called this era the “New Peace”, noting that conflicts of all kinds – genocide, autocracy and even terrorism – went on to decline sharply the world over. Pinker came up with the phrase four years ago, but only now can we see the full extent of its dividends.
With peace comes trade and, ergo, prosperity. Global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could.
Britons don’t need to look abroad for signs of progress. The Lancet report showed that, since 1990, life expectancy in Western Europe is up by five years – thanks, mainly, to fewer deaths from cancer and heart disease.
Ministers are now fretting about something else: a “time bomb” created because citizens are living longer and healthier lives than ever; the Queen now needs a team of seven people to send birthday cards to centenarians. Even the winter, one of our biggest killers, is losing its bite. For decades, at least 25,000 pensioners have died of cold-related diseases. A few weeks ago, it emerged that last winter the figure had fallen to 18,200 – the lowest ever recorded. Almost half a century after the moon landing, we’re finally working out how to insulate the homes of the elderly.
Prosperity is bringing benefits without trashing the planet. Since 1990, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are down, in spite of our economy being about 60 per cent larger – thanks to more efficient technology. Our roads are safer, as well as greener. Traffic deaths are down by two-thirds since 1990, and are lower now than when the Model T Ford was on the road.
The logic that guides those who agree with Pinker is flawed. Those sympathetic to Pinker’s views believe that we should be optimistic and happy that life continues to get better, in spite of encroachment by a coercive government that steals our property. Shayne Wissler produced a brilliant counter to Pinker’s claims more than a month ago.
While it is certainly true that many important areas of human life are improving, the rate of progress is abysmally retarded compared to what could be. In many aspects there is not merely stagnation but regression, and most of the improvements are expropriated and impeded by an ever-growing cobweb of vicious and convoluted mythologies and laws. So while “pessimism” isn’t called for, neither is optimism. What is called for is an informed outrage over the fact what could and should be, isn’t. We should indeed be optimistic about what is possible to the human race, and therefore angry that stupidity and wickedness constantly interferes. It is only through an authentic concern with injustice — which naturally leads to anger — that there is hope for the radical improvement we are capable of. And yet Cato would quench this anger with the coldly passionless and morally obtuse analyses of Pinker.
It is too complex to survey the details of what is wrong with our society here, so let me draw an analogy:
Imagine you live in a tribe where there is a group of hunters, a group of inventors (who build weapons for the hunters), and a group of leaders who presume to own virtually everyone and everything. The inventors are coming up with ways of improving the tribe’s productivity, but most of these ideas are squashed by the leaders, usually because the leaders do not understand the invention, sometimes because they decided an invention is too dangerous to their authority, and sometimes just because they feel like asserting themselves. But every once and a while an improvement is permitted: a better spear, a better bow and arrow, etc.
These improvements allow the hunters to catch more prey, bringing home, say, twice as much meat. Would it be a cause for celebration and optimism if the tribe’s leaders take 95% of the increase and leave 5% for the hunters and inventors? A domesticated slave mentality is going to say “Well yes, of course it’s better, I got 5% more.” A different sort of person is going to be outraged. But the leaders are cunning: they realize that too much improvement in too short of a time span is going to be so easily perceived as to lead to just this sort of outrage, so they make sure progress is slow, or they create artificial problems to create new “work” to keep people busy and distracted — wars, sabotage, regulations, feigned incompetence at leading the tribe, mountains of pointless paperwork — it doesn’t matter, so long as people are too busy to intensively question the system.
Senator Paul Wants Militarized Police Defunded
Here’s an interesting story to follow in the New Year. Everyone’s favorite “libertarian leaningish” GOP presidential hopeful, Senator Rand Paul, has set his sights on ending the federal programs that enable the militarization of local police.
Now he’s going further, with plans raise the issue in the U.S. Senate during the next session.
According to a Buzzfeed report online, Paul’s staff members said he will reintroduce a bill that “goes after the federal programs that send military-grade equipment to local police departments.”
“Paul will be trying to force a Republican-controlled Senate to examine federal programs that funnel millions in grant money and surplus to arm local police forces with weapons and vehicles designed for the battlefield,” the report said.
It would be great if Senator Paul is able to put an end to the programs that put tanks and other military equipment on the streets of local communities. But let’s not forget the root cause that forces these now obsolete military weapons and vehicles downstream. Of course I’m speaking of U.S. military adventurism across the globe. Senator Paul’s legislation would claim to block the flow to local communities, but where would this military equipment end up? The source problem needs to be solved. The U.S. government’s out of control foreign policy needs to be stopped. Otherwise, the runoff created by U.S. jingoism will just find another stream to pollute with their used tanks and guns.
Kim Dotcom Takes Aim At Skype
If you’ve followed my writing over the past few years, then you’re well aware that I frequently report the latest and greatest projects initiated by internet mogul entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. Mr. Dotcom is back in the news and as per usual he’s making moves that will generate waves throughout tech.
Kim Dotcom, founder of file hosting service Mega, today revealed his company will be launching a browser-based chat service “soon.” Dotcom referred to the service with the hashtag #MegaChat, though he confirmed with VentureBeat that this many not be its final name.
This is not the first time Dotcom has talked about the upcoming service, which gets mentioned every few months but has yet to hit public availability in any form. There is naturally a lot of hype surrounding it, given the increasing importance put on secure communications on the Internet. This time, the entrepreneur is promising the service will be encrypted, browser-based, and offer “high-speed” file transfers.
What say you Skype?
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