RE: The Problem of Economic Calculation

In this entry, I argued that the census is of little value to central planners. The cost of over $11 billion is one fact I cited against it, but on second thought, no critique on that front holds water, because the Constitution itself mandates the taking of the census—and for a purpose wholly unrelated to the gathering of economic intelligence. So if the government must take the census, the cost of doing so does not signify.

It seems to me, however, as though the government already possesses all the information the census is meant to collect and more—neatly tucked away in the IRS Individual Master File: name, income, spouse, dependents, residence, whether you own or rent the place where you dwell, what you ate for breakfast, etc. The only question on the census to which the IRS doesn’t already demand an answer—that I know of, at least—is that of race. “But … but … that’s not what the Constitution says. The founders meant for the census to…” Yeah, sure. … Indeed, that such an institution as the IRS should even exist in these united states would scandalize the founders if the poor devils were around to take note. No matter. The IRS is here to stay. So why not make the most of it? The government could query its database every year, instead of ten, by means of an electronic process, which would practically cost nothing. That’s over $1 billion of savings a year, which could, in turn, be wasted far more imaginatively over trifles less mundane.

The Ring of Power

Ring of PowerI have never read The Lord of The Rings. When I first watched the movies I found them unworthy of any consideration, never mind their hype. The escapist incoherence of the film seemed to suggest that it didn’t even pretend to have a point emphatically enough for me to care. My boyfriend is a huge fan however, and as it happens, I decided to give the Lord of The Rings another shot for his sake.

So I liked it better the second time around. Most importantly, I didn’t get that “this plot is just an excuse to go back to mythological times in the hope of pulling some pseudo-epic shit” aftertaste from watching. I actually think I got the point of the movie, and it was very interestingly close to a conclusion I had been brewing for a while.

I saw the gist as a metaphor for the corrupting nature of authoritarianism. It’s not too far fetched to see The Ring of Power as a universal promise to dominate, offered to individuals by circumstance. It tempts most, from hunchback losers with self-esteem issues like Gollum, who can’t even keep hold of it, to valiant and charismatic leaders, men and women who believe they can use the Ring for good and most importantly, either consciously or subconsciously think they deserve it—that they deserve the will and power to rule over all.

The way the movie depicts the approach of various characters who covet the Ring subtly reveals that their naïve belief that they can control it, that they have the rectitude it takes to curb its power for good, is not just an honest miscalculation, but rather a self-deceiving rationalization for reaching out for the Ring. So their raw conviction is not their reason for wanting the Ring; on the contrary, they induce themselves to believe it as a justification for craving its power in the first place, and craving it for the sake of power only.

Boromir is the classic example of a man who tried to instrumentalize his own perceived self-righteousness, using it as a rubber glove to pick up the Ring. But his integrity was highly ambiguous at best. The reason no one is able to use the Ring for good is that the mere act of desiring it precludes you from the ranks of the honest righteous types who would be inert to its corroding power. What it says to me is that there is no good kind of authoritarianism. Righteous people intuitively know that no omnipotent however benevolent ruler is needed to foster our civilization’s most honorable values like universal freedom and prosperity.

Labeling them as “The Greater Good” cannot change this fact…