Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vote Freedom & Justice

This is an informal chatty post. Not totally thought out. A start.

In the future, I'll blog about stuff like economics, politics, ecology. A little philosophy. Anthropology. Perhaps even touch on religion now and then, particularly when considering issues such as morality or the separation of church and state. Or the meaning of life. Some Buddhism perhaps. I'll even blog a tad about science--rumor has it I have degrees in physics--but I'm thinking the physical sciences can pretty much take care of themselves. I'm not sure what I have to add. Maybe note some spectacular discoveries now and again.

And of course music. I'll blog about music. Though I'm not sure--off the top of my head--what I'll say about it.

My considerations of economics, politics, and ecology will take me into a variety of areas, in particular matter (resources) and energy--as well as how they flow and are distributed amongst the people--and not-people--who inhabit this planet. I'll probably consider the interface between society and ecosystems. And the responsibilities or obligations--if any exist--of an individual--living in the present--to others--whether living in the present or in the future. (Memo to the past: take care of yourselves.)

Humans have not inhabited this planet for a very long time. Our modern conveniences, our tools, our ways of thinking--even the very brains that create out internal and external worlds--are--in an evolutionary sense--newborn. Are we humans--with our power of reason and increasing control over matter and energy--unlimited in our potential? Or are we a flash in the pan, playing dangerous and eventually futile games with concepts--and a planet--that we don't understand?

I think the answer is: we don't know. In some cases, we have some fairly refined and useful concepts that seem to fit the world quite well--telling us what happened yesterday, what is going on right now, and--with less accuracy--what might happen tomorrow. Or the day after. But these concepts are often crude.

Economics, as I see it, is particularly crude. Not it's fault. I'm not complaining. After I became interested in energy--and started looking at world energy production, I was on occasion startled by the statements made by people in positions of influence, statements that were purportedly backed by the science of economics. But a closer look showed that many of these predictions were often little more back-of-the-envelope (at best) guesses--or worse, an assemblage of jargon (with a supply/demand chart thrown in to boot) that--amazingly enough--produced an answer that accurately supported the ideological position of the person making the prediction. Go figure.

(Note: I admit that abuse or exaggeration occurs in many fields--not just economics).

Many economists are addressing these issues, looking at human psychology, the interaction of economic systems with the surrounding environment, dabbling in complexity, and in general finding ways to refine their science to better explain and predict our world--or at least the choices we make in it.

But I do believe that economics as a field is (a) easily subverted or wrongly used by those with ideological agendas to fulfill and has (b) found itself in a place of great influence in our society. Note the order in which we consider controversial topics on many occasions: (1) Is a phenomenon true? (e.g. a biological truth). (2) Is it economical? (3) Is it politically tenable?

Economics is the gateway to, and in some ways intermingled with, the political. It's no wonder it was originally called Political Economy.

Libertarians provide what I believe is the standard by which we should consider all questions, whether general or specific: Who chooses? It is an important question. We all want to make our own choices. Though the fact is--because of fortune or otherwise--many people are not in a position to choose. They have few choices. Maybe none. In other cases, the topics are very complex. Our choices interact with other choosers--directly or indirectly. Or in the case of the future, the choosers don't even exist--yet.

The idea that autonomous independent self-serving agents produce optimal solutions is not true under all circumstances. For example, we humans have a brain--a central government--that monitors and controls aspects of the many cells distributed through our bodies. Not total control. But our bodies are not libertarian.

On the other hand, they are not Marxist. Our bodies are not a command economy.

More importantly, optimal is not always good. Or just.

The answer is not libertarian. And it's not Marxist. It is not conservative (the past is always right--if it ain't broke, don't fix it). Nor progressive (the past is bad, it's always broken, let's make it better).

The answer is a balance between freedom and justice. Not equality, mind you. Justice.

Equality makes no sense. If everyone were equal, we'd all be the same person, a physical impossibility. We should stop talking about equality and talk more about justice.

There are some significant issues that I think the world needs to consider, and consider very soon: (1) energy production and our dependence on it; (2) the environment, including the possibility of global warming. (3) the distribution of goods and services in the economy. (4) the balance between competition and cooperation.

I once considered starting a political party: The Freedom and Justice Party. I wanted to define a platform that took into account personal freedom and balanced it with a sense of justice, defining each in the process.

Maybe I'll print up a bumper sticker: "Vote Freedom & Justice". Put it on my car.

Anyway, that's the answer I came up when considering some of these issues I might blog about: Freedom & Justice.

Now what was the question?