Are Libertarians Unusually Selfish? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Yes. Yes, they are.

Some libertarians may truly believe that they’re advocating a system that helps everyone. But ALL “liberals” believe that. Few people on the “left” are in it for selfish reasons. (Elitist reasons, maybe.)

Are Libertarians Unusually Selfish? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Quick review: The Office, Season 9, Episode 2

The first episode this season was surprisingly good. Tonight, that momentum died instantly.

The Office is falling into the old sitcom cliche of a married couple running into trouble over some sort of misunderstanding. It’s a betrayal of the Jim and Pam characters.

Jim and Pam are supposed to our sane window into this crazy world. But we’ve gone back and forth after the past few seasons. First, Pam’s incompetent and hapless. Now that Pam is on top of things, as beautifully shown in the first episode’s rooftop scene with Dwight, Jim is a complete idiot. And a little creepy. Who starts a new company and keeps it secret from his spouse?

(Also: Could they be any more stereotypical, getting all bent of shape about failing to surprise each other? And that’s supposed to be stirred up by Roy’s surprising success? Roy’s still a scumbag, so who cares?)

Next week, apparently, Nellie exploits the mistrust to make Pam think Jim is having an affair. We have to hope Jim is forced to fess up so this story arc can die.

The best part of a bad story line: Oscar’s spit take when Angela says her husband can still surprise her.

The Dwight-Nellie story wasn’t bad, but they couldn’t figure out a way to end it. Darryl’s diversion worked, but it ended with “Am not/Are too”? Really?

New Jim, whose name I don’t recall, redeemed the Andy-Erin storyline.

How I ditched the smart phone

I’m officially a former Blackberry user. I fell in love with the devices while covering the Olympics, where USA TODAY would set us all up so we could communicate from everywhere. Snapping pictures and Tweeting from Beijing was a new and wonderful experience.

My older cell phones had their charms. But without a keyboard, texting was virtually impossible. The tiny screens weren’t good for the “mobile Web.” And so I was thrilled to get a Blackberry — emailing, Tweeting and using Facebook any time I was otherwise idled.

But my Blackberry also had annoying habit of freezing at inopportune times. It was a decent email device but a terrible phone. And obviously, the iPhone and Android phones had overtaken my old semi-reliable companion.

Then Verizon introduced its “Share” plans. Unlimited talk and text! And data plans that were … ridiculously expensive!

The idea is to capitalize on the masses’ demand for smart phones and tablets, apparently so we can go out into the woods and watch silly videos on YouTube or something like that. They’re not even making a pretense of productivity any more. If you can’t share your kids’ origami project in 2.3 seconds over a 4G network … well … you’re just lame.

Hi. I’m lame.

I noticed that the “basic phone” today is not the same keyboard-less wonder I had in 2004. Today’s “basic phones” have touch screens. Wide screens. Slide-out keyboards.

So when Verizon called and told me I could get a discounted “basic phone” and a reasonable data plan, I made the call. Blackberry out. Brightside (Samsung) in.

So far, it’s a little disappointing. The ad copy made it seem that I could do everything I was doing with the Blackberry — email, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally GPS. Sort of.

The GPS is the real aggravation. Like the old days, Verizon offers voice navigation — for a fee. If you’re thinking you’ll just get around that by using Google Maps, think again. Go to Google Maps through the ever-clumsy Opera Mini browser, and you’re prompted to download an app. Then the phone won’t support a download.

And that little hitch prevents me from doing a lot with Twitter and Facebook as well. The app market for non-smart phones has basically died. I was able to get more apps back in the old days — even had a playable EA Tiger Woods golf game. Today, I can’t even find Freecell.

The upside: You can still do a lot through texting, and now that I have unlimited texts, that’s a viable way to keep up with Twitter if I’m not at a laptop.

But the bottom line is this: What do I really need? I need email and phone. These days, I need more texting as well. I can reach a lot of sources that way. Parents can contact me if their kids are running late for soccer.

The biggest difference between my new phone and my 2004 phone: I can easily text and keep up with email. Easily. It runs Gmail with no hitches at all.

I don’t need games. I don’t need Facebook. I only occasionally need Twitter. I never go on long hikes and stop to watch Hulu. And so I really can’t justify the expense of a smart phone.

Now if someone wants to get me a Kindle Fire for Christmas …

A quick defense of the liberal arts

When I was 15 or 16, I was a full-blown computer geek. In those days, that meant I could program in BASIC on green monitors. I read sci-fi and watched a lot of Doctor Who — back when it was a whimsical exploration of fantasy worlds rather than the romantic drama it is today. I was better with numbers than I was with words — my SAT scores and my English teacher told me so — and I was looking at engineering schools.

I really thought these traits made me superior. Somewhere along the way, I like to think I outgrew that arrogance. Maybe I just traded it for another arrogance, or perhaps I was just lazy and didn’t want to spend my afternoons in labs. Or maybe I realized it was better to be a well-rounded person.

And as I’ve gone through work and life, I don’t think it’s just my bias as a philosophy/music double major that makes me appreciate other well-rounded people. Maybe that’s the effect of a bunch of political arguments with people who know very little of life outside school, their computers, and their comfortable neighborhoods. And maybe it’s the realization that programming a computer is actually far easier on an intellectual level than most of the humanities and social sciences.

More importantly, I think we need to be a well-rounded society with respect for each other’s expertise. Right now, we ain’t got that.

And so I’m a little defensive when I read this from Marc Andreessen …

“We’re in a bubble for people with a non-Ivy League, non-technical education,” says Andreessen, who studied computer science at the University of Illinois. “If you have a degree in English from a tier B state school, you’re not prepared.” (via Jobs fight: Haves vs. the have-nots – USATODAY.com)

He has a point, sure. English in particular is a difficult major — if you’re going to major in a language, you should probably pick a different one that’ll make you valuable to a company in the era of globalization.

But in general, the liberal arts aren’t a sure path to unemployment. Just ask Google, which is binging on liberal arts hires.

The people who are dominating the computer industry these days are those who bring some creativity, not just code. The revered Steve Jobs innovated by making computers look cool. He could think in terms of technology and art, just like the graphic artists who are so highly coveted by employers.

And yet we have too many educators who think they’re serving students by making them spend a ton of time in one field.

That’s true even in journalism. I knew someone who insisted her journalism school was superior because it required more journalism classes than other schools. She learned things like Quark XPress shortcut keys. Great — until you go someplace that didn’t use Quark XPress.

And let’s not pretend math (the “M” in “STEM”) is taught in a practical way. We drill calculus into kids’ heads, and then they go out into the real world and find that statistics is much more valuable. If you’re not an engineer, you’re going to forget calculus by age 30. (I got a 5 on my AP exam. I’d have no idea how to do it now, and I don’t care — but I really want time to take a stats class.)

We teach math in a way that makes people better thinkers. Calculus is like batting weights for the brain — you wrestle with something complex in school so that the problems you face in the real world seem simpler.

That’s also true of philosophy. And history. And English, to an extent.

Basic skills can be learned on the job or in community college. The traditional liberal arts? You can read, of course, and today you can discuss things online to an extent. But by far the best place to learn them is in college.

And yet STEM departments pay lip service to the idea of educating well-rounded people. Even as science grows more complicated, they try to cram everything they can into four years of undergraduate instruction. Frankly, if I’m running a computer science department, I might require students to take Chinese rather than physics. Get the memo: We’re global now.

(Quick tangential story: In my college days, I had a science-major roommate who griped that we humanities majors could fulfill our science requirements by taking broad-overview classes rather than labs. I said that was better for us in the long run, and besides, you guys can take a music class that makes us music majors laugh. “Yeah, but that’s hard,” he said.)

I may be atypical in almost every respect, but I think I’m not alone in being turned off from a science major by the limited curriculum. The nearly psychotic focus on one subject also must turn off a lot of prospective doctors who question how they’re spending their time in residency.

But the true value of college wasn’t just about the individual. It was about being around people of diverse interests and skills. We learned to appreciate what those around us could do. I marveled at some of the experiments my pre-med friends were doing. A few people showed up at my percussion recital. (More people read my stuff in The Chronicle, which probably explains why I’m a journalist and not a tympani player today.)

So even if you’re taking a crappy curriculum, you benefit from the immersion in an idealized community.

Rather than placing artificial limits on those idealized communities, can we try to apply the lessons of diverse intellectualism to the real world?

The depressing part of the “hookup culture” debate

Warm bodies, I sense, are not machines that can only make money” – Live, Pillar of Davidson

This Hanna Rosin video segment helped me figure out what bothers me about the “hookup culture” beyond the sexual issues — STD risk, pregnancy risk, the risk of going to private places with people you don’t know well, the psychological question of whether people can really separate sexual intimacy from emotional intimacy, my regrets over being awkward and geeky when all this was going on in college and my early 20s, etc.

Rosin sees the hookup culture as crucial in a society in which women (and men) delay marriage to develop their careers. But the problem is that we aren’t just delaying marriage. We’re turning away from relationships.

If a steady boyfriend — or just a monogamous partner — is considered a hindrance to career success, what does that say about our ability or our need to have relationships of any kind. With our parents, with our classmates, with our friends, with anyone?

Our college years and our early adulthood are our best chances to make friends based on our common interests. Then our lives become more centered around our families. That’s not to say we can’t make good friends in our 40s, but there’s a reason we have class reunions other than snarking on the bullies who now look like Uncle Fester.

And I’m not trading the memories of — or the continued contact with — the friends of my teens and 20s just to get ahead in business.

I don’t care too much for money / Money can’t buy me love – The Beatles