Deep and Significant

Philip Greenspun proposes a different sort of welfare system based on the principles that people should get help immediately without becoming a different social class and not giving most of the money to bureaucrats.

I won’t say that my system is optimal. I won’t say that I’m smarter than any of the people running the government. However, I do say that American citizens shouldn’t have to go hungry or sleep in the streets. We should question the need to pay bureaucrats to decide whether or not people need help. We should consider replacing social workers and bureaucrats with computers processing reports from restaurants, hotels, and other companies who are actually delivering services to Americans who need them.

Philip Greenspun writes about the book Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner.

One of the most interesting things they both talk about is the similarities between the very poor and the very rich. Namely that they both begin to loss their attachment to material. The poor do not have any or the access to it, so they are not attracted to it. And, the rich could have as much as they want and they know there is always something more they could spend money on.

It’s a very strange thing to think, and they both seem to identify with a “pity” of the middle.

I got a discount offer from Amazon via Peter Lindberg. Apparently there is this program called Share the Love that offers a 10% discount to your friends when you buy something. If you would like to be listed as my friend on Amazon for use of this service in the future, then please email me. This will be particularly useful in the case that you feel we have similar interests in books.

George Orwell writes about the problems with nationalism in 1945.

It is also worth emphasizing once again that nationalist feeling can be purely negative. There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the USSR without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.

He explains many of the problems and peculiarities of nationalism. One interesting example is how and why so many nationalists are foreigners to the group they support. His theory is that it has to with public support of your own group is not popular for the “intelligentsia”.

A great comment on Pacifists:

Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defense of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.

Sometimes when reading Orwell I can’t believe that this was written almost sixty years ago and the same crap is still going around. It really makes you think that not even the Internet and this stuff could cure people of these delusions. See this on self-hatred.

English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated, and wanted to feel that the final victory would be due to Russia, or perhaps America, and not to Britain.

At the very end, he writes about what might cause nationalism and what can be done about it. This is a very short section, but the overall message is that nationalism is something that people will always do to shield themselves from others, themselves, and the truth. As a result, it is unlikely to go away and being upset about it is a bad reason to remove oneself from politics. Orwell says that no legitimate intellectual can remove themselves politics really because it will always effect them and thus they will have an interest.