Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I finally finished "Army of Davids"

Somewhere around the chapter on living forever, I got kind of depressed. I've always liked S.F. too, but my personal experience with modern medicine is somewhat less inspiring. In some things, like the main premise about technology shifting the balance and erasing the bright line between creators and consumers. The "Army of Davids" meme is powerful, but there are limits. Despite the "long tail" theory, we're already in a blog singularity, where there are too many out there for anybody to really keep up more than a tiny, tiny fraction of them. We're witnessing the evolution of a new medium, but the same rules apply. It takes not only fitness, but luck to succeed as a blogger.

I don't expect to have much of a following, because I'm a Mormon conservative and there are others who have my views and are quicker, have fewer typos. I'm not old in years but I feel about 75 and have less strength and energy due to rheumatoid arthritis and a genetic predisposition to arterial sclerosis.

I say this only to introduce one thing that kept occurring to me as I read Glenn's book. His premise and views of the future work for well for people like him, who are intelligent, well-educated and relatively elite, compared to factory workers, and superior in temperament, responsibility, productivity and general contribution to society to, say, Joe Sixpack, and the kinds of people Jay Leno interviews on Jaywalking as well as a good number of the celebrities he has as guests. Glenn is a superior specimen and much of his scenario will indeed be rosy for him and people like him who are decent, responsible, technically savvy, creative, ambitious and able to adapt (dynamists). People like James Lileks, Hugh Hewitt, Virginia Postrel, the Power Line bloggers, Mickey Kaus, and many of the others on Instapundit's blogroll.

Having been a public defender, I see Reynolds' ideas about the war on drugs as somewhat callous and more focused on the kind of civil liberties that make society more unpleasant and less safe. This is addressed only tangentially, but he says a lot about the wonders to come, but neglects the products of liberalism and extreme libertarianism that have placed Europe in fiscal and social peril from socialism and the failure of family life.

Unless a new emphasis is placed on civic duty, including virtues like service in national defense, political involvement, honest, concern for raising good citizens, work ethic, and the old virtues generally taught by religion, many of which are ignored by the left in favor of the stereotype of believing Christians as being sanctimonious, intolerant and ecclesiocratic.

Most of this comes, I believe from the fact that most believing Christians are perfectly good people who are open about their distaste for practices that others engage in, as is generally their right, but take any disagreement as condemnation. Christ was criticized by the Pharisees for associating with publicans and sinners, but he still insisted on repentance as a condition to the blessings of his gospel. He taught that we shouldn't condemn anyone, because they are all valuable and may be happier and more contributing if they followed his teachings.

I don't think that any true Christian takes pleasure in the thought that others might suffer damnation, even though many atheists and liberals attribute that "Church Lady" attitude to them. I know some pretty strait-laced people, but it's the exception who act like that caricature. Preaching and testifying are often seen as criticism and condemnation, but that's one of the reasons we have the First Amendment. All progress is dependent on the realization that something is wrong or could be improved, but political correctness too often stifles helpful commentary while "expression" like profanity and obscenity is justified as free speech, no matter how subversive they are to a healthy society.

My doubts about the idea of victimless crime is based on seeing its products on lives and society. It's one thing to allow people to do pursue liberty and another for them to expect others to pay for their derelictions, neglect and self-destructive behavior. Sometimes this is universally acknowledged, as where a surgeon, pilot or ship captain is abusing alcohol or drugs and causes a catastrophe or personal injury. But we don't really think much about the cost of things like drunk drivng or get really serious about punishing those who do so. Personally, if we have to have a legal recreational drug, I'd prefer legalizing marijuana and prohibiting alcohol. I'm aware that moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits, but so does marijuana in some cases. The problem with both is that they affect one's ability to say when in far too many people, who then go overboard. The difference I see between them is that, while both make abusers unable to drive or do other things that require accurate awareness of one's capabilities and reality, marijuana doesn't result in violence toward others. Nuff said. Glenn doesn't say much in his book about these matters, which I see as glarring arguments against his theories of a bright future. While I generally agree with his thoughts on the principle of A Pack Not A Herd, I would not like to see a society where everybody is packing heat. I think that revocable permits should be required to carry a firearm, while more restrictively available ones requiring testing, particularly with regard to emotional control, and training to carry concealed weapons.

The main complaint I had with the book was that it assumes that everybody is capable of capitalizing on new technology and benefiting from it. One key condition to his wondrous new world is good education. We have people who can't make change without a computerized cash register. A society without good education and an informed electorate is one in which people like Dennis Kucinich is given power, and that is dangerous. We really, really need better training in critical thinking. Lawyers like Professor Reynolds and, to a lesser extent, myself tend to take rational thinking for granted and to be amazed at the lack of it in our media and politics. When we eventually comprehend the vast extent of our collective inability to seek accurate information and evaluate it, it may be too late.

Long time readers of Glenn's blog will be familiar with much of what he has to say, but not the supporting information he provides in his book. His predictions about some things, like the future of space colonization and elimination of aging inevitable death, seem too optimistic for one who has had decades of experience with a chronic disease and the limits of even the most miraculous medical advances. New drugs are wonderful, provided you have access to them and in time, but we have wasted so many resources on consumption and trying to capture economic mirages, that many of his hopes may be out of reach, unless my generation, the Boomers, overwhelmingly supports curtailment of entitlement programs. Fat chance.