Risk, Part 2: Fear and Control

Part 2 of a 2-part sequence on different aspects of how American society deals with risk:

It seems that government policy – and social convention, and cultural aspiration, and the tyranny of public opinion expressed through social media mobs – is now all too often fashioned by a destructively self-reinforcing partnership between those, on the one hand, who have lost all trust in their fellow citizens and who want so badly to be protected from risk, and even from discomfort, that they will trade away almost any freedom for a promise of a bit more security; and those, on the other hand, whose innate and fervent proclivity is to tell everyone else, with great piety and self-assurance, how to organize and operate their lives.

The more we have come to – and the more we have been taught to – rely on government to regulate the behavior of others, the less we have come to rely on – and the less we have been taught or practiced – the virtue of regulating ourselves. The more success the solipsistic fringe – economic more than cultural on the “right”, cultural more than economic on the “left” – has had in attacking and emasculating the economic and religious and social and cultural mores that historically disciplined such self-control, the less able we are to count on self-regulation and the more pressure there is to empower government to impose yet more external regulation upon us.

We can no longer negotiate and compromise – we can no longer embrace a shared process for governance rather than seeking a raw power over others – because we no longer trust each other either to have empathy or, more importantly, to act in good faith.  Why are we intolerant of risk?  Because we feel a lack of control.  Why do we feel a lack of control?  Because we don’t trust each other to do the right thing, either as individuals or as a polity.  In the absence of trust, even small risks loom large.

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Security, Liberty, and one of my “Triggers”

That is why America is more risk tolerant than other countries and societies in the world: because to guarantee security you must always sacrifice some amount of liberty; and, in assessing that sacrifice, Americans have traditionally factored liberty higher in the equation than have most other peoples.

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Solar Power, Revisited

Ten years ago, I wrote a post about the cost-ineffectiveness of solar power. Things have changed.

Today, we have a solar power array on our house that has, over the two years of its operation, supplied about 86% of our overall power needs and saved us about 6% on our electricity bill after accounting for the cost of the array, itself.

That glowing summary, however, reflects not actual day-to-day array performance but only an annualized average, made possible by a “net metering” policy that allows us to use the local electric grid as a “battery” and that provides some fairly generous — if hidden – subsidies to help defray the cost of the system.

That glowing summary also hides some fairly strict logistical limits that put an upper bound on how much solar power the grid can support without the net metering policy falling apart.

This is my report on my two years of experience with solar power, along with some musings on its benefits and constraints.

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“the law is a ass”

The only stated reason I’ve ever heard for why we need to constrain political participation by limiting campaign contributions is to prevent undue influence over government actions by those who contribute.

Perhaps Frank Guinta took too much money from his parents. But why is that such a huge thing? What are we afraid of?

Are we really concerned that his parents now have too much influence over him because they gave him money for his campaign?

Perhaps it is the rule that is a problem, not how well or badly it was followed….

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Filibuster executive appointments?

If the legislature has delegated its authority for making law to an executive agency, then it would seem prudent for the legislature to cast a critical eye on who it is allowing to exercise that authority on its behalf. In fact, it would seem downright irresponsible for it to do otherwise.

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“Common Sense” Policies for….

There is a small but virulent group that would ban abortion outright and that hopes to use “common sense” regulations as steps toward that goal. And there is a small but virulent group that would ban gun ownership outright and that hopes to use “common sense” regulations as steps toward that goal.

And so, those “common sense” regulations are, perhaps, not so common and not so sensible. And so, perhaps, we actually can’t agree on them.

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Home is where the deed is

It has been said that a man’s home is his castle. That is, in our increasingly interconnected and regulated society, home is still the one refuge from social demands, is still the one place where your own preference truly determines how you live your life.

But, apparently, “home” is no longer home unless you own it yourself. So far, at least, no government has dared to cross that barrier.

Then again, given the trends, it’s probably only a matter of time….

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