Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two questions here for the price of one. "Do Demonstrations Achieve Their Goals ?". Good question. If you were to sum up the total number of demonstrations in the world and ask whether they achieved their goals as an immediate result of the demonstration the answer is obviously No. this sort of thing is very rare actually. But there are caveats. How about 10 demonstrations over the course of several years around a given issue ? Do they contribute to the achievement of the goal ? What sort of thing is necessary in addition to the demonstration ? Political action ? Direct action ? How much do demonstrations actually contribute to achieving a goal ? The answer obviously varies with the situation. What sort of importance should be given to demonstrations in general ? Are there tactics that are more effective in demonstrations than others ? Are these always (a doubtful proposition) the best tactics ? Can demonstrations, if they are poorly attended or use the wrong tactics be worse than doing nothing ? What do you think ? Add your comments here.
"Is Space Exploration a Worthy Societal Goal ?" This one is one of Molly's hobby horses, being as one of her hobbies is amateur astronomy. The flip leftist response is, "No, spend it on the poor and other goals instead". Not being a leftist, Molly is rather unimpressed by this. take your average million dollars. Translate it through the first government bureaucracy (the giver) with all the costs involved in skimming the cream for the managers there. Translate it again through either a foreign government with both bureaucratic costs and "corruption costs" or through an NGO with perhaps less "corruption cost" but equal "bureaucracy costs", taken by the "professional leftists" that staff such organizations. How much is actually left for "the poor" ? The answer varies, from a low of about nothing for many evangelical religious outfits to perhaps 2/3rds for the best run aid outfit.
I am hardly willing to replay the technological benefits of space exploration here. They are many, and they have been well documented elsewhere. If nothing else I am willing to hazard the guess that the provision of satellite communication has done more for the world's poor by several times over than all the aid directed by both public and private agencies over the past half century. Is this wrong ? If it is how far off is it ? I will also merely mention the fact that much of so-called "aid" is siphoned off by either the donor country, the government of the recipient country or the professional leftists that staff NGOs. Some things are obvious and gross. Sending people from North America to hammer nails on a house in Honduras is obviously silly beyond belief. That puts the cost of each nail well above the dollar mark. How much actually does reach the presumed recipients ? How much does this compare with the "unintended consequences" that space exploration has delivered over the past half century ? Think about these things and reply here.


  1. A demonstration, or even a few demonstrations rarely if ever have an immediate effect. It is only after a lengthy campaign - sometimes decades - involving demonstrations and CD and even the occasional "violence" that changes come about. Thus demonstrations are part of a process, rather than THE process. Where demonstrations - even years of them fail to bring the desired results - they do help change consciousness, both by bringing issues to the public eye and solidifying attitudes through the solidarity that group action brings.

    An example of this is the anti-war movement. When I first participated in 1965, demonstrators numbered in the hundreds and most people opposed us.(Hell, dispised us!) 18 years later we had a march of 130,000 against the Cruise Missiles, but still we did not win our demand. Move ahead to the Iraq War of 2003 and consciousnesses had grown to the point where 70-80% of the population were opposed and PM Chretien dared not join in the attack. Of course, not all of this change came about thru demos, but it certainly was an important contributing factor. Ultra-lefts who decry demos are only partially right - they are not the only game in town, but on the other hand they should not be dismissed as irrelevant.

  2. I wish I had this outlook about 35 years ago and had maintained it instead of going off in more destructive directions. Scientific progress will do more to aid a libertarian future than all the guilt projects of leftist bureaucracy. As I've suggested, in an admittedly weak way, just giving money away without strings attached would be a relative improvement. Money put into space research and the resulting spin offs for the electronics industry are obvious. There's nothing very democratic about this process but it's still better than the welfare state. What other investments could aid a more libertarian future. I vaguely recall a young biology student who was enthusiastic about research into human aging. Perhaps putting large sums into regenerative medicine would be the "next frontier". People who lived for a very long time could not only repair past mistakes but would eventually develop a resistance to statist solutions if only from long decades of bad experience. this is just a desperate thought I suppose.


  3. Significant social changes seem to take several generations to occur, so the originators of a movement are either dead or at least out of the picture by the time the change occurs. Waves of revolutionary change and counter-revolution (see my blog) tend to go on for at least 2 generations as well. This leads to a disconnection between the revolutionary generations and the new generation (like us in the 1960's) are forced to "re-invent the wheel." Thus, a longer life span might help us. However, we would not want authoritarian personalities to have this long life span as they would continue to plague us with their hates and prejudices for an extended time. Thankfully, as it stands right now, we are rid of the vast majority of them after 70-80 years.

    So I regard the lengthening of the life span as ambiguous.

  4. I was thinking about my own sins like the idle prentice at the end of his term.