Monday, March 16, 2009

Mini Blogs: Shrinking foods, Icy Roads, Legalizing Drugs.

Things that Bug me, deluxe edition.

From time to time, I get these thoughts in my head that, for whatever reason, have not grown big enough to make full blog posts. Like a trace of snow, that is wonderful and full of imagery and meaning, but not enough to go out and make a snowman. Life experiences or observations, things that bug me, things that I find interesting....that sort of thing. I shall call them "Mini-blogs..."

Shrinking Foods, Expanding Books.

Yes, we all know that if we go get a 16oz box of Bryers Ice Cream (why I don't know, it tastes like sawdust), you're actually getting 14.53oz (or something) for the same price. There are tons of examples like this.... take a look at the recent chocolate chip cookies from Chips Ahoy, or even, I suspect, the Jumbo eggs from the grocery stores.

But there's something else that I think is suffering from the same shrinkage. An opposite effect. In the book industry, I've seen books expand and expand, from the constant 188 page science fiction pulp books of the 1960's to Neal Stephenson's Anathem which is almost 1000 pages. But I don't think that bigger books means that the books themselves are actually bigger.

Take James Patterson's books, for example. The latest books are well over 300 pages and sell for $28.00 or so. But if you look closely at the book, you'll see that the margains are larger, and the space between lines, and even the spaces between letters, are farther apart than books 20 years ago. Why this is, I'm not sure. Is it that authors are encouraged to write smaller books in order to make more of them, or is it the need to make more money per book.... honestly, I don't know, but I've noticed these things much more since the recession started.

Icy Roads, Puny Cars, Timid Drivers

A week or so ago, it snowed around Atlanta, leaving the Interstates and the roads slippery with ice and snow. I remember in Oklahoma, my dad owned a CJ8 Jeep, and he'd go out with a pair of really strong ropes and pull cars out of the ditches. He'd take people to the grocery stores and was generally a neighborhood hero. He thrived on going to church those icy days, driving 10 miles an hour, and bragging to everyone that he was early to church. Not that he wanted to attend church any other time. Those were memories.

But now, in the days of large SUVs and 4X4s, Land Excursions and Hummers, with commercials showing them going up and down dunes, and mountain tops, cars should be able to handle the icy roads. But in actuality, you could easily see that Hummer crawling down the interstate at 10 miles an hour, timidly crossing the ice as if it were some sort of fawn. Why, then, do people, after seeing the commercials of 4X4s crossing off-road obstacles, do people buy them and then use them as Honda Accords would. It's silly. It tells me that the cars really haven't changed all that much, it's more the drivers. My dad would have loved to drive out in the middle of the snowstorms, but the people who cancel schools at the sign of flurries, are scared of it. Don't know why. Be it insurance costs, or timidity, or the fear of getting sued. I'm not sure. But people should not be afraid to go out and live their lives, even if the weather is lousy. They need Courage. They need to learn to drive better. I think one thing is that, in the days my father learned to drive, he had to learn in gravel and dirt roads, where driving on ice would be little different. But now, in the days of easy driving tests and constant paved roads, no one knows how anymore.

Legalizing Drugs...the old Libertarian Foe

A week or so ago, I flipped over Fox News Channel, where Bill O'riley was interviewing Glenn Beck. As Beck is a favorite commentator of mine, funny and insightful, and believes more of the Libertarian ideas that I do, I stopped and listened to it. Almost immediately, O'riley asked, "Are you a Libertarian?" To which Beck said, in a sense, "Yes." The next question was the typical one, one that I thought that O'riley was more educated than others to ask, but out it came, "So you believe in the legalization of drugs, like Marijuana?" I couldn't believe that he asked that question, because it's a question that everybody interviewing Libertarian politicians ask. Bob Barr probably had to answer that question in every interview he was given. It turns the Libertarian party, the synthesis of both Conservative and Liberal thought, into a circus side show.

People don't understand that when we talk about Libertarianism, it is more of a belief system than it is a political platform. The idea the the individual is able to ascertain right from wrong, and can self-regulate themselves, striving for the Greater Good, this is the core of what Libertarians believe. From this, comes the ideas that government should not interfere in the private lives of it's citizens, that certain things should be legalized because it was not the government's responsibility to regulate them in the first place, that Free Enterprise and the capitalistic spirit are the mechanisms that make this world work. Most Libertarians believe in a strong government that handles defense (such as border patrol, international affairs, crime prevention (law enforcement)), but not so much on social regulation. Let the people, who ideally, should know right from wrong, take care of that. We should all be able to self-regulate ourselves.

This, of course, goes against human nature, goes against the pyramid of power vs. population, but it's the ideal world we must strive for. It's why that a pure Libertarian government can never work, because there are some people (as has been easily shown recently) that cannot regulate themselves. They are too easily taken over by greed. Take Madoff, for instance, or any of the other financial people that have taken advantage of the Republican de-regulation of the banking and real estate industries. They definitely did not regulate themselves, and caused this major downfall of the global economy. That's why the government will regulate the banks and the real estate market more closely in the future. Now, whether that is the ideal state to be in, I don't know. But as long as people cannot be trusted to regulate themselves, it cannot work.

It's interesting to me how, in the Epicurian philosophy, how such ideas can be overlooked. If someone says they live the epicurian lifestyle, it is generally assumed that they drink, eat, and are merry, because this is all there is. They are assumed to be egotistical and care only for the pleasures in life. But this is not so. Epicurus believed in Aristotle's idea of the Greater Good. That is, that in order to achieve perfection, to go beyond this mortal shell and have eternal pleasure (which the Christians would say would be in heaven with God), you have to constantly evaluate whether the pleasure that you seek now is only a short term one, with nasty consequences later (aka drugs, real estate fraud, unprotected sex), or if moderation would satisfy a later, more sustainable pleasure, for you or for your children.

So the question of legalizing drugs is not a valid question at all, except for making the Libertarian movement small and something to be ridiculed. Which, by the way, is something that both parties do. That the Libertarian party is the greatest threat to the current Hegelian system, a two party system, is not lost on the people in power. If you looked at a lot of younger people's facebook pages, you'll see a growing number that show their political preference as being Libertarian. It is a growing movement, and people like O'riley would like nothing better than to belittle the Lib. party members by asking them these questions that make them look like freaks or radicals.

The answer to those questions is "no, not necessarily." Because being a Libertarian and an Epicurean person means that you have to self-regulate in all aspects of your life, and achieve your goals by looking out for yourself and for others, to produce the Greatest Good possible for as many people as possible, through self-reliance, self-regulation, and through hard work and setting goals to succeed at. Only then is the pleasure genuine and permanent. Drugs, finanical fraud...these things will only work short term, and will leave nothing but misery in its wake.

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