Terrorism and democracy

If The Times of India is to be believed, the mood of the public after the latest terrorist attack is different – it is one of outrage and anger.

…this was one outrage which finally snapped the endurance and infinite generosity of India. In the past, every assault on Mumbai — where, at times, the death toll was higher — had produced a flicker of anger, followed by an astonishing display of fatalism…
The mood is different this week; it is palpably angry…

So a country of men who look to the state to solve their personal problems is outraged that the government they have elected has failed to solve its problems? A country of men who cannot take personal responsibility in social and economic matters is outraged that their government has failed to take collective responsibility in political matters? A country of men which believes in a political system that grants voting rights to men who perpetrate honor killings and communal riots is outraged that their government lacks the moral courage to take appropriate measures?

Jug Suraiya writes

This is why 26/11 is tantamount to a blood-drenched referendum on India: which of the two Indias the world’s largest and most irrepressible democracy, or the world’s most corrupt and cynical mobocracy will emerge from the ordeal?…
It’s referendum time for India. Are we going to remain weak and vulnerable to repeated assault because of our inner divisiveness? Or are we going to beat the bastards, are we going to triumph over terror by surviving it, not on its dehumanising terms but on our own terms of a proudly free society and a strong and cohesive democracy impervious and unsusceptible to the exploitative politics of caste, creed and ethnic division? It’s time to choose.

Indeed it is time to choose. But what are the two choices that Suraiya is writing about. I see only one choice there. Suraiya is calling for a strong, free and cohesive democracy. Sounds good, except for the fact that the meaning of these words will be decided by a vote. And among the voters will be the men who perpetrate and condone honor killings, who kill their new-born daughters, who participate in riots, who indulge in violent strikes and hold cities to ransom. And manipulating these voters and ruling over them will be the men who are best able to play ruthless games of power. And cheering them on and waxing eloquent will be fools like Suraiya who believe that there is some magic in a democratic vote that turns vice into virtue. No, we will not achieve either freedom or security by going down this path. The path of democracy is what we have been following all this while. And this is where it has brought us. Care to see where it will take us next? We will have stronger laws and more teams of trained commandos. And when the next terrorist strike happens, these commandos will be busy raiding a party of teenagers high on drugs or settling some political score in a country that will have turned into a police state.

What is the alternative? It is to develop the moral courage to assert that political principles are not open to a vote, to assert that the right is a matter of fact and not of consensus, to reject a system of government that allows the least scrupulous to grab the most power, to develop a sense of personal responsibility for our problems, to value our lives and freedom enough to reject any interference.

So long as we do not value our own lives and allow our freedom to be chipped away in small pieces – by laws that ban smoking and make helmets mandatory – and large ones – by laws that enforce reservations, ban the setting up of educational institutes for profit, ban people from selling their property on their own terms – we have no cause to be outraged that the government does not value our lives either.

It is time to choose – freedom, responsibility and security or democracy, corruption, paternalism and terrorism. And if we make the wrong choice we will find that the rejection of all principles in a democratic free-for-all does not magically turn into sound politics. The last century saw the collapse of socialist governments under the weight of their flawed principles. Democracies do not have that risk – they have no weight to collapse under. But that will not prevent them from being blown away under the onslaught of Islamic terrorism which does have an ideology, believes in it and is committed to do whatever it takes to establish it.

Worldviews and the world

American Chronicle has an interview with Jason Miller. In answer to the question “What is that (sic) you consider your purpose on Earth to be?” he says:

It’s multi-faceted and complex, but if I distill it to its essence and put it succinctly, my primary purpose on Earth is to strive for two causes: animal liberation and socialism.

Defending socialism, he says:

Socialism hasn’t had the ghost of a chance to take root, let alone flourish. Pitted against the militaristic, economic, and propagandistic might of capitalism, each attempt to tear down and rebuild socioeconomic and political structures along more egalitarian, rational, just and democratic lines has been destined to severe malformation or failure.

Miller’s worldview – responsible for all the experiments in socialism in the last century – might have been understandable at the beginning of the 20th century. Today when even communist regimes like China and Russia have accepted that it is false, it is nearly impossible to understand. Yet, there it is. And Miller is not alone.

I have been publishing Thomas Paine’s Corner since 2004. In 2006 I merged TPC with Cyrano’s Journal Online and became Cyrano´s associate editor, maintaining my site as a semi-autonomous section of CJO. I’ve devoted countless hours and worked strenuously to create and maintain a publishing platform for radical writers, ideas, and organizations. Since Patrice Greanville, our editor-in-chief, and I place a high premium on our independence, we accept no advertising or sponsorship. Hence, we derive zero income from our endeavor. It actually costs us to keep the site operational. At last count, Thomas Paine’s Corner had had almost 2 million visitors in four years. So it’s been worth it. (links dropped)
Aside from that, I lead a vegan lifestyle, petition, protest, shun consumerism, distribute pamphlets, work with homeless shelters, boycott, network with other radicals, make personal financial sacrifices that enable me to make meaningful donations to organizations that haven’t been co-opted by the corporatocracy, like Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd and Michele Pickover’s Animal Right’s Africa, and engage in some direct action. (links dropped)

Why is it important that some people are so hopelessly deluded, especially when they form an extremely small and democratically insignificant minority? First, because ideas matter, especially in a world which has very little respect for them. Those who have strong and consistent ideas – whether right or wrong – along with a strong purpose to advance them will always succeed in doing so, especially when most people believe that principles are simplistic, ideology is outdated and each issue must be decided on a case by case basis. Only those who have consistent principles can provide the standards by which any particular issue is to be judged. Those who have consistent principles set the terms of the debate. The pragmatists do the shouting and think they have won. Ayn Rand wrote

The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power.
The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them—from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default.

Second, as an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism in politics and thus being in as small a minority as Miller is, it is important to realize that history needs to be interpreted to serve as evidence for or against a particular political theory. And in a very complex world, it is possible to interpret it in many different ways. Since laissez-faire capitalism (or anything close to it) has not existed for a good hundred years anywhere in the world, and since pure socialism is impossible to put into existence, merely pointing to history as evidence for the success of capitalism is not enough. Any defence of capitalism must include moral arguments along with economic theories and interpretations of history.

Finally, as a tactical matter, it is incorrect and therefore damaging to label the statist and welfarist policies of most politicians today as socialist. They are not. Miller’s worldview is what socialism means. And fortunately, very few people subscribe to it. Many people share some of the moral ideals of socialism implicitly. But they also believe in personal responsibility, individual freedom and free enterprise (however inconsistent there beliefs may be. Calling them socialist when they explicitly reject socialism (as Miller’s frustration shows) is not the best way to reason with them.

Discovered this blog

I used the tag surfing feature in WordPress after a long time and discovered The Minority Advocate.

Now I have a right to reputation

The Times of India reports

The Supreme Court has ruled that a person’s reputation is an inseparable part of his fundamental right to life and liberty and hence, the police and other authorities with the power to detain should be very sure of their facts against an individual before taking him into preventive detention and lodging him in jail.

“The reputation of a person is a facet of his right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution”

Let me reiterate some facts that I noted in an earlier post. Under the Indian constitution:

I do not have the right to express my thoughts freely. The state may impose “reasonable restrictions” on my expression “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.” (article 19)

I do not have a right to my property. (The right to property is not a fundamental right)

I do not have a right to my body. “Nothing in this article (article 23) shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes”

But now I do have a right to reputation – a right to what others think of me, a right to others judgement. And this is what the Times has to say about it

It should be welcomed by those who are disturbed by the rampant trend among cops to send the accused to jail even for bailable offences or when the evidence has not fully firmed up. Anxious to appease the chorus for swift justice and to be seen as discharging their law enforcement brief, cops and other detaining authorities see jailing the accused as an easy option.

There is no need to invoke a right to reputation to keep the police from abusing their powers. In the earlier post I wrote,

“This mess of contradictory and concrete-bound articles institutionalizes an approach of rampant pragmatism to governance. It institutionalizes the idea that there are no absolute rights, no absolute principles and no absolute limits to the actions governments can take.”

This ruling and its purpose serve to underline that.

Book Review: NEXT

NEXT is a novel by Michael Crichton. Or atleast it claims to be. It has a disorganized plot, too many characters with too little characterization and gratuitous sex. Just about two weeks after reading it, I can hardly remember the characters or their roles in the plot. The main plot describes the efforts of a biological research company engaged in creating genetic drugs to recover some cells that could be used to fight cancer. The cells have been obtained during a routine treatment and the patient is unaware that his cells are special. The doctor who treats him discovers that the cells are special and continues his research without informing the patient. When he decides to commercialize the cells, the patient sues his company but loses the case. He then gets an offer from a competitor for his cells and goes into hiding. Meanwhile the cell samples are stolen and the company attempts to obtain cells from the patient’s daughter and grandson, providing enough material for all the action. There are also some sub-plots. There is a researcher who discovers a “maturity” gene, accidentally gives it to his drug addicted brother who comes out of his addiction, then tries out the gene on some other people, only to discover that the gene actually causes premature ageing and death. There is another researcher who inseminates a female chimpanzee with his own sperm with some genetic process (I don’t recall the details) and lands up with a humanzee kid, resembling a chimpanzee in appearance but capable of human speech. He takes the kid home and sends him to school disguised as a child with some rare medical condition. Overall, the plot is somewhat incoherant and one has to make an effort to remember the characters when they reappear after a few pages. As a novel Airframe was much more engaging and Prey was a lot more exciting even though the plot in Prey was much worse. (Airframe and Prey are the only other novels by Crichton that I have read). If NEXT were just a novel, it would be a waste of time. But NEXT is more than a novel. It raises serious questions about patent laws in the domain of genetics, intellectual property rights, what it means to own ones body, commercialization of genetic research, role of universities and government in research etc. In fact, Crichton has a 7 page note at the end of the novel, explaining his views on these issues. Since one of the purposes of this novel (perhaps the primary purpose) is clearly to raise these issues, let me present a summary of some of the issues from the novel and Crichton’s views.

Crichton presents a world that is almost out of control, a world in which the state of the art in genetics has far surpassed the state of the relevant laws. Here are some examples:

The lawyer representing the doctor and his research company tells the patient’s daughter after winning the case, that it would be futile for the patient to appeal the ruling. “UCLA is a state university. The Board of Regents is prepared, on behalf of the state of California, to take your father’s cells by right of eminent domain.”

The CEO of the research company wants a divorce and custody over his children but his wife doesn’t. His wife’s grandfather died from a fatal genetic disease and there is a chance that she might have it too. The CEO’s lawyer demands that the wife be genetically tested and gets a court order. The wife is unwilling to be tested since a discovery that she carries the disease would ruin her life.

An insurance company cancels a person’s coverage based on some genetic information about his father who died in circumstances that caused a legal enquiry. Someone at the company that performed the genetic tests says “Anyway the son is saying he did not authorize the release of genetic information about himself, which is true. But if we release the father’s information, as we’re required by state law to do, we also release the son’s, which we’re required by state law not to do. Because his children share half the same genes as the father. One way or another, we break the law.”

“The COX-2 inhibitor patent fight was famous. In 2000 the university of Rochester was granted a patent for a gene called COX-2, which produced an anzyme that caused pain. The university propmptly sued the pharmaceutical giant Searle, which marketed a successful arthritis drug, Celebrex, that blocked the COX-2 enzyme. Rochester said Celebrex had infringed on its gene patent, even though their patent only claimed general uses of the gene to fight pain. The university had not claimed a patent on any specific drug.”

Op-Ed commentary: “Columbia University researchers now claim to have found a sociability gene. What’s next?… In truth researchers are taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge… Geneticists will not speak out. They all sit on the boards of private companies, and are in a race to identify genes they can patent for their own profit…”

At the end of the novel, Crichton presents his views in the form of a 5 point course of action

1. Stop patenting genes: Crichton writes that genes are a fact of nature and such cannot be owned or patented.

2. Establish clear guidelines for the use of human tissues: Crichton writes that there should be legislation to ensure that patients can control the purpose for which their tissues are used.

3. Pass laws to ensure that data about gene testing is made public: Crichton suggests (not very clearly or convincingly) that there should be some genuinely independent verification of findings and full disclosure of research data.

4. Avoid bans on research: Crichton essentially argues that “To the best of my knowledge there has never been a successful global ban on anything. Genetic research is unlikely to be the first.”

5. Rescind the Bayh-Dole act (an act permitting university researchers to sell their discoveries for their own profit, even when that research had been funded by taxpayer money): Crichton laments that thirty years ago, universities provided a scholarly haven, a place where disinterested scientists were available to discuss any subject affecting the public. Now universities are commercialized, the haven is gone and scientists have personal interests that influence their judgement. Also “Taxpayers finance research, but when it bears fruit, the researchers sell it for their own institutional and personal gain, after which the drug is sold back to the taxpayers.”

I agree with points 1, 2 and 4 and strongly disagree with points 3 and 5. In fact I believe he has got the issue backwards.

In his support for point 3, Crichton writes “Government should take action. In the long run there is no constituency for bad information. In the short run, all sorts of groups want to bend the facts their way. And they do not hesitate to call their senators, Democratic or Republican. This will continue until the public demands a change.” This is true but his conclusion doesn’t follow. An “independent agency” in charge of verifying findings has to be under the control of politicians who will be all too willing to oblige the groups who who want to bend facts in exchange for backing. This phenomenon is not new at all. It is called lobbying. Requirements for disclosure are even more ridiculous than bans. You can force a person from doing something with limited success. How do you force a person to disclose what no one else knows? And most importantly, government has no moral right to <i>require</i> someone to do anything. Men are not slaves.

About the Bayh-Dole act, again Crichton has the facts right and the conclusion wrong. Universities are certainly commercialized today. And researchers who are funded by public money and allowed to make private profits certainly act in unscrupulous ways. The incentives are definitely wrong. But the solution is not to de-commercialize research. That is neither possible nor desirable. It ignores the context of why the act was passed in the first place. It was passed because non-commercial research does not work.

Describing a character who is a director of NIH (National Institutes of Health), another character says: “Rob’s a major player at NIH, He’s got huge research facilities and he dispenses millions in grants. He holds breakfasts with congressmen. He’s a scientist who believes in God. They love him on the Hill. He’d never be charged with misconduct. Even if we caught him buggering a lab assistant, he wouldn’t be charged.” and again “It was classic Rob Bellarmino. Talking like a preacher, subtly invoking God, and somehow getting everyone to push the envelope, no matter who got hurt, no matter what happened. Rob can justify anything. He’s brilliant at it.” The solution to unscrupulous researchers (in as much as the problem can be “solved”) is not to have more such men like Rob. It is to make them impossible, or more precisely to make it impossible for them to enjoy political clout and arbitrary powers to grant millions in grants. It is to divorce research from government.

Book Review: The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture is a book by Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. It is based on a lecture he gave – Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams – after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The book is about advice on living a full life delivered in the form of anecdotes.

Here are some excerpts from the book that stayed with me

About spending time on preparing for a lecture when he had only a few months to live

Why was this talk so important to me? Was it a way to remind me and everyone else that I was still very much alive? To prove I still had the fortitude to perform? Was it a limelight-lover’s urge to show off one last time? The answer was yes on all fronts. “An injured lion wants to know if he can still roar,” I told Jai. “It’s about dignity and self-esteem, which isn’t quite the same as vanity.”

Describing what he learnt from a strict football coach

There’s a lot of talk these days about giving children self-esteem. It’s not something you can give; it’s something they have to build.

Describing his liking for the character of Captain Kirk in Star Trek

During my cancer treatment, when I was told that only 4 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live five years, a line from the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan came into my head. In the film, Starfleet cadets are faced with a simulated training scenario where, no matter what they do, their entire crew is killed. The film explains that when Kirk was a cadet, he reprogrammed the simulation because “he didn’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

Describing the time when he learnt of the terminal nature of his cancer with his wife in a doctor’s room

I had just learned I would soon die, and in my inability to stop being rationally focused, I found myself thinking: “Shouldn’t a room like this, at a time like this, have a box of Kleenex? Wow, that’s a glaring operational flaw.”

Describing the time when his to-be wife had just rejected him

If it’s possible to be arrogant, optimistic and totally miserable all at the same time, I think I might have pulled it off: “Look, I’m going to find a way to be happy, and I’d really love to be happy with you, but if I can’t be happy with you, then I’ll find a way to be happy without you.”

Giving some tips on time management

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.


Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.

Describing how he got tenure an year earlier than usual

“Wow, you got tenure early,” they’d say to me. “What was your secret?”
I said, “It’s pretty simple. Call me any Friday night in my office at ten o’clock and I’ll tell you.” (Of course, this was before I had a family.)

Describing how people sometimes complain that he sees things in black and white

OK. I stand guilty as charged, especially when I was younger. I used to say that my crayon box had only two colors in it: black and white. I guess that’s why I love computer science, because most everything is true or false.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned to appreciate that a good crayon box might have more than two colors. But I still think that if you run your life the right way, you’ll wear out the black and the white before the more nuanced colors.

In the final chapter,

Many cancer patients say their illness gives them a new and deeper appreciation for life. Some even say they are grateful for their disease. I have no such gratitude for my cancer, although I’m certainly grateful for having advance notice of my death. In addition to allowing me to prepare my family for the future, that time gave me the chance to go to Carnegie Mellon and give my last lecture. In a sense, it allowed me to “leave the field under my own power”

I don’t usually like reading autobiographical books, but this book is different. Usually the people whose lives are interesting enough for a record of their life to be readable have no time and no inclination to write autobiographies. But this is a book that would never have been written if Prof. Pausch had not been so unfortunate. And it is certainly worth reading. Reading the book, the thought that comes into my mind is: That was a life well lived. And thanks to Prof. Pausch for sharing it and for the inspiration which it provides.

Government Funding of Science

As part of a comment on a post on India’s Chandrayan mission on desicritics.org, I wrote

The government has no business pursuing scientific research.

Here are some responses

kerty: Unfortunately, many sectors can not rely on private commercial transactions. So tax payers have to pool their resources and create capital markets that can allow large scale projects to be undertaken. Unfortunately, capital markets run on profit motive. Lack of instant profit gratification can not help corpocracy or private sector to tackle fields of r&d and infra-structure that are key for economic development. So tax-payers have to pool money and assign such roles to government – roles that neither individual, private sector is capable of undertaking. Removing poverty is a function of economy – and that role is ideal for private sector – government need not dabble in it when empowerment of private sector can tackle it. R&D and economic infra-structure is a proper role of government and good use of tax money.

Morris: …a lot of other government activities are unjust to some people. I think the real question is; is this a proper activity for a government to engage into? If the answer is yes and I think it is then why not. The fact that India is poorer than the US is not relavent.

Chandra: It is increasingly debatable as to what the Govt should be or should not be in. The bottomline clearly is efficiency. Anybody who is able to use resources efficiently is good.

There are three aspects of this issue that I wish to comment on

1) The proper role of government

A government is an involuntary organization. Its involuntary nature makes it fundamentally different from other organizations such as companies, political parties, social groups etc. A voluntary organization is one which works on mutual consent. The individuals who are a part of such an organization, participate in it of their own choice. They (in whatever manner, democratic or otherwise) decide the rules by which the organization functions and the goals which the organization pursues. Any individual can leave a voluntary organization (subject to the rules to which he has already agreed) if he judges the rules or goals to be inappropriate. The only power a voluntary organization has over its members is the power of persuasion. It may not initiate physical force on its members and it may not violate its contracts with its members (the rules subject to which its members join the organization and stay in it). A voluntary organization cannot force a man to act against his judgement. A voluntary organization recognizes the principles that the individual is the unit of thought, choice and action; that the goals and interests of a group are merely the sum of the goals and interests of its members as determined by voluntary consensus; that the proper way to deal with men is persuasion and not force. A voluntary organization enables its members to work together in pursuit of their shared goals. No society can function without voluntary organizations.

But a voluntary organization cannot work without an arbiter. It cannot work if there is no authority to resolve and settle disputes. A voluntary organization cannot work in an anarchy. The role of government is to maintain a framework of individual rights within which individuals and voluntary organizations can work and interact with each other. The creation and maintenance of such a framework is the only proper role of government. This involves creating a system of laws and procedures in accordance with individual rights to adjudicate the resoluion and settlement of disputes (the law courts). It involves granting authority to certain individuals to implement laws (the police). It involves protecting its territory from outside interference (the army).

As a necessarily involuntary organization, a government can have no shared goals or purposes. Thought, choice, action, purpose, goal are all concepts which apply to individuals. Action, purpose and goal are concepts which can apply to groups if there is a consensus among its members and an agreement on the mechanism of estalishing a consensus. Shared goals can range from running a business to spreading a religion to landing on the moon to running a charity to achieving spiritual awakening. All such goals are legitimate. Individuals and voluntary groups have every right to spend their resources on pursuing these goals in any manner they see fit. No individual or group (and therefore the government) has any right to use the resources of some individuals to pursue the goals of others. For example a government may not subsidise a pilgrimage, may not sponser research, may not subsidise certain industries, may not provide social welfare etc. All such activities may properly be carried out by voluntary groups.

It is meaningless to talk of efficiency of resource allocation when one is talking of government activities. Is an efficient pilgrimage an efficient allocation of resources? Is a successful trip to the moon an efficient allocation of resources? Is a welfare scheme run without corruption an efficient allocation of resources? Is a subsidy or bailout granted to failing banks an efficient allocation of resources? Is the creation of a wildlife preserve an efficient allocation of resources? The concept of efficiency does not make sense without a purpose. And a government does not have a purpose beyond that of protecting individual rights.

2) The effects of government sponsored science

Since government funds come from taxation, government funding of research (whether by research institutes as in India, or grants to professors as in the U.S.) reduces the capacity of industry to conduct their own research. When industry conducts research and the research fails to yield any practical results, the industy’s profitability declines. When the research succeeds the industry makes greater profits and its capacity for research increases. Good research is rewarded and bad research is punished. That is not the case with government sponsored research. When research fails, the researcher(s) has nothing to lose. When it succeeds, he (they) receive a patent, commercialize the results and reap the rewards (out of taxpayer money). Profits are private and losses are public. This is true of any commercial activity by the government. Those favored individuals (or groups) who get government support are able to take higher risks since the upside is unlimited and there is no downside. (Just consider the current mortgage crisis for example.) In the American model of research grants to university professors, the university is turned into a research lab. The professors who are able to get the most grants and write the most papers succeed at the cost of the professors who are genuinely interested in teaching. In the Indian model of research institutes, there are labs all over the country engaged in carrying out meaningless research, little of which is ever commercialized.

More importantly, the quality of research suffers. Since the government has no specific goals for research and no ability to judge matters of science or the calibre of researchers or the potential of their proposals, the task of approving grants is taken over by favored panels of “scientists” whose primary skills are political rather than scientific. Obtaining research grants becomes a game of winning favors. Politically motivated projects often get funding. Consider the enormous amounts being spent on researching “climate change” as an example.

3) Private industry and large scale projects

Consider some numbers. The estimated cost of the Chandrayan mission is around $120 million. The annual profits of Exxon Mobil are $40 billion, of General Electric $21 billion, Reliance $2 billion, TCS $338 million. Private industry certainly has the sort of money required for large projects. The reason they do not engage in certain large scale projects is either that the projects are too risky or because under current laws (such as anti-trust), the projects are not profitable. Would a company spend billions on cancer or AIDS research when it knows that its intellectual property rights would immediately be confiscated? Would a company launch a satellite when it knows that government would demand control over its commercial uses? Would a company build a highway when it knows that toll-fares would be fixed by politicians eager to win the next election? Would a company setup a university when it knows that admissions and fees would be subject to vote-bank politics? Why do laws that prevent large scale projects from being profitable exist? Apparantly to “protect” “consumers” from the “greedy” private sector. These laws deliver the “consumer” to unprincipled politicians who do not care to look beyond the next election. If the road in front of my (am I a “consumer”?) house (which gets washed away every monsoon) had been laid by a private corporation, I (or some housing society) would have a contract and the corporation would be legally bound to implement it. The corporation would lay a concrete road that would last for 20 years. Instead the muncipal officers give the contract (for laying a 2-inch thick tar road which survives for about 8 months) to favored corporations, who in turn ensure that the muncipal officers will have adequate funds for political canvassing in the coming election. And if the muncipal officers decide that “public interest” will be better served by some other project, that is just too bad. I should learn to sacrifice my narrow selfish interests for a “larger purpose”. Or I can try going to court and proving that a road in front of my house is crucial to the “public interest”.

Note: This post is also available on desicritics.org with a separate comment thread.

%d bloggers like this: