Two Things

February 1, 2006

Over the next few posts I will be following Urizen’s lead and developing a few of my own thoughts about morality and where it can come from.  Today, I want to lay down a couple of fundamental ideas on which most of my morals rest.

Oftentimes, I trick myself into believing that free markets solve everything.  This usually happens while I’m reading either books about investing or novels by Ayn Rand.  Along with making me believe the impossible, the ideas in these sorts of books have one common umbrella element: they are very good when applied, in tandem with more comprehensive ideas, to very limited spheres of activity.  Sort of the way Corn Pops are part of This Complete Breakfast.

These books have one thing further in common: they assume the existence of the sorts of people who see that their future is in their hands alone.  It is easy to read a book about value investing, but it is a far different matter to do the legwork necessary to succeed at it.

I too believe that these people exist, though they are hard to find.  Becoming one involves two commitments.  The first is a commitment to quality, a “discriminating taste,” necessarily present both in ends and in means.  There is no sense in working 80 hour weeks for a worthless cause, nor in spending 80 hours doing a job that could be done in 20 with better tools.  The second is a commitment to responsibility in actions.  Among other things, this means avoiding the “it’s not my problem” syndrome and actively seeking out bigger and better problems to work on.  The aphorism which preaches that “showing up is half the battle” is truer than it is usually given credit for.  So is that old one, “ask and you shall receive,” only I generally feel it is more worthwhile to ask a human being who might at least give you a yes or no answer.

Enough foundation.  To sum up: responsibility and quality, a means and an end.  Tune in next time, when I will probably try to work in Buddhism and maybe oil companies.


The, er, Ninth Step

January 26, 2006

Better late than never, I suppose: I am author number four.
By way of introduction, I list my interests, a turn-off, and beliefs.

  1. My primary interest is in how things work. In the past few months, this has led me to study, among other things, sociology, religion, productivity, physics, the brain, and nutrition. Mostly, I have a short attention span.
  2. I will listen to anything but memorized responses. I hate memorized responses.
  3. I believe in three things only: human agency, discourse, and chocolate.

And that’s that.