All posts by Mahesh Sreekandath

Classic Liberalism, Systems Engineering and Heavy metal

Libertarian Transformers

For some reason people gasp when I mention the dominant Libertarian themes in Transformers 4 : Age of Extinction. Buried beneath inane comedy and not so sleek Budweiser advertisements are some stunning Hayekian/Misesian ideas. Contrasting to the first three Transformers movies, Age of Extrinction refuses to glamorize military. Instead of Marines fighting evil aliens in Middle-East, we have CIA black ops oppressing a Texan inventor. From Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) emphasizing to the black cloaked agents to get off his property, to ignorant bureaucrat Harold Attinger (played by Kelsey Grammer) destabilizing planet with his foreign policy, Michael Bay’s U-Turn on politics is evident.

Govt propping up bad guys in an alien war, or private firms profiting from war, or having an elected US President become subservient to career bureaucrats – this movie cuts close to reality. How a private weapons manufacturer, Joshua Joyce (played by Stanley Tucci), changes his mind when confronted with reality. But, a bureaucrat constantly refusing to confront his own folly is worth noting. Hollywood illustrating how private sector can get corrupted by govt incentives is not so common. Not to mention, Kelsey Grammer comforting the US President by claiming the all-powerful alien bounty hunter as his “asset”, a genuine black comedy moment!

An individualistic inventor honestly trying to stabilize the world, while govt busy-bodies propping up chaos, sounds like the movie appeals to all our civilized human instincts. Café intellectuals might disagree, but Hollywood is among the best Western institutions, they spread liberal ideas across the globe. Niall Fergurson’s interesting work ‘The West and the Rest’ quite aptly quotes the French philosopher Régis Debray — “more power in blue jeans and rock and roll than the entire Red Army”.

 

Bjoern Kommerell [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

James Madison Won the Shutdown

To grasp the constitutional importance of the moment, it is necessary to set aside partisan or policy preferences. Every constitutionalist, even those who wished a different outcome, can celebrate the proper functioning, for the first time in nearly a generation

https://www.lawliberty.org/2019/01/29/congress-constitution-shutdown/

 

1811,_sharples,_james,_james_madison

 

James Sharples [Public domain]

Ghost Rider

“Parking my motorcycle in front of a motel at the end of a long day on the road could certainly be sweet, like finally exhaling after holding my breath all day, but best of all was setting out in the morning. Whatever torments the night had brought; whatever weather the new day threw at me, when I loaded up the bike and swung my leg over the saddle, my whole perspective changed. Focus tightened into the mechanics and mentality of operating the machine, and awareness contracted to that demanding paradigm. As I let in the clutch and turned the throttle, my world-view expanded as i moved into a  whole new paradigm of landscapes, highways and wildlife. Infinite possibilities” p42, Ghost Rider

Not just the perspective, Neil Peart manages to express the very exact thoughts, emotions and even words any long distance motorcyclist would have endured. Brought back very distinct memories, even though my own experiences are from a totally different part of the globe.

Album from the archives — circa 2008-2010.

Welcome to Wayand

Harmony in Discord

“Rising from the concrete to the abstract, Greek geometry disengaged the intelligible essence from the particular observable details, or accidents, as such particulars were later to be called. In this it exercised the proper function of intelligence: the faculty of abstracting, of grasping the unity of a concept in a number of particular cases, the constancy of relationships and permanence of structures amid the diversity of sensible patterns; in a word, finding unity in multiplicity and harmony in discord. With the Greek language was born the language of abstraction.”

p6, The Genius of the West

What makes us all civilized is that ability to move from specifics to the abstract, in all spheres.

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan? – Reason.com

Cultural interventionism v/s Guns

“There is ‘more power in blue jeans and rock and roll than the entire Red Army’ said French philosopher Régis Debray”

Soviet Denim Smuggling – The History of Jeans Behind the Iron Curtain https://www.heddels.com/2014/09/soviet-denim-smuggling-history-jeans-behind-iron-curtain/

Spirit of Cecilia

Our options have fallen into two categories: bad and worse.
— Read on reason.com/archives/2018/11/29/why-are-we-still-in-afghanistan

View original post

History and Turning Points

“The history of mankind is the history of ideas. For it is ideas, theories and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends. The sensational events which stir the emotions and catch the interest of superficial observers are merely the consummation of ideological changes. There are no such things as abrupt sweeping transformations of human affairs. What is called, in rather misleading terms, a “turning point in history” is the coming on the scene of forces which were already for a long time at work behind the scene. New ideologies, which had already long since superseded the old ones, throw off their last veil and even the dullest people become aware of the changes which they did not notice before.” – Ludwig von Mises

https://mises.org/library/planned-chaos-0

Learned Ignoramus

It’s normal for political debates to quickly take an *interdisciplinary* turn; topics spanning from climate science, net-neutrality to macro-economics will be seamlessly engaged. And it’s also normal to express very specific and forceful policy positions on all these massive problems. We conveniently forget these are actual areas of specialization. Just imagine a set of cafe intellectuals expressing specific solutions to problems in microbiology, nanotechnology etc! But, when it comes to public policy, any such diffidence is rare, instead curiously strong opinions on complex topics is the norm.

Political opinions are also a lot about voicing our ideology. We enthusiastically state our position to signal who we are, not to debate or reconcile. In that sense, opinions are like badges. Quite like how a savage might use face paint to signal his tribe, we use policy prescriptions to signal our political leanings. Actually, many pick their tribe, and then adopt all the interdisciplinary policy positions wholesale. The surprising aspect is, college educated individuals are equally, or sometimes relatively more tribal in their opinions.

José Ortega y Gasset thought this was a relatively novel phenomenon, and closely related to the age of specialization.

“For, previously, men could be divided simply into the learned and the ignorant, those more or less the one, and those more or less the other. But your specialist cannot be brought in under either of these two categories. He is not learned, for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enter into his speciality; but neither is he ignorant, because he is “a scientist,” and “knows” very well his own tiny portion of the universe. We shall have to say that he is a learned ignoramus, which is a very serious matter, as it implies that he is a person who is ignorant, not in the fashion of the ignorant man, but with all the petulance of one who is learned in his own special line.

And such in fact is the behavior of the specialist. In politics, in art, in social usages, in the other sciences, he will adopt the attitude of primitive, ignorant man; but he will adopt them forcefully and with self-sufficiency, and will not admit of — this is the paradox — specialists in those matters. By specializing him, civilization has made him hermetic and self-satisfied within his limitations; but this very inner feeling of dominance and worth will induce him to wish to predominate outside his speciality.” — José Ortega y Gasset

Ortega y Gasset’s Revolt of the Masses (excerpt)

Sort of ironic that civilization might have made us more tribal, at least in certain ways.