Andy Duncan
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Blimey, IT contractors!

Have you seen Jobserve recently? Lordy. When I last looked, three months ago, there were 2 jobs matching my skills, and requirements, with ridiculously low rates. Today, with the same search criteria, there were 100 jobs, with rates more than twice what they were! I'm stuck in this current contract until at least the middle of September. I can't wait to get back out there again. We may (touch wood) be over the worst. 
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

The Irish State is Back

(Also appears on Samizdata)

After nearly a decade in which many Big Government restrictions have been lifted from Ireland, making it into the Celtic Tiger, it seems Big G is back again.

Irish pub landlords will now be fined up to thousands of pounds if they allow their customers to become drunk (no, I'm not kidding). Happy hours are also banned, when landlords can decide what prices to charge for their drinks, at any particular time of day.

This should raise another nice little line of regulation for another bunch of twerpish bureaucrats to supervise, rather than working for a living.

Pub landlords will also be deemed responsible for anyone who is drunk, after they have left their premises. Which is nice. It seems even Ireland, for millennia a land of little or no government, is getting Big G back with a vengeance.

If we dug a little further would you suspect the EU is under this somewhere? I wonder. 
Monday, August 18, 2003

The Liberty Gene

(Also appears on Samizdata)

A thought struck me a few minutes ago while reading Mr Stephen Pinker's excellent book, The Language Instinct, and its chapter, Language Organs and Grammar Genes. This discusses the direct effect of genes on the human cerebral cortex. Here's an annotated quote from that chapter which kicked off my own cerebral cortical units into a bit of a grey-matter spin:

Could there really be a gene for sneezing in elevators? Presumably not, but there does not have to be…First, a single gene does not build a single brain module; the brain is a delicately layered soufflé in which each gene product is an ingredient with a complex effect on many properties of many circuits. Second, a single brain module does not produce a single behavioural trait. Most of the traits that capture our attention emerge out of unique combinations of kinks in many different modules…Perhaps the sneezing-in-elevators gene complex is the one that specifies just the right combination of thresholds and cross-connections among the modules governing humour, reactions to enclosed spaces, sensitivity to the mental states of others such as their anxiety and boredom, and the sneezing reflex.

Which begs the immediate question; is there a Liberty gene? Or a Liberty gene complex? Some researchers claim that up to thirty thousand genes are used to create the human brain. Could there be some regular patterning of this combinatorial soufflé process to create libertarians?

There's not many of us about, admittedly. My own ragged guesstimate sets any typical libertarian population at around 2% for any given western population. If that.

And maybe even this is some kind of necessary upper limit, for a race which is still essentially stuck mentally in the pure socialist stone-age. Biologically we were essentially the people we are now around 200,000 years ago. And for most of the time since, everyone alive was expected to fill a single tribal pot, and the tribal chief decided what we got afterwards, after taking out the best stuff for himself and his friend, the shaman, the clever one amongst us who educated the tribe into believing that the chief always knew best; which was remarkably handy for the chief, and his friend and willing servant, the shaman.

But did the chief and the shaman need the libertarians more than even they realised?

In a stone-age sense, were libertarians the ones who invented the fire sticks, the ones who invented the wheels, and the ones who invented the card games to play in the evening when everyone else was wondering what to do with all this new-fangled firelight? Are libertarians the ones who had the gene to discover new valleys beyond the mountains, the ones who could think of better ways to kill mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers, and the ones who ultimately helped pull the other members of the tribe away from the parasitic and violent influence of the shamans and the tribal chiefs? Change would not have been good for any members of this ruling gang structure, the politicians and the intellectuals, as with total power already in their hands, any change could only lead to their having less power.

But without this human action ability to change, we could have become one of those extinct fossil communities on one of the bushy dead-end sub-branches of human evolution. Maybe that's exactly what happened? Were we the lucky ones, because we had the liberty gene? Without it would we have been the ones who didn't make it, who didn't get through the ice ages, who ultimately neither knew how to invent nor even how to change a domestic light-bulb? Change is necessary and invention is necessary, especially in times of crisis, such as ice ages, and all of this change needs individuals who are prepared to break the rules of convention, who are able to overcome their political masters, and who are able to do it alone, against all the odds, if nobody else in the tribe will support them. It needs libertarians.

In the modern sense, later libertarians invented classical Athens, the Roman Republic, and the United States. All three of these incrementally advanced things were later swamped by the older human types of Spartan numskull warrior slave-masters, Roman Caesar imperial slave-masters, and deficit-funding Washington slave-masters, the chieftains and the shamans exacting their revenge. But still the libertarians persevere, hiding out now on the Internet, and in small businesses, still inventing things, still taking risks, and still dragging the rest of humanity behind them, kicking and screaming, with its general will to wipe out and destroy the libertarians in its primal urge to return to the paternalist comfort of the tribalist stone-age, the shade behind the chieftain's spear, and the incantations of the Guardian-reading shaman, who still has his cup filled every day by the chieftain from the tribal pot of violently obtained taxes, in return for propagating the rule of this very government violence.

Is this then the spirit of humanity, the thing which ensured it was our particular species of humanity which crawled out of Africa, leaving behind all the pure socialist tribalists who died in their caves while watching us strip out their resources with our superior economic methods, which even now the shamans hate? Is there, in short, a Liberty gene? Do we all possess it? Is it switched on when the time comes, in all of us, at times of great need? Is this what makes us different from all those other human sub-groups which died out? Is it somehow tied to the very same gene complexes which allow us to speak in our fabulous human languages?

I don't know. But Mr Pinker writes damn fine books. 

Crossroads Motel

Well, it's been a while, and I've hit this crossroads. Should I push forward on the writing front, or hang back and try to revive the IT development career? Or should I extend the IT soft skills and training career, and try to add on NLP? Decisions, decisions. Maybe I should be all post-industrial and go for all of them! :-) 
The woolly ramblings of a quasi-Randite neo-Popperite proto-Rothbardian

06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 /

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