Monday, June 18, 2018

loyalty is not black and white

A brief break from actively avoiding politics...

My soul is middle American and my politics are centrist. I can't stand the far left any more than I can stand the far right, and I definitely empathize with the disgust of the far left that led to Trump. I aggressively believe in trying to figure out what good intentions underlie things we disagree with, rather than being quick to attack. I aggressively believe in solidifying the common ground of worthy goals before arguing over how to achieve them. This is easier said than done but it's the standard I strive for.

With that said, I'm at a complete loss as to what good intentions could ever possibly motivate forcibly separating young children from their parents, not even to put the children in more nurturing environments (quite the opposite), but as political bait or threat.*

Thankfully (my faith in humanity is not yet extinguished) this policy has been rightly denounced along the entire political spectrum. Not so thankfully, 7% of Democrats, 28% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans say they support it**

If you are someone who is supporting this practice out of loyalty to leaders you trust, I'm begging you to please rethink your loyalties. I don't think you're evil; I think you're human. Humans of all political stripes rationalize the actions of the leaders and groups they are loyal to, so successfully that things like the Holocaust, the Gulags, and the Cultural Revolution can happen with the sanctioning of the general public. At this point in history, however, we as a species have enough self-awareness to recognize that process in action and course correct in time to avert disaster. But it takes self-reflection on an individual level to succeed.

Jonathan Haidt's research on moral foundations theory has found that conservatives place a much greater emphasis on loyalty than liberals. I'm agnostic as to whether that's a bad or a good thing in general, but in instances like this, it's critical to recognize that loyalty is conflicting with the other pillars of morality. Equally so, it's critical to recognize that loyalty is not all or nothing. It's feasible to fight against a particular policy without abandoning your entire party. It's ok to say "I voted for Trump but I didn't vote for this."

To those on the left, my plea is to graciously accept agreement from conservatives on this issue. Child abuse is something that should be trivial to rally against in unison, and gloating and blaming the other side and conflating an issue with an entire political philosophy is what will prevent that from happening.


* The qualifiers in this statement do not, at all, indicate that I'm ok with everything up to this line. They indicate that I'm confident that at least this is something we can all agree on and progress from.

** Note that the question (#25) asks about the practice of separating children from parents in the process of immediately prosecuting those who attempt to enter the country illegally. However, some children are also being separated from parents who are attempting to legally seek asylum at the border. Presumably, support for this policy would be lower across the board.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

death of (my) blogging

I've obviously nearly quit blogging at this point. That's ok; it's a clear waste of time but one that I got a lot of addiction-like joy from for... most of my life, at this point. I'll still post occasionally I'm sure.

That's the necessary context but beside the point. I'm curious why my blogging addiction petered out, and I can't put my finger on it. I think there's a lot of factors actually, but "for a lot of reasons" isn't a satisfying story and often indicates aimless rationalization (we're by nature amazingly good at coming up with endless plausible hypotheses, and less good at narrowing them down to the truth).

Contributing factors, in no particular order:
  1. Specialization. As I've gotten more specialized in my career, what I read is also more specialized, and what I spend time thinking about is more "cutting edge" for lack of a better word; that is, there simply aren't answers or data available, or sufficiently conclusive, for me to reach some coherent idea that I want to write down. Fluid brainstorming isn't as fun to write down as solid conclusions.
  2. Brainstorming with Matt, however, is very fun, which lowers the relative price of thinking-out-loud versus thinking-with-keyboard. (It's so great having a partner who is also very STEMish, also very INT(P|J), but not specifically an economist.)
  3. I'm less argumentative than I used to be. I've mellowed out generally and simultaneously grown weary of trying to persuade anyone of anything. Good or bad? The way it is.
  4. Photography. At the end of grad school I got a DSLR camera, which was gasoline on the fire of my lifelong love of (very amateur) photography. Taking and developing photos has replaced many of my former free-time activities, especially those that also serve as life record-keeping or creative outlets. Blogging is both.
  5. Facebook. Brief thoughts or links or whatever that I want to record or share more naturally go on facebook now. (Others use twitter for this.)
  6. Death of blogosphere. Blogging has dramatically declined overall; my desire to follow blogs has declined dramatically since only a few don't get stale (MR, Econlog, Kottke, SSC); my skimming-the-newspaper-over-morning-tea attention has drifted from my RSS feed collection to facebook. Following blogs => wanting to blog.
  7. This isn't and has never been a "professional" blog, but it's a fine line, since most of what I write about is naturally related to economics. It's become harder to maintain that division since people I meet at seminars and conferences and such google me and find it. My comfort level with that waxes and wanes.
  8. Relatedly, let's face it, saying anything in public is dangerous lately. I love my job and am not willing to risk it, but I inadvertently do anytime I discuss anything controversial.
  9. Intentional change in time use. It probably all boils down to this. I think of something I want to blog, but work is more pressing. Each instance is trivial, but of course it adds up.
Until next time, whenever that may be.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

I really love Brisbane

I love it here so much.

Friday afternoon I was supposed to go to the hospital for a blood test but got delayed at work. Driving from UQ to South Brisbane at 5:30pm is not something I expected to go well, but apparently my expectations are still partially calibrated on SF/NY/LA data, so it was absolutely no problem. I lane filtered through the one or two blocks of red zone traffic and got there in 15 minutes.

Parking in South Brisbane during the dinner hour? No sweat, free motorcycle parking right by the entrance.

The pathology lab was closed by this point (but how awesome is that, that you can show up with no appointment for a blood test at a giant public hospital and wait about ten minutes total?!), so I followed the after-hours instructions to the emergency department desk. They told me I should go to the emergency department at the private hospital on the next block.

Uh-oh, this is where I get screwed... I've been carefully sticking to Mater Public for absolutely everything related to this freak knee infection debacle, so as to avoid the cluster#@*$ of dealing with multiple medical bureaucracies and getting charged out the wazoo the second I inch away from what I know is covered by medicare, but I guess I have to bite the bullet. I walk over to the gleamingly empty private hospital and try to ignore the impending bills.

They tell me they'll have to page someone to come do the test. Uh-oh, this is where I have to settle in for a four hour wait. Ah well, I didn't have any Friday evening plans anyway. I pull out my laptop and headphones and get psyched for a few hours of uninterrupted work.

Approximately 43 seconds later, my name is called.

Approximately 5 minutes after that, I'm back at the front desk. The ladies look at me quizzically. "Uh, I'm finished with the blood test." [More quizzical looks.] "Is there anything I have to do?" "Oh no, you're all set, have a good weekend!" [Amused looks at the silly American.]


[Previously, after an overnight hospital stay for four rounds of IV antibiotics that cost exactly 0 dollars and 0 cents (plus very high taxes but if this kind of logistical functionality is what you get for the public funding it's worth it ten times over), I was discharged with prescription antibiotics to take at home. Prescriptions are subsidized but not covered by medicare, so I was pretty nervous about getting screwed on that front. In fact, the doctor brought them up and asked me hopefully "Do you have a concession card or anything...? There's an invoice in here but it didn't have any discounts applied." My stomach immediately tied itself up around the expectation of hundreds of dollars of fancy-pants drugs and I didn't even dare look at the invoice until two days later when the fever subsided enough to give me the energy to deal with a new hit of bad news. The total? $27.30.]

I've now spent a total of about 20 minutes in both hospitals, so my bike is still warm when I take it back around the river under all the prettily lit bridges. It's the dead of winter, but with my regular jacket it's still a great evening for riding. Then after a cosy night in with hot cocoa and Bailey's, all weekend it's cloudlessly sunny and 70 degrees. [Recently a colleague from the UK visited UQ for a couple weeks and after four days I said "It's a little grey lately, hopefully it'll clear up for your weekend." He replied "I've been in the UK for twelve years and haven't had four days this nice." I guess my reference point has moved a bit after all.]

Maybe more relevantly, being done with lecturing for the year puts me in a really great mood :)