Monday, October 31, 2011

The Free Market Gambit

Imagine a game where every time your team kicked a goal, it was worth one point. But every time the opposite team kicked a goal, it was worth ten points. Then imagine that if you commit any sort of foul or breach of the rules, you’re instantly ejected from the game - but if the other side does, they just lose possession of the ball, no matter how many times or how egregiously they foul you. Then imagine that every ten minutes, the other team gets to flip a coin, and if it comes up heads they get to take all of your points, and if it comes up tails they just double their own score.

You don’t need to imagine such a game. This is the world that you live in every day. Sure, it wouldn’t be impossible for you to win at that game. If you were really, fantastically talented and they were disastrously incompetent, you might be able to compete on a serious level. But can you really make the claim that the game is in any sense fair? Can you really blame someone who tries to fix that system? That wants to level that playing field?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Direct Democracy in Action

I’d been following Occupy Melbourne closely online, along with its counterparts around the world, but until very recently I hadn’t been able to attend because of work. I’ve also read a few interesting pieces since my last post, so take it as read that my viewpoint is a little more nuanced now.

Firstly, this piece asserts that Occupy Wall Street isn’t really a traditional protest, it’s like a beta-test of a new way of life - which, as part of its functionality, incorporates activism for political change. The way they run things, with their consensus-based decision-making process and their peaceful resistance, is not just an incidental way of running their protest - it is what they’re doing, with the protests being incidental to that. The process is the point, to borrow their phrase. This is an interesting point, and footage I’ve seen from OWS certainly backs this up.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where to now for Occupy Melbourne?

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win” - Gandhi

On September 17, about 1000 New Yorkers converged on Wall Street to protest the outrageous crimes perpetrated by financiers and their manifold consequences. NYPD responded brutally, macing unarmed and peaceful protesters, violently arresting hundreds, and - much to their chagrin - lending a lot of legitimacy to the cause. Since then it has spread like wildfire; other major cities in the US, across Europe, and now to Australia.

For the past week protesters have been camped at City Square in Melbourne, but the other day Lord Mayor Robert Doyle decided that these people had no right to continue protesting on public land, and evicted them. Yesterday morning, when the deadline came, the protesters exercised their right to protest peacefully, and stayed - so Doyle sent in the Riot Squad.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Truth About Evolution

It might not be quite the same in other places, but in Australia - anecdotally - it seems like the level of scientific literacy is high enough that the vast majority of young people say they believe in evolution. The problem is, many of them profess belief, and maybe have a vague idea of how it works - but don’t actually understand it well enough to apply it properly in arguments.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tangoing with the One-Armed Bandits: UPDATED

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has proposed several measures to help problem gamblers as a condition of his support for the Labor government. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has supported him in this respect, and there are a number of parties that have half-heartedly signalled approval or disapproval as well - but it’s important to note that as yet, no legislation has been put forward, so it’s impossible to say exactly what measures will be included in the bill.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Plausible Deniablity

If you’re ever in a discussion about one of the big questions of life (everything from the origin of the universe to the nature of morality) eventually you will come across this phrase: “But you can’t prove there’s no God.” This is usually in response to something of the flavour “There is no evidence for a creator-god”” and, technically, is true - I can’t prove there is no God. I can debunk purported evidence, but I can’t prove the nonexistence of God any more than I can prove the nonexistence of fairies. That line of thinking, however, misses the point.