January 4th, 2011

goblin's grimace

Thinking about it.

I wonder about the phrase "fiscal conservative," since I hear it fairly often. I've gone on the record before saying that I'll take a "social liberal, fiscal conservative" over the reverse any day of the week but...well, the term sticks in my craw. "Fiscal conservative." I wonder about it, who is being taken in by it. I mean-- federal tax dollars are spent on the military, on Social Security, & on Medicare/Aid. That is what money is spent on, but I don't hear "fiscal conservatives" ever bring that stuff up, really. Old people vote, & that keeps them away from Social Security & Medicare. I suppose you do hear the occasional murmurs about it from the fringe, but you don't really hear people going gonzo, do you? Maybe you do. & the military, heaven forbid you talk about the military spending, despite the fact that it is supporting a silly industrial complex. Seriously, air superiority fighters from the 70s? Ugh. I actually am for new innovation in spending; lets get some R&D going! If the F-22 hadn't been an air superiority fighter, I would have been all for it. I guess there are robots, at least. The military is on the cutting edge there, that is something. Still, I'm not a "fiscal conservative," but rather the vilified "tax & spend." It just seems odd that "tax & spend" is supposed to be the bad thing, when "fiscal conservative," as far as I can figure out, just means "spend without taxing." People talk about Reagen-- hey, he grew the economy, true enough. Except, well-- he grew it for rich people, & made more poor people, & the trick to growing the economy was...taking on a huge national debt. Somehow that is "fiscal conservatism?" Edit: Oh my gosh, eff you, "fiscal conservatives." Here is the Deficit & Surplus breakdown of the last fifty years.

I don't know, I was just thinking about it on account of thinking about prisons. Or well, I was thinking about the application of Game Theory to ethics. I think the Iterative Prisoner's Dilemma actually has critical & fundamental lessons. They are simple, but that is because they are building blocks-- & complexity evolves out of them. The strategy for a high scoring player, according to Robert Axelrod's research, is compelling. To be Nice, which is to say-- to presume innocence, to begin by cooperating. Not mindlessly-- a good strategy Retaliates, & punishes cheaters who don't cooperate. They don't do so relentlessly, which is to say, they are Forgiving-- once the other player begins cooperating, you stop retaliating. Tit for tat is the name of the game. The most difficult part is to be Non-envious, to not worry about the other player's scores. The goal is for you to score as high as possible; forget what the others are up to. I think this speaks to a lot of valid options on the political spectrum, but because it is called "the Prisoner's Dilemma," it got me thinking about actual prisons. Prisons are dumb-- I mean, I'm not a bleeding heart here, but what a mess. I think it doesn't need to be argued that the "justice" system in general, & prisons in particular, are profoundly racist. & that the upswing in drug incarceration is frankly stupid. What is worse, though, to me, is that prison's don't serve a real purpose. Are they just meant to keep people "off the street?" That seems counter productive-- but they certainly aren't trying to re-educate anyone (as dystopian as that sounds). Really though, prisons are creating criminals. They fail in Game Theory strategies. They aren't forgiving. I am all for retaliation, but not blindly. & really, prisons aren't about any of these things. They are about money. Money for corporations. Which is how it always ends up these days, isn't it?
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