Pages

Friday, December 21, 2018

Downsides of living in Utopia

There aren't many, except this: "Restaurants open on Christmas Day." The author of this article gushes, "Contrary to popular belief, for the holidays, you can beat home sweet home." He then proceeds to share our four entire options for doing so: one Chinese restaurant, one hotel brunch buffet, Waffle House, and...a gas station. Fortunately, the Chinese restaurant is quite good, and we have been meaning to take the kid to Waffle House.

15 comments:

Andrew Stevens said...

Looking forward to your take on the Ivy League cheating scandal.

Miss Self-Important said...

Take: the guy who ran that "consulting" service was a graduate of my high school. So was George Papadapoulos. We are just covering ourselves in glory.

Andrew Stevens said...

Good take! I was thinking that it might impact your meritocracy argument. I mean, the whole point of having lacrosse teams and offering points for admission for that is to benefit the children of elites rather than lower or middle class meritocrats. This was an example of moneyed elites' simply using money directly to game the system rather than indirectly as it is intended.

Miss Self-Important said...

I stand by my meritocracy argument: a democracy can only justify meritocratic social advancement, even if some people cheat, game the system, etc. We can change the terms of "merit" to mean IQ, or athletic aptitude, or prettiest eyes, or whatever in some "holistic" combination. But there is no way out of meritocracy, and no one has ever proposed any that would not require a revolution in the regime.

Andrew Stevens said...

I actually don't disagree with you. I just think it's clear that the Ivies aren't really trying to be a genuine meritocracy, just to fool people that they are. So about half of the U.S. Supreme Court are genuine meritocrats and the other half are obvious Ivy League mediocrities who made it through the system for reasons which have very little to do with their merit.

Acknowledging this might help lead to a more genuine meritocracy. What we've got seems to obviously be failing. The investment banks believed they were recruiting genuine meritocrats and they're all dead now because they weren't. I'm not sure how much of that failure is simply the genuine educational and moral decline that is happening throughout the West though.

Andrew Stevens said...

Shouldn't the terms of "merit" be virtue and wisdom? For the young, the ability and interest in acquiring it?

Miss Self-Important said...

There is no single "genuine" meritocracy, since merit would have to vary depending on the activity for which you're selecting. Virtue is another word for merit. Wisdom would not matter if you were selecting the best violinists for a concert. Violin ability would not matter if you were selecting the best players for a basketball team. What is the activity for which we select university students? If it's to "form a ruling class," as Douthat says today in the NYT, then what qualities should we look for? Desire to acquire wisdom and virtue are universal, or so says Socrates. We couldn't turn anyone away on that account. So then what?

Andrew Stevens said...

Did Socrates really say that? Because that's just obviously false. But, yes, I was referring to the qualities which would be most useful to a ruling class, not to an orchestra or a basketball team.

Miss Self-Important said...

No on would prefer ignorance to knowledge, ergo everyone aspire to wisdom.

But ok, how are you going to determine who is most desirous of wisdom of virtue among four million American 18 year olds?

Andrew Stevens said...

In the Lysis, he acknowledges that the evil do not seek wisdom. It is true that knowledge is a self-evident good, but one does not have to look very far to find people (I'll bet you could hit five of them with a bread roll from where you're sitting) who do not value it enough to bother acquiring it.

The problem of selection doesn't seem all that hard to me, though the Ivies probably couldn't adopt that as a business model. A school could do so if it wished, but the problem is that the people it recruits probably wouldn't have "being part of the ruling class" as part of their ambitions. So we're left with the Douglas Adams problem. Anyone who wants the job shouldn't be allowed to do it.

Ah, human nature. So intractable a problem.

Andrew Stevens said...

Oh, I completely disagree that virtue is simply another word for merit. But that's an extremely long argument and, in part, it's not because you're wrong. Language is very slippery, but there are two distinct concepts there.

Also, the reason why I don't take the Ivies' faux interest in violins and basketball seriously is because they clearly simply aren't the best for that. If you want to be a great concert violinist, you go to Juilliard not Harvard. If you want to be a great basketball player, you go to Kentucky not Yale.

Andrew Stevens said...

It's a totally unimportant point, being purely semantic, but I think we can both agree that Michael Jordan was a meritorious basketball player. But was he a virtuous one?

The dictionary defines virtue as "behavior showing high moral standards," but merit as "the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward." Michael Jordan is particularly good and worthy as a basketball player, deserving praise and reward for his performance. But is he exhibiting high moral standards? Anyway, I do make that same distinction, rightly or wrongly.

Andrew Stevens said...

I should probably put on the record, in my judgment:

Merit: Kagan, Breyer, Thomas, Gorsuch

Ivy League Mediocrities: Ginsburg, Kavanaugh, Alito, Sotomayor, Roberts

Of the other recent Ivy Leaguers, Souter and Kennedy were mediocre and Scalia was great.

Withywindle said...

In a better world, George Bush would have nominated Kinky Friedman for the Supreme Court when the Harriet Miers nomination fell through.

Also, Dave Sim would have drawn a Cerebus comic book with a Supreme Court composed of eight Grouchos and one Harpo.

But on due consideration, I think my own Fantasy Supreme Court has Azdak, Tom Bombadil, Edward Coke, Joseph Dredd, George Jeffreys, Laozi, the Mikado, Aztar Spectre, and Stone Boy.

Andrew Stevens said...

Love the eight Grouchos and one Harpo. I tried to read Cerebus once, but I couldn't get through more than about eight issues. I was never a comic book guy though.

Alito's fine, but you can't tell me Bush couldn't have found a better judge if the Harvard/Yale pedigree didn't hypnotize people. Indeed, it's quite possible Harriet Miers would have been a better choice. Her biography is not at all unimpressive, probably more impressive than Alito's.