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All my friends were jumping off this bridge... - Phil's Rambling Rants
September 19th, 2005
03:43 pm

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All my friends were jumping off this bridge...
... so I decided to take the political quiz.

As I expected, the questions are so badly framed and worded that the results are not very meaningful.  For the record, I scored as 75% socially permissive and 28% economically permissive, which they rate as a "Democrat".  But the real reason that I felt it was worth saying anything on the subject is that, while the questions are terrible for a survey where your only choices are Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, and Strongly Agree, many of them are actually interesting topics of discussion, and I'm going to pull out some of the questions and write paragraphs giving my real answers.  I encourage the other people who took or are considering taking the quiz to do the same thing.

2. I am troubled by the eroding distinction between entertainment and marketing.

What I'm really troubled by is the eroding distinction between reality and marketing.  Advertising seems to be taking over every aspect of life; I see the increase of advertising in entertainment as a symptom of a general trend.  The extent to which advertising has invaded news and politics is much more disturbing than the extent to which it's invaded movies and sitcoms.  Most of my objection is that so much of advertising is fundamentally dishonest, so the more that advertising is part of every aspect of life the more dishonest every aspect of life becomes.

7. I feel guilty when I shop at a large national chain.

Not especially, in general.  A little bit, in the specific case of Wal-Mart.

10. I would defend my property with lethal force.

I agree with the principle.  I think the homeowner who shoots the burglar in the back as he's leaving with the silver should be commended, not condemned.  I don't know that I am personally capable of using lethal force myself.  I don't own or know how to use any real weapons, and between my inhibitions and my innate clumsiness I would be much more of a risk to myself than an invader if I did try to pick up a kitchen knife or blunt object.

16. It bugs me when somebody names their child something like 'Sunshine' or 'Charm'.

I approve in principal of people giving children unusual names.  I like to see parents willing to stand up against tradition.  On the other hand, it does bug me when I see parents abusing their freedom to saddle their kids with names that strike me as stupid.

23. I would feel better if there were video cameras on most street corners, to prevent crime.

How I would feel about their being video cameras on street corners would depend more on who was watching the monitors and what safeguards there were to prevent the information from being abused than anything else.  Technology doesn't make us safe or destroy our liberty; it's the details of how we actually use the information we get from the technology that can help or hurt us.

26. If a company invents a pill that cures cancer, they should be allowed to charge whatever they want for it.

To the extent that the company did all the inventing themselves, I'd say they should be allowed to charge whatever they want for it.  They shouldn't, however, be allowed to charge two different customers wildly different amounts for the same product.  And if they are taking advantage of publicly funded research as the basis for their invention, the public should have some say in what the price is.

30. Most people are too stupid to know what's best for them.

A good example of what's wrong with this quiz.  I agree with the statement itself, but I don't agree with the implication that therefore someone else should make the choices for them.  People should be completely free to make stupid decisions for themselves; it's only to the extent that their stupid decisions hurt others that they should be limited.

31. A person has the right to claim the Holocaust never happened, if that's what he believes.

I firmly believe that anyone has the right to hold any opinion they choose, no matter what the opinion and no matter what the circumstances.  This is the most fundamental right a person has.  Expressing an opinion is quite different from holding it, though.  The right to express an opinion is supported by the right to have access to other opinions one finds of interest, and constrained by the responsibility to accept the consequences of the expression and the right to not be exposed to expression one finds objectionable.  The longer I stare at this question, the harder I find it to answer.  People do have a right to hold hateful opinions, and they have a right to share them with a consenting audience, but they don't have a right to force their message on an audience that finds it offensive.

34. Eventually, a computer will write the best novel ever written.

I was really confused about what this question was doing there.  Is it just a random act of surrealism?  But in any case, the notion that a computer -- a completely deterministic machine whose results are absolutely predictable from the initial conditions -- could become a true person is in conflict with one of the fundamental assumptions I base my philosophy of life on, which is that true free will exists.

On the last page of the quiz, they actually give you an open-ended question, asking you to propose a single law which would be enforced "by goons" in perpetuity.  I briefly considered outlawing goons, but then I tried to figure out (a) what's our single biggest problem, because I wanted to try to poke at it, and (b) what one law might actually make a dent in it.  This was my answer:

"I would dictate that all corporations must be managed for the benefit of the shareholders who will hold their shares for the long term. This decree is binding on government, requiring them to change regulations to be in line with this philosophy, as well as on corporations themselves. For purposes of this decree, it is recognized that "long term" may be somewhat hard to pin down, but in no circumstances may it ever be construed as meaning less than 5 years, and as a general rule it should be taken to mean at least 20 years. It is implicit in this decree that the first principle of the best interest of the shareholders is that the corporation must stay in business."

Oh, and as I went backwards through the quiz after I finished it to pull out questions for this post, I was reminded of another big flaw in this quiz:  All of the questions initially come up with "Strongly Agree" checked, so if you manage to forget to answer one, you get an extreme opinion.  I spotted at least one question that I managed to skip, leaving in a "Strongly Agree" where I should have checked "Disagree".

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From:pir_anha
Date:September 19th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC)

Re: All my friends were jumping off this bridge...

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7. I feel guilty when I shop at a large national chain.

i don't so much feel guilty, as nag myself for being so lazy and/or cheap. about a year ago i finally managed to internalise just how bad walmart is, and began to boycott it completely.

10. I would defend my property with lethal force.

it really depends on what property of mine we're talking about. i would definitely defend my cats with deadly force. i would probably defend the boat against destruction with deadly force, though probably not against theft. theft of anything else? no. generally i would be more inclined to act with force against destruction, and not against theft. and i don't think a home owner who shoots the silver burglar in the back while he's leaving is justified, sorry. while doing it in the front when there's actually a fear of being in danger oneself, yes, i am ok with that. i can see arming myself with deadly weapons only if i am in fear of social unrest (hurricanes count), and again, it's not about people who steal, but about people who destroy. i hold no truck at all with wanton destruction and consider it a much worse crime than theft.

What I'm really troubled by is the eroding distinction between reality and marketing.

and between reality and entertainment; the admixture of fact and fiction without clarification of which is which. bothers me a lot. people are already bad enough at remembering facts, blurring the lines doesn't do any of us any favours.
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From:catalana
Date:September 19th, 2005 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Your law is good. Mine was less serious; I mandated that everyone spend as much time reading as they do watching TV. *grin*

(I do actually think this would be an improvement for society.)
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From:tigertoy
Date:September 20th, 2005 06:15 am (UTC)
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Your suggestion is a good one. For some reason, I actually felt motivated to think about my answer fairly hard.
From:starstraf
Date:September 27th, 2005 03:40 am (UTC)
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mine was that having a kid should require training and certification, like getting a drivers licence
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