Growing Pains, The Same Old Aches-Harrisburg & Portland-A Few Links

Assuming that corruption is a natural state in human affairs, exacerbated by politics-as-profession and long-standing economic blight, often gets you closer to the truth. Hello, depressive realism, my old friend.

Many major U.S. City Halls are notoriously corrupt (NYC, Chicago), but let’s face it, many smaller cities and towns can play dirty, too.

Via the City Journal: ‘Insult To Injury In The Rust Belt

‘In Harrisburg, a state audit found that the school district wasted millions on salaries, contracts, and benefits. This follows a two-year probation period served by six-term mayor Stephen Reed, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to stealing artifacts from the capital city’s museum.’

As posted: From The City Journal: ‘The Lessons Of Harrisburg

‘A Pennsylvania newspaper once described Reed as a mayor who “never met a bond deal he didn’t like.” Give a politician the chance to pile up debt on favored projects without answering directly to voters, and no one should be surprised if he takes advantage of it. That’s why the history of state and local finance is filled with reform moments.’

Much of this transcends party politics and goes more to political power, bad management and collective fiddling…

Full post here.

‘The Harrisburg School District, so impoverished that the state is helping it dig out of its financial and academic woes, has hit a mother lode of tax dollars, evidently due to several years of financial ineptitude.

In early October the district discovered it had nearly $12 million it didn’t know it had until someone started looking closely at the books.’

Perhaps that money will be put to better use than the incinerator and the Wild West museum boondoggle. Perhaps not.

Under new management again, Harrisburg might have a chance to not be as poorly run as Detroit.

Walter Russell Mead took a look at similarly bankrupt Jefferson County, Alabama, where Birmingham is located:

‘Will the market still lend to cities after they’ve gone bankrupt?’

Promises made for public employees simply cannot be met in many cases.

Reason used Harrisburg as a model for fiscal failure.

It doesn’t look much like progress to me, if, many mentally-ill, desperate for purpose, communists, socialists, anarchists and the black bloc anti-fascists run roughshod over your city.

If you don’t properly account for human nature, the bad and good in everyone, your model isn’t working.  The people running these cities, without lots of growth and trade, would likely run them into the ground with such utopian ideas.

Time to grow up a bit, Portland:

Addition:  As a reader points out, I don’t mean to be glib.  Violence is serious, especially if it’s happening to you as the police stand-down, but if you’re expecting contrition from folks who are wedded to radical ideology, you can keep expecting.

A Few Thoughts On Twitter Enforcement-Is It Politically Biased?

We all have individual biases and institutions are filled with people self-selecting towards certain biases and away from others.

A few clear rules of the road and a mission statement from the folks running Twitter enforcement would be nice.  I’m already pretty sure I don’t share many political views with the curators, but that’s fine as long as the rules are clear.

I see Twitter as a very effective, constantly updating communication channel with design elements that will likely outlive the platform. This has attracted users like me to filter information about the world (weather, humor, politics) and stolen the lunch of many older communication channels.

Twitter also highlights very difficult challenges in designing any sort of rule structure on a relatively open platform, and the costs of instant gratification through narrow communication channels.

The loudest people are often the ones who get the most attention, and they can easily traffic in very bad ideas and very bad behavior (what, you’re surprised?).

Which loud voices are being encouraged?

Here’s the most charitable information I can offer with my current lack of knowledge:

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”  Arthur Schopenhauer

People with high IQs trained to solve problems rationally can just as easily overlook their biases as the rest of us.  People who design, engineer and maintain network systems can spend less time examining their own thinking about personal, social and political beliefs.  Each of us doesn’t know what we don’t know, but smart people, especially, can mistake specific domain knowledge for all the other knowledge contained on their platform.

I suspect there’s some capture going on with certain users and the curators of the platform, which is unsurprising.  Shallow conversations often have deeper contexts, but I find Twitter is not a great place to have deep conversations, especially about politics.

Yet, the people running the platform now have a lot of power and influence over political conversations.

Here’s what I think would be a good standard. As previously and often posted (from a reader):

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’