8 Oct 2005 shlomif   » (Master)

Paul Graham's "Inequality and Risk"

Paul Graham recently wrote an article titled "Inequality and Risk". This article was covered in the "Joel on Software" forum.

The original poster said that: "I've usually found value in Paul Graham's essays, even when I don't agree with him. However, his latest simply parrots the standard right-wing economic arguments. ".

Here is my response:

I found two problems with this statement. The first one is called "labeling". You've labeled Paul Graham as parroting right-wing economic arguments, and expected us to agree with you that it was thus wrong. Yet, you gave no arguments for why the article was wrong. A person who tries to convince others of something needs to reason his arguments from more basic, commonly agreed facts. Saying it is wrong because it's "Socialiastic", "Fascistic", or whatever is not enough.

The other and more serious problem is that you believe what Graham says is right-winged. While right-wing people often make such arguments, they are not the only ones. Libertarians, Objectivists, etc. also believe in Economic freedom, and yet they are by no means right-winged.

In fact, there are two axis to the political map: individual freedom and economical freedom. The Left seems to uphold individual freedom while supporting economical restrictions. The Right supports economical freedom while believing that individual freedom is not that important. Libertarians believe that both economical and individual freedom are important. There are also authoritarians who think that none are important.

Refer to this site for more information.

It is true that once upon a time there was a single dimensional political map until the Liberals diverged into Libertarians and the current Left which believes in economical restrictions. But now we have a two-dimensional political map.

You are not the only person who makes this mistake. Richard M. Stallman says in a Eurohacker interview with him that Eric S. Raymond "is a right-wing anarchist", despite the fact Raymond is a self-proclaimed libertarian who rejects both the Left and the Right. In an IRC conversation I had on Freenode someone said that Objectivists are ultra-right-wing, despite the fact they are fanatical about individual rights.

I read that article by Paul Graham you linked to, and agreed with it completely. Graham has a point. One point I think he missed mentioning was the fact that societies can become prosperous enough so even the poor will be relatively rich. For example, in some countries many poor people starve or used to starve to death. On the other hand, in First-world countries, there is an abundant food supply and as a result even the poor are well-fed. In the States and other countries, many middle class people can afford to frequently travel by airplanes. Once computers were extremely costy and could only be afforded by large organizations. Nowadays much more powerful, compact and otherwise superior computers are common in almost every household.

These are all examples that while the economical imbalance is preserved, the economical well-being of everybody - poor and rich - grows.

Alan Kay's Interview

This interview with Alan Kay was published a while back, hit Slashdot, etc. Due to the prominence of the interviewee, I decided to read it and indeed read it front to back. Here is my opinion of it.

To keep it short: I did not understand about half of it. I don't think I had problem understanding the individual words, but the general theme of entire paragraphs was beyond me. There have been some signs of me becoming senile recently (like the fact that I could not understand Perl 6), but I have no problem understanding Paul Graham, Joel on Software, most of the things by Eric S. Raymond, etc. If Alan Kay is different, then I believe he is simply not accessible enough. (as opposed to the others).

From what I did understand it seemed most of it was like endless (and pretty much useless) rants about Java. One thing I did not understand was why many people (like this poster on Slashot or Tal Rotbart in a Hackers-IL message) got psyched from him saying "Perl is another example of filling a tiny, short-term need, and then being a real problem in the longer term." This is the only time Perl is mentioned in the entire Interview, and Kay does not explain why or how it is a problem.

So Alan Kay briefly mentions that Perl is a problem, without giving any explanation. Why am I supposed to right away buy that? When someone makes a claim a reason should be given.

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