Thought of the Day: “I Pay Your Salary!”

You know the common canard “I pay your salary!” directed against, say, police officers or teachers? Have you ever considered just how absurd that is?

Let’s say that I have a dispute with a certain public school teacher and I play this card. Well, in the first place, I don’t pay his salary: I pay a small percent of a percent of his salary. More to the point, if I were to try to withhold that percent of a percent, I would go to jail. The fact that my taxes are part of the pool of money from which his salary is drawn gives me absolutely zero leverage over him, because I do not exercise any decision making powers over whether that money goes into the pool or how that pool is used (and the amount wouldn’t be enough to matter even if I did: would you be afraid if your boss threatened to dock your pay a tenth-of-a-cent?).

As he is a public servant (theoretically), what I can do is to examine the candidates who are or intend to be running for the position from which they could theoretically exercise some leverage over this particular teacher (though with the unions they probably won’t have much no matter what) and then cast my vote for the candidate who seems closest to my own view of thinking. If I’m really committed, I can give up a generous portion of my time to try to convince as many other people as I can to do the same.

So, what I should really say is “I can cast a ballot that, if accompanied by several thousand others, might eventually put someone over your head who would at least be inclined to punish you for this!”

You’ll note that that is not really a very good threat. Which is why teachers and other ‘public servants’, by and large, don’t care what any parents or other members of the public have to say.

Being accountable to ‘the public’ is not at all the same thing as being accountable to any particular member of the public. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Thought of the Day: A Realization

While cooking dinner tonight, I suddenly realized something.

You know that episode of The Simpson, ‘You Only Move Twice’, where Homer gets a dream job with a boss who turns out to be a Bond villain (“My department is way ahead of the lasers and germ warfare divisions!”), only for the rest of the family to become dissatisfied with their newly comfortable lives and want to return home?

I just realized that Hank Scorpio being a supervillain has no bearing on the plot whatsoever.

In any other show, or in any other episode probably, the fact that Homer’s dream boss turns out to be an evil madman would be the main point. It practically writes itself (“Dad, Scorpio’s trying to take over the world!”). But here, it’s entirely a running gag that has nothing to do with the main plot, which is just the family being discontented by what they thought they wanted and Homer choosing to give up his perfect job to make them happy. It’s just part of the humor that he never realizes that his friendly and caring boss is an evil genius out to conquer the world.

Felt the need to point that out, since in retrospect it makes the episode even funnier.

That’s Albert Brooks, by the way

Thought of the Day: Absurdities and Atrocities

Voltaire: “He who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Me: Yeah, just look at what happened with ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.’

Of course, what you consider an atrocity is largely dependent on what you believe to be an absurdity, so that the statement, upon examination, only means “thinking the wrong thing means you’ll do the wrong thing.”

Which is true, but can’t of itself be made to tell against any specific philosophy apart from pluralism.

Which seems to be what it’s usually cited in favor of.

Thought of the Day: Evolving Language

We are often told by a certain segment of the population that languages evolve over time, and thus the arbitrary and false-to-facts changes they are insisting upon are perfectly legitimate.

It’s indeed true that languages evolve. Animals evolve too, but chopping a cat’s tail off with a butcher knife isn’t ‘evolution’, and neither is screaming at someone until he uses the words you want him to use instead of the ones that correspond to reality.

Thought of the Day: Another Suggestion

Once again, Mickey Mouse’s copyright is due to expire before too much longer (which would mean Uncle Walt’s spirit would finally be able to rest). I’m sure Disney will try to get copyright laws extended again, but they can’t keep that up for ever. I’d recommend they get ahead of things and select a new mascot, one that better fits their current philosophy.

I think I know the perfect one:

“The WORLD is my nemesis!”