Government and the Greater Good

In the climactic scene of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a dying Spock explains to Captain Kirk why he sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise. "The needs of the many," he famously quips, "outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one." Many libertarians hate that scene. Spock, you commie! Don’t you know that interpersonal utility comparisons are impossible? You’re from the future! This, I think, displays a fundamental confusion; Spock is not making an interpersonal utility comparison. Spock is dealing entirely with his own value scale. He is saying that, to him, the lives of his friends and crewmates are more important than his own. As such, he is not behaving "governmentally" at all; it becomes a noble act, not a tyrannical one.

The distinction, of course, is one of ownership. Spock is (at least presumably) a self-owner, who can elect to use or dispose of himself in any way he sees fit. For him to sacrifice himself in this manner is not in any way a violation of anyone’s rights. In contrast, we would view the same scene as monstrous if Spock were to order Chekhov to make the sacrifice instead — well, okay, maybe not if it were Chekhov, but like Scotty or McCoy or somebody we care about. You get it. But what’s the difference, really? In both cases, one man dies, and everybody else lives. Why is one noble and the other vile?

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There is a huge contradiction in the witness' testimony!

What Do Words Mean Anyhow?

The Adam Smith Institute’s Tim Worstall claims to be one of the world’s foremost experts on scandium. Whether or not this is true I am ill-equipped to say, as I know almost exactly nothing about scandium. I assume they use it to make scanners, and I was figuring it was probably from Sweden, but then I realized I was confusing it with Scandinavium, a similar metal so heavy that Iron Maiden’s played there nine times. Anyhow, the point is: I don’t know anything about scandium, and I freely concede, in advance, any arguments about scandium I ever get into against Tim Worstall, who knows much more about scandium than he does about socialism. Sadly, it’s the latter he’s chosen to write about today, in an utterly bizarre article nominally about the mining strikes in Bolivia.

If you haven’t been following the Bolivian mining strikes, they’ve now escalated to the point where Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Rodolfo Illanes was recently kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the strikers. Our friend Tim Worstall would have us believe that the strikers are protesting against socialism, but is that really the case? We’ll explore that very soon, but before we dive into the pièce de résistance, we need to whet our appetites with this lovely little amuse-bouche of stupidity:

Around here we usually make fun of Bolivarian socialism by reference to the idiocies which Nicolas Maduro has been imposing upon the people of Venezuela. They do, after all, call their system "Bolivarian socialism." Across the continent, in Bolivia, we also have a closely related Bolivian socialism. Evo Morales has often said that he takes inspiration from Hugo Chavez, and that the system he is using in Bolivia is similar. So, Bolivarian socialism in Bolivia then. Umm, perhaps both Bolivian and Bolivarian socialism?

Why yes, those do sound rather similar! What an astonishing coincidence! On a related note, I’ve always found it weird how similar the titles of Superman and Superman II are. What do you suppose were the odds that would just happen by chance, as it so obviously did? The universe is a mysterious place, my friends!

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