Previous Textbytes

Note:Textbytes sometimes are explained further. Sometimes they are thoughts I am still working on. I tried for awhile to put them out daily, but failed often enough to give up. I decided to preserve them here for the time being

return to home page


Latest update: August 28, 1996


Is (or should I say was) the problem with welfare that too much money was spent, or too little, and that little doled out in such a miserly, mean-spirited fashion that the program itself -- as opposed to the fact of the dole -- robbed its recipients of dignity? I think the latter.

A case in point for lavish government spending: How would private enterprise be doing today without the Internet, the World Wide Web and brash startups like Netscape? Yet each originated in government program: the Pentagon Advanced Researched Projects Agency in the case of the Internet, the joint European particle physics research center, CERN, for the Web, and the federally sponsored National Center for Supercomputing for Netscape's ancestor Mosaic.

In all three cases the funding levels were so lavish that the ultimate supervisors had little or no idea of the actual projects. In none of these cases was a large part of the money spent on pure luxury, such as marble walls, golden toilet seats or wood-panelled offices, as it sometimes is in private enterprise, and even more often in the private homes of the corporate nouveau riche. Nor was it spent purely corruptly. But the projects that succeeded were only a minority of everything that was tried.

The conclusion has to be that good government is also wasteful government, as seen by any narrowly focussed cost accountant. When lots of things are tried because there is freedom to pursue many avenues, some succeed beyond the wildest dreams of the sponsors and in totally unexpected ways.

Hollywood knows this, or ought to: for each good movie there are many stinkers barely worth the trouble of sending out the door. And even now, hits are almost impossible to predict. You have to throw money away to succeed there as well.

The same goes for the most downtrodden in our society. Tight-fisted, suspicious, nitpicking, hectoring, and uncivil welfare handouts -- which are that way because of the narrowness of the laws that fund them -- shrink the spirit rather than encouraging any kind of risk taking, creative exploration, rebuilding of communities, enterprise or imagination.

If welfare were as generous as government programs that have worked, as open in spirit, as kindly in tone, as undemanding, mightn't they have sometimes worked incredible wonders, and couldn't those wonders have been duplicated elsewhere?

Isn't the lesson that stinginess, more often than not, is the ultimate wastefulness? Now we will get to see more of it, in 50 different varieties.

August 26, 1996

With Clinton's signature on the welfare "reform" bill, the law of the land is now that welfare recipients must carry their own weight like everyone else, doing the important work that needs to be done. So now it's time to wonder just what that work might be.

Fortunately, high executives of the Coca Cola company, all well paid, have just shown us. After toiling for months, they finally won over the chief soda bottler in Venezuela to their side. In one blow, Coke takes over the lion's of that country's cola market from its previous holder, Pepsi. Surely we can all breathe a sigh of relief at this news.

On the theory that what is highly valued is highly paid, which is how the market is supposed to operate, this was a highly valuable piece of work by all concerned.

Welfare recipients sitting on your duffs, take note. Make a difference, Get to work. Figure out whose turf you can raid. Wages for gang warfare? Why not? In truth, a high and growing proportion of "work" today is of at least as dubious benefit to the rest of us as the Coke coup. Nostalgic moralizers who manage to dominate the public discussion of this issue are just hiding reality from us.

It's a whole new economy, stupid!


August 22, 1996

Which is more important: the discovery of life on Mars (if true) or the discovery of thoughtful, compassionate action toward us on the part of our fellow creatures (gorillas) here on earth (if true)? Which has been better confirmed?

August 16, 1996

After last night's GOP acceptance speeches, we now know the difference between Republicans and Democrats: Republicans are completely insane; Democrats still partly sane.(For one reason, see Viewpoint.)