Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lazarus and us

I'm rather fond of many (not all) the writings of Robert A. Heinlein. Even so, some things tend to stick in my memory. Over the past few years, a fewof the short, pithy sayings from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long have repeatedly come to mind. I'd like to share the three that have become engraved upon my consciousness, then go off on a rant.

Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite.

Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny.

Anything free is worth what you pay for it. (This one is more evocatively echoed in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: TANSTAAFL, or There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.)

I have made few bones about being annoyed with the current administration. And the three aphorisms above form the majority of my complaint.

The government, especially under the current administration, has striven to make what we do its business. To know what we do, when we do it, and often to then tell us how (or if) we can do it. To be fair as government has to do so to some extent. After all, we won't tolerate murderers, and so we want to catch and punish them. Obviously this sets up a tension. But I've noticed in reading history that the balance point of that tension has moved further and further away from privacy - toward Mrs. Grundy getting to put her nose in our business. I find it more and more tempting to fight this trend in ways large and small - and succumb to the temptation at least in ways small.

It's the second where this administration has truly concerned me. Even before the attack on the Towers it was obvious they had a fetish over secrecy. They blocked release of Reagan documents. They made secret a number of meetings, and when the meetings themselves were discovered worked to make everything about them - not only the minutes but the agendas and even who attended - secret. Now, there's a war on. And I agree some things should be secret - if you tell the bad guy you're going to put your supplies at the X with so many guards from such and such forces, the bad guy knows where to bring forces and how many such forces he needs. But still I believe the administration has gone too far. WAAAAYYY too far. I think we'll spend decades finding out things that shouldn't have happened, but due to the extraordinary strength of secrecy presently existing won't be corrected till too late.

Finally, no such thing as a free lunch. You cannot cut income and increase spending. The end result of that is disaster - it's worse than increasing spending and keeping income the same. Eventually somebody has to pay, and the worse the deficit the more painful the correction. It is so for individuals, it is so for businesses and other organizations, nations and their governments are not exempt. I dread the correction, but have become certain it will happen.


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