Too big

August 28, 2010

Continuing the theme of my last two posts, I think entrepreneurs and business leaders should consider judging their success by the number of businesses they’ve built and not just the size. At some point organizations can become so big they get in their own way or stagnate. I remember when Microsoft was dealing with antitrust prosecution a decade ago, I thought, “If they had more brains and less ego, they’d split Microsoft voluntarily. A swarm of smaller, more agile companies would probably make more money in the long run than the behemoth Microsoft has become.” If you consider the Vista debacle, Microsoft’s problems moving into mobile computing, and the stagnation of their stock prices since then, I think I might just have been right.

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More on failure

August 24, 2010

If, as I said in my last post, you’re not free if you’re not free to fail, what does it mean when institutions are proclaimed “too big to fail?” If there really are such institutions, then we aren’t as free as we should be.

I remember reading a blog near the beginning of the current financial collapse that was pointing to the bankruptcies as “failures of capitalism.” But bankruptcy is one of capitalism’s main tools for optimizing the allocation of economic resources; if no one’s going bankrupt then something is preventing capitalism from working.

As disruptive as the collapse of major financial organizations and automakers would have been, I can shake the suspicion that we’d have been better off in the long run if they had been free to fail.

Free to fail

August 23, 2010

Yesterday’s Sunday School lesson was on Job. (I’m afraid I spent most of the class rereading the chapter on Job in Margaret Barker’s The Older Testament instead of paying attention, but that’s just me.) If I had actually said anything I would have probably pointed out how Job can be seen as a type of Christ: a perfect man who suffers. (One of the things I did pay attention to was when Bro. Lusk said that if we’re not experiencing any adversity, we’re probably on the wrong path.)

So anyway, suffering and adversity is a part of life, and there’s good reasons for that. One of the reasons is we can’t really have freedom without it. Today at work I was reading Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. It’s a great book—you can read more about it on my work blog—and one of the things I read was:

The right to be right (in your manager’s eyes or your government’s eyes) is irrelevant; it’s only the right to be wrong that makes you free.

The way I’d put it is, “if you’re not free to fail, you’re not free.” That’s why Lucifer’s plan was so wrong; you can’t guarantee salvation without taking away agency. If our choices didn’t have consequences, they’d be meaningless. God’s plan gives us freedom with the perfect knowledge that that means we will fail, but then he provided Christ’s atonement so that after we’ve failed we can repent and move on.

Home school

August 18, 2010

If you followed the link in my last post that Julia was reading you might have noticed that that’s a site for home schooling. Well, when school starts next week we’ll be keeping Amanda and Jonathan home and teaching them here. David is still going to NYOS (he actually started several weeks ago) and Andrew will go to the public school for Kindergarten (because we think he needs to spend some time in an environment where he isn’t the little brother) but the other two will be home schooled for at least this year.

It’s a bit intimidating—I always thought home schooling was something super organized people did—but it’s also exciting. It will surely keep us busy. I’ll try to post occasionally on how it’s going.

Marriage, again

August 5, 2010

So, a Federal judge has decided that the definition of marriage that was pretty much universal throughout human history is unconstitutional. I have a couple of things to say:

1. Even if I thought “same-sex marriage” was a good idea, I think I’d be upset about it being imposed by judicial fiat. (I’d say the same thing about Roe v. Wade.) If a judge can rule anything he doesn’t like unconstitutional, the Constitution is worthless. The Supreme Court’s rulings that ended legal segregation justifiably gave the judiciary a high moral standing, but those rulings were firmly based in the explicit wording of the 14th Amendment. We have nothing like that here. (Had the ERA been ratified, the judge might have had a leg to stand on.)

As The Other McCain said:

As I told Joe, decades of this sort of legal compulsion have brought us to the point where people feel they no longer have the the right to form their own opinions, and certainly are not free to express beliefs that contradict legally sanctioned dogma.

I bought a copy of the Federalist Papers the other day, and now I think when I read them I need to see what was said about checks on the judiciary, because those have been proving inadequate.

2. As I think I’ve said before, the justification for legally recognizing marriage is that it is the means by which civilized humans (as opposed to mere biological members of the human species) reproduce. Married couples are statistically more likely to raise children who are healthy and well-adjusted and contribute to society. (I added statistically because we all know people raised in a traditional marriage who didn’t turn out well, and lots of people raised by single parents who did. But the odds are much better for the ones raised by married parents.)

Even before the idea of “same-sex marriage” started to catch on, our society was already suffering because people were looking too much at a selfish evaluation of what their marriage provided for them, and not at the big picture about how it affected their children and others. I will grant that this sort of thing is the logical conclusion of where societal attitudes towards sex and marriage have been leading us, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or good.

Update: Just as I published this, Julia (on the other computer) said, “could you take a look at this?” and made me read an article on the Thomas Jefferson Education site. Coincidentally, it seems to be saying something very similar to the post I linked to above: Becoming a Real Woman.

Science in the news

August 3, 2010

I think this is fascinating: “Animal connection” helps separate humans from other species.

Among nonhumans, there are very few instances in which a member of one species has been observed adopting the young of another species, a behavior scientists call “cross-species alloparenting.” Most reports of this type of adoption are the result of human involvement; cross-species alloparenting occurs incredibly rarely in the wild but instances have occasionally been observed, such as a female capuchin monkey nursing a young marmoset.

The study argues that this trait is rarer than tool use, symbolic behavior, or domestication, the other traits typically used to distinguish humans from other species, and that it might precede and underlie them. Of course, those of us who believe in scripture might also remember that we were given dominion over these creatures (which is not at all the same as saying they’re there for us to exploit) and that understanding them might help us fulfill that responsibility.

Now, on the lighter side: Women, gorillas likelier to have sex with men wearing red. I just cracked up when I read this:

The authors don’t say exactly how they know that lady monkeys instinctively want to get with men in power ties: no doubt the experiments were highly scientific.

Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts (via IMAO.)

Japanese macaques will completely flip out when presented with flying squirrels, a new study in monkey-antagonism has found. The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.

I’m sure glad someone is working on advanced methods of enraging monkeys.