Thursday, June 30, 2005

Polio

I am so out of touch with reality. And by reality, I mean, the Miss Universe pageant. A Canadian won the coveted crown and I didn't find out until a gossip columnist lamented that it should've went to the more provocative Miss Puerto Rico with the huge-o mangoes.

***

Math Judas and I went to play pool. I won the first battle; he, the second. The third game should've ended in a tie, but it was clear who really won the war (don't even start, MJ).

As he was driving me home, we got a-talking about Steven Levitt's Freakonomics which he got his hands on before me. (Actually, most of our post-pool evening was dominated by economic theory.) He mentioned the writer's (in)famous claim that the reason crime rates are steadily declining isn't because of increased funding to protection agencies, gun control or a myriad of other do-gooder-type government programs, but could, instead, be traced back to decades' worth of terminated pregnancies. Thus, crime isn't as much a pressing issue now (than it was before the legalization of abortion after Roe vs. Wade) because those who might've grown up to rob you were never given the opportunity to exist. I found this correlation fascinating (and unique, especially next to the usual chatter of redundant PR praise and reiterated popular stances presented in the mainstream media). On his website, Levitt states that, "[t]his theory is bound to provoke a variety of reactions, ranging from disbelief to revulsion, and a variety of objections, ranging from the quotidian to the moral." I completely agree with the last reason. Life isn't a morality play, an entity of contempt, nor a Greek tragedy with fatal components and linear delusions. There's something to be said about the simplicity of Levitt's link: Less people = less criminals. (There, understandably, are other factors that must be considered such as the burden of raising children (unwanted or otherwise), the consequences of parental neglect, the persistent cycle of bad behaviour stretched over generations in an isolated community, etc.) This reminds me of an idea I've been trying to defend since high school: the futility of laws. I tried to convince my detractors that a system of punishment and reward does not necessarily deter acts of violence from happening. (Undoubtably so in the event of death.) The usual arguments presented to me were either flippant or based on slippery slope logic (in essence, the domino effect without the consideration for unpredictability), delivered patiently, yet veiled in scorn. I must mention I came to my conclusion on a very utilitarian perspective. My thinking was that one's need to wield power and exercise force is dependent on one's desire to do so in relation to all the pros and cons of this action. Therefore, the absence of laws merely remove one pro or con from the equation: that is to say, one less factor in helping you determine your final decision. The seed for this idea was hatched when a high school teacher of mine made a passing remark on how during the Elizabethan period, there were more street brawls, but less death from injury as a result even though practically every man carried a weapon of some sort. I hypothesized that the possibility of death over petty offences might've staved off manslaughter when disease and hungar were also killing off loved ones. Of course, I realize this is just a theory (and a simplistic one at that), but I miss my youthful days of sudden inspiration, of "Ah ha!" moments that would jolt me with bursts of sudden neuronic activity.

Since realizing how mentally unproductive I am during times of unsought idleness, I've been asking myself one question to save the dying sparks of dissension (and for this, I must corrupt an imported concept from the annals of Immanuel Kant):

If it's so good, why isn't everyone else doing it?

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