Friday, October 17, 2008

Cause and effect

Back in college, I remember hitting a mental logjam, and it wasn't clear to me what the problem was. It went something like this:

Say I have a headache. A roommate gives me a pair of aspirin. My headache doesn't go away when I swallow them, so I wait. After 10 minutes I feel a little better, but the headache's still there. What can I deduce? I didn't read the directions, maybe I should've taken three? Or do I need to just wait a little longer? Or is it cheap aspirin and doesn't work very well? Or was my headache going away on its own anyway? Or did my drinking water help because many headaches are caused by dehydration? Or did I take too many and this is a *new* headache? Come on, can I really not get any closer than that?!

I posed this question to a very wise friend, John Holman, and with a single sentence cleared up the whole thing for me. Without even thinking he said, "Yeah, it can be hard to separate cause and effect."

Ah, that was my problem -- it *is* hard to separate cause and effect. I just assumed it was easy, and that somehow aspirin just wasn't cooperating.
Kathy and LaVar Jones

Good people and religion

My Uncle LaVar and Aunt Kathy were some of the neatest people I have ever known. They were the epitome of kindness, warmheartedness, and industry -- and everybody seemed to love them. They were deeply religious and attended church and fulfilled church callings to the very end.

After they died, I was talking to one of my cousins who himself is a little more distant from religion, and he made a rather odd statement -- he said, "LaVar and Kathy were tremendous people -- the Mormon church had nothing to do with it, they would've been that way wherever they had ended up."

He was saying, in effect, they were great before they were members of the church, as opposed to believing they were great, at least in part, *because* they were members of the church.

Why were they great? I could never speak for them, but I have a hunch they would interpret the cause of their characters quite differently than my cousin.

If we don't understanding the correct relationship between cause and effect here, we won't be able to emulate well that greatness in ourselves.

Politics and the USA

This is the greatest nation in the world.

But why?

We like the effect of this greatness, but what are the causes of it?

A lot of people right now don't seem to know. Otherwise we wouldn't have two candidates with such disparate views within even a 20 point spread in the polls -- it'd be a landslide for the candidate who had it all figured out.

Since this is my blog, and I can say whatever I want =), let me volunteer a few of my favorite cause/effect pairs (note, these are not my original ideas, but mostly gleaned from great politicians):
  • Freedom. This country was built on the premise of freedom, *not* prosperity* -- yes, we like prosperity, but freedom is the cause, and prosperity generally is an effect. Again, generally speaking, you *cannot* increase prosperity by limiting freedom -- that's backwards.
  • Innovation and industry. We are prosperous because our nation is an incubator of innovation and industry. We have beds and toilets and refrigerators and cars because someone had the energy, knowledge, motivation and means to build them for us -- company makes stuff > jobs > salaries > buy more stuff > make more stuff. Take away any of those resources, and you cripple the cause of this prosperity. Higher taxes is an example of a "crippler".** So is most government regulation.
  • Infrastructure and protection. Government exists to provide infrastructure (roads, bridges, central banks, etc.), and to protect us from one another (police, military, fraud investigators, etc.). It does *not* exist to manage healthcare, bail out failing businesses, dole out welfare, or subsidize farming. All of those things are freedom-limiting, because freedom includes both choice *and* consequence.
  • Execution. Another way to state the above is that what prospers this nation is wise execution of great ideas. What's the incentive to execute well if the government stands ready to coddle you in failure? And do it with the dollars taken from those who had the drive to succeed? with dollars that would've been spent creating further industry?

This nation has lots of headaches, and our media and half our citizens have long-since forsaken aspirin for political heroin -- and when the headaches remain, they think the cause is that they just need more.
* Thanks Ryan Parker.

** My brother likes to quote Winston Churchill: "A nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to pull himself up by the handles."

No comments:

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008