Why Do We Hate Success?

We hate big business. We hate the wealthy. We hate overachievers. Why? It doesn’t make any sense to me. The amount of contempt I’ve seen recently towards those who are successful is astonishing. Is it part of our society that wishes to bring everyone back to the average? More importantly, could this increasing contempt sabotage our economy? I think quite possibly (and might have already damaged it).

Let’s start with the wealthy. We can include big business in this examination as well since it generates a fair bit of our nation’s wealth and wealthy. Granted there are some in the upper income strata who reside there merely because of family wealth, but a majority of our nation’s most wealthy are first generation success stories. As the book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy notes, fewer than 20 percent of America’s millionaires inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth, nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives, and more than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.

But, they’re still hated. Chad Lapa agrees,

For some unknown reason we are taught either as kids, or though the left wing media, that people wealthy and successful are born with some special gene that products their success. Due to this unfair power they possess over us, they should be punished and forced to pay crazy high tax rates so their wealth can be re-distributed to the “less fortunate”. [sic]

While I wouldn’t say that people are taught by “the left wing media,” I do agree that “progressive” taxes are the average person’s way of redistributing wealth and, in effect, “punishing” the wealthy. However, the negative repercussions of redistributing wealth are staggering. Frankly, wealth creation is not a zero sum game. Just because one person has it, doesn’t mean another won’t or that it was hostilely taken from another party.

Similarly, big business is often decried as evil. I don’t deny that there is corruption in some companies (see: short term vs. long term). However, they also contribute a majority of our nations productivity gains (read: more wealth) and generate much of our nation’s wealth. By nature, they are more efficient (generally speaking and when they aren’t regulated into inefficiency) and employ a large percentage of the US workforce. Don’t read this to mean I don’t like small/medium businesses or that I believe bigger is better in the business world. My point is that large corporations aren’t inherently evil. Plus, they produce people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who then donate nearly $100 billion back to the world.

But, let’s think smaller. How many smart kids (“overachievers”) are teased and bullied everyday in school? Why do we have terms like nerd, geek, and dweeb? In my experience, people have been bold enough to tell me to my face that they hope I fail. Or, in the web development world, what about the successful 37signals (software company)? Many people laud them, but with each new, successful offering more and more contempt is directed towards them (for more on this: read their blog about any given day).

So, everyone, when did we start to hate success? Is it human nature?

Congressional Record Opinion

Reading Senate Transcripts for Fun and Intrigue

It’s true — I like to cruise through the congressional record. Mind you, I can only do this on an infrequent basis as the general asininity of it is almost more than a mere mortal can digest. What follows are a few nuggets from the Senate Congressional Record of June 6, 2006. I’ve inserted commentary in places where I managed to pull my weakened body and mind out of the deep, dark crevasse that is “The Record.”

The homosexual marriage lobby, as well as the polygamist lobby, shares the goal of essentially breaking down all State-regulated marriage requirements to just one: consent. In doing so, they are paving the way for legal protection of such repugnant practices as: homosexual marriage, unrestricted sexual conduct between adults and children, group marriage, incest, and bestiality. Using this philosophy, activist lawyers and judges are working quickly, State-by-State, through the courts to force same-sex marriage and other practices, such as polygamy, on our country.[…]

We need an amendment that restores and protects our societal definition of marriage, [and] blocks judges from changing that definition.

Senator Inhofe (R-OK)

I have a difficult time putting into words my aversion to the currently popular “we must stop activist judges” adage of which politicians are so very fond. The judicial process is not about what the majority of society (majority in society is in itself at best difficult to determine) feels should happen. God save us if it ever is. Perhaps a lesson in separation of power and the purpose of each branch of government is in order for Senator Inhofe.

I will go to several other countries that have redefined marriage, defined marriage out of existence. In the Netherlands, since proposals for same-sex marriage began to be debated, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has soared. It was a fairly stable country in out-of-wedlock births and was at low rate. […]

What happened to out-of-wedlock birthrates? You can see the situation in the Netherlands, which is particularly important because it was one of the lowest out-of-wedlock birthrate countries in Europe for a number of years, shows that until 1980, below 5 percent of the population was born out of wedlock. When we get the court cases which we have in the United States today saying marriage should be redefined, we see the impact, as well as a Supreme Court case that rules against marriage being the union of a man and a woman. Then we get symbolic marriage registration, registered partnership, same-sex unions, and now we are up to 35 percent as seen in this skyrocketing chart.

Sen. Brownback (R-OK)

If I’m understanding Senator Brownback correctly, he’s attempting to correlate registered partnerships and same-sex unions with the increase of out of wedlock births. Is he kidding? I’m not a senator with a full staff and do not hold an advanced research degree, but even I can see that these are junk “facts” being drawn from non-correlating data. This information, regardless of politics, should be thrown out for its inaccuracy.

I, for one, believe that the institution of marriage and the principles of democracy are too precious to surrender to the whims of a handful of unelected, activist judges. The will of the people should prevail. […]

Sen. Allard (R-CO)

Can’t. Type. Laughing. Too. Hard.

Before I quit of exhaustion from reading the same tired arguments repeatedly and running the same circle of reasoning over (and over and over), I will conclude this piece.

Editor’s note: It is extremely hard to find consistent permanent URLs within the Congressional Record. I’ve tried to add accurate links where possible, but it’s just not possible in all instances.

Opinion Politics

How to Tell If It’s An Election Year

Gas is expensive. My bike is not. Thus, in addition to taking the bus to work most days, I’ve been biking when possible or not driving. And, despite the fact that my skis still wait wishfully by the door, gas money is no longer required for ski adventures. I realize that not all people can make these adjustments, but is a gas rebate a solution? NO! Even disregarding the fact that a $100 gas rebate from the government is something we already paid for with our taxes, it essentially accomplishes nothing. I have my $100 back, but do I have any additional incentive to reduce my oil consumption? Is the $100 helping drive incentive to create alternate fuel sources? Would that $100 have been better spent on supporting other public services?

While I, like everyone else, finds the oil companies suspect and, in no way, believe that all their practices are on the up and up, they are providers of a non-renewable, highly demanded product. Should a private corporation in a low margin industry with inelastic demand hold their price artificially low? Idealogically? Sure. Realistically? No. It would only serve to lengthen the process of alternative fuel sources innovation. It’s that darn long term vs. short term quandary again.

UPDATE: Late last week, the Democrats, not wanting to be left out of the gas price relief game, introduced their plan for a 60 day gas tax holiday. Again, what does this really do? For 60 days people feel okay about the price of gas? What does that accomplish? It, in the Dems’ world, gets them more votes.

Also, I forgot to mention that the Republican bill, of course, tosses back in the provision of opening up ANWR to drilling. Hopefully that provision clouds any possibility it might have had of passing.

See also: Defective Yeti’s humorous take.

Opinion Politics They Just Don’t Get It

It’s no secret that I have a love hate relationship with Two days ago, the strong dislike intensified when an email from them entitled Should we take on right wing Democrats? landed in my inbox. A snippet from this email:

This year our top goal is breaking the right-wing Republican stranglehold on Congress. That is our main focus every day.

It is also part of our work together to hold Democrats to their Party’s highest values on issues like foreign policy, economic prosperity and good government.

The story about “the Democrat who sold out” has become too familiar. Too often progressives tip toe around these betrayals. But there needs to be real consequences for these Democrats.

Replacing a right-wing Democrat with a more progressive Democrat will help voters more clearly understand what Democrats stand for—and that will help Democrats win.

Yes, has now taken it upon themselves to decide who is Democrat-y enough to represent certain districts. Not only have they decided to throw their weight around in individual districts (because the constituents of those districts are obviously not smart enough to choose the right Democrat), but they are purporting to define what is and isn’t proper Democratic principle.

I wrote previously about the huge chasm in the political spectrum.’s position will only further widen the abyss as middle of the road Democrats are pushed either to the left or out all together. The Democrats that would have (or did) appeal to the other end of the spectrum would be gone. In my mind, the Democratic cause would be immeasurably harmed by these actions — and with that the rest of us “middle-of-the-road”-ers are punished as well.

Sadly, an email declaring that 84% of members agreed that right-wing Democrats must be unseated found its way to my inbox today.

Geek Opinion

Forbes Magazine Takes On Blog World with ‘Attack of the Blogs’, Loses

Recently, I was at the gym and grabbed Forbes magazine to read while I did the Alpine Pass on the upright bike. For the ride I would have much preferred a magazine of the trashier sort (e.g. US Weekly, In Touch), but since no such celeb-crazy mags were available I grabbed for the mag with the intriguing cover. The cover was emblazoned with the lede “Attack of the Blogs.”

Even given the not so positive cover title, I was shocked by the biased, obviously unresearched, and ignorant content of Daniel Lyons’ article. The short introductory paragraph might give a little insight into the general tone of the article.

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Lyons goes on to cite a handful of people who were negatively affected by some mean spirited blogging. A handful in a world with millions of blogs. And while Lyons gives much prose to the fact that bloggers can spout whatever they want without the constraints imposed on traditional journalists, he doesn’t balance it with even one of the multitude of examples of blogs reporting stories that so-called real journalists didn’t or wouldn’t report. Throughout the entire article I was shocked by what seems to be purposely inflammatory writing. There was no balanced coverage and definitely no sign of Lyons being at all knowledgable about blogs and the blog world. I would think there’d be at least one college intern lackey at Forbes that could give Lyons a quick rundown.

I would find the accusation that Yahoo! and Google are “potent allies” in the blogosphere’s supposedly libelous, slander-crazy bender anger inducing if it wasn’t so laughable. Why isn’t Microsoft listed among Yahoo! and Google as allies? Because while Microsoft may have its own blog service (which Lyons would know if he had done any research), including them as an ally would totally ruin one of Lyons’ later notes about the blogosphere’s attacks on Microsoft.

Additionally, Groklaw gets a mention for its attack on SCO. (Maybe Lyons misplaced his notes with the history of the IBM/SCO case?)

What bothers me most is that an executive with no blog knowledge will read this article on his business flight and get off the plane with a very wrong view of the blogosphere and no idea that blogs have positive attributes. That executive won’t learn the benefits of embracing the technology. And while I agree that the blogosphere is not all roses, sunshine and fluffy, floating clouds, Lyons’ highly biased, unresearched and ignorant article is reprehensible. Where were the editors on this one?

Other reactions:


Intelligent Design and Evolution

As regular readers know, I hate stereotyping and generalizations (see Election 2004 results analysis). With the latest Kansas Board of Education ruling that opens the way for local school districts to allow the teaching of ID, most people have come to the conclusion that all Kansans must not believe in science. This is despite the fact that this ruling came from the votes of 6 board members — not a state referendum vote. Generalizations are just too easy, I think we can skip the “If you believe X (or live near/are related to/might have met someone that believes X), you must be stupid/ignorant” arguments.

Also, on the same topic, I ask both sides of the debate: why do Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Theory have to be mutually exclusive? Why does a belief in Evolutionary Theory preclude a belief in Intelligent Design (or vice versa)? Perhaps God’s intelligent design included the evolution and adaptation of organisms. I’m sure there are many out there who believe in “Evolutionary Design.” Why don’t we hear their voices?

Probably, because a somewhat peaceable argument wouldn’t make for good, flammable blog fodder.

Opinion Politics Needs Focus

I originally signed up for the mailing list during the 2004 Presidential campaign. At the time, I liked their actions in the areas of civil and human rights.

I was curious as to what the group would do once the election passed. Well it seems that MoveOn decided their best option was to fully ensconce themselves in anti-Bush-dom. They are apparently against every single thing that the Bush Administration does, says, thinks, or may think in the future.

Bush says privatize social security — MoveOn says don’t.
Bush nominates Roberts — MoveOn is completely opposed to him.
Bush pretty much promises a blank check to the Gulf Coast for recovery — MoveOn sends an email requesting $250,000 in donations to fund a rapid response TV advertisement.
Oh, and we also need to fire Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and Donald Rumsfeld, win back Congress, reform the election process, protect the environment, protect the Arctic Reserve, implement fair trade, and stop GOP suppression of the black vote, among other things.

Obviously, some of the above list items are important items, except everyday I get an email in response to something that Bush did. I’m sorry, but MoveOn cannot be against *every single thing* that comes from the Bush Administration. And even if they are, they still need to pick and choose the issues that are most important. By focusing on specific issues, their impact will be much greater, and prevent the feeling of “the boy who cried wolf.” I can’t be the only one who believes that their credibility is greatly diminished by the constant “wolf crying.” Focus MoveOn and get back to the true roots of your organization.

Opinion Random

The Meme, continue I must

A meme has been thrown my way by Jeremy at The LCD, so I feel compelled to continue it.

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.”

  1. Podcasting – The blog world is always buzzing about it, but, in the interest of full disclosure, I honestly don’t even know what it entails. I’ll leave it to the iPod toters.
  2. Kanye West – It seems that he is the cool, neato rapper (R&B artist?) to listen to. I don’t understand why. His music sounds like all of the others’.
  3. – I’ve gathered that one can add links and incorporate links into one’s blog with it. What am I missing exactly?
  4. Jeans with decidedly different fading on the legs – It looks horrible. Seriously. Why can’t I just get a pair of jeans with a nice dark wash all over?
  5. Paris Hilton life chronicling – Why do we care what this person does? She has done absolutely nothing in her life (besides being rich) that should garner such attention. Plus, if I hear “that’s hot” one more time, I may snap.

And, now I punt the meme onto Tim and Web.

Education Opinion

Special Report: Reg Weaver, NEA President

Quite some time ago, Reg Weaver, National Education Association President, spoke at Carroll. As I have lots of opinions on education, I felt compelled to attend.

Being the geek I am, I came armed with a notebook and pen so as to be able to jot down any pieces of interest. Because of flight delays, Mr. Weaver was almost an hour late arriving. I passed the time drinking coffee and perusing old data structures notes — Big O analysis, C++ class templating, Dequeues, various sorting algorithms, and the like.

After a time, the Montana Education Association President stepped up to give a short precursor speech as we all continued to wait. Of course, as Montana education funding has been a huge topic in Montana and both sides have been in court duking it out, the MEA president talked mostly about that. (I should stop right now and let you know that I do not have great feelings towards unions — especially those in the education sector.) I kind of quit listening to MEA President Eric Feaver when he talked about Montana teachers’ salaries. His summary, regarding salaries, was “$30,000 is great, but they could go work in Nevada for $40,000.” First of all, in Montana, $30,000 is pretty good for a 9 month job. I’m sorry if I sound rude, but it’s true. Also, depending on which part of Nevada one is in, there is a much different (higher) cost of living than in Montana. Of course salaries will be disparate.

Finally, Reg Weaver arrived. He’s a small, but dynamic man. I could immediately feel his fervor. And I immediately liked the guy. That’s not to say that I agreed with his message, but I liked the messenger.

What proceeded can be called nothing but a union rally. I came expecting a speech regarding solutions to the so-called “education crisis” occurring across the nation. I received nothing of the sort. The ensuing speech involved various topics including the underfunding of schools, funding inequality, social justice in K-12, and jobs going overseas (because that takes away tax money that could go to education — don’t get me started). He also commented “how can we expect children to do better with [so much] bureaucracy, paperwork, and testing?” (Apparently the bureaucracy of the NEA is okay though. Check out this book for more on the NEA. It’s quite the eyeopener).

There were lots of criticisms thrown about, but distressingly missing were possible SOLUTIONS to the problems of our education system. I found this the most frustrating. Yes, there are problems in our education system, but how are we going to fix them? I have my ideas, however, I wanted to hear Mr. Weaver’s. And, no, more money is not the answer. Also, notably absent was any regard for economics’ place in education.

As much as I liked Mr. Weaver, I very much disliked the union rally atmosphere that took hold after his arrival. I was uncomfortable. Most everyone in attendance (save for a few students most likely attending for the promise of extra credit) was an educator and, thus, a member of the NEA. I felt silly not clapping and yelling. However, I couldn’t clap and yell for something I firmly disagree with. It’s time for the NEA to wake up and realize they need to stop complaining and start proposing legitimate solutions. It would also be nice if they recognized that they are part of the problem.

Opinion Politics

Montana, Home of Vigilante Justice, Officially Dislikes the PATRIOT Act

I’m glad to report that on Friday Montana legislators passed a resolution criticizing the PATRIOT Act. The resolution is said to be the most strongly worded state criticism of the PATRIOT Act. Obviously it’s just a resolution, and that doesn’t mean much to the federal government. However, I still appreciate the Montana legislators passing such a resolution. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the PATRIOT Act is a horrible intrusion of our constitutional rights.