poly: where statisticians fear to tread

From: Richard Schroeppel <rcs@cs.arizona.edu>
Date: Fri May 22 1998 - 11:52:48 PDT

I applaud Carl's forthright attempt to quantify freedom. I quibble with
everything he says. I accept his classification. I won't repeat his message.
The tone here is carping, because I think these questions are complex.


Economic freedom: We are working more hours than in 1962 or 1928. The
women especially. We are spending less time with the kids, and cutting
corners on housework and maintenance. Our food is cheaper, but medical
care is through the roof, and raising a kid costs a nominal egg.
Our houses are more expensive.
I'm not alone in asking "are we really better off economically?"

Freedom from accidents of birth: For the sake of argument, I'll
call this a "transfer of wealth" from the WMASPs to the "poor".
If this adds to total human happiness, can I demand some of Bill
Gates' money?

Sexual Freedom:
> I don't have to go into details here. Suffice it to say
> that 1962 was better than 1928, and 1998 is immensely better than 1962.
Accurate data are hard to come by. I do know two things for sure:
My ancestors had sex, and Dr. Ruth didn't invent all those positions.
Did you have more fun than your parents? Will your children be happier
in their love life than you are? Is it easier to meet appropriate partners?
Is it easier to make that phone call for a date?

Political freedom: We might have a kinder, gentler, FBI today, but I'll
bet you a dime it's far larger. Of course today the FBI is pursuing
lawful objectives, under responsible civilian control, whereas in 1962 ...

Lifestyle freedom: You are free to make jokes about pot, but not about
race. You are free to use the most of the seven dirty character strings
in polite speech, but you can't really swear because the words have lost
their emotional impact. If I were a smoker, I'd say I lost a lot of
freedom. On a larger scale, are we more or less free to say fuckitall, I'm
going to the beach? To write poetry? To earn below potential? To skip

Freedom from petty regulation: I make this to be more important than Carl,
because it's turned on 24 hours a day: Back when I drove to work, I broke
the law every morning and evening, along with thousands of my co-drivers.
One time in a thousand, I was apprehended, upbraided, and fined. My
employer regarded parking a privilege, wrote me a ticket when I forgot my
permit, and graciously forgave the penalty when I filed the appropriately
remorseful paperwork for an indulgence. My favorite pizza place has no
parking for takeout, so I risk the parking ticket to conduct ordinary
commerce. Must we live in fear?
A dozen times a year I empty my pockets in front of strangers; twice a year
they paw through my dirty underwear; if I protest, it will cost me time
and money.
[Overheard while standing in line at the metal detector:
 Q: What's the difference between the airport and jail?
 A: You don't have to go to jail to get to Los Angeles. ]
I spend ten times as many hours completing tax returns as my parents did,
and have to prepare federal and multiple state returns. The govt regulates
how I save for retirement, and rewards or penalizes me for having a life
of the correct shape, with a certain number of kids in daycare/college, a
particular pattern of house upgrades, etc. Fasten your seat belt.


A large part of freedom is *feeling* free.
I think we need more data, but my scoring says we have lost ground since 1962.

Rich Schroeppel rcs@cs.arizona.edu
Received on Fri May 22 19:02:01 1998

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