Gongol.com Archives: November 2010
Brian Gongol

November 30, 2010

Science and Technology Secretary of Energy says the US is falling behind China in the development of advanced energy tools
A couple of observations ought to be made: First, China's government has willfully promoted the outright theft of intellectual property from around the world for some time. Perhaps the best response is to allow them to spend their own money developing new technologies and then steal them in return, in a game of tit-for-tat. Fraudulent goods made in China are a huge problem about which the Western countries have done little or nothing, and something has to change about that. But a separate observation ought also to be made: The US government really ought not to be trying to do the research itself. If we have to go back to the Manhattan Project to find the last time the government rushed a technology from birth to maturity, then we really shouldn't expect to get a good return on investment today from the same agencies 65 years later. Instead, the government -- if it insists on having a role in promoting new energy technology -- should be offering innovation prizes to induce the private sector to come up with new ideas. Those kinds of prizes worked for everything from the invention of food canning to the dawn of transatlantic flight, so why shouldn't we try the same thing today? Innovation prizes are efficient (the people with the best ideas have the most incentive to invest in them) and cost-effective (the government doesn't pay until the answers have been delivered), so what's there to lose?

Threats and Hazards Christopher Hitchens thinks the TSA's next step will be probing
Literally: "In order for us to take them even remotely seriously, our Homeland Security officials should by now have had no alternative but to announce a series of random body-cavity searches some months ago." Which, of course, serves to highlight just what a ridiculous charade so much of the air-travel security system is meant to be. Only so much can be done to insult passengers' dignity before we reach the end of what a civilized society can tolerate -- and even then, terrorists will still have thousands of other ways to make life miserable. It's death by a thousand cuts, and by overreaction to the actual scale of the threat, we're soaking those cuts in vinegar.

News China thinks North Korea behaves like a "spoiled child"
That's not really a novel observation, per se -- it's obvious that North Korea's government acts out from time to time just to get the world's attention. Lacking a functioning market economy, North Korea is short on a lot of the material goods the country really needs. And until that market economy is allowed to grow, the country will be plagued by shortages, which in turn will cause the government to use whatever kinds of threats and blackmail they can find at their disposal in order to get the world to subsidize its ill-functioning system.

The United States of America There's always another emergency
An interesting column in Slate suggests that the Presidency is being handled today as though it's an all-purpose national inbox: Problems go in, and we expect a response right away. Here's an alternative vision: In a well-oiled system of management, qualified people are instructed to handle problems or delegate them effectively. Maybe there's a need for more delegation in the White House today. Unfortunately, the Obama 2008 campaign (continued today as a reelection campaign-in-waiting) was built so much around a cult of personality that it may be difficult for the system to change gears now.

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