Archive for May, 2013
A nation of wimps

Stress a source of strength:

A Nation of Wimps: Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they’re breaking down in record numbers.

Nassim Taleb’s antifragility strikes again:

Fragile things break under stress. But, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, there’s an entire class of other things that don’t simply resist stress but actually grow, strengthen, or otherwise gain from unforeseen and otherwise unwelcome stimuli. Taleb sees degrees of antifragility everywhere, from fasting, mythology, and urban planning to economic, technological, cultural, and biological systems.

A 20 min Nassim Nicholas Taleb youtube discussion is worth listening to here

Antifragility highlights yet again how we tend to create that which we most fear. In trying to protect our children from harm now, we cause them harm later. Preventing short term harm can cause long term problems. Unfortunately short run gains are often readily apparent, while the long term harm is hidden. Keynesian economics is the classic example, as is the welfare state.

The purported goal of the welfare state, to help people, is noble. But once a society creates a welfare state its people have different expectations about their possible futures. They therefore make different choices and their behavior changes. This changes people, and the society which they in aggregate form. Over time it changes the values their children grow up with. People and society fundamentally diverge from what would have eventuated absent the welfare state. At the individual level this is epitomized by the saying:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny

Thus a strong sovereign people and vigorous society can be transformed into something far weaker and more fragile. Truly the road to hell is paved with good intentions.