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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    For what it’s worth, I had two gigglesnorts during this episode.

    “If it had been a State Trooper asking…”
    “Probably the benefit of aerobic exercise.”

    This was a real pleasure to read. Thanks.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      +1 – this was a stellar read. Feels a lot like some of the old Asimov stuff, or perhaps some of the other futurist-based short stories I used to read as a kid.

      There’s one I can’t remember the title of; the entire human race (except for one individual) are implanted with an information chip, able to access books and everything through a radio network. Computer system goes haywire, starts forcing people to do things (like break an arm to determine precisely how much force it’ll take to do so) to catalog more and more knowledge. I can’t remember the title of it though.Report

  2. Avatar David Ryan says:

    This is great! But I have no idea what it’s the opposite of…Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      I think it’s supposed to relate to the struggle of libertarian thought regarding “ideal libertarianism” (where everyone is responsible through tort law for any adverse action towards others) and what it’d actually be like to be required to have total knowledge of the risk level?

      Some of the other descriptions relate to what happens when things get too privatized.

      As futuristic writing goes, it’s damn good and I applaud the author.Report

  3. Avatar Major Zed says:

    Thanks! In my transmittal I said it wasn’t so much the opposite of what I believed in as it was a nightmare vision I’m desperately trying not to believe in.Report

  4. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    Very good and loads of fun!Report

  5. Avatar b-psycho says:

    Holy shit that was depressing…Report

    • Avatar Just Me says:

      That’s what I thought….loved the writing. Would love to read more. Really depressing, I wouldn’t want to live in that world…EVER!Report

      • Avatar Major Zed says:

        If it makes you feel better, substitute “Department of Homeland Well-Being” for the insurance company and “tax rate” for “premiums.”Report

        • Avatar b-psycho says:

          Living in such a paternalistic hell hole, my premium rate would probably be thousands per second by the end of the day. After awhile I’d just be all “F*CK YOU COMPUTER!!!” and start eating bacon-wrapped deep fried cheesecake in between spliffs.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            It’s really the opposite of paternalistic. You can do anything you want, as long as you’re willing to pay the price. Which is what being an adult is all about.Report

            • Avatar Just Me says:

              Isn’t paternalism when the government creates a law that uses fines, taxes or jail time to dissuade people from doing things that the government thinks are harmful to them? Paternalism does not mean you can not do what you want. I hadn’t realized it took away ones freedom to say “to hell with this I’m gonna do what I want to do anyway, I get fined…oh well.”

              In my opinion this is the hell that is at the end of that road that is paved with good intentions. And….the bottom of that dang slippery slope.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Isn’t paternalism when the government creates a law that uses fines, taxes or jail time to dissuade people from doing things that the government thinks are harmful to them?

                Yes. But what’s described in the story is pigovianism, not paternalism. To a paternalist, there are right choices, and there are wrong choices, and the goal of paternalistic policy is to coerce you into making the right choices. A pigovian recognizes the heterogeneity of preferences. There are no right choices or wrong choices, just different choices with different costs and benefits, and the goal of pigovian policy is to make sure that those costs and benefits accrue to you and not to someone else.

                The story’s about insurance. If you want an insurance company to bail you out when things go wong, then of course you should pay a premium proportional to the risk that you’ll need to be bailed out. If you don’t agree with your insurance company’s risk model, you can switch to another. There’s even a company that doesn’t do any monitoring, but that costs more, partly because it tends to attract higher-risk individuals, and partly because risk-based premia actually do cause people to behave more safely, because they’re no longer able to externalize the costs of risky behavior.

                This is as it should be. The alternative is that you get to enjoy all the benefits of a risky lifestyle while sharing the cost with some other schmuck. The only reason this even sounds oppressive is the unrealistic assumptions the author makes about how much minor, day-to-day choices would affect premia.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                The alternative is that you get to enjoy all the benefits of a risky lifestyle while sharing the cost with some other schmuck.

                By the way, being able to externalize the costs of your personal choices is how children live. Having someone there to bail you out no matter how much you screw up is just the friendly side of paternalism, and it’s inextricably bound up with the dark side.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                Somewhere I feel is a government that has decided that all people must have insurance. Also that insurance must cover all things. Or did this insurance company just take on the role of determining risk and mandating that people pay them all on its lonesome?Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                All things taken to extreme end up being oppressive. The better questions us where is that line? The line that is the boundary between this is an acceptable cost to being an oppressive cost.Report

            • Avatar b-psycho says:

              You can do anything you want, as long as you’re willing to pay the price.

              …as determined by an omnipresent entity that thinks of you as a number and not an individual human being?

              Note that he cannot avoid this constant evaluation of his conduct against their view of The Common Good without being a millionaire. The default condition should be freedom, not compliance. If others don’t like how you live your life, provided it isn’t harming them the correct response indeed is “f*ck you”.Report

        • Avatar Just Me says:

          Nope, doesn’t make me feel any better. I was at lunch with my brother today. Told him that I’m afraid that Wall-E would become a reality. This is just a different version of WALL-E. So concerned with making everything safer, better, sanitized that we are willing to take free will and the humanity out of being human. In the world described above I would sign up for being a human battery. If my body can’t be free, please let my mind continue to think it is.Report

  6. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    I found myself enamored of the idea of a constantly updating number in my peripheral vision telling me how likely my current circumstances are to cost me money. It’s like the fuel consumption read-out in my car.

    You must’ve read “Super Sad True Love Story,” eh?Report

  7. Avatar zic says:



    I’ve wondered if the collapse of Old Man of the Mountain, Webster’s calling card for the place where they make men. Does collapsing down the side of Cannon Mountain indicate the New Hampshire man factory got outsourced? Likely, it’s due to higher premiums for real men. Less risk in those damn hippies.Report

  8. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Well played!Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Space awesome.Report

  10. Avatar mark boggs says:

    Even besides the point you’re trying to make, the writing was super.Report

  11. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Zed, this was inspired. A delicious read.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Ah…New Utopia. Back then I was naive enough to think that that was actually going to take off. I guess the first red flag should have been that it was headed up by a guy who named himself after a fictional character. I looked it up just now and it turns out that he died earlier this year, so the name wasn’t terribly apt.Report

  13. Avatar James K says:

    This is an excellent piece.Report

  14. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    My goodness, what a lovely read. Bravo.Report

  15. his mother’s income as a nurse was squeezed by the wave of competition from midwives, near-nurses, neo-nurses, medi-mates and volunteer hygienists.

    You had me at this line.Report

  16. Avatar Citizen says:

    You left out the part were he is jailed for 5 years for practicing Assistant Underwriter without a license, and fined all the years of back fees.Report

  17. Avatar Jack says:

    Fantastic. Felt like I was reading a lost chapter of Snowcrash.Report

  18. Avatar Anna Jackson says:

    I love this piece of writing. I am quite entertained on this post and I would love to read more things similar to this.Report