Archive | November 8, 2007

The Toilet Zone

Kevin Carson writes:

One thing that large institutions seem to have in common is public restrooms with completely unusable toilet paper dispensers. The typical public restroom in a large organization of any kind has one of those Georgia Pacific monstrosities (or something similar), encased in a plastic housing that makes the toilet paper roll difficult to reach and often almost impossible to turn. The housing is locked, so that an empty roll can be changed only by a housekeeper with a key, and it’s impossible to just take the roll out for easy use. The worst part of it is, these toilet paper dispensers probably cost $20 or more each. … [Y]ou can probably go to Home Depot and get a toilet paper spool that actually works for less than a dollar. …

So why do we find so many examples of this sort of thing? Why does just about any large institutional building have toilet paper dispensers that seem deliberately designed, at enormous cost, to perform their function as badly as possible? The answer lies in the nature of large organizations.

For his explanation, check out the latest chapter of his forthcoming book. But the following cartoon may give you a hint:

Dilbert comic

(This isn’t the first time I’ve used a Dilbert strip to illustrate Kevin’s organisational theories. They’re a natural fit, because they’re tracking the same insane reality ….)

Burkes Semi-serious Anarchism, Part 2

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

In a recent post I described the problem posed, for the prevailing interpretation of Burke’s Vindication of Natural Society as satirical, by similarly radical passages occurring in Burke’s nonsatirical writings.

Edmund Burke Most of the writings I cited in that post are on the web (and I provided the relevant links), but one – a brief editorial on Irish poverty from Burke’s 1748 journal The Reformer – has not thus far been available online. Now it is.

As you’ll see, there’s nothing anarchistic on offer here; and real radicals will find Burke’s explanations of poverty too vague and his proposed remedies too modest, especially by comparison with, say, Spooner’s Revolution the Only Remedy for the Oppressed Classes of Ireland.

Nevertheless, in its sympathy for the poor, indignation against the rich, and affirmation of the “natural equality of mankind,” Burke’s editorial certainly resembles the Vindication more than it does the Reflections on the Revolution in France. The same applies to the editorial’s endorsement of such classical liberal doctrines as that the function of government is to “secure the lives and properties of those who live under it” (which had been a central theme of Locke’s Second Treatise) and that the “riches of a nation” consist in the “uniform plenty diffused through a people” rather than in the “luxurious lives of its gentry” (which was to be a central theme of Smith’s Wealth of Nations).

In short, the existence of this early editorial is indeed awkward for those who insist that the radicalism of the Vindication could only have been intended ironically.

Red Prophet

Jack Kirby once wrote a comic book story about the “face on Mars.”

Okay. But he wrote it in 1958:

Jack Kirby - The Face on Mars

Plus, don’t these “screaming ships,” from the same story, look a lot like Babylon 5’s screaming Shadow vessels (which as it happens were first dug up on Mars ….)?:

Jack Kirby & Babylon 5 - screaming spacecraft on Mars

Read the whole story.


[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Crispin Sartwell - Against the State Click here to see Doug Den Uyl’s blurb for the forthcoming anthology Anarchism/Minarchism that I edited with Tibor Machan. Click here to see an anonymous blurb for Aeon Skoble’s forthcoming book Deleting the State. Click here to see my own blurb for Crispin Sartwell’s forthcoming book Against the State. And click here for an advance preview (as opposed to, um, some other kind of preview) of Sartwell’s manuscript itself.

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