Project X: The Benefits of Reproduction

Brendan Koerner has a post today about the people of New Ireland who are debating whether they want their historical masks back–some aren’t sure they’d be able to preserve them–or if they’d like exact replicas. This is especially interesting to me because I’m at the point in Project X where a person with the horrible affliction’s daughter is like “Oh my god! Why was there only one of these books? Why did no one make a copy or seven?” Even if the one book were the only one with the magical powers, while it was missing, her family could have benefited from the copies.

And I do think it’s an interesting problem, especially once supernatural forces are in play. Is there some benefit to the original that wouldn’t be there in the copy? And sometimes, maybe, yes. Something is lost when you can’t have the thing your ancestor put together and put her own self into. But it’s hard for me to believe that if preservation and dissemination are important to a people now, that their ancestors wouldn’t also appreciate efforts at preservation and dissemination and find a way to be present, even in the fakes.

It’s interesting, anyway.

Maybe I Have Misunderstood Capitalism All These Years

There’s this new initiative being floated in some states that different college majors should cost different amounts, so the “useful” degrees–like the sciences–would be cheaper than the “useless” degrees–like the liberal arts–to encourage more people go to into the sciences, where we need them.

Forget that this seems to assume that the country is losing perfectly good scientists to the love of poetry, which has to just not be the case. And set aside the bizarre idea that what one majors in in college is always completely correlated to what one does in life. Or the idea that you can predict at 18 what will be useful when someone is, say, 25. Forget all the practical concerns.

Just explain to me how this is not the opposite of capitalism? If you were really going to run a school this way, but using actual capitalistic principles, wouldn’t, say, a BFA in poetry be the least expensive major? Or, okay, if not by which major will bring you the least amount of money if you go into a job with a direct correlation, then by which majors have the fewest people in them? So, it would seem that being an astro-physics major should be hella cheap.

Okay, I have to make a confession here. I got up in the middle of this rant to eat breakfast and let the dog out and feed the cats and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what my big culminating point was going to be.

But shouldn’t “worthless” degrees or degrees no one’s interested in be the cheap ones? Isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to go? We have a big supply of seats in these areas and little demand for them? They’re the cheapest?

Oh, lord, imagine if this really worked! A class, say, has room for 30 students. The first ten people to sign up pay the least. The next ten pay more. The last ten pay most. And the people on the waiting list… whoa. So, this brings up an interesting problem. Say I bought my seat in “Contemporary Poetry” back when it was $10 and then word gets out that every Friday in class there’s a burlesque show with poetry and now everyone who’s looking to fill an English requirement wants to take the class. The university is happy because it has its ten $10 students and its ten $20 students and its ten $30 students. And I’ve paid for my seat.

So, is it cool if I sell my seat to someone on the waiting list for $50?

Or would the university put in some kind of dynamic pricing so that, like the stock market, the cost of the class would reflect demand for it right at that moment?

Anyway, I’m not a huge fan of unmitigated capitalism or anything, but the idea of instituting some kind of anti-capitalism into higher ed–by Republicans, who are supposed to be the most gung ho for capitalism–by making the classes the State prefers the least expensive ones is hilarious to me.

The trouble with any ideologue is that you quickly become indistinguishable from your ideological foes. I keep hoping this isn’t true, of course, because I would like to be an untempered ideologue. But at some point, you go round the bend and meet up with the people you are opposed to.

And so here we are, the political party that is still afraid of Communists wants the State’s preferences for what you take in college to have as much, if not more, influence over what you take than what you want.