Surfing the waves of existential contrariness

By | April 30, 2008

I’m surfing a rather strange mood right now. I got home from gaming 20 minutes ago, feeling strangely bemused and disappointed with the world, largely for broad social and political reasons than for anything one particular thing.

I’ve been grappling a little of late with the troublesome conflict between ideas of social fairness and communal action versus libertarian ideas of avoiding coercion and maximizing freedom. Both sides offer attractions, but both have drawbacks – freedom and self-determination are desirable, but do they trump the Rawlsian desire for fairness and equality? Always? Never? Sometimes? Where do you draw the line?

Obviously, compromise between the extremes of these positions is necessary, and I know thinkers out there have formulated amalgamations that seem to offer a way forward. My concern is that society at large doesn’t seem able to follow sophisticated hybrid policies, and tends to leap to extremes – we’re either ignoring a problem, or flooding it with ill-considered, wasteful solutions. While the barely competent rule of the fickle crowd is perhaps measured and appropriate for some issues, it seems foolishly slow and indecisive for others.

However, this isn’t all that’s bugging me. Rather, it’s a contributing and compounding factor in a mangled mass of disappointing trends I discern – the tragedy of the commons wrought large on global resources. What happens next?

It seems my attitude towards the future ranges from measured optimism to resigned pessimism. I guess this to be expected – we live in truly interesting times, and I really can’t tell if that’s good or bad.

Maybe I just shouldn’t listen to essays about existential risk when I’m tired..