Hyper Critical

Over the past week or so, I’ve been having more than my share of fun with one of our resident detractors from the Great White North, “hyperbolist.” And I have to confess that I feel just a smidgen guilty about it.

First, it started with a discussion about energy policy. In that discussion, hyper disagreed with my idea — stealing John Galt’s notion of the government’s ideal role to be to “get the hell out of the way” and simply loosening a lot of the controls and restraints it places on the economy. Hyper thought it woudl be better for the government to assert more control and attempt to direct people and businesses into doing the “right thing,” instead of simply trusting them to act in their own best interests and do what they wish. That degenerated into an argument of my “trust the common sense of the people” attitude and his “the elites are elite for a reason, and the average person is an idiot” beliefs.

At some point, our wires got crossed. (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying we misunderstood each other, and not that he changed his arguments midstream.) He insisted that his deference for the “elites” wasn’t for in the field of governance, but in public service in general — we should reward public servants in order to attract the best into that field.

That’s an argument I’ve heard before, but it took hyper’s pushing it for me to finally pull together why I have always rejected it. And that is because I started thinking about the sorts of “public service” employees we’re talking about. Three examples sprung to mind.

The first is teachers. They tend to be local employees; the state employs bureaucrats and teachers at state colleges. But it occurred to me that we have discussed many times the ways to draw “the best and brightest” into teaching, and some of the ways discussed — merit pays for exceptional performance, regular evaluations to weed out the poorer teachers, streamlining the firing process for the truly horrid ones, school vouchers to give parents some direct say in their children’s future, and whatnot — have been fought tooth and nail by the teachers’ unions. No, to them, the best way to improve education is to secure tenure, increase pay across the board, improve pensions, and other such broad strokes. So it’s clear that the teachers’ union aren’t that interested in making actual improvements. So forget them.

The second group of public employees that came to me are those who don’t have equivalents in the private sector. Social workers, for one. Public administrators, for another. We don’t really need to put much effort into attracting the “best and brightest” in this area; they literally have nowhere else to go. They’ve chosen their career path, and there isn’t much need for it in the private sector, so until we develop a critical shortage of such folks, we don’t really need to waste much effort into recruiting there.

The final category that came to mind was the ugly stereotype of “public employee” that so many people use as a shorthand term for “worthless slugs.” The DMV clerks. The jobs these folks do can be relatively important, but their sloth, their apathy, their inflexibility, and their general inefficiency are the stuff of legend. Do we really need to offer hefty incentives for these dullards? They’ve got decent pay, job security, and relatively easy jobs — that ought to be more than enough for most of these Bud Bundys.

Then, yesterday, I mentioned how the “hacktivist” group “anonymous,” the self-designated vigilantes of the internet who have asserted their right to decide who can speak on the internet and who can’t, have decided to dabble in domestic American politics by going after the web sites of Koch Industries and the libertarian thinktank “Americans For Prosperity.” I found this entirely typical of the left — if you disagree with them, you have no right to speak and ought to be silenced by any means necessary, legal or not. Hyper, however, stood up for “anonymous,” saying that he was glad that the unspeakably evil and rotten and downright icky Koch Brothers and the AfP folks needed to be silenced so they couldn’t spread their seditious propaganda.

I have to confess — I was kind of hoping that someone would stand up for “anonymous,” and was glad it was hyper. Because it was my intent to apply a little “instant karma” to that person. If they endorsed the cyber-attacks of “anonymous” shutting down people’s web sites, then they certainly couldn’t object to my doing a bit of the same — editing, rewriting, or downright removing their comments. (It was largely at random, occasionally by accident — we have a new interface behnid the scenes, and I still haven’t quite got the hang of it.) Hell, I was on more solid moral ground than “anonymous” is — Kevin, the owner of this site, has empowered me to do such things, and entrusted me to use my own best judgment in doing so. So if hyper agrees with cyber-terrorism like the DDOS attacks that denied AfP and Koch Industries from using their own property — the web sites — then what’s the big deal with a web site editor exercising some editorial control over their own domain?

Cue the whining. He really didn’t like that. And I can understand his surprise — usually, we here at Wizbang don’t usually act so ham-handedly. But I have to admit, it was fun. I understand the appeal of the “anonymous” crowd — being an irresponsible juvenile and doing whatever the hell I want, regardless of propriety or even the law can be a blast.

So thanks, hyper, for hanging around. Every now and then, it’s nice to have a straw man, a stooge, a straight man, a token, an in-house doofus to use as a laughingstock — and you’ve been one of the best.

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