Chinese Curse

May I live in interesting times, indeed.

On Sunday, our apartment building caught on fire. When the alarm sounded, I walked out into the hallway and smelled smoke -- the smell of candle smoke. My neighbors were leaving their apartments too, so I took this as the real deal and made a split-second decision to save my most valuable and difficult to replace possession: my 250+ DVD collection. Others grabbed their cats, picture frames, and tattered books. The concentration of smoke increased as we walked down the stairs, and was thick and noxious on the ground floor right before we exited the building. Firefighters had already arrived in five or six trucks, so they must have triggered the alarm when they got here. A friend stood outside in shorts and a towel, dripping wet from the shower. We waited twenty minutes until the firefighters let us back in. Turns out the fire started in the garbage chute and the smoke worked its way up the floors. Presumably, some idiot threw a lit cigarette down the disposal. The firefighters had to break down a door on the roof to let out the smoke, but other than that there was no significant property damage. The adrenaline rush was incredible.

Met P.J. O'Rourke on Monday. I was doing front desk guard duty covering for the security guard while he was out to lunch, and O'Rourke arrived to meet with Tom Palmer. I got to chat with him for a bit - I told him how much I enjoyed Eat The Rich and that it inspired me to do a research paper on Swedish economic history. We both agreed that Swedish women are really hot.

Cato interns and employees keep coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoy reading Catallarchy. My fifteen minutes is well worth what little effort I put into this place.

Finally saw Star Wars tonight after work. Despite the ever-so-cheesy dialogue (You are so... beautiful. / It's only because I'm so in love. / No, it's because I'm so in love with you. / Are you saying love has blinded you?), this was even better than Episode II. The only part of the series that was a real disappointment was the first. The best line in the movie is when Padme laments the collapse of the Republic and its transformation "into the first Galactic Empire for a safe and secure society":

This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.

Reminded me of that famous C.S. Lewis quote,

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

This got me thinking about the power of ideas - both good ones and bad ones. Oppressive societies can only exist so long as a critical mass of the populace believes in the legitimacy of the ruling class. When that legitimacy is lacking, it is only a matter of time before the people rise up and cast off their chains. But when legitimacy is present, no amount of civil disobedience or direct action will significantly weaken the rulers' grip on power. One must change people's hearts and minds first, convincing them that more desirable social arrangements are possible.

I will meet Ben Stein and the President of the United States on Thursday. Both will be discussing Social Security. I hope to ask the President if I can win my money back from him. All of it. Outlook not so good.

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