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Reblogged:Rent, Happiness, Choice, and Progress

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A Blog Roundup

1. Boston recently passed rent control, and it is already causing havoc, as Brian Phillips notes:
Rent control hasn't even taken effect in Boston, and already the consequences of rent control are being felt. Banker and Tradesman reports that building permits in Boston declined 94 percent between 2021 and 2022. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and others have claimed that rent control will not lead to less new housing construction, despite what has happened in every city with rent control. This is what happens when principles are absent. [bold added]
Phillips rightly notes that rent control destroys the incentives to build or maintain rental housing. This principle applies not just to any attempt to dictate rental rates, but to dictate prices in general.

Politicians, like Mayor Wu, who fail to grasp such principles -- or choose to ignore them -- will not escape the consequences of doing so.

Nor will the people who keep electing such politicians.

2. At Thinking Directions, Jean Moroney has been discussing the subject of happiness, and argues that we have indirect control over our happiness:
...What do you have direct volitional control over and how can that lead to happiness? The absolute basic choice you have is to turn your attention. If you want to be happy, the most basic choice is to orient to values.

The power of the value orientation

By "orient to values," I mean choose to focus on the values at stake in every moment, not the threats. This involves much more than just looking at a partially-filled glass and calling it half-full rather than half-empty. It involves re-evaluating every threat, feeling, and rule to understand it in terms of values to be gained as opposed to threats to be avoided -- and then acting to gain and/or keep your top value in the situation.

There is a entire category of posts on the topic of the value orientation. I concretize the basic point in my article on the golf-course analogy. Let's see if I can explain the idea briefly...
I recommend reading the whole thing, which links to the very helpful golf course analogy mentioned above.

My wife and I recently got some very bad, but not entirely unexpected news -- several months before we thought we might. When I began thinking about possible ramifications, I recalled that analogy, and its advice on how I should process things. If I had to verbalize my overall emotional state as I did so, so it might be something like Same game, different course.

I credit what I have learned from Moroney's work about focusing on values for helping me wrap my mind around the news more quickly (and much more constructively) than I would have in the past.

I am grateful and highly recommend her work.

3. Many of my fellow travelers wonder why Ayn Rand's ideas aren't much more popular than they are. Harry Binswanger gives a good explanation at Value for Value, which he sums up as follows:
To return to the original issue, the reason I titled this post "Choice is choice" is that you are under-estimating or overlooking the role of free will. People have to have made a lot of the right choices to have the premises to respond to Ayn Rand's themes. And they have to continue to choose to focus in order to follow her logic in what they are reading or hearing from you.

You can lead a man to reason, but you can't make him think.
This alone might be unsatisfying -- until you concretize a few things, like what choices someone has to make, and what he has to think about (understanding unfamiliar ideas and challenging old, familiar ones) for the above to really hit home.

That's what Binswanger does, more effectively than I can, earlier in his post.

Indirectly related to Item 4: I enjoyed this 1970 short celebrating the petroleum industry, which I found via an oddly-titled discussion at Hacker News. Oil rigs are beautiful, but it requires one to forget that man, too, is part of nature to call that beauty dystopian.

4. One of my favorite aspects of Jason Crawford's work at The Roots of Progress is that it snaps us out of our spoiled-by-riches mentality so we can fully appreciate the wonders that surround us.

Today's exciting subject is concrete:
This is cement. We start with rock, crush and burn it to extract its essence in powdered form, and then reconstitute it at a place and time and in a shape of our choosing. Like coffee or pancake mix, it is "instant stone -- just add water!" And with it, we make skyscrapers that reach hundreds of stories high, tunnels that go under the English channel and the Swiss Alps, and bridges that stretch a hundred miles.

If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.
Even better, Crawford seems to be establishing a more mainstream presence, as indicated by the appearance at the popular tech site Hacker News of a link to an interview with him at The Hub, titled, "Make the Future Bright Again: Jason Crawford on Building a New Philosophy of Progress."

-- CAV

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