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Are Engineers Natural Libertarians Or Technocrats?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the those-are-your-only-choices dept.

Government 727

uctpjac writes "This openDemocracy article uses Scott Adams' presidential bid to argue that however much engineers — especially Silicon Valley types — like to think that they're libertarians, they are in fact much more likely to be control-freak technocrats. Quoting: 'Sensibly if uncharismatically, Adams has pledged if elected to delegate most of his decisions to people who know more than him, and flip-flop on any issue where new evidence causes him to modify his position. His worldview has its limitations – he underestimates the value of ways of thinking other than the engineer's, and it's naïve of him to claim his approach to policy is purely pragmatic and non-ideological.' Is this a fair account? Has the author wrongly read Dilbert, or wrongly interpreted the relationship between the engineering mindset and Adams' representation of it in the cartoon strip?"

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We'll be whatever you want... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38575984)

... for a fee.

Re:We'll be whatever you want... (1, Offtopic)

xmorg (718633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576032)

Someone mod this girl insightful!

Re:We'll be whatever you want... (5, Funny)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576226)

No. Engineers may work in paper mills, sewage plants, and might even design weapons for indiscriminate sale, but some things will always cross the line... properly commenting our own code, for example.

Re:We'll be whatever you want... (1, Funny)

gorzek (647352) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576380)

That's called "job security"!

(For anyone who doesn't get it, I'm kidding. I hate it when people don't comment their code, especially when it's for that very reason.)

Re:We'll be whatever you want... (4, Interesting)

bgat (123664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576464)

I'm not a big fan of commenting code. I prefer code possessing such clarity that it is self-commenting. If your code fails this test, no amount of commenting will improve the situation. Bad code is bad code, no matter how well-commented it is. (True, some code is truly difficult to comprehend and therefore requires comments, usually because what the code is doing is supremely complicated and difficult to comprehend itself. I'm not talking about that kind of code).

Now describing the design overall, that's another matter. But most of the designs I'm called in to fix are so bad that they are undocumentable.

Libertarians? (1, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38575994)

Since when do Silicon Valley types "like to think that they're libertarians?" Going by the posters here, they are not libertarians at all as they vehemently hate corporations. Silicon Valley is known to lean left--Google's Marissa Mayer had Obama as an invited guest at her home for a fundraiser, for crying out loud. So on what is the article basing that claim?

Re:Libertarians? (5, Insightful)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576074)

Since when is Silicon Valley the heart of engineering?? Maybe if you're an electrical or computer engineer. Engineering has been around a lot longer than Silicon Valley or the 1980s. Why not also pretend San Francisco is the heart of engineering?

Libertarians are more likely to be self-starters and doers, which is more consistent with the engineering mentality.

Scientists, on the other hand, are more likely to be welfare-staters, because their science funding and grantsmanship culture is ever more dependent on the state.

Re:Libertarians? (5, Interesting)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576100)

You assume that libertarians do not also hate corporations. Since corporations only exist due to special protections granted to them by the government, many (most?) libertarians (myself included) do not consider them to be actors in, nor an accurate representation of, a true free market.

Some may consider that a small nitpick, but I personally find it to be an important one. When I engage people in discussions about free market principles, I make sure to let people know that I am just as disgusted with our corporately-owned government as the next guy.

Re:Libertarians? (4, Interesting)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576208)

Well said. Libertarians would be the first to end corporate welfare, as well as corporate "personhood".

Re:Libertarians? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576330)

Corporate welfare, yes. Corporate "personhood" no. Many libertarians believe individuals retain their rights when they join groups, but they also object to the lack of responsibility.

Re:Libertarians? (4, Insightful)

joss (1346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576434)

> Many libertarians believe individuals retain their rights when they join groups

Weasel words alert. Nobody is claiming you should loose your individual rights when you join a corporation, its just that you shouldn't gain additional rights by virtue of controlling an organisation.

Re:Libertarians? (2)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576412)

Ending limited liability, too? You just killed the next Apple or Google and every other small start-up that starts in someone's garage or home office. The potential pool of people willing to start a business gets reduced to only those who are already well-heeled financially.

Re:Libertarians? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576496)

Well said. Libertarians would be the first to end corporate welfare, as well as corporate "personhood".

And then the unicorns and fairies come in and make the world a perfect place?

I'm afraid I simply don't believe that any more than I believe that tax cuts for the rich makes all of our lives better. All it does is give tax cuts to the rich.

Libertarians have a fantasy model of how economics works, which has absolutely no bearing on reality. The free market doesn't solve problems, human nature means it basically devolves to brute force. There is no spoon.

Not suggesting Communism works either ... but having two polar opposite views doesn't make either of them right. The Libertarian Utopia is a falsehood, just like the Communist Utopia.

Re:Libertarians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576248)

You assume that libertarians do not also hate corporations. Since corporations only exist due to special protections granted to them by the government, many (most?) libertarians (myself included) do not consider them to be actors in, nor an accurate representation of, a true free market. Some may consider that a small nitpick, but I personally find it to be an important one. When I engage people in discussions about free market principles, I make sure to let people know that I am just as disgusted with our corporately-owned government as the next guy.

PREACH ON BROTHER!

In a true free market, I would be able to put rat poison in a can labeled NUTRITIOUS FOOD and sell it.

Until we can get rid of the special protections and government regulations that prohibit this kind of entrepreneurship, we will never have the true free market we both dream about.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576374)

In a true free market, I would be able to put rat poison in a can labeled NUTRITIOUS FOOD and sell it.

... and in a true free market after your arbiters and their arbiters got together, privately hired thugs would come by and dispose of you for your aggressive deception in the market.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

NouberNou (1105915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576514)

Because thats EXACTLY what the world should be like!

Re:Libertarians? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576524)

Vigalante justice is a libertarian principle now?

Re:Libertarians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576528)

Who would hire them? The victims would already be dead. Actually, I think he'd just hire them first.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576484)

Libertarians are split on whether prevention of both force and fraud are valid functions of government, or only force, but I think the former constitutes the larger segment of libertarian opinion.

Regardless, in a free market situation I would probably only buy food that had been given a stamp of approval by a trusted third-party (like FDA approval, except without all the regulatory-capture and rampant corruption).

Re:Libertarians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576536)

See I'd have guessed that they're mostly ultra-"liberals" like this guy [see: neofascists]. Heavily regulate everything just the way they'd like it, without regard for freedom or individual responsibility, then scream about how cumbersome and oppressive their government is.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576456)

"Some may consider that a small nitpick"

Some? Try most. A conservative approach to government is limited and unobtrusive - just enough and no more. An extremely conservative approach would be anarchy - no government control at all. This represents your 'true free market.'

I don't know of anyone who advocates your definition of a 'true free market.' We need a a set of regulations in order to ensure fair competition and fair rights for workers.

Re:Libertarians? (3, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576460)

> Since corporations only exist due to special protections granted to them by the government, many (most?) libertarians (myself included) do not consider them to be actors in, nor an accurate representation of, a true free market.

I don't think it's quite that simple. In an unhampered free market it is possible that people will voluntarily choose to organize themselves into groups that function according to similar rules as those that what we now call "corporations" do now. There will be no limited liability (with regard to lawsuits; limited liability with regard to debts can still exist as part of the loan contract, so conservatives' fears that without limited liability there will be no business at all are quite unfounded), so people will be punished for fraud and environmental damage more, and things will be better in that regard, but the format of the large business as a whole could still exist. And there's nothing wrong with that - it's never as simple as "rich people are evil"; look at the so-called "robber baron" era of the 19th century - some rich people got their way through powerful friends and corruption and government-assisted cartelization, while others played fairly on the market and used their fortunes to set up institutions that continue to serve the public good even now (see: Nobel prizes, American non-profit universities, etc). It's exactly the same way even now.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576500)

I second that. What is more, one can criticize large corporations on precisely the same grounds that libertarian (or at least Austrian) economists criticize centrally planned economies. One of the most salient points made by von Hayek and von Mises from the 1920s on was the impossibility central planners would face in calculating supply and demand without pricing signals. I think they were quite right on these points.

Yet this same argument could be applied to large corporations which act internally like the heavily bureaucratized and centrally planned states the Austrians despised. The Austrians had faith, however, that competition would be sufficient to control the size of firms. This has not proven to be the case--though, this has as much to do with our political system as anything else. Large corporations are protected from their peculiar drawbacks in our system. It is not a free market and competition in any positive sense cannot occur where, e.g., a few corporations have huge portfolios of so-called intellectual property which, while cross licencing among themselves, allow them to prevent the growth of smaller competitors.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

uncqual (836337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576534)

The essence of a corporation doesn't require "special protections granted to them by the government" beyond the extent that any entity (individual or collective) relies on laws enacted and enforced by US/state/local governments (such as civil courts and bankruptcy laws).

It is true that corporations engage in regulatory capture and rent seeking due to the intrusiveness of the current system of governance in the US. However, this is simply exploiting opportunity and if the opportunity did not exist, the corporate model would still be viable.

On the other hand, government in the US interferes with large business entities (most of which are corporations) regularly via mechanisms such as anti-trust laws, regulation about publicly traded companies (such as Sarbanes–Oxley), minimum wage laws, and "consumer protection" laws (such as the Credit CARD Act of 2009). All of these limit the ability of providers of services/capital to freely negotiate with consumers of services/capital.

I lean strongly libertarian, but do see that some regulations are necessary and appropriate - such as limited anti-trust laws, reasonable patent and copyright laws, and laws requiring full disclosure to consumers (although, not laws that actually require shaping the transactions in some way -- full disclosure is enough). I certainly don't see corporations as a bad thing. Corporations provide a way for business entities to be created when, individually, no one person has enough capital to create and grow the business to the point where advanced development can be funded and economy of scale can be realized. As well, corporations can exist independent of the lifespan of a person (and the heirs) to continue to support existing product lines and expand and innovate -- which benefits everyone.

Re:Libertarians? (2, Interesting)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576124)

I think there's some confusion between conservative, dogmatic, libertarian, and objectivist. And others...
Because conservatism (of the hysterical kind) is so dominant, anything non-conservative is deemed libertarian, even when it is something else.

Re:Libertarians? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576190)

Obama is right of center and only mildly more authoritarian than libertarian.

Re:Libertarians? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576288)

Obama is right of center

Only if center is the Communist party.

Re:Libertarians? (5, Insightful)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576420)

Obama is right of center

Only if center is the Communist party.

By most of the worlds standards Obama is indeed right of centre, there are few if any American politicians who aren't. Ask anyone with a basic knowledge of Politics, from Europe, South America or Asia, hell even Canada and they'll give you the same answer. A lot of us also think your medical system is a complete disgrace.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576242)

I don't think either Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman were libertarians, and I'm pretty sure they both liked large corporations.

Re:Libertarians? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576280)

Obama isn't left at all.

Libertarians have more in common with liberals than Obama does. Its just that they also have more that is diametrically opposite as well.

Stalin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576004)

Stalin was an engineer

Re:Stalin (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576028)

Is this some new form of Godwin's Law?

Stalin was a gangster, probably something like a burglar.

It's the classic labor + criminal muscle sort of situation.

China too.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576080)

Stalin was an engineer

Just about all of China's "leadership" are scientists and engineers. And as I read about their political and economic policies and actions, they're making many of the same mistakes that Europe made a few hundred years ago.

And folks say that Liberal Arts (History) and Social Science (Economics, Sociology, and Political Science) have no value.

Re:China too.... (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576176)

Re:China too.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576254)

Neither are computers and yet we have "Computer Science".

Re:Stalin (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576236)

Actually, no.

He has been educated in a seminary and before the October Revolution mostly lived as a bank robber.

Re:Stalin (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576384)

Nope, no degrees. studied at a seminary off and on until he was 20 or so, iirc.

Pretty wild how a peasant can take a country of mostly peasants and turn it into an industrial superpower in 20 years, with little education no less.

Why does everything have to fit a nice label? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576036)

It seems that most people have a hard time when life isn't left down to 2 choices. No wonder we have such a hard time coming together on a common ground and working out our problems.

Re:Why does everything have to fit a nice label? (4, Interesting)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576262)

It's not PEOPLE, it's GROUPS of people. And it's called Duverger's Law: single-member plurality elections tend toward two-party-dominated governments. If you want a broader selection of views, you need to get away from single-member districts and/or plurality elections. I recommend some form of proportional representation (any will do) and approval voting for elections that are necessarily single-winner (governor, president.)

historically yes, but varies (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576052)

China's government is probably the most engineer-dominated government in the world [slashdot.org] , in contrast to the lawyer-dominated Western governments, and it has definite technocratic tendencies. I'd say a lot of western engineers who otherwise dislike the government (e.g. its position on free speech) do admire some of its technocratic infrastructure achievements, like its rapid deployment of high-speed rail.

More generally it's kind of the natural outcome of a certain engineering mindset which looks for optimized supply chains, economies of scale, evidence/data-based decision making, etc. There's an alternate, more messy/decentralized engineering mindset though, perhaps better labeled "hacker mindset" than "engineering mindset", which is more about DIY, free-form experimentation, etc., and less technocratic in its orientation (though not necessarily libertarian in the American sense either; plenty are more lefty-anarchist leaning).

Re:historically yes, but varies (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576174)

More generally it's kind of the natural outcome of a certain engineering mindset which looks for optimized supply chains, economies of scale, evidence/data-based decision making, etc. There's an alternate, more messy/decentralized engineering mindset though, perhaps better labeled "hacker mindset" than "engineering mindset", which is more about DIY, free-form experimentation, etc., and less technocratic in its orientation (though not necessarily libertarian in the American sense either; plenty are more lefty-anarchist leaning).

That seems like a very complicated answer. How bout "a hacker is an engineer with a really small budget". By occams razor my short and simple answer is much more likely to be correct. All your other postulated behaviors seem to flow from a simple lack of $ or in some cases, time.

A good software engineer can create either (5, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576072)

Once you understand the basics of politics, learning a new ideology is trivial really.

Re:A good software engineer can create either (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576458)

And to think my mod points have all expired...

Aspergers Cases who Lack Empathy (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576092)

The typical libertarian engineer think everyone else should just study computers like they did and get a job doing that. Then they wouldn't be poor.

They don't have the empathy to understand that some people are simply baffled by computers, or are poor for some other reason.

They also don't understand why I put on my headphones every time they go on some poorly thought out rant that proves nothing other than their complete lack of empathy and social skills.

Re:Aspergers Cases who Lack Empathy (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576142)

No. We think they should have applied themselves while in school and gotten themselves a half decent trade or profession. Also we think that they would do well to escape from the general anti-intellectual attitude in the US especially when it comes to math.

Not understanding numbers is as harmful as not being able to read.

Re:Aspergers Cases who Lack Empathy (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576422)

Not understanding numbers is as harmful as not being able to read.

I've got five reasons why I am able to read:
1) I have read blood
2) I have read sports car
5) I have read fruit punch

Counterargument?

and another thing (2)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576274)

they also have difficulty seeing when someone should be openly mocked for painting broad stereotypes.

Pragmatism can be dangerous (4, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576102)

Decisions based merely on results, divorced from ethics and morality can bring disastrous results. Think how quickly we could advance medicine if we started experimenting on humans unchecked, or how "safe" we could be if we lived in a police state. I put safe in quotes because we might be safe from terrorists and other boogeymen, but we wouldn't be safe from the police state.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576140)

So you'd rather do Bible-based politics?

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576316)

So you'd rather do Bible-based politics?

I'm a Christian but I don't support a theocracy by any stretch of the imagination, and neither should any Christian. In fact, if you look at the New Testament, Jesus doesn't really say much at all about government (Matthew 22:21 being a notable exception), and the Apostles wrote almost entirely about how the Christian Church was to govern itself, not the rest of the world.

Ah, the bible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576390)

The bible has very little to do with morality or ethics in any modern sense.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576392)

I think the point he's trying to make is that either extreme is bad. Priests shouldn't be the ones deciding the law. However, lawyers do really suck at dealing with scientific fact - just look at VAERS. It's not about truth to them, it's about covering their asses.

I mean, do we really HAVE to choose one or the other? Can't we have some parts be a meritocracy and other parts be more democratic? I mean, isn't part of our problem that the same type of people run all three branches of government?

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (2)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576184)

Add a term to you results-scoring algorithm to account for the ethics and morality you wish to promote. (Minus points for prisoners, but plus points for lowering crime rates; minus points for human experiments, but plus points for increased health.) Problem solved! Now, just to iron out the details...

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576432)

Now, just to iron out the details...

Truer word were never spoken... err typed.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576220)

Decisions based merely on results, divorced from ethics and morality can bring disastrous results. Think how quickly we could advance medicine if we started experimenting on humans unchecked, or how "safe" we could be if we lived in a police state.

Both of your examples are red herrings, IMHO. Any pragmatic person would not look at issues so narrowly. You won't advance medicine by experimenting on unwilling participants if you are also considering the effect this would have on personal liberties - and you won't implement a police state because you know from studying history that the power of the state will be abused.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576486)

Both of your examples are red herrings, IMHO. Any pragmatic person would not look at issues so narrowly.

And yet throughout history we have numerous examples of both. Medical experiments by Germany, Japan & U.S. during WW2, not to mention experiments done in the Sino-Soviet bloc since. Police States have also abounded throughout history.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576266)

Pragmatism does not have to be divorced from ethics. In fact, all you have to do is append: "while maintaining human rights and abiding the constitution" to your platform. Personally, I think "do whatever empirically (or theoretically if experimental evidence is absent) works best, as best we can, regularly review the results and add them to our decision making body of evidence, all while not trampling human rights" is a great party platform; much better than blinding shouting "smaller government" or "universal healthcare" or "reduce the debt". And do note that I'm not saying a pragmatic party would or would not do those things, just that they would have to show sound, logical reasons for their decisions.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576296)

Decisions based merely on results, divorced from ethics and morality can bring disastrous results.

That never happens. Circular reasoning or bizarre redefinition of the word "results". The immoral decision was made without taking all results into account, in which case it was a very poor decision

1) If you take all conditions and results into account
2) select the best decision based on step #1
3) step #2 is wrong because you failed in step #1 to account for some pretty obvious conditions.
4) soft science says step #3 is +1 insightful, hard science says you failed miserably back in step #1 not in step #2, and once you fix step #1 you'll optimistically fix step #2 and never reach step #3, so its a zen "if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a +1 insightful post" type of non-rational thinking.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576468)

Decisions based merely on results, divorced from ethics and morality can bring disastrous results....

Good thing we engineers have to go through ethics courses. Otherwise we might just give in to those natural impulses to design a bridge that won't fall down until the most fun moment. Do you suppose that's the problem with the way other disciplines influence the world? Do political scientists, business students, or economists have to take an ethics course?

Of course, to be completely honest, I think an appropriately pragmatic engineer would be competent enough to recognize the possible perturbations arising from outside the designed system which may impact its metastable state, thus working in sufficient safeguards (with a % safety over-design) to prevent things like your police state or extreme variable medical trials due to their historical instability.

Re:Pragmatism can be dangerous (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576474)

how "safe" we could be if we lived in a police state. I put safe in quotes because we might be safe from terrorists and other boogeymen, but we wouldn't be safe from the police state.

If you're not counting harm done by the state in your cost-benefit analysis, then you're not being pragmatic.

It's not knowledge, it's priorities and access (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576104)

Adams has pledged if elected to delegate most of his decisions to people who know more than him, and flip-flop on any issue where new evidence causes him to modify his position

The problem with that is that there are millions of people who know more about X than any individual decision maker. The main issue is prioritizing what you want done, and that's where it all turns political.

He's actually a comic strip writer... (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576106)

...so taking what he says 100% seriously is probably a mistake. Even if Dilbert does often appear to be a thinly-veiled documentary.

Re:He's actually a comic strip writer... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576362)

...so taking what he says 100% seriously is probably a mistake. Even if Dilbert does often appear to be a thinly-veiled documentary.

Kind of like if we elect an actor, we'll probably get a guy who merely acts like a president (not saying that would be all that bad of an approach...)

Re:He's actually a comic strip writer... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576520)

He's a comic book writer, and he's still got a better feel on what the problems are with this country and what kinds of things need to be done to fix them than any "serious" candidate. The joke isn't Scott Adams running for president. The joke is everyone else running for president.

Vote for me! (5, Funny)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576116)

I promise, that if elected, to suspend the Constitution and become a benevolent despot to straighten everything out.
I further promise to leave voluntarily after a 10 year term and restore the Constitution. I swear.

Re:Vote for me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576204)

1. Already suspended.
2. I'll vote for anyone who can restore it within 10 years.

Pick Two (4, Insightful)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576118)

Engineers are the same in politics as they are elsewhere. They'll fix any well-defined problem, but the solution can only meet two of three criteria: fast, cheap, and high-quality. But voters (like customers) will want all three, and won't define the problem well.

Re:Pick Two (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576216)

Engineers are the same in politics as they are elsewhere. They'll fix any well-defined problem, but the solution can only meet two of three criteria: fast, cheap, and high-quality. But voters (like customers) will want all three, and won't define the problem well.

So we'll give them what they ask for, but not what they want. Unless we're Dogbert, in which case we'll give them what we want to give them and tell 'em that's what they want.

Re:Pick Two (4, Funny)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576338)

You know thinking about Politicians in terms of Dogbert explains so much...

What a stupid question. (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576130)

I prefer "Rational."

Re:What a stupid question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576180)

> I prefer "Rational."

All decisions are rational, just not sufficiently motivated or informed compared to another's position. You're part of the problem.

Re:What a stupid question. (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576382)

Rational, as in "Bible-based"?

Perspective (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576132)

Its all in the perspective:

1) La de da, I'm building a bridge. My favorite welder on his days off likes to stick tab A into slot B of a member of the same sex. I understand the meaning of an independent variable and file this as such; don't much care. I guess that makes me an engineer-libertarian.

2) La de da, I'm a building a bridge. I sweat over a keyboard for 850 hours of computer simulation to prove that bolt #374904 must be a size 10-24 NC because if some idiot installs a 8-32 NC or smaller the bridge will collapse when loaded with precisely 17 pickup trucks plus one housefly. Cheap businessman wants to install a smaller 8-32 bolt because live and let live, man, my right to tell him what to do ends at the tip of his screwdriver, or some psuedo-libertarian stuff like that. No, F you businessman, I'm going full on technocrat control freak on you and 10-24 NC bolts are getting installed there or its off to the camps with you.

Want to run a country instead of building a bridge? Sounds to me like it don't much matter if tab A gets inserted into slot B no matter what sex A or B is, or what hole they're using, as long as they're both consenting adults blah blah. That's the libertarian answer. The control freak comes out when you say no, you are not F-ing setting up a concentration camp for brown people, because unlike two dudes in a closet, that does destroy a country.

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576324)

2) La de da, I'm a building a bridge. I sweat over a keyboard for 850 hours of computer simulation to prove that bolt #374904 must be a size 10-24 NC because if some idiot installs a 8-32 NC or smaller the bridge will collapse when loaded with precisely 17 pickup trucks plus one housefly. Cheap businessman wants to install a smaller 8-32 bolt because live and let live, man, my right to tell him what to do ends at the tip of his screwdriver, or some psuedo-libertarian stuff like that. No, F you businessman, I'm going full on technocrat control freak on you and 10-24 NC bolts are getting installed there or its off to the camps with you.

Whoops! You missed something on #2. If you're a libertarian, then that bridge is your capital investment, in which case, you have a vested interest in making sure your reputation allows you to build future bridges, hence you care about the bolt selection.

That's not technocrat. That's self-preservation right there in basic free market terms!

Re:Perspective (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576334)

Just to put some spin on the second point...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citigroup_Center

Same some money by bolting the joints instead of welding them!
Too bad in increased the chance of failure due to expected wind loading to 1 in 16....

So some of the ..... retentiveness is due to details actually mattering at times....

Nice to know that your profession (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576134)

predestines you to a political viewpoint.

Re:Nice to know that your profession (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576198)

Ever meet a Republican social worker?

When did an open mind become political death? (5, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576160)

" and flip-flop on any issue where new evidence causes him to modify his position"

If there's one aspect of the political system that mystifies me, it's this. One of the very definitions of intelligence is the ability to take information and make conclusions. Obviously new information can lead to new conclusions. Yet in politics, even a hint of a politician displaying intelligence by changing his stance after new information and it's the political kiss of death. So instead we get politicians who will stick to their beliefs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So why are we pushing so hard to support political figures who don't demonstrate intelligence and tossing aside the ones that do?

Re:When did an open mind become political death? (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576304)

Most politicians change their "views" (or at least what they communicate) every other year, they just pretend that they have always believed what they do today.

Re:When did an open mind become political death? (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576346)

Because those more consenting politicians can't get anything done, because those who stick to their beliefs are willing to fight as hard as they can.

Re:When did an open mind become political death? (2)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576398)

Senator Claude Pepper was once accused of "Celibacy before marriage, and being addicted to monogamy ever since"

The flip flop is a great thing to accuse a politician of, because you get to use the truth, and put in the mind of the voter that the candidate was wrong. Just like a salesperson will get you to agree to some trivialities just to get you to say "Yes", getting the voter to associate being wrong with a specific politician sets up a line of thinking in the voter's mind. "If he was wrong on that, he must be fallible, and if fallible, then he will fail at a future decision." Once you can get the voter thinking like this, then it's easy to get the voter to imagine all sorts of ways the candidate will screw up if elected.

Re:When did an open mind become political death? (2)

selven (1556643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576506)

Because flip-flopping in practice tends to be motivated by what's popular, not new knowledge.

Re:When did an open mind become political death? (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576516)

" and flip-flop on any issue where new evidence causes him to modify his position"

If there's one aspect of the political system that mystifies me, it's this. One of the very definitions of intelligence is the ability to take information and make conclusions. Obviously new information can lead to new conclusions. Yet in politics, even a hint of a politician displaying intelligence by changing his stance after new information and it's the political kiss of death. So instead we get politicians who will stick to their beliefs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So why are we pushing so hard to support political figures who don't demonstrate intelligence and tossing aside the ones that do?

Because "flip flopper" has a nice ring to it, and in politics it is always easier to change someone's opinion with doubt than to change someone's mind back, no matter how relevant the evidence is to the contrary. Hell, all you have to do is trip over a sound byte enough to make it *sound* like you are a flip-flopper, and next thing you know you are unelectable...

Only two choices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576162)

So, the only choice is "Technocrat" or "Libertarian"?

Nowadays "Libertarian" has been co-opted to include views on economics and all sorts of things not everyone is going to agree with. I'm forced to conclude the article is a little sensationalist.

Of course, a lot of Slashdot is of the mindset that the only way forward is to dismantle government and go for a full on "free" market which will magically solve our problems. But that doesn't mean anyone in engineering falls neatly into one of these two buckets proposed in the article.

Libertarian is as much an ideology as anything nowadays.

Not an engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38576170)

Scott Adams is not now nor ever was an engineer. I don't see how he could be limited to an engineer's viewpoint considering that was never his viewpoint to begin with.

Re:Not an engineer (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576368)

Adams [wikipedia.org] is closer to the Pointy Haired Boss than he ever was to Dilbert, or Wally. Perhaps he's sympathetic to the engineering perspective, but his bachelors was in economics, and he has a MBA.

My career does not define me and my views (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576192)

The suggestion that my career determines my political and social viewpoints is absolutely asinine.

Re:My career does not define me and my views (5, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576272)

Over the years of arguments, people have tried to pigeon hole and label me a Conservative, a Liberal, an NDP supporter, a Libertarian, a Socialist, a Communist, and pretty much every other label you can think of.

Anyone who tries to simplify my stance with a buzzword is trying to appease their own desire to label me so they can dismiss my arguments out of hand as "he's just a XXX". Labeling stances and assuming that support of a party means blind support of their theoretical ideologies is an insult to any citizen who actually THINKS about social issues and politics.

The idea of taking that a step further and assuming that my career choice pre-labels me as having some particular viewpoint is so far out to lunch it's unreal.

What the hell was the article writer smoking? I want some!

Party politics are a bad idea (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576352)

Because of the pigeon holing aspect, I completely disagree with the whole concept of party-based politics.

I'd like to see parties abolished completely. I want to vote DIRECTLY for the Prime Minister without the baggage of party ideology. I want to vote DIRECTLY for my Member of Parliament without worrying about whether they're going to blindly follow party dogma or represent ME in Parliament as they're supposed to.

Party politics on both sides of the border have produced nations where we are subjected to surges of ideology instead of real dialogue of the issues and useful progress as a society on those issues.

And talk about a way to neuter the lobbyists if they have to lobby every single politician individually instead of making a big party donation!

What a strawman argument (-1)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576260)

Engineering is just a job and a set of skills, not a philosophy. You will find all kinds of different people in engineering.
Next on slashdot: are scientists natural atheists or religious ?

Re:What a strawman argument (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576446)

Actually we're agnostic. It really doesn't matter if bombs explode because that's what happens when you make them a certain way or if God said that bombs explode when made a certain way... The bombs still explode and we still get our oil.

Engineers definitely like control (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576312)

After all, that's what engineering is about: taking a situation (or problem) and finding a way to bend it to do your will. They are also conservative (with a small "c") and tend to be risk-averse: not wishing to release a product until it works perfectly.

Unless they are properly managed (and who would manage the american president? The chinese? The bankers? The mob? <choose one or suggest another>) they/we also tend to design overly complex solutions. Given that lawyers have more to gain from finding loopholes, exceptions and workarounds than a lawmaker has from preventing them, laws made by engineers would be ineffective - if they ever got to the state of perfection where they got passed into law. As a consequence, I reckon that a country run by engineers left to their own devices, would soon become a dictatorship - although none of the engineers would ever wish to create one, it would just happen.

Engineers are Naturally Nothing (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576366)

Very few people actually switch political positions due to applying the intellectual tools of their job to reality. The exceptions tend to be people whose original political positions say something that flat-out contradicts what they have to believe to get their jobs done. Thus it's easy to find Conservative Christian kids who had to become less Conservative when they took a job that proved Evolution happens. But in general that's just not how the human mind works. You form your political opinions in your late teens, early 20s, and they don't change just because you get a job.

OTOH I doubt you'll find any techno-Libertarian or techno-Techncrat who switched from one to the other due to conducting an engineering study. There are probably plenty who switched because something happened outside of work that brought home either a) the value of government, or b) the drawbacks of it.

Engineers probably skew Libertarian, because the people who go into engineering school tend to be geeks and Libertarianism has an undeniable geek chic. But those folks didn't read Atlas Shrugged in their last Semester of College, they did it in the 11th Grade. They probably also skew technocratic, because the college-educated professional demographic tends to skew technocratic, and almost all of them are college-educated professionals.

there's a lot more to it than engineering (3, Interesting)

GabrielF (636907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576378)

My grandfather was an aerospace engineer and a lifelong New Deal Democrat. He grew up poor in the depression, worked in the tobacco fields when he was about 13, put himself through college by selling blood, etc. He understood that government had helped him and a lot of people of his generation to become middle class.

On the other hand I know a lot of engineers who grew up under Soviet communism and are super right-wing. They had a very bad experience with government persecution and they tend to view all government activity through the lens of restricting their rights.

I'm wired as an engineer... (0)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576404)

... but also as an economic socialist and a social conservative. Can I find libertarian in there somewhere?

Scott Adams is not an engineer. (1)

LoLobey (1932986) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576428)

Scott Adams is not an engineer, he just writes a comic about one. If I remember correctly he's trained as an economist, but once worked with engineers.

Scott Adams Is A Douche (1)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576448)

I think Dilbert's pretty funny and all, but Scott Adams is a pretentious douche. The proof is in his reddit comment history [reddit.com] . Yeah, wow.

False dichotomy (2)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576490)

The article is poorly thought out, as it is based on a false dichotomy between so called "libertarians" and "technocrats". While a libertarian advocates the idea that free will should be the founding rule of a society, which brings us concepts such as the state doing absolutely nothing to affect society, technocracy represents a system of government which is ruled by technical experts. This means that, unless this hypothetical state is a anarchist utopia, the state requires leadership, and if a state requires leadership then that leadership can very well be exerted by technical experts. Hence, you can have a libertarian technocrats, and libertarian states run by a technocratic government.

Why is this on Slashdot? (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576510)

This site is for computer programmers and systems analysts, not engineers.

Obvious (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38576512)

It is pretty obvious most engineers in the IT field are prone to control-freak technocracy. That's the very nature of the IT to control everything as tight as possible.
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