Today’s theme is “good news and (mostly) bad news about our species.” 

First, a neat article from the WSJ on the paradox of power: the best way for a human or other primate to rise to power is not, contrary to received wisdom, to be a jerk.  People give power to friendly, likeable people, and don’t give it to the obviously nasty people.

But once they have power, people behave badly.  They’re impulsive, sexually aggressive, rude, and less interested in rational argument. 

So the old heuristic about not giving power to people who seek it isn’t good enough.  Your selection method may be impeccable and nonetheless put a jerk in power… because power makes people jerks. 

And then, Clients from Hell, a hilarious showcase of the most excruciatingly stupid or offensive things web designers hear from their clients.  It’s not the stupidity that’s depressing so much as the fact that so many of the clients are trying to weasel out of paying the designers.  It baffles me that people will hire someone to do a service, even sign a contract, and think it’s OK not to pay them.  (Also a little worrisome in that I’ve considered trying to do freelance work.)

Finally, there’s the sad news that apparently David Mamet has declared for some form of libertarianism, on the grounds that he’s decided that people are not inherently “good at heart”.   As a reason for not being a liberal, this is mind-bogglingly dumb.  Take two seconds to think of what liberals are primarily against: fascism, plutocrats, racists, polluters.  Liberalism is all about recognizing that people, as Mamet says, “can behave like swine”.   It’s libertarianism that cheerfully denies that there could possibly be any problem when the rich are given absolute free rein.

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