Today, a thought experiment. Suppose there is a superhero whose superpower is the ability to heal. SuperHealerMan can give any patient complete, perfect health. The catch is that SuperHealerMan can heal only one person every 24 hours.
He must decide how to use his superpower. Who should he heal? Is there any way to decide that one person deserves to be healed more than another? Is there any way to value one life over another? I would say no, but that does not solve SuperHealerMan’s problem. He can only heal 365 people per year and that is if he does not take any days off.
He could heal based on who pays the highest fee. He would soon be the world’s richest man. But let’s say he eschews the monetary option. Maybe he should only choose people who have children. Or maybe he should only choose people who have not yet had children. Or maybe he should choose only children.
This is my favorite quote about politics. It talks about power in politics but it also captures the crack-like addiction involved:
You know, power is an interesting thing. I used to think political power was going to a political dinner. And then I thought political power was helping to put on a political dinner. And then I thought political power was being invited to stay at the candidate’s hotel in a convention city. And then I used to stand in the hall outside of Sam Rayburn’s suite at the political convention, and I thought that was something. And then I got to go into the living room of the candidate’s suite, and I thought that was something. And then I found out there that the decisions were all made back in the bedroom. And finally, I was invited in the bedroom with the last eight or ten fellas, and then I knew I was on the inside until I finally learned that they stepped into the john. In the end, just me and Jimmy Carter and Hamilton Jordan made the final decision in the john.
–Bob Strauss, quoted in The Power Game: How Washington Works by Hedrick Smith
I’ve been trying to cheer myself up lately by watching video clips on David Letterman’s official website. There’s a lot of funny stuff on there. My favorites are the ones where Dave gets out in the real world, like when he works as the order taker in the drive-thru lane at McDonalds. But the following exchange makes me laugh the most no matter how many times I think about it.
In the clip, Dave sends Mark and Mike of American Movie to Comic-Con. (It’s like a science fiction convention but I guess with a comic book emphasis.) You need to know Mark and Mike to appreciate this exchange. They’re from Milwaukee and American Movie was a documentary about Mark’s dream of making a movie. Mike is his pothead friend who seems to spend most of his days in his parents’ basement.
So back to Comic-Con. Mark and Mike are standing in front of a life-size imagining of the H.G. Wells time machine. Mike is wearing the bright tie-dye t-shirt.
Mark: We’re standing in front of a time machine. [To Mike] You’re sitting in that seat where would you go?