Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Has the Federal Government Grown?

Since the Constitutional Convention that created the United States of America, the Federal Government has become far more powerful in just about every sense. The government started quite weak, with little revenue and a small administrative force. This post explains how we got to a government that reaches into most of the events of our day to day lives.

There are several limitations on Federal power. Primarily, they are: the Constitution, (especially the Bill of Rights), money, technology and manpower. No matter how badly the early Federal Government would have wanted to regulate the quality of the air, food, or water, it was impossible from a purely logistical standpoint. There wasn't nearly enough revenue to employ the people necessary to monitor or enforce the regulation, and there weren't the necessary technology to perform the tests. Additionally, there was a cultural resistance to Federal powers, one that still exists today, but it is not nearly as strong or pure.

What has changed since 1787?

First of all, there have been 17 more amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment in particular grants vast powers to the Congress. The Sixteenth Amendment created the Federal Income Tax, which provided the money necessary to enforce more sweeping powers.

Even without these Amendments, however, the Federal Government would still have far more power today than it did in 1800, thanks to the growth of Interstate Commerce. The Constitution empowers the Congress to regulate Interstate Commerce with no specific limitations on its scope. In George Washington's time, there were no American Corporations that spanned the world. Today, most of the things that go on in our economy go through an interstate company. Republicans who want to drag the United States back to 1900 (something I've seriously heard proposed), forget the way that this expansion of power is completely constitutional, not just a Federal power grab.

There has also been a cultural change in America, especially in the period from 1901-1950. It turns out that the Federal Government is the best unit to service a welfare state*. To be honest, I don't see the Constitutional justification for Social Security, but I do see its enormous benefits. Before FDR, the elderly were the worst demographic for poverty in the United States. Social Security and Medicare have done uncountable good in improving the lives of what were once our most vulnerable citizens.

The Federal Government is also the only place that we can create useful environmental regulation. Air and Water aren't limited to a single state, only Interstate authority is appropriate to regulate it. 

*It's remarkable Republicans have made "welfare" into a dirty word; the Federal Government is supposed to "promote the general welfare", it's right there in the Constitution!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

List of Game Ideas

I've had a few ideas for games that I think would be cool, but I'd never fully develop. Here they are.

A RPG where the players build modestly powerful PCs, but then roll on a list of Famous/Epic items. They could get Excalibur, the Portal Gun, etc.

An Adventure game (Think King's Quest) where every problem can be solved by a crowbar, just like in real life! This could be a mod for an existing Adventure game, or a parody game built from the ground up.

Portal 2 got me thinking about how you could make a game where any role in a machine or organization can be held by any player. If you were the "commander", you'd want the system to work well, if you were in some other function, you may intentionally sabotaging that function for some reason or other. Ideally, people would only know who the commander was, the rest of the players would be anonymously fulfilling a function to further their own ends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Portal 2 Spoiler-Free Thoughts

Portal 2 is good.

There's an interesting dynamic of up being good, and down being bad. In the original Portal, you had no sense of what the elevators did, but 2 lets you see that you are going down, and therefore things are getting worse, or vice versa.

I kept wondering who they got to steal Stephen Merchant's schtick, only to find out it was Stephen Merchant.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Valve Lies, My Trust Dies

Back during the Golden Wrench Update, Valve said that TF2 players could unlock any number of golden wrenches at any time; it was all dependent on how much crafting they did. Within a day, people had discovered that this was a lie, that the wrench drops were pre-scheduled, with only who got the wrenches determined by the time.

Now Valve is telling us we can buy a set of games, and Portal 2 will come out sooner if you play the games. I hope no one blames me if I don't rush to my credit card.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Arming Other Countries

Why does the military like arming people that aren't America?

Before 2008, the Pentagon was trying to provide enough munitions for Iraq to fight for decades. Who are they supposed to fight? Each other?

And now, there's talk of arming the Libyan rebels, people who even Geraldo Rivera thinks are unprofessional. Maybe if we stopped giving other people weapons, they wouldn't have anything to shoot at us with when they inevitably turn on us.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


When it comes to economic politics, everything that needs to be said is said by Paul Krugman.

Someone should make a song that samples from common ring tones, text message sounds, and Instant Messaging client sound effects. Everyone would be checking their phones and computer messages. There's already a song that sounds like a cell phone, I always forget what it is.

This video is a good test to see if you use Steam as a messaging client.