I would like to thank everyone for the invitation to contribute, although the very libertarian tone of some of the posts makes me feel a trifle out of place.
First, an introduction:
I was born to a British soldier and his German wife, gaining the English sense of humour and the German ability to organize (and not being forced to eat English cooking). I spent my formative years moving around England, Wales, Germany and Cyprus, until I moved to the mid-Western US in 1978. I have stayed here ever since, working in higher education as a teacher and scientist, and recently in administration. I did not become a US citizen until 2009, because of the deep loyalty that I felt to the country of my birth.
In terms of the topics discussed here, I am a firm believer that most of what enlightened Western governments try to do is the right things. Those that are done very well for the good of society, such as scientific research, appear to happen not due to the structure that promotes them, but in spite of that.
My observation is that much of our social and economic mess is an obvious consequence of the kind of people that rise to management and political power. They are the ‘B Ark’ folks of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, who impede every new venture because of the constant fear that they might do the wrong thing. I wouldn’t trust most of them to change a toilet-paper roll. They share the supreme confidence which comes with complete ignorance, which enables them to ‘organize’ people with real talent.