Random SotU Thoughts

If mainstream, academic economists were as powerful as sociologists sometimes fear, the political debate right now would not be between a party that wants to freeze government spending and a party that wants to cut it.

Also, “winning the future” is really, really hokey. I am super curious to see if it flies. All I hear when I read that phrase is, “the country that gets the most victory points wins the future.”*

Last, as always, the economist has my favorite commentary:

9:30: I cannot think of a worse model for future growth than the bygone space-race which was little more than hugely wasteful technological peacocking by cold-war superpowers.

10:15: Matthew Yglesias tweets this outstanding summary of Mr Obama’s speech: “Gay soldiers will win the future by riding high speed trains to salmon farms.”

10:30: Mr Ryan is continuing the proud tradition of sounding like a stilted animatronic puppet in the SOTU-response. It’s hard to talk at a camera.

What did you all think?

*When teaching someone a new board game, I usually start with some variation on the phrase “The person who gets the most victory points wins.”



  1. My girlfriend made the point that the language of national unity is still very much cloaked in the language of competition and ‘us vs them’ (a la the space race reference). In 20 years will American movie villains be Chinese instead of Russian?

    Obama made several references to needing to improve education, by which he meant (and explicitly cited) science and math. I’m tired of the overemphasis on science and math when talking about education. I’m certainly willing to agree that these are important facets of a good education, but the emphasis on them vs the humanities and social sciences is completely out of whack. The latter are consistently devalued, evidenced most recently in the UK. It seems to be the dangerous product of a utility-based (-obsessed?) society. Indeed, “For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved'”

  2. When teaching someone a new board game, I usually start with some variation on the phrase “The person who gets the most victory points wins.”

    That’s because you’re better at teaching board games than most of their instruction booklets.

    It drives me *wild* how often they describe every detail of the play before explaining the basic objectives and other info that will let you organize what follows. I sometimes imagine dropping out of school and becoming a technical writer just. so. they. get. it. right.

    • Elizabeth,

      Thanks. We play and teach a lot of board &card games in my family, and we’ve developed a bag of tricks for doing so. That opening line (or really, the variant “The goal of the game is to get the most victory points.”) is basically a joke to us.. but it’s also the most important thing to know and it sets up the whole explanation of the rule (e.g. how to get victory points). It also distinguishes games that end and then someone wins (e.g. Ticket to Ride) from games that end when someone wins (Settlers of Catan, where “The first player to get 10 VPs wins”).

      All of this has very little to do with “winning the future” except to say that if we were to turn it into the board game, it’s not at all clear how you would score VPs (except, I guess, by making sure China doesn’t?).

      • Yeah, I get the joke, and I should’ve said, I find it very funny in the context of the SOTU.

        That night, I told my roommate, “Obama wants you to win the future.” She gave me the look that such a sentence deserves.