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You may have noticed that the blogroll link to Thomas Sowell has been broken for a long time - which implies that I haven't read him for a long time. Both were greivous errors that have now been rectified.

When I used to work for Domino's Pizza, one of my best friends was a store manager at a different store. Among the responsibilities of a manager, which are legion, is the requirement to keep the place clean. He was good at it, the job as a whole, that is, but one thing his area supervisor was always riding his back about was a few spots of dried pizza sauce that were always on the wall behind the line where the pizzas were made. No matter how good a job he did cleaning the place, at keeping labor and food costs in line, at providing great customer service, at keeping the supplies stocked and the employees happy, these few small spots would always remain.

I remember he had this almost Zen-like idea that those spots symbolized something. Anyone who manages that kind of establishment, especially one in which the duties are defined externally, knows that there are more duties required of a manager than he could ever fulfill, and that if he tries to fulfill all of them to the letter, few or none of them will be done right.

All abstractions leak. Or, any theory capable of expressing elementary [principles] cannot be both consistent and complete. Or, reality is an integrated whole; any identification of reality is a selected subset with something left out.

This sauce on the wall represented the leak in the abstraction of what a manager's job is. He could do everything else required of him, but he could not clean that sauce. It was almost as if cleaning it would undermine the entire edifice, make it all fall apart, and he'd be unable to get anything else done.

Sometimes, if that leak is the one that has to be there, then plugging it undermines the value of the abstraction and renders useless the set of principles defined by that abstraction.

Was that blogroll link to Sowell my leak? I don't see how it could have been. On the other hand, it was a trivial thing to do - it took 30 seconds once I decided to do it - yet I had seemed to be subconsciously averse to fixing it until now. At the same time, I've felt a fundamental shift in how I approach philosophy and politics. Maybe my old abstractions are no longer useful, and there's no reason not to finally clean the sauce off that wall.


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