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not very clay-related--re: standards for functional potters]

updated mon 3 jul 00


Ray Aldridge on sun 2 jul 00

At 11:21 PM 7/1/00 EDT, you wrote:
>Warning: rantlike musing on freedom and pottery
>> It's my belief that true civilization can only exist when the liberties of
>> the individual are sacrosanct.
>But freedom, unbalanced by resposibility, leads to irrational disorder,
> I don't care for chaos, myself. That is almost what we have now
>with regard to standards. Freedom has little value in and of itself.

What? It is only because you are relatively free to act as you choose that
you are allowed to make pots at all. Do you think the commissars of
productivity would ever consider part-time potting to be in the best
interest of the state? You'd be plucking chickens or scraping hogs. So
would I. Neither of us appear to be the sort of political animals who'd be
able to get a job in the commissariat.

>Randomness is the absolute extreme of freedom.

You are making a sterile argument, and a very old one-- that freedom leads
to chaos. This is an easily disproven notion. When we first came down
from the trees, we were completely free. If freedom leads to chaos, then
we would not have organized into progressively civilized societies-- the
reverse would have occurred. But in reality, we *did* organize ourselves
into units of voluntary cooperation, which is what happens when people are
given the freedom to do so. When they are *coerced* for their own good
into units of cooperation, as in the Soviet collective farms, the result is
always disastrous.

Sometimes it is beautiful,
>mostly it is chaotic and not beautiful. The responsibility, unfortunately,
>frequently has to come from outside the individual, ie the state, due to the
>inherent unwillingness to give up freedom for order. The perfect system
>somehow balance our freedom with responsibility appropriate to the
>circumstances of each case in question.

Government is useful, of course. We need laws to protect the responsible
majority from the predators among us, and to provide a way for individuals
to resolve disputes without violence. But in America, we've begun to take
this legitimate function to horrific extremes. A greater percentage of our
citizens are in prison than any other nation on earth-- ten times the
average rate of incarceration of other industrialized nations. Something
is seriously wrong here.

>In America at least, we are working on it. The laws are coming regarding the
>sales of pottery and liability of the potters for damage (like in japan-my
>gallery guy with the scratchy footed leaking pots, will be one of the first
>bankrupted by this). Just make sure you are involved in the lawmaking! Keep
>it rational, but don't rely on individuals to self-regulate. They won't.

This is a profoundly pessimistic view, in my opinion. You seem to be
making no distinction between freedom and lawlessness. Really, they are
not at all the same thing.

>know this because we have tried it historically, and it never worked (think
>Ghenghis Khan, attilla, hordes, mobs, LA riots).

You are making generalizations based on violent aberrations-- rarely a
useful exercise. Is there a riot every day where you live? How often do
the Mongol hordes descend on you? I think this is just plain wrong, since
every example you cite has to do with a lack of freedom rather than an
excess. Genghis wasn't exactly a libertarian leader, and any Mongol who
might have wanted to opt out of the raping and pillaging would have been
given short shrift. The LA riots occurred because the dwellers in South
Central perceived police power as unlimited by civilized law. (I'm not
excusing the rioters, by the way, even if I think they're right about the
LAPD. The rioters demonstrated their own vicious lawlessness, which
strengthened the police position that any means, however brutal, were
justified.) Most of us cooperate voluntarily with our neighbors to make
life better for all, and this is the historic reality-- this is why we are
not still living in caves and picking each others' fleas. What has
historically "never worked" is government attempts to replace these
voluntary social accomodations with coercive policies. The "war on
poverty" has made matters much worse. The "war on drugs" has been a
terrible disaster. A "war on dangerous pottery" would put an awful lot of
potters out of business, whether or not they made dangerous pottery. It's
already a marginal business. The burden of close regulation would drive
most of us across the line into unprofitability.

The mechanisms are already in place for redress of consumer complaints
about pottery. Nothing presently prevents a customer from suing you
because she put a casserole full of boiling soup on the stove top burner,
it split and gave Fluffy the dog third-degree burns. The government
solution to this tragedy would be to mandate that all pottery offered for
sale be flameproof. Can you handle the special technical demands of making
flameware? No? Then no pottery making for you. Or me. A very fine
potter I did a couple of shows with back in the 70s, made flameware for a
while. He's not doing it any more, because it was so technically demanding
that he could not guarantee his customers that his pots would all survive
usage over a burner. Most of them did for a while. Not good enough.

>Potters are just people in the end. I think we are better people for having
>potted, but we are still free individuals running amuck. Better that we
>and regulate ourselves with some standards before somebody does it for us.
>And better coming from us than consumers via lawyers.
>Oh but wait this would involve organization and that limits freedom and we
>can't have that now can we?

Your premise is incorrect-- organization in no way limits freedom, if that
organization is voluntary. In fact, the ability to organize, to
voluntarily join together for some purpose, is one of the most basic of all
freedoms. When a tyranny takes power, that is always one of the first
freedoms to be declared inimical to the state, and brutally stamped out.
Can't have organized people resisting the state's plans for making the
trains run on time.

>"freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose..."

Until you lose your freedom too. Then it seems inexpressibly sweet. Bobby
McGee in the gulag is a much more depressing image than Bobby McGee
hitching rides down the freeway.


Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware

CNW on sun 2 jul 00

Ray--- Thank you for your very excellent post.
I won't snip and enclose because it should be read in its entirety.

I started to reply to Elizabeth's post but I kinda figured you'd write and
do a better job.

I agree that people should be responsible but unfortunately you cannot
legislate responsibility. It just doesn't work. It's tiresome and the only
ones that obey the laws are the ones that aren't the problem.

It just takes one time of a child getting suspended for a butter knife
(after asking the teacher if it was okay to use it) for people to realize
that laws are no magic wand.

The best rules come from within the individual, not from the government. The
only way to instill those kinds of inner "rules" are by example.

No one needs more rules policed by however well meaning people that have no
real understanding--just words on paper that they unthinkingly follow. Been
on the recieving end of rules applied by the unimaginative.

However, if I were going to make rules it would be against allowing concrete
thinkers to do anything more than factory work. (just joking--mostly)

Oops--I guess I just replied anyway.

Thanks again Ray.

Celia in NC