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  • Let’s See Alcuin of York Figure This One Out

    Posted by Shannon Love on May 27th, 2009 (All posts by )


    It’s a sad fact of life that if you don’t drink much you end up as the designated driver for those who do. On the plus side, as the cartoon elucidates with the traditional logic puzzle, taking care of the inebriated presents some interesting intellectual challenges. 

    I worked all through college and on weekends during my sophomore year. I had to get up at 6:00 AM to go to work bussing tables at a restaurant. This meant I didn’t party on weekends. This also meant that only the Mormon guy, the Southern Baptist residential assistant and myself were sober at 2:00 AM on a Saturday, so we got stuck hauling the drunks in off the lawn and tucking them into bed in such a way as they wouldn’t aspirate their own vomit. (This was in addition to the joys of being awakened by a never ending series of boisterous but still ambulatory revelers.) 

    I can’t help but feel that the teetotalers’ taking care of the drunks extends to most areas of life.

    The responsible and the self-denying always seem to have to sacrifice for the good of the irresponsible and self-indulgent. Whether we talk about work, mortgages, credit cards, parenthood, recreational drugs, automotive insurance, immigration, etc., the central political dynamic seems to boil down to the responsible bailing out the irresponsible. Politicians cast the irresponsible as hapless victims of fate and the responsible as selfish individuals who don’t want to help out their fellow human beings. 

    The political problem with the systematically irresponsible is that each one of them has the same vote as a responsible person. Irresponsible people don’t suddenly turn responsible when they enter the voting booth. If they make others clean up their messes in their personal life, they will vote to force others to clean up their messes in the political sphere as well. The irresponsible can offload the consequences of their dysfunctional behaviors onto the responsible with a pull of a ballot lever. 

    I think the only way to escape this dynamic is to severe the ability of the irresponsible to parasitize the responsible through state coercion. If people have to pay for the consequences of their own actions most will act more responsibly. 

    I’m not holding my breath for such a solution because implementing it requires that the irresponsible use their votes to cut the responsible loose. The irresponsible are unlikely to do so because, well, they’re irresponsible.  

    *Sigh* We just have to hope we don’t get stuck with the designated driver’s version of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem


    9 Responses to “Let’s See Alcuin of York Figure This One Out”

    1. John Jay Says:

      My thesis advisor used to distill this phenomenon into the saying “let no good deed go unpunished”.

      Realizing that the phenomenon was not fair didn’t stop him from piling instrument maintenance responsibilities on the people who demonstrated that they were capable in that area, while not entrusting any such duties to those who regularly broke stuff, though.

    2. jimbino Says:

      When I think of “designated driver” I think of the one true value of our usually obnoxious Baptists and Methodists here in Texas. If it weren’t for needing a “designated driver,” nobody with any sense would ever befriend the meddling bastards.

    3. Shannon Love Says:


      When I think of “designated driver” I think of the one true value of our usually obnoxious Baptists and Methodists here in Texas

      Well, I’ve long come to the conclusion that ideological diversity or diversity of behavior in a society is every bit as important as genetic diversity in a species. In both cases, it lets the population recover if one segment of the population proves vulnerable to some change in the environment. Had AIDS proved as communicable in America as it did in Africa then we would have tens of millions of people dead and only the religious would have remained untouched. I suspect a similar dynamic maybe unfolding in slow motion with family structure, drug use and narcissism.

      If it weren’t for needing a “designated driver,” nobody with any sense would ever befriend the meddling bastards.

      They don’t meddle anymore than anyone else. Unless someone is a libertarian they believe in imposing their values on other via the violent power of the state. The left has merely preformed a prestidigitation of perception in which people concerned about the broader consequences of individual choices in pleasure seeking behavior are considered “meddlers” while those who seek to interfere in all other matters are considered as virtuously concerned for the common good.

      We make political choices because of what we value. If we chose to make the state force anyone else to do something, we are imposing our values on that person. It doesn’t matter what part of life that value concerns, violent coercion is still violent coercion.

    4. Laura(southernxyl) Says:

      “so we got stuck hauling the drunks in off the lawn”

      If it had been me, I’d have let them wake up with grass in their teeth.

    5. K.J. Webb Says:

      We hear a lot about joyless workaholics and grinds. But the dirty little secret is that self-discipline and good work habits are the bedrock on which a happy life is built. Starting out poor and feeling the urgency of battling out of it helps too. I had a paper route through jr. high and high school, and also worked all through college. I sometimes felt sorry for myself, I confess, imagining all the fun I must be missing out on and indeed did miss out on. But I think now that that early experience of work and discipline and fear of the consequences of failure was just about the best thing that could have happened to me. It sounds grim to put it that way, but life is in part grim in its essence and in part a matter of battling through the grimness to find the sweetness. Undoubtedly there are lots of formulas for happiness, but this particular one, which was standard and unremarkable in an earlier America but now almost forgotten, could stand to be revived. Maybe what this country needs is a good depression.

    6. Ginny Says:

      Yes, Hard America, in the end, probably has more fun. There are advantages, for instance, in remembering the fun.

    7. tomw Says:

      We don’t need a designated driver. We need someone sober to stagger out to their car, fumble the keys into the lock, barely open the door, fall into the drivers seat, sit there for a while warming up the engine. Then drive off slowly in one direction.
      When pulled over by the ever-watchful officer of the law, and questioned on drinks consumed, answer truthfully.
      While this is going on, all the other patrons drive off in the other direction.
      It is called a designated decoy…

      No, I neither advocate nor practice such.

    8. ArtD0dger Says:

      Good thesis, but not such a good example IMO. Many people, such as the very old, the very young, and many handicapped people are also dependent on designated drivers due to no irresponsibility on their part.

      Many other forms of transportation do not require such exacting cognitive abilities on the part of their users. In the not-too-distant future, I’m hoping that self-guided automobiles will cut the Gordian knot.

    9. Tatyana Says:

      John Jay: we’ve all been in that laboratory. Кто везёт, на того и грузят. There is only one practical solution: display protective colors, stop looking like the responsible one. We are in socialistic double-moral territory now.

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