Progress and Pumpkins
posted by Dave Hoffman
The great state of Delaware, which brought you most of your corporate law and some nasty traffic jams in Newark, hosts the annual Punkin Chunkin competition this weekend. The object is to throw a pumpkin (by mechanical means) as far as you can, without having the pumpkin become pie in midair. I was looking at Wikipedia’s reporting of the “competition” results, and I noticed the following trend:
Do you see what I’m seeing? Basically, the same kind of “lost decade” that we’ve seen in other fields — ranging from employment, to the 99′s% wages, to innovation in the pharmaceutical pipeline. Actually now that I think about it, if we take seriously Bainbridge’s idea that law is a “mature industry,” that curve starts to strike pretty close to home.
It’s depressing to think that after only 20 years, the technology to create an air cannon that will throw a pumpkin over a mile has already reached its apparent apogee. At this point, we might predict that rather than rewarding skill, the Punkin Chunkin competition really will turn on luck — puffs of wind, pumpkin skin viscosity, humidity, the passing pigeon’s path. Nevertheless, we’ll probably come to believe that the winners in the pumpkin chunkin competition are virtuous and the losers defective, and that the results reflect some kind of fair & stable & natural ordering. That view would be wrong.