Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Learn the true meaning of the political “F-Word”

Put aside distractions: Spicer, Priebus, the Mooch.... It's Steve Bannon who has drawn concerned attention lately from those seeking signs and portents. For example, Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist reads a lot and styles himself a supreme intellect. In this exploration of Bannon’s favorite books, you’ll find plenty to worry about, such as his cult-obsession with a coming apocalypse-like crisis foretold by inevitable “cycles of history.” (I'll append more about his favorite authors, below.)

Elsewhere, I’ve written about this fellow’s obsession to give Trump, Putin, the Ayatollahs and Saudis the one thing that they most want in common, a U.S. war against Iran. (And in today's news, ever-more risky encounters between US Navy ships and Republican Guard vessels in a waterway we no longer need to defend or care much about. Can anyone spell T-O-N-K-I-N?)

Oh, but folks will clutch at hope. Might the crazy be limited? For example, people ask if I am shocked (shocked!) that Dark Lord of the West Wing floated a trial balloon proposal to raise taxes on the rich, to a 44% top rate on incomes above $5 million.

Shocked? Um, not. Let me remind you that Steve Bannon is not a member of the plutocracy that has long owned the Republican Party, controlling its policies through lickspittle politicians, pulpit pounders and mouthpiece shills like George F. Will.

Yes, for decades that oligarchy had its way, feeding lip service to social conservatives on issues like racism, xenophobia, abortion, religious litmus tests and so on, without ever delivering on any of those hot-air promises, least of all doing anything for lower middle class (LOMIC) whites, economically. GOP Congresses have been by far the laziest in the republic's history, concentrating only on legislation that benefits the oligarchy.

That hasn't mattered, till recently. By Fox-steering populism into a confederate know-nothing cult, those cynical manipulators were able to turn LOMICs against other elites — the smartypants know-it-alls and fact-using professions like scientists, teachers, journalists and now FBI, Intel and military officers …  much as 1860s plantation lords got poor, white Southerners to march against their own best interests. 

Distraction-distraction; they thought it would work forever. Alas, those lords are ignoramuses, when it comes to history. Take what eventually happened to those slave-owning plantation lords. Or French aristocrats, when the populist masses got fed up. 

A more frighteningly germane example is the Junkers-caste 1930s Prussian nobles, who thought they could control a populist beast they helped stir into hydrophobic frenzy. They subsidized and riled up Nazi fever as a weapon against communists, only to see gifted Robspierres leap into the saddle of their frothing horse, sending it charging in directions that brought their own ruin.

Enough context; how does Steve Bannon fit into all this? Despite his stint at Goldman-Sachs — a job requirement in the Trump Administration — Bannon has never been a plutocrat. He is a fascist. 

The genuine article. Not any of the ersatz things that silly-cursing-ignorant lefties call by that name, but in the dictionary sense of the word — romantic-nostalgic, utterly dedicated to symbolic and ritualistic purity, terrified of complexity and even the thought of positive-sum, hostile to expertise, obsessed with fore-ordained destiny and cyclical “history,” thrilled by regimentation of a sacred, uniform, race-centered 'nation' and convinced of the sub-humanity of any opponent. That is what the political F-word actually means.  

Bannon's heroes, like Julius Evola and Mussolini and Vladimir Putin, have been icons of this pattern. And, while fascists go easier on plutocrats than communists do (witness Putin’s oligarch mafiosi), the rich had better toe the line, and surrender however much lucre the populist movement demands. Only those Junkers and German industrialists who clicked heels to the swastika got to keep their estates - and heads - under the Nazis.

Now, the key question: how much is our time like 1934? Short of a Reichstag Fire, I don’t see Bannon’s LOMIC white populists and fundie-dominionists and true-fascists being able to overwhelm the plutocrat GOP-owners quite yet. Yes, the firing of Reince Priebus certainly is a step in that direction. But mainline, old-money pols like Lindsey Graham have already drawn lines in the sand. This is our party, say the plutos and their shills, we paid good money for it.

No, the brown-shirted GOP wing daren’t stage their Reichstag fire, their Gleiwitz or Tonkin Incident, until first they’ve purged the FBI, intel agencies and officer corps of brave adults.  Till then, lobotomized lords — like the Kochs and Murdochs — will remain ‘in control’ of the Republican Party.  And till then, Bannon’s tax hike trial balloons will be made of lead.

But he’s biding his time. And unlike the Kochs and Murdochs, Steve Bannon actually knows some history. He has studied what errors were made by his heroes — Robspierre, Rasputin, Lenin, Evola, Mussolini, Röhm, Goebbels, Borman, Stalin and the rest.  This time, meticulously, he intends to get it right.

==  What's on his book shelf? ==

See Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency, by Joshua Green. For those of you who have the stomach to dive into this noxiously recurring world view - Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World (1927) and Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World (1934) are what drew Bannon’s interest to Traditionalism, both of whom were certainly influenced by Oswald Spengler’s 1922 The Decline of the West. All eagerly forecast the imminent shattering of a western enlightenment that - disappointingly - never collapsed. Instead, our pragmatic-scientific-mongrel renaissance proved rather more resilient, dynamic and creative than they expected, skyrocketing into a Golden Age. 

But addicts will get their fix. Continuing this baleful-gleeful gloomcasting in the 1950s was émigré philosopher Leo Strauss, who taught the Bush era neocons like Wolfowitz and Kristol how to get absolutely every single thing completely wrong, often with pinpoint precision. Strauss is on Bannon's shelf, along with Allan Bloom, whose 1987 The Closing of The American Mind made him guru of those pouring hate at American universities, our one zone of overwhelming superiority in a fast-changing world. Also glimpsed there are the stunningly delusional works of David Gelernter, who would have been Donald Trump's 'Science Advisor,' if the confederate leader ever appointed one. (He hasn't, and for good reason: even Gelernter would occasionally have uttered the forbidden words "that's not exactly true, sir.") 

Sure, all these mesmerizing tomes on Steve's shelf proved not only wrong, but diametrically wrong in every way. But that never-true contradiction of all fact raises no qualms. Nor does relentless scholarly disproof of Bannon's favorite modern tome, Strauss & Howe's absurd but captivating exercise in pattern-seeking The Fourth Turning. But that's how cults work. It's not fact that matters, it is how the incantation makes you feel! If facts inconveniently contradict feeling, then that only makes fact-users the enemy.

== Scandals?  We got scandals. ==

Connect the dots to see what all the parties to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Junior have in common. Scan who was there and what they’ve been up to, for decades, and your blood will run cold.  Oh, they all say they were there (and had other meetings) to discuss “adoptions.” And POTUS said that was the content of his long, unannounced meeting with Putin – without any U.S. government officials present. “Adoptions.” Read here what the word “adoptions” is code for.

But the thing I find most shocking is how utterly amateur their spycraft was. Seriously? This is how you arrange secret meetings? Either these are morons… or their putsch to undermine the West is so far along that they feel confident enough to get sloppy.  (ASIDE: An experienced former 30 year US counter-intelligence expert asserts that “the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered.”)

Oh, but now Fox is shrilly calling the Clintons “Russian Stooges” for having done some paid speeches. Um, it ain’t the pay, guys, it’s the favors. Trump just ended U.S. support for the moderate rebels against Putin’s pal Assad.  “Adoptions” is code for ending U.S. sanctions against Russia’s elites for annexation of Crimea and the Donbass.

As for Hillary and Barack?  They were Enemies Number One and Two to Putin, who openly raged against them.  Clinton and Obama gave Russian hegemonism its worst setback since the fall of the USSR, when we supported the people of Ukraine chasing out their KGB-puppet president and turning to the west.  Putin and the Moscow press directly credit HC and BHO with that. Directly, and they declared vengeance.

Tell us, oh, Fox. How do you explain away that? Oh, you don’t have to. Your viewers do not care about verifiable “facts.”

== Halloween will be political!  And Snippets ==

Wardrobe decisions for Halloween: It’s not too soon to use your contacts to affect what we'll all be wearing, October 31. Let some novelty company know to produce millions of blue, civil war Union kepi hats. All right, I was premature, earlier years, but now? Wanna bet you’ll want one, in just 3 months?  Get those orders in.  Or find me an order site and I’ll publicize!

And just in time… a new parallel world sci fi show called “Confederate” seems a timely, provocative riff on our re-ignited American Civil War.  “The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”  I'll comment more on this, later.

Jim Wright's Stonekettle Station blog is always entertaining, on-target, lively and interesting. This born-rural military vet eviscerates the hijackers of American conservatism, especially those hand wringers who claim to be shocked by Donald Trump's antics. Drop in now and then! But today's missive is especially biting.

Trump marginalizes experts, debases expertise -- from The Washington Post.

To any Ayn Rand literates here, was there any significance that the lately lamented White House communications director - a veteran of Goldman Sachs - was named "Mooch"?

Oooog.  Enough, already.  Can I wake up now? I swear off whatever hooch I drank, to give me these DTs.

212 comments:

1 – 200 of 212   Newer›   Newest»
Unknown said...

Hmmm, it must have been Jack Daniels, check the garbage pail for the empty bottle.

Paul SB said...

Fascism makes good financial sense if you happen to be one of the billionaires running the show. The last words of that article on what "adoption" is code for:

"... the backgrounds of the participants in the Don Jr. meeting speak to a larger question that's in fact quite relevant to the United States at this particular moment: Whether millionaires and billionaires here and abroad have the right to do whatever they want without answering to anyone."

As far as most Republicans are concerned, this is the natural order of things. Human worth is measured in monetary terms, which stand for the genetic and/or religious superiority of those who have been divinely rewarded with wealth. The rest of us can go to Hell because we aren't smart like Trump is ("smart" being code for dishonest). After all, he's the one doing the firing ...

David Brin said...

Sorry PaulSB but fascism is a nightmare to the rich. It is a populist movement that allows aristocracy and encourages it, but can at any moment purge your clan for the good of the Great Nation.

ElitistB said...

Fascism is a populist movement ... sorta. It is populist in that it is an appeal to "ordinary" people. But in these days when you control what those "ordinary" people want, I'm curious as to whether that label fully applies?

It is a nightmare to the rich, yes. But only if you aren't already on board and/or the one pulling the strings. A double edged sword, certainly. But lots of super rich are not very good at looking at long term trends. Otherwise they might be a bit more benevolent in their tyranny.

donzelion said...

Hmmm...Dr. Brin sees Bannon as a 'true fascist.' I see him as a Mercer stooge, all part of the Game of Thrones played by the Mercer-Walton-Murdoch-Koch-Adelson-etc. quasi-dynastic struggles for control that shape the real Republican party.

In a 'Game of Thrones' era, we conceive of power struggles among insider dynasties as open, brutal, bloody - and occasionally, they may become so. But most of the time, they're fighting over who gets 55% v. 45% of whatever profits they're conceiving. When the profits are driven by a mix of advance positioning and policy manipulation, keeping outsiders from learning the scam requires parading an endless number of 'enemies' to distract the most agitated folks. Meanwhile, an executive that is supposed to do something must likewise be distracted from effective action by more pressing priorities.

1930s Junkers made their spectacular blunder based on a number of recent memories (loss of a major war, hyperinflation) and current realities (Great Depression) - factors absent today. War with Iran follows a 19th century British imperialist formula (war - and the threat of war - is exceptionally useful for insiders), not a fascist concept of conquest.

Trump is vile the way James Buchanan was vile, or more directly, that other 'great deal-maker' of the 19th century, Martin Van Buren. Challenging him will require mustering the sorts of 19th century solutions that similarly removed that sort of logic, which had institutionally dominated power in America.

DougM said...

There's an alternative alternate history series coming from Amazon, written by Will Packer and Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks).

http://deadline.com/2017/08/black-america-amazon-alt-history-drama-will-packer-aaron-mcgruder-envisions-post-reparations-america-1202139504/amp/

David Brin said...

The internet goes wild and… Okay,Snopes says this is for real. I mean, there it is, a scanned document. “The book, "Baron Trump's Marvelous Underground Journey", by Ingersoll Lockwood, came out in 1893. It's about a boy named Baron Trump who can time travel. His next book was called "The Last President", of which the president had a cabinet member named Pence. The entire text of both books is posted below.”
https://archive.org/stream/ barontrumpsmarve00lock#page/ n5/mode/1up
https://archive.org/details/ 1900orlastpresid00lock
http://www.snopes.com/baron-trumps-marvelous-underground-journey/

Now calm down all you fantasy maniacs. Isn’t it likely that Donald Trump would have known of this book, and then later have named his son after it? No need for time travel, dudes. Heck, one is more impressed with the episode of a 1950s cowboy series called Trackdown, is about a conman named Walter Trump who convinces the townsfolk that the world will end—unless they build a big wall around the village. https://unicornbooty.com/1950s-tv-western-predict-trump-presidency/

In fact, the other book – “The Last President” – is a little polemical tract attacking the real Democratic candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan and the Free Silver movement, prophesying what would happen if they took power. While I am no fan of Bryan – the famed prosecutor in the infamous Scope Monkey Trial (played by Frederick March in Inherit the Wind) – the other side was even worse, as evidenced by Lockwood’s turgid tirade screed. It has zero overlap with Donald Trump, that I can see.

David Brin said...

donzelion I see no ways that Bannon serves as a reliable stooge for that gang of silly billionaires. He expresses contempt for them and while he shares with them paramount enemies -- all fact-using castes -- he does not put their interests first. You must be thinking of Fox.

Treebeard said...

Liberal civilization has one great enemy: the intelligent, idealistic, strong-willed, non-elite Western man, who for whatever reason doesn't find spiritual satisfaction in the materialism, PC, atomized individualism, bourgeois bohemianism or progressive mythology he grew up with, so he seeks something else to feed his soul. He can't always articulate what is missing from his life, or what it is that he feels pressing down on him, trying to crush his soul and corrupt his world, but he sees its effects all around him. Eventually, he may stumble upon someone like Julius Evola who articulates it in a profound and inspiring way, and he becomes a warrior in a state of inner revolt against the values of his age.

Something similar happens in other parts of the world, for example the Arab youth who heeds the call of jihad, or the Russian, Chinese, Israeli, Indian or Turk who feels inspired by the return of his ancient heritage, until there is the appearance of a worldwide "fascist" revival. But really it's just men throughout the world tuning out the noise and listening to a timeless call that the architects of the liberal age have worked hard to try to drown out: the call to be part of something greater, more manly, more inspiring and more deeply-rooted than anything being offered by the trash-merchants and subversives of neoliberal civilization. And the harder they work to shout it down, the more attractive the call becomes.

This is really Traditionalism more than fascism: a spiritual movement first and foremost, and a reaction to the bankruptcy of an age ruled by merchants and rationalists. I doubt Bannon is in this category, but maybe his Catholic heritage and experience as a merchant has left him hungry for something more. At the very least he is an avatar of the times – which is, imo, not the end of history but the beginning of the post-liberal age and a return to something closer to normalcy.

David Brin said...

Treebeard is trying and I sense the sincerity and pain. Yet there are so many dismal ironies.

" intelligent, idealistic, strong-willed, non-elite Western man,"

Nope, not in even one of those categories. The intelligent, idealistic, strong-willed, non-elite Western men take part in our competitive arenas, deliver creative or honest goods and services and innovations and do well, and thus understand what is unique and different today. The genuine intelligent, idealistic, strong-willed, non-elite Western man generally succeeds at something, and knows deep down that the lords and priests and other cheaters of times past would have stymied him in 99% of other eras.

That fairness and opportunity is the very thing that cheaters, lords and priests rail against, because open-flat-fair competition in open-fair arenas is what they hate. And besides, fairness is the greatest idealistic goal, beside from its spectacular effects on productivity.

No sir, you are looking at the un-intelligent, un-idealistic, weak-willed, non-elite anti-Western troglodytes, who generally have failed to compete well in the fairest of circumstances. (Note that I kept "non-elite.") They are encouraged to rail and bitch and whine that they WOULD have done well... in any situation that was LESS fair. Deep inside, the rationale is "yes, cheaters would thrive under the old ways... but wouldn't *I* get to be one of the cheaters? Fairness sucks!"

No, oh poor kibble-man. You whine, but you also count on the kindness and fairness. Under which you get to bite the hand that feeds you, knowing you'll never get slapped down. Because we're fair.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "I see no ways that Bannon serves as a reliable stooge for that gang of silly billionaires."

Neither did I, until November 2016. Now, I think I get it. Bannon is ultimately a creature of the circus, and it turns out that circuses can be quite powerful.

Or, as Treebeard put it - "[Bannon] is an avatar of the times – which is, imo, not the end of history but the beginning of the post-liberal age and a return to something closer to normalcy."

Except he misses the implication: historically, 'normal' = 'oligarchy.' In the liberal age, a man could be what he made himself, as could a society. In the 'post-liberal' age, it is the servants who most viciously apply the whip who simultaneously clamor for 'freedom' - the stooges calling for tea parties long to revive the Teapot Dome (and lack more far-reaching ambitions).

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

Uh oh. We agree on something. Quick! Find the fire extinguisher! 8)

I DO recognize the mass of engineering tools and knowledge, but there is a really good case AGAINST capital (especially human capital) mattering in the great enrichment. The argument against human capital relates to education levels of the common man and it actually fails in the last third of the 20th century. It matters now, but not at the start. The argument against capital (your engineering tools count) is that it is the effect of some other cause and the return rate on capital isn’t even close to the rate of ‘real’ income growth that caused the enrichment. It matters, but not enough to explain history.

McCloskey’s second book of the three volume ‘Bourgeois’ set makes hash of every suggested explanation for the enrichment... except one. The only suggestion left standing at the end of the arena match is the one that says a social change happened. Her third book deals with what she thinks the change was. It’s not about individuals and what we have. It’s about how individuals relate to each other and it required two changes to happen at the same time.

Jumper,

I left out a lot of stuff, but I agree with you. I left it out because it’s hard to know where to stop. It’s stuff like that, though, that gives me trouble accepting a limits-to-growth argument or even a carry-capacity concept. We keep changing and much of it occurs well out of sight of historians. What are the big changes that matter? Who knows? I’m not sure we can know without tracking all of us. Even then it might take a Vingean Transcendent to figure it out.

Locumranch,

David isn’t defining history in terms of any particular utopia. He perceives trends, drawing analogies, and is not confusing them with any of the standard utopias. (Star Trek TNG isn’t a utopia.)

I get that you disagree with his analogies and perceptions, but I actually think David is being a tad conservative in his estimates of where this all goes… at least in where he SAYS this all goes. We won’t wind up with utopia, but that is because we won’t ‘wind up’ in any way. We are becoming tomorrow something we weren’t yesterday. What that is can be debated, but it won’t be recognizable. I’m not talking about mystical Singularity, though. Just ask yourself how far back you’d have to go, assuming you had a time machine, before every reasonable person on Earth thought you were a god. THAT is where we are going.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | You can be any egg you like as long as it has some value beyond throwing it at political opponents. 8)

You are also very welcome to change careers. I’ve done it twice so far and tried a third time. I wouldn’t fret much about remembering all those students, though. I’ve never met a teacher who could for very long. Remember Dunbar's number. You ARE human, right?

The main thing to remember about the eggs, though, is that it is quite possible to be a goose. Many teachers are.

David Brin said...

What Alfred just said.

Key to all of this is diversity. Note that locum and treeb keep trying to hurl at us a core accusation that they know would sting, if there were any truth to it... that we are trying to impose some kind of compulsory uniformity, conformity, obedience, and rigidity.

No, that was the aim of all their "traditionalist lords and priests. To us, that would be abhorrent, even if the conformist society were touchy-feely, eco-successful, color-blind and zipping about the planets. That's the point of the (actually quite silly) warning novel THE GIVER. And Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum." And if that is Liberal Utopia, then count me in on the revolution.

The trait of our liberal renaissance that I respect and revere most is not even freedom or the fecund competitive markets, but the thing they enable... the diversity that makes for a wide stance, so that inevitable human delusions don't lead us to invest all our eggs into ANY particular "basket" -- ideology, plan, technology. Any one approach, no matter how brilliant, will inevitably have setbacks and mistakes and failures and hence should have critics. That is exactly how positive sum systems work.

I do not expect them to grok any of what I just wrote. Their traditionalist approach would not only end freedom and opportunity and competition and our vast productivity and science, it would implement the very uniformity that they accuse us of advocating. They accuse us of it because their zero-sum minds cannot conceive of positive sum people wanting something else.

But we do. We want locum and the ent around because we find diversity INTERESTING! And would -- (especially in light of human history) -- any same person.

Jumper said...

Treebeard is right to ponder the similarity between ISIL recruits and our own civilization's discontented nihilists. The same disease presented not too differently except in real brutality, at present.

.......................

As far as fascism and plutocrats, Alfried Krupp did quite well throughout, until Hitler was gone.

.......................

Alfred, I suspect we humans can avoid the worst of resource depletion, that is, collapse and famine could be much worse than I have reason to hope they might. If you destroy the biosphere, decimate species, ruin all wild spaces, end solitude and quiet.

If your goal is to keep increasing the population as the lazy way to growth, all those things will be even worse.

Daniel Duffy said...

"traditionalist lords and priests"

Dr. Brin, I believe that the term you are looking for is "Hydraulic despotism - a social or government structure which maintains power and control through exclusive control over access to a liquid that the population is dependent on for life.”

But I remain optimistic that technology will prevent your nightmare scenario from happening.

Originally hydraulic despotism meant water.

The real power of the god-kings that ruled mankind's first civilizations wasn't chariot armies or priests performing sacrifices in temples or building pyramids. It was their control of the construction and operation of complex systems of irrigation and flood control that made life possible for large numbers of people in river valleys from the Nile, to Mesopotamia, to the Indus, to the Yangtze. The principle was applied with other engineering structures such as the qanats of Persia, the aqueducts of Rome, the floating farms (chinampas) of the Aztecs, and the terraced farms built by the Inca's to collect run-off from the slopes of the Andes.

The central government ruled by the god-kings could organize the labor (draft peasants, serfs and slaves) and assign the resources (aka tax the peasants) to make these systems possible. Living standards actually improved and populations exploded (compared to adjacent hunter-gather tribes) which increased the wealth and power of the god-kings further while making their subjects utterly dependent on their hydraulic systems to stay alive. The nobility provided military leadership and controlled financial wealth, while the priests kept the people docile and unquestioning by glorifying the god-kings.

This theocratic feudalism is mankind's natural default governmental and social state. It's basically no different than a troop of baboons led by an alpha male and his entourage. Socially we are just like any other primate, which makes real democracy very difficult for our species to establish and maintain. Democracy is unnatural and requires constant effort and vigilance to ensure its survival.

Fast forward to the 20th century and water is replaced by oil.

Our entire civilization depends on oil like the Babylonians needed the channelized flood waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Oil made possible the current population explosion, just like hydraulic engineering allowed the population explosion of the first civilizations. Oil oligarchs either rule directly (as in Saudi Arabia, Putin's Russia or the state of Texas) or via the mechanism of staged voting and hacked elections (2016) and controlled media (such as Fox news or the Russian media). They lead us into wars for the control of oil like some Egyptian general or pharaoh commanding his chariots (and fighting over the same terrain 3,000 years ago). Meanwhile, the new nobility has accumulated wealth to a level that would make a pre-revolutionary French aristocrat green with envy.

The totalitarians of the 20th century supposedly acted on behalf of the people, but they merely changed the names of the players. The god-king became "Dear Leader". The Nobility became "The Party". The priesthood became the "Ministry of Propaganda". But those systems become untenable due to excessive warfare and stifling of the economy. Having learned from the past, a more subtle approach is being tried by the oil oligarchs.

The subtlety can be easily seen in the function of the new priesthood. The one main difference between then and now is in the function of the modern priesthood (aka the media and to a lesser extent televangelists). Whereas the ancient priesthoods existed to exalt the god-kings, modern media-priests exist to hide their very existence from the general public. In either case it requires sleight of hand to hoodwink the populace. Elections get hacked and hijacked, becoming no different than ancient religious ceremonies originally intended to keep the people docile.

Daniel Duffy said...

(cont.)

And this is why distributed solar energy is so important - it gives everyone the equivalent of their own well.

Technology has a history of setting people free. Mao used to say that "power grows out of the barrel of a gun". He was half right, freedom grows out of a gun barrel as well. Prior to the invention of gunpowder, warfare was waged by highly skilled warriors who spent a lifetime training in the martial arts (Spartan hoplites, Roman legions, feudal knights, Japanese samurai). The vast majority of people were smelly peasants/serfs/slaves who got slaughtered enmasse by small numbers of these professional solders if they ever revolted. Those with a monopoly on violent skills lorded over those who did not. But a musket gives even a smelly peasant the power to kill an expensive and highly trained knight on horseback at a safe distance (knowing this, the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan actually banned fire arms to preserve samurai primacy). Gunpowder made the American and French revolutions possible. It made modern democracy possible.

Gunpowder broke the grip of the nobility.

Similarly, until the invention of the printing press, reading and writing was the sole province of the priesthood who controlled all knowledge. The printing press made books cheap, broke the chains of the inquisition and made scientific knowledge possible, as well as constitutional law not subject to a ruler's whims. The internet has further democratized the flow and creation of knowledge (the net neutrality fight can be best seen as a reaction to the internet similar to the inquisition burning books).

The printing press broke the grip of the priesthood.

Renewable solar energy and electric vehicles break the back of our current hydraulic despotism in the same way that gunpowder and the printing press democratized violence and knowledge. Once renewable energy takes hold energy will be democratized and our entire political power system rooted in control of oil collapses. Which is why Trump and Putin are fighting renewables tooth an nail:

https://thenearlynow.com/trump-putin-and-the-pipelines-to-nowhere-742d745ce8fd

https://shift.newco.co/this-is-how-big-oil-will-die-38b843bd4fe0

It will break the grip of the modern god-kings.

Daniel Duffy said...

The "Confederacy" won't exist soon thanks to the "creative destruction" of capitalism. Economically and technologically, Red Rural America will soon have no reason to exist.

Got coal?
Nobody cares because fracking gas is cheaper and solar energy is now cheaper in most areas (the Chinese just cancelled 103 coal burning plants in favor of expanding their already impressive renewable energy industry — so overseas markets won’t save the coal industry).

Got oil?
Nobody cares because we will be driving EVs (Tesla now has greater market valuation than the Ford Motor Company).

Got cattle and livestock?
Nobody cares because we will grow meat from stem cells (its already on the market and the price of a lab grown hamburger patty fell from $300,000 to $3 in a single year)

Got farms?
Nobody cares because we are turning old warehouses into vertical farms in the hearts of major cities worldwide from Newark, to Singapore to London to Tokyo — growing crops 24/7/365 more cheaply without the transportation costs needed to haul fruits and vegetables cross country.

Got farm labor?
Nobody cares because any remaining outdoor farming will be done with robots and drones.

Got small town manufacturing?
Nobody cares because we have robots, automation and algorithms that replace repetitive human labor on the factory floor and 3D printers that can customize batch production from anywhere.

Got a fishing boat?
Nobody cares because we will be harvesting multi-modal oceanic farms for kelp, fish and shellfish — and the fishing industry can finally advance from the hunter/gatherer stage.

A new technology — fracking — killed coal. These newer technologies will kill what is left of Red Rural America’s economy, leaving Blue Urban cities as the only source of economic growth and prosperity. Multicultural, cosmopolitan, globalist oriented cities based on advanced high technology economies with all sorts of non-white people from all over the world living in them. A high school education no longer gets you into the middle class, so the “poorly educated” that Trump loves so much need not apply.

Within a generation all of Red Rural America becomes Appalachia.

It’s already happening, which explains the anger and despair of rural Trump voters.

Jumper said...

I am starting suspect neither Treebeard, locumranch,nor Alfred read Robert Silverberg's The World Inside. I don't even know if I should recommend it to anyone over 18-22. Or maybe it's still awesome. A real dystopia - watch out don't go here! - creepy as anything, from an individualistic author who pulls it off very well. My friends and I told dark jokes to each other from it for a few years.

https://www.amazon.com/World-Inside-Robert-Silverberg/dp/0765324326/ref=sr_1_1

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Trump is vile the way James Buchanan was vile, or more directly, that other 'great deal-maker' of the 19th century, Martin Van Buren. Challenging him will require mustering the sorts of 19th century solutions...


If you mean that someone should challenge Trump to a duel, I'm all for that. :)

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

He can't always articulate what is missing from his life, or what it is that he feels pressing down on him, trying to crush his soul and corrupt his world, but he sees its effects all around him


He might try looking in the mirror.

LarryHart said...

@Duncan Carincross,

Do you happen to know the story behind "Psychohistorical Crisis"? Like, why can't the book actually use Asimov's proper names for characters and planets, but it can use the word "psychohistory"?

I'm asking as a legitimate question to which I don't know the answer.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
I don't I'm afraid

I read the book and just sort of assumed that the names had changed over the thousands of years

Our Host would probably know the whole story as he wrote a novel in the Asimov galaxy that was approved by the "franchise" owner

This area of copyright seems a bit "grey" to me - I think that once somebody has created a "world" then other people can use the outline as long as they are not fooling people into buying something that is not

I could be completely wrong!

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

"... You can be any egg you like as long as it has some value beyond throwing it at political opponents. 8)"
- That's what shoes are for.

And no, ironically I had forgotten Dunbar's Number, but when I googled it I had to smack myself for forgetting - dain bramage! The public schools violate this every school year, but they're clueless.

I have to get to bed now, but I'll be back in the morning.

David Brin said...

Daniel Duffy gets post of the day. By acclamation?

LarryHart I had permission to use Asimovian copyrighted characters and names. Don Kingsbury did not.

Nowadays, he could have published the Psychohistorical Crisis online, as Eliezer Yudkowsky did with HPotter and the Methods of Rationality, so long as he’d make not one penny. Make a nickel and the Rowling lawyers would pounce.
=

Alfred Differ said...

Jumper,

If your goal is to keep increasing the population as the lazy way to growth, all those things will be even worse.

Ugh. Yah. Population growth anything like the 20th century will kill us in huge numbers. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be in the cards. The rate of growth is steadily trending downward.

I've never been a fan of economic growth by population growth. That smacks of Malthus as it can be viewed as babies consuming progress. If innovation improves the economy slowly, that IS what happens, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards either. Last century is pretty amazing in that innovation out-grew the population boom.

I won't mind too much if population growth doesn't zero out, though. As long as innovation continues at a decent clip, I suspect we will manage. With billions joining our markets, I can't see how innovation could slow. I suspect it will accelerate even more.

Alfred Differ said...

Yup. Daniel's chain is impressive. I'd quibble a bit about us being just another primate, but trying to address all those little details would turn 3 posts into a book. 8)

Last I checked, baboons don't trade outside their kin groups. We do. Sometimes. More lately. Big brains are required to make it work, though. The other primates are too easily drawn to zero-sum or negative-sum exchanges. I suspect our big brains made trade possible for a fringe group that wasn't overly xenophobic and that positive-sum results made that behavior a reproductive advantage. If so, it would be the thing that set us apart not from all the other primates, but from the other hominids.

Gunpowder broke up the nobility? Sure.
More importantly, though, trade broke up the peasantry.
Nobles with few peasants don't get far.

locumranch said...


I appreciate what Alfred has to say about David being more traditionalist than Utopian & I agree in part, given his reliance on platitudes about 'fairness', 'opportunity' and 'open-flat-fair competition in open-fair arenas'.

His strident advocacy for the 'American Dream' explains many of his positions, the problem being that all those 'open-flat-fair-equal' platitudes no longer apply as that ship has sailed, taken on water & gone down with all hands.

'There's a reason they call it the American Dream,' said George Carlin. 'it's because you have to be asleep to believe it'.

But, David does appear to actually believe the 'shouldas' preached from his bully pulpit about how honesty, 'buy in', hard work & merit should be rewarded in this life (or maybe the next) with Cake by the Ocean.

Unfortunately, I have been to the seashore and there is neither cake nor ocean, and I can no longer envision the 'open-flat-fair-equal' promised land of legend.

Finding no honour, I want justice. Finding no justice, I want payment. And, finding no payment, I want nothing & I will offer nothing because there is some honour, justice & payment in parity.

For when we have nothing & no reason to exist, we will SHARE our nothing with you.


Best
___
The World Inside was pure horrorshow. I fled to the country shortly thereafter. Now, down the garbage chute with you, while the country folk repay your pittance in kind.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
So you can copyright a character and name - interesting

IMHO for all it's worth (bugger all) your Asimovian work was very good and very much "in tune" with the original work

The Kingsbury one was different - completely different - in some ways it was what Asimov would have written if he had been born 50 years later

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Duffy:

I love your work here and it's all "close enough" but every bit of it is slightly off and it makes my teeth itch slightly. So I hope you'll forgive me sticking in footnotes and errata.

1) If you'll look closely, it's not actually water that makes a "hydraulic despotism" go, nor is it any particular resource. It's the technical knowledge and skill required to maintain the infrastructure that makes the civilization possible, and THAT is what was husbanded. Innumerable complications to writing systems, guilds, codes, hidden meanings and esoterica -- ancient knowledge seems insanely, needlessly arcane, inefficient, and obstructive... UNLESS you realize that secrecy and jealous hoarding of knowledge was the primary goal, and actual utility and advancement of mankind an afterthought frequently discarded.

THAT is what is really, deeply, truly different about the Western academic experience (which includes the Golden Age of Islamic scholarship) -- free inquiry and experimentation. The kings and the priests and the scribe guilds kept knowledge locked up, not only from the people, but from experimentation by even themselves. It was ingenuity on the fringes, from Ionia to Devonshire to Menlo Park, that made the explosion of technology possible.

You could hive off a portion of a hydraulic empire, or set a new one up, with a minimal amount of 'capital' and by recruiting (frequently oppressed or adventurous) peasants or 'barbarians'. But you *couldn't* do it without the technical expertise. Keeping THAT free is more important than ANY resource.

2) It's not oil specifically, but all high-energy-density fuels, which were critical in the XIXth and XXth centuries. Whales were the critical resource at one point. Solar panels help a lot, but they require special component ingredients; the critical-path resource shifts to high-quality silicon (fortunately already distributed) and rare-earth elements.

But again, this is irrelevant -- there is always a least-available resource (the contrary would require even, equal, and ubiquitous presence of all possible resources, a logical absurdity in a limited universe). The question is what capabilities there are to control it, and those capabilities are always knowledge-based. If anyone knew how to transplant worms off Arrakis, the spice wouldn't be important no matter who ruled or what martial or psychic capabilities they had.

3) Therefore the anti-intellectualism of all the proto-fascists about is more critical than the resource wars, and likewise the pernicious student-loan system that has been twisted so far as to make education appear as a net economic NEGATIVE, such that well-reasoned and educated people turn down further opportunities -- because they come with the yoke of debt-slavery. This cannot be borne.

Putin, Trump's oil backers, etc. do indeed fight the coming of renewables, but not because they seek hydraulic despotism through oil. It is because they have sunk costs and a relative inability to grab control of the next set of critical resources, and fear the coming of a new clade of priest-kings who will supplant them. (The Chinese have been smarter, though I doubt their attempts will succeed. Rare earths actually aren't.)

4) I fear that though your paean to the obsolescence of Red America has a kernel of truth, 'tis still otherwise nonsense. Individual resources are indeed going obsolescent; coal is not coming back and the smart/honest people there realize it. (West Virginia is the epicenter of opioid abuse for good reason.) Yet even vat-grown meat will require nutrients, and while vertical farms will provide competition, there is no comparison to the vast multi-millions of acres under cultivation. In terms of resource gathering of biomass and ores and such, Red America will still matter.

Catfish N. Cod said...


What Red America cannot provide in bulk -- at least not without massive re-ordering of markets -- are large numbers of jobs. Primary and secondary economies are so increasingly automated that most jobs must perforce be service-oriented.

And the small towns of Red America -- most built as service centers for the now-vanished primary and secondary laborers -- are not configured well for that sort of economy.

There once were tiny hamlet-villages dotted throughout the agricultural lands, for close support of workers in an age when horse-and-buggy or walking were the main means of transport and rails a luxury. They're all gone to dust now. Many of the small towns will do the same in the coming century... unless we do as many other countries have, and put in place policies *specifically designed* to preserve them (and pay the economic cost to do so).

I have to say that these places are not doing a terribly good job in convincing the cities that their cultural heritage is worth preserving.

reason said...

Daniel,
your last post sounds like a dystopia to large parts of the population. Are you predicting war then?

raito said...

Yesterday's drive public radio resulted in hearing an interesting idea.

The idea that millennial on the left have more in common with 30's left-leaners because their politics are driven by economics, rather than by 60's left-leaners who were driven by social issues. My own take on it is that the millennial take much of the social stuff for granted, even as it's being undermined.

I think Daniel Duffy is confused about gunpowder. Gunpowder was around long before the mounted knight went out of fashion. I believe that the cause of the decline (NOT extinction, as they keep on in various forms) of the elite warrior was always the rise of standing armies whose composition was not the elite. This correlates very much with the rise of nations as opposed to kingdoms. I'm at a loss to know of even a single incident where gunpowder-armed peasantry successfully revolted against elite warriors, without being led by those same elites. Got an example?

The fact that a peasant with a gun can kill a knight (and even that is a bit of a fallacy, given the proof marks on later armour), doesn't mean that they had access to firearms or were threatening in any way.

As for the French and American revolutions, both sides in those had gunpowder. In the American revolution in particular, both sides had similar compositions. Lots of lower classes armed with muskets, with rich officers.

As for the Japanese, they had been incorporating the lower classes into their armies since the post-Heian era. And in contrast to Europe, there are account of the ji-zamurai ('village' samurai) actually being able to get other armies to stand down because they got tired of having the villages' rice stomped every summer. And this was pre-gunpowder. Read that for yourself in The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society (Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture) by Pierre Souyri.

The reasoning about the Tokugawa gun ban is also suspect. The Shogun still had guns (the ban excepted his forces). And apparently daimyo household inventories listed numbers of guns. And Edo gunsmiths existed. And the reasoning reasoning conveniently forgets that ALL weapons were denied the peasants. The specific gun ban was for samurai.

raito said...

Catfish N. Cod,

My city is one such place. A city that used to survive by being the town in the middle of a lot of farms. But there's cultural problems right now. On the one had, this city might have vanished except for its proximity to a much larger city. There's a lot of people, mostly older people, whose families have been here for generations and would prefer that the city retain its bucolic culture, however, unrealistic that becomes.

Such people don't really want me here, because I am not rural and lower middle class. And they don't want to even admit that the largish population of urban blacks in the older mass housing even exist.

Yeah, their actions are such that I'm not so supportive of their culture.

One the one hand, the city continually says it wants to attract people with incomes. But on the other, when the city council votes, it's invariably to make the city less attractive to those people. For example, the city voted to sell off its fiber network instead of keeping its promise to bring it to every home. And the contract the sold it with means that the poorest won't get it. And the decisions that will lead to redeveloping the main street with buildings that are retail on the first floor, with floors of apartments above that, ostensibly to attract younger professionals. But those people can get the same housing in the bigger city, with a lot more within walking distance. When I put to one of the councilmen that wouldn't it be better to have office over retail (and residential behind that, where there's grass at least), his reply was that he'd love to do that, but there wasn't any demand for office space. Of course not, they sold the fiber!

Paul SB said...

This discussion - stemming from Daniel Duffy's long post - is beginning to nicely parallel the evolution of theory in archaeology over the last century. Daniel's invocation of Karl Wittfogel's Hydraulic Tyranny Hypothesis is well thought out. But as is usually the case, explanations that seem useful at first start to fray around the edges as more people use them in different places/contexts and start finding things that just don't fit. It doesn't mean that Wittfogel was wrong any more than Quantum Theory means that Newton was wrong, it only puts the idea into that immense categories of heuristics - general rules of thumb. They are the beginning of understanding, not the end of understanding. So hurray for Daniel, but also hurray for Catfish, Reason & Alfred, too.

/Hydraulic/ can be taken too far. For instance, would the liquid in the baboon example refer to semen? In a baboon troop, dictatorial power ultimately comes down to which individual males get to mate and which get their butts slashed if they try. Given the nature of the reproductive drive, this kind of hoarding creates a culture of constant violence. We have more than a bit of that in human societies, too. Treebeard's use of the term /manly/ is a clear statement of that baboon imperative. Baboons, like gorillas and many primates, are what is called a Tournament Species, meaning that they live in a state of constant violence in which males compete for access to females - the opposite of a Pair-Bonding Species like the tamarins in which monogamy and equal participation in child-rearing are the norm. Humans are neither of these, they vacillate wildly between these poles. In evolutionary terms, humans are on track to become an exclusively pair-bonding species within the next 2 million years, presuming the species lasts that long and doesn't start to radically manipulate its genome technologically and ideologically.

Wittfogel's hypothesis, as I was taught a long time ago in a classroom far, far away, actually has more to do with organizing the maintenance of the irrigations systems, which themselves were not so complex. Some pretty small-scale horticultural societies have made comparable irrigation systems, so the challenge is less about engineering and more about getting people to do the hard work of dredging out canals that slowly silt up. So the Hydraulic Tyranny Hypothesis is as much structural as infrastructural. Then you add in the supernatural justifications and you have a layer of superstructure, too. Not so simple, anymore, and it gets hard to separate chickens from eggs.

One thing I would like to point out about the future of rural communities; the idea that vertical farms in the hearts of cities is very practical by way of cutting out transportation costs, and with farming moved indoors it is much easier to control for pests and avoid contamination. However, when clean, renewable energy sources take over from filthy and expensive fossil fuels, the transportation issues will no longer be a concern. Agricultural efficiency will be a concern, though. With some major capital investment today's farm acreage can be converted into high-rise vertical farms and have vastly more productive potential than their counterparts in the inner cities. It won't happen soon, but I can see a future where this happens, and the much greater amount of food this produces could lead to a new population explosion.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart I had permission to use Asimovian copyrighted characters and names. Don Kingsbury did not.


I gathered that. But then I'm surprised he could use the word "psychohistory", especially right there in the book's title.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

For when we have nothing & no reason to exist, we will SHARE our nothing with you.


"Nothing" is what your Republicans offer you. Liberals would prefer you've got a living wage and a safety net, and you actively spurn such thinking and then blame liberals for the result.

I honestly don't understand where you're coming from. Your complaint sounds like something I would say myself, but you despise any solutions I am in favor of. I'm reminded of a childish definition I heard in grade school:


A psychotic thinks 2 + 2 = 5.

A neurotic knows that 2 + 2 = 4, but he hates that!

koi seo said...

I do not expect them to grok any of what I just wrote. Their traditionalist approach would not only end freedom and opportunity and competition and our vast productivity and science, it would implement the very uniformity that they accuse us of advocating. They accuse us of it because their zero-sum minds cannot conceive of positive sum people wanting something else.

หนังตลกฝรั่ง

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/us/politics/senators-launch-bipartisan-effort-to-shore-up-obamacare.html

Ted Cruz, from some bizarre alternate universe (emphasis mine) :


...
The cost-sharing payments help people with incomes of 100 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $12,060 to $30,150 a year for an individual). But some Republicans say that providing the money would amount to “a bailout for insurance companies,” in the words of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

“It’s what the Democrats want,” Mr. Cruz said on Tuesday. “The Democrats are the party of the big insurance companies.”

Jonathan Sills said...

"Neither did I, until November 2016. Now, I think I get it. Bannon is ultimately a creature of the circus, and it turns out that circuses can be quite powerful."

And that will ultimately be his downfall. Because he wants to be the ringmaster, snapping the whip while everything dances around him. But, as Malvolio Bent observed in Terry Pratchett's Making Money:

"You think the ringmaster runs the circus? Only by permission of the clowns, Mr. Lipwig! Only by permission of the clowns!"

And if Bannon ever got his way, he'd think his spangled suit and stovepipe hat made him the master - until the clowns he thought he ruled dragged him down...

Viking said...

This post, and the comments here are filled with cognitive dissonance and some interesting comments, to my enjoyment.

1. Bannon supporting the main views here by wanting some social justice!!!

This simply supports my view that the Left and the Right are two groups that use their mindless politics as a substitute for religion and meaningful group membership. To be clear, both groups have envy, my hypothesis is that the Left has more envy than the Right, perhaps related to somewhat more religion remaining among the Right. Where the Left think the solution to all of societies ills is to let the KOCHs pay their fair share, there is a similar fraction (albeit smaller) of the right that sees Soros, Gates and Buffet as the equivalent devils as the Left's view of the KOCHs, and think a global wealth tax is a good idea. This view is more prevalent of cash strapped rightists.

2. Someone claiming Trump knew of a book "Now calm down all you fantasy maniacs. Isn’t it likely that Donald Trump would have known of this book, and then later have named his son after it?", which is just one step away from implying Trump read a book!!!!!

3. Hydraulic despotism. Makes me long for being young, and still having unread Larry Niven books ahead of me: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_State_(Larry_Niven)
I learned about Hydraulic Despotism from Niven's writing.

Treebeard said...

Daniel Duffy, I've been hearing this kind of thing my whole life, about all the technologies that will soon render the old ways obsolete and create a utopian society, but it never seems to arrive. And when new technologies do arrive, there is always a cost and unforeseen consequences, and the predicted utopias are forgotten. We didn't get space colonies or fusion power, but we did get smartphones, which have created a culture of diddling zombies who walk into buses and ignore each other. I hear the Dutch have installed traffic lights on the ground for oblivious texters. Hilarious. We also got widespread nihilism, junk culture, obesity, addiction, mental illness, mass shootings, virtual escapism, plutocracy, etc., which surely owe much to the present "Reign of Quantity" (as Guenon called it). Aren't you an older gentleman? Maybe it's time to grow up and realize that techno-utopia is propaganda and delusion?

David Brin said...

You see why we keep him around. “all those 'open-flat-fair-equal' platitudes no longer apply as that ship has sailed…” says the ingrate wallowing in the benefits that have poured all over him, all his life.

Notice he implies those things DID exist, but won’t lift a finger to restore them, though each of the last 7 generations of Americans strove and succeeded at making those ‘platitudes” work vastly better, then better, then better still. Essentially, cynics are lazy ingrates. And amnesiacs.

“For when we have nothing & no reason to exist, we will SHARE our nothing with you.”

Translate: “I hate you all and will find excuses to betray all of you, given the slightest chance. You have all shared with me, all my life, but I won’t acknowledge a single debt, and I defy your gentle tolerance (though I rely upon it) by biting the hand that feeds. I have no honor.”

Jumper said...

I guess Treebeard needs a list of good new stuff which didn't exist before. Yet somehow I suspect ultra lightweight bicycles, electron microscopes, access to a huge variety of regular foodstuffs, new medicines and treatments, etc. won't affect his bitterness whatever. Believe in his god or he'll kill you.

Funny how we discussed the horrors of conformity, yet from the same nihilist wing we get complete scorn for diversity as a positive. Oh, well. Who remains to even be surprised?

donzelion said...

Daniel Duffy: "Fast forward to the 20th century and water is replaced by oil."
What matters is 'flows behind the flow' - specifically, 'debt.'

Historically, 'hydraulic despots' tried to magically obscure debt, often by imposing a levy on peasants requiring them to work for free for a few weeks/year to maintain infrastructure. Exceptionally inefficient. Alternative arrangements that focused less on man-hours digging canals and more on garnering the fruit of an efficient system were developed later on, and mathematics developed as a tool to make debt management feasible.

So it goes for today's Arab petro-kingdoms, American fracking, and every other major physical commodity: what comes out of the ground is less important than than the terms of trade that make it possible for anything to come at all. 'How is it financed' tells you everything about who pays, who benefits, how much.

Both Raito's insight (rather than gunpowder, a 'standing army' beats the 'knightly elite') and Catfish's (technology is more important than commodities) are corollaries of the 'debt' focused view: mercenaries and quasi-mercenaries are 'cheap' (pay only when you have a surplus - and a compelling need), BUT a financial system featuring bonds can ensure the troops get paid even when taxes aren't collected for a time. Similarly, a debt-focus changes the concern from getting the 'most troops' or ensuring an allotment of troops is fulfilled to getting the 'best troops for the buck.'

Gunpowder broke the grip of [A] nobility' (rather than 'the' nobility). Printing presses broke the grip of [A] clergy (not 'the' clergy). Both technologies enabled one set of feudal lords to use more efficient technologies to meet their obligations. Over time, the only way those lords could access these technologies (efficiently) was through a skilled group of professionals who knew how this stuff worked...it was the concerted efforts of those professionals to demand rights and freedoms previously reserved to feudal lords that mattered (to take control over the debt system, moving from arbitrariness of feudal lords to systemic operations of bankers).

Anonymous said...

On a Halloween and corruption/reform related tangent, I'll print out that the day also happens to be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Marion Luther posted his theses.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

I guess Treebeard needs a list of good new stuff which didn't exist before. Yet somehow I suspect ultra lightweight bicycles, electron microscopes, access to a huge variety of regular foodstuffs, new medicines and treatments, etc. won't affect his bitterness whatever.


To T and l, no advances in technology are of any value, because they have failed to create permanent utopia. That seems to be the whole of the argument.

Viking said...

@Jumper:
"Believe in his god or he'll kill you."

I read through Treebeard's posts in this thread, and I have read many before. There is no threat in his posts, he talks prediction, and explanations (eg SJWs and discrimination against white males resulted in Trump's victory). The majority here are simply livid at seeing anyone disagreeing.

None of you have ever answered the following question, and I don't expect neither of you will:

"What level of taxation would render a person half slave?"

To me, you are the new confederacy.

Viking said...

Sorry about the double negative @11:22.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: My beef with Wittfogel follows several lines of analysis (no oriental despot ever actually fit his model - and if the model works only in fantasy worlds, what good is it as a description of reality?).

A 'debt-centric' model to understand how freedom blossoms, where, and to what extent, does not immediately mesh with a 'reproductive-centric' assessment until one factors time into the equation for how power is manifested. For a "Tournament Species" - strength at Time X imposes obligations on others at Time X; at Time Y, when the 'winner' no longer musters the same quantity of strength, no obligations persist, and the 'winner' becomes a 'loser' (e.g., the smaller, younger members of the tribe grow and displace the dominant leader). Sometimes, losers 'win' by reducing their energy consumption dramatically, only to increase it later on when the 'winner' isn't so strong. For "Pair bonding" species, strength at any given time is less important than pair bonding investments made over time (including child rearing) - a duo 'wins' if it rears more surviving children who care for the duo later on (although, for most species, elders do not long survive unless they can fend for themselves).

Humans are able to concern themselves with exceptionally long time horizons (not just worrying about the next meal, or next month's meal, but next year's - and for years thereafter). Organizing strategies to meet those needs over time cannot work if the 'tournament winner' is only able to demand work during those periods that the tournament winner has the strength to compel such work - or if the duos are focused exclusively on raising children. Feudalism (a more accurate description of how despotism actually operated) was a considerable improvement over the other primates systems requiring use of force at any given time to generate social obligations - but even though it has always been better than pure anarchy, we are able to surpass that today with a better, more liberal alternative.

David Brin said...

"We also got widespread nihilism, junk culture, obesity, addiction, mental illness, mass shootings, virtual escapism, plutocracy, etc."

Feh. Every single one of those was worse in feudal settings. Yes, "virtual escapism" via religion and witchcraft. Mass shootings? Murder raters were vastly, vastly higher. Junk culture? Oh spare me. Today you can choose the high road and symphonies and art, no matter how poor you are. Plutocracy? Seriously? Plutocracy?

David Brin said...

I wish Viking were less obscure and used better syntax. I can tell there are thoughts there. I just have trouble following. Curious though.

Viking said...

Deflecting a challenge with ridicule anyone?

Catfish N. Cod said...

Yeah, Viking, could you restate with a little more definition? Because "half slave" is far too ambiguous. I can't tell if you are making a point about voluntary vs. involuntary social contract, or "taxation is theft" sort of arguments, or what. I suppose you could make a case that the Constitution is voluntary even now: if you are willing to surrender your American citizenship, and live as a stateless person subject to deportation at any time, you can be "free" of our social contract.

Bannon actually does have some actual populist views. This isn't the first time I have occasionally agreed with him. (I actually give more credit than Dr. Brin does to his favored "Fourth Turning" theory, though Dr. Brin and I agree on the critical matter: there is absolutely nothing deterministic about generational patterns, and Bannon is a complete moron for thinking he can arrange for historical events using the theory.) He thinks he's a tribune of the working class; he thinks he's using his lords-patron (the Mercers) while they think they're using him. Who's right? Well, who is actually getting their way? Hint: not Bannon.

Though you have a point in the increasing use of political beliefs as tribal shibboleths. I liken it to the Guelphs and the Ghibbelines, where five hundred years after the original political argument (King vs. Pope balance of power in the Holy Roman Empire) the Italians were still feuding, not even having any opposing beliefs any longer, two functionally identical teams warring over nothing while Italy, the richest land in Europe, was picked apart by poorer but craftier nations. I do not want that fate for us.

Treebeard is a critic without the constructiveness. He pokes holes without any suggestion as to what to do about them. He derides "techno-utopia" (what's that? 'tis a very mutable term) without any hope that there is something better. Indeed, "hope" seems to be another thing he disagrees with as a matter of principle. He's a reactionary. This community takes as one of its guiding principles the Enlightenment notion that improvement is possible. Not guaranteed, certainly not destined, with the search fraught with danger; but possible. Most societies in history flat-out declared improvement to be impossible. It is that notion that we, the community here, reject.

baron said...

looks like your idea is happening, former military running...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcjG2fK7kNk

Catfish N. Cod said...

locum, meanwhile, wants to play Ahab. He believes the American Dream not only dead, but a lie; and hates and envies people who now even pursue it, much less achieve it. He feels oppressed, and so he seeks to oppress others in return. At least that is what I hear when he says he cannot get honour (the promise kept), nor justice, nor nor payment. He wants society as he desires -- and expects the rest of the world to arrange itself to make it so -- but only for those with the proper virtues. There being a disagreement about those virtues, he wishes NOTHING.

Thus proving Dr. Brin and my own point about the nature of Confederatism: that it would rather grab the ball and run away than play the game when they're not winning.

Every time blue or even purple people propose something to aid the complainers of the Red zones, they get snapped at: "That's not how to help us! It's insulting! It's demeaning! It's unfair! It's biased against us! It's not our culture, it's philosophically impure, it comes with too many strings attached! You're trying to make us into something we're not!"

Which translates to: "Why can't you just give us all the resources to live however we want, while accepting only what we choose to give you as payment -- whether you want it or not!" This does not lead to negotiation success.

There are things that could be done to arrange, for instance, for more wealth and culture to reconcentrate in the cities of middle America. Antitrust actions that, say, prevented national or international companies from concentrating all their offices in one (usually coastal) city would be a good start. But those usually get opposed by Red representatives who want economic efficiency and profit maximization over promotion of the social benefits of business.

You cannot argue for the market and then ignore the fact that the market does not, will not, should not, and cannot serve social ends without intervention. The market is a good servant, but a terrible master. Either we subsume our culture to the market and admit it a positive GOOD that the market 'creatively destroys' towns we love; or we subsume our market to the culture and force inefficiencies that support the community we value. Or we pick some mix of the two. What we don't do is sit back and whine about the whole process.

@raito: On gunpowder and the fall of nobility: At Agincourt the peasants sent the knights to the dustbin with longbows. Guns weren't required (though they made the cost and logistics easier). Trusting powerful weapons in the hands of the commons was.

Which is why the financialization of education is such a threat to civilization. Keeping knowledge and skills available as broadly as possible is THE critical flashpoint. Asimov made it in the early Foundation series, and it's (I think) the point behind Dr. Brin's detestation of the Jedi under Yoda.

Carl M. said...

Belief in cycles of history == fascism?

Does this mean Karl Marx was a fascist?

Is The Foundation Trilogy fascist propaganda?

Was the early Heinlein promoting fascism with his psychodynamics?

Enquiring minds want to know.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: A distinction I like better than 'psychotic v. neurotic' (Treebeard v. Locum) is cynic v. romantic skeptic.

The Ent is a cynic. Cynicism is harmful in nearly all cases - it saps vigor, rewards stagnation, disdains any focus or attention on any problem (since why bother trying to solve it, the costs will exceed the benefits anyway). To a cynic, the fact that 'nothing is free' means 'all things are meaningless' (and meaning matters only to the extent of a minuscule emotional concern, which itself will fade). To the cynic, 'Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!" (and everything other than that rote refrain is itself futile). They get boring quick, since they repeat it ad nauseum, but luckily for them, many hands will still work to feed them.

Locum is a romantic skeptic. That is also frequently harmful - since it disdains some of the efforts to pragmatically find solutions to problems, but at least it leaves open the possibility of wanting more. Where the former can be nothing but a mooch, always converted in the end to serve whatever hand feeds the moochers - the latter can occasionally contribute (begrudgingly), because even Locum can imagine things being 'better' sometimes.

A pragmatic/rationalist skeptic is better still: assuming that flaws creep into arguments and analysis, one accepts a burden of responding to possible flaws. To a pragmatist, criticism is a possible line of inquiry and verification - a challenge to be solved. To a romantic, criticism is a badge of disloyalty/a proclamation of independence. And to a cynic, criticism is as bad a joke as any statement other than the sole truth - 'vanity, vanity...'

Anonymous said...

@Catfish N. Cod

Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

Respectfully, you are also deflecting. You can pull my statement apart semantically, and claim by analogy, there is no such thing as slightly (or half) pregnant, or slightly evil etc.

My motivation for the question is to understand if there is any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful. If I make a clear definition of what I understand to be halfway to slave status, what will I learn, other than my definition will be ridiculed, which was already my assumption?

I am not the one that owes anybody a definition, as a society where I made the choices would not have the enormous and increasing inter generational transfer payments of today's society, but I am willing to give some options:

1. A Russian 1800s serf, with a specific agreement that he has to work 3 weekdays on his master's land, and is free to work 3 days on his own land, and the 7th day belongs to god and/or priest class.
2. Somebody who due to excessive taxation (beyond what is needed for the basic defense which means protection from Mexico and Canada) has lost half of the healthy years to enjoy retirement.
3. Somebody who would kill him/her self if taxation doubled.

None of these definitions would be agreed upon, and they are not the same. There is also the marginal utility issue, both on the tax payer and the tax payee side. The marginal utility of tax revenues for a society without sewers and plumbing is very high, if the initial revenue is indeed used to prevent cholera.

I trust you are mentally endowed to deal with an open ended question, I apologize if my previous brief post syntax was unclear, I was initially trying to be brief, which I consider valuable.

Viking said...

Sorry, Anonymous @12:30 was supposed to be Viking.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | Deflecting a challenge with ridicule anyone?

Nah. He is usually quite direct about things when he wants to ridicule.

If he is reading you, consider making it worth his time. He's asking for details.

Carl M. said...

Question: can a good fascist forget to shave and dress like a slob?

Seriously, has anyone in a President's inner circle dressed so poorly for meetings in the last century?

Jumper said...

Sure I didn't mean to put words in Treebeard's mouth, and perhaps I'm wrong to mention the God thing, but he has mentioned previously the loss of organized religion as one of his regrets (and please inform me if THAT is an unfair rearrangement of his meanings, as I will gladly apologize if it's not so.) And he has only given the vaguest hints about his willingness to take part in some sort of fascist overthrow; not enough to term him an all-in dangerous sort.

I can demonstrate by reductio ad absurdum that taxation and slavery are not real closely related by assuming a %100 tax, whereupon I quit in protest. If they can't force me to work, I'm not a slave. If they can force me to work, then I probably am. (Ooh. Ah. That's the sound of the men, working on the chain ganggang)

matthew said...

"What level of taxation would render a person a half-slave?"

My answer is "Cannot happen." My freedom does not depend on an economic system. If I agree with the level of taxation, I will pay. If I do not, I will find a way not to pay. Same as any law. If I believe a law to be just, I will follow it. If I do not believe it to be just, I will break it.

And that is personal responsibility.

More interesting to me is the question and what it indicates about the questioner.

First, he (guessing from the pseudonym) is primarily concerned with economics when defining freedom. Similar to Alfred in that regard. Economics do not reflect freedom in my mind, save for the ability to compete. But as I have stated repeatedly, I think Libertarians are at best misguided children when it comes to philosophy. Simplistic understanding of the universe and a very high attachment to their toys. Not so for the attachment to actual Freedoms.

Second, the term "half-slave," is very problematic for me. One is owned or one is not. It's a binary choice. "Half-Slave" is very much in the mind of whoever makes the definition of the term. I suspect that I would disagree with your assessment of what would make a "half-slave." In fact the same chain of logic leads us to other statements Libertarians make, such as "taxation is theft," which are also patently untrue.

occam's comic said...

Viking
You question shows that you really don’t understand slavery if you think that you can be half of a slave.

Second, what kind of taxes are you talking about?
Taxes on non-renewable resources?
A carbon tax?
A tax on imported goods and services?
A sales tax or a VAT?
Land Value Tax?
Property Tax?
Tax on wealth above 10 million dollars?
Income tax?
Corporate Tax?
Inheritance Tax ?

If I am forced to answer your ambiguous question I would say – Taxes don’t equal Slavery.

matthew said...

Note that a bunch of these replies came in as I was writing my original retort to Viking. Not ignoring what others are posting, just all caught in the rush

Jonathan Sills said...

Viking, your definition of "slavery" remains unclear. In the common parlance, a "slave" is unpaid, receives only what his master deigns to give him, and is unable to leave his current employment and seek a better deal elsewhere. Unless your level of hypothetical taxation also includes removing all social safety nets, the common definition of "half-slave" cannot be achieved at less than a 100% taxation level.

You can see why definitions are important, especially when terms are used in an idiosyncratic fashion (as you appear to be doing).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: A distinction I like better than 'psychotic v. neurotic' (Treebeard v. Locum) is cynic v. romantic skeptic.


I wasn't really going for a distinction, as those "definitions" were something I heard around 4th grade from another kid. I don't give them too much credence as definitions.

However, the description of "neurotic"--whether or not it actually describes anything like what a neurotic is--was called to mind by the vibe I've been getting off loc. He understands how reality is, but it bothers him.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | …the problem being that all those 'open-flat-fair-equal' platitudes no longer apply as that ship has sailed, taken on water & gone down with all hands.

Okay. I’m tempted to laugh, but someone has obviously pissed in your Wheaties. I’ll refrain.

Perception errors are pernicious. I don’t know what to offer you that would help. The ship hasn’t gone down. In fact, we are building more of them creating a robust fleet ‘manned’ by billions. There is nothing mystical about it. It’s just what we are doing. You are too if you want in, but I suspect you are already in without realizing it.

Viking said...

Hi Gang.

It is clear from your answers that if I still have the choice to quit and die from starvation, then there is no taxation level that is paramount to slavery.

Let me reformulate the question:

Is any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful?

Viking said...

Argh, grammar corrected here!!!

Is there any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful?

matthew said...

I consider Locum to be clinically insane. And a liar. But mostly insane.

I consider the ent to be a flat-out enemy. Anyone that sees fascism and wants to join in is someone I consider automatically worm-food and nothing more.



Viking said...

Anecdote about slavery.

My boss retold his experience quitting a previous job, standing in front of his manager's desk, the manager replied:

"You can't quit, we need you here!"

My boss pointed out the window to the flag, and asked:

"Is that flag out there red?"

"No, why?"

"Then I can quit!"

matthew said...

Once again, Viking's question says more about him than it does about any sort of reality.

Any level of taxation to be "shameful?"

I consider wasted community common property to be a shame against what Alfred would define as "Prudence."
I consider a level of taxation that would stifle innovation to be "unproductive" as well as "unwise."

But we've seen that a 90% tax bracket on the richest did little to stifle innovation, so I suspect the Viking has a different meaning to "shameful." More Protestant-work-ethic-based? I dunno.

Deuxglass said...

Daniel Duffy,

You made some nice projections but you assume that everyone wants to live in a mega-city. None of your projections favor the mega-city over lower-density areas and in fact many favor against them.

Got Coal? Most of the fracking occurs in red areas and they do create jobs there and will continue to do so.

Got Oil? Tesla is creating jobs in Nevada far from any Mega-city. It makes financial sense to manufacture where land is cheap and taxes low and that won’t change.

Got cattle and livestock? I guess the only place to get a real hamburger will be where the cattle are. The grown hamburger meat will be reserved for the urban underclass of which the mega-cities are well-endowed. The elites and those in the country will have the real thing.

Got Farms? Urban farms can produce tomatoes, lettuce and such but there is no way they can be competitive in the cereals, fruits or anything having to do with trees. On top of it these old warehouses are usually loaded with heavy metals and other nice things and will have to be cleaned before use and that is very expensive. At best they will just exactly be like the truck farms that are already clustered around the cites providing fresh produce. How will they be competitive with farms 30 miles away? They won’t without extensive subventions.

Got farm labor? It is puzzling that you say this since farmers are just 2% of the population. Machines have been doing all the work for a long time now. Modern farmers use more machines than most other people ever do and many of them are robotic. The time is long past when people went into the fields to “pick a bale of cotton”. Farmers are the ones who use drones now for work and not for play on the weekends. The same thing goes for robots. They are and will be early adaptors and those drones and robots will need maintenance and repairs and that will be done locally like as it is now.

Got Small Town Manufacturing? 3-D manufacturing means local manufacturing is advantaged. Why would that kill small towns? If you can manufacture everywhere then why would it become concentrated in mega-cities? The software, hardware and knowledge workers in 3-D manufacturing would have no economic reason to concentrate in the mega-cities unless they wanted to.

Got a fishing boat? There I agree with you. Farmed fish will become a mainstay until you can grow it in a petri dish. Wild fish catches will be reserved to those who have the money to buy them, unless you live in an area with lakes or on the ocean. In that case you can catch you own. Can’t do that in a meg-city.

What many people here seem to have a crusade against anything that comes from the South or has a Southern flavor. They lump all Southerners together, even the ones who vote democrat, and view them collectively as uneducated savages at the best and subhuman at the worst. What you ignore is that the South, even without Texas, is the most populous part of the country and possesses more industry than any other section of the country. Granted they are light in the Software, Movie and Porn Industries but they are state of the art in just about every other one. You seem to be working with old data. The South is not what you think it is.

Alfred Differ said...

In the interest of stirring the pot a bit, y'all need to remember there are different kinds of slaves. In European tradition, there are the Greek and Roman variations. If you lost a battle, you could be enslaved in the Roman tradition, but your children could not. Among the Greeks there were variations too.

I point this out because 'half slave' is obviously ill-defined, but it invites further questions. As Jumper points out, it is really all about coercion and NOT the justification for the coercion. Can one be forced to work? Yes/No/Partially?

I think it is unwise to connect taxation with slavery as it is a step too far down the causal chain. Taxation as theft makes more sense even if Matthew thinks it is untrue. Only if one is forced to work for the thief does it become slavery.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin, you often rale against “hillbillies” and lump them with what you call Confederates. In this case your grasp of history is faulty. Those hillbillies were almost to a man on the Union side even if they came from Sothern states. These “hillbillies” furnished 200,000 riflemen to the Union Army which proportionally was way above that of other groups. They were not in the slave-owners’ grasp then and were, and still are, egalitarian in outlook. General Lee knew that going guerilla with the remains of the Confederate Army was a no-go because the hills and mountains were enemy territory. They would not last long. I am disappointed in you because you use hillbilly as a racial slur. You paint an entire people, the Scotch-Irish, with negative attributes to make a political point. You ignored history and facts in order to fit your narrative. In my book that is inexcusable. You really pissed me off this time.

donzelion said...

Catfish: A quibble here, while I think we're on a similar page on many other points...

"At Agincourt the peasants sent the knights to the dustbin with longbows."
An English or Welsh longbowman was no simple yeoman farmer with a bow; mastering the longbow demanded impressive strength (the crossbow did not, but was far slower), and English feudal lords paid for that expertise for decades (starting with the earlier 'longbow victory' at Crecy).

The total infrastructure footprint required for a 'longbow force' was smaller than that required for a fully 'armed' force. Heavy armor is usually an advantage, reducing risk of serious injury and infection. Given the muddy fields at Agincourt, the absence of armor temporarily became an advantage, but at Crecy and Poitiers (the 'longbow victories'), expensive knights routinely lost or were held at bay by much cheaper longbows. It wouldn't be until midway through the 15th century that gunpowder beat massed longbows (but again, only in certain fields).

None of which really alters your point. Massed longbows beat knights, repeatedly, and at lower total cost - through a system that could not operate efficiently on traditional feudal structures. Later on, massed gunpowder (cannons) beat massed longbows, again at lower total cost - but at a price too high for anything but nation states to afford.

occam's comic said...

Is there any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful?

Assuming you mean a progressive income tax, with the marginal tax rate going up with income, I would have no moral problem with 100% tax on all income above 100 million.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | Is there any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful?

I'm not one of the progressives, but I'm not as libertarian as the hard-core folks. So, I'll offer a comment on this.

If the taxation level rises high enough to reduce the group's ability to provide for the benefit of the needy, that would be a shame, but mostly it would be stupid.

Also, if in providing for the benefit, productive members were reduced to being in need themselves, that would be a shame. Mostly, again, it would be stupid.

Where those of us who dislike taxation in principle are going to run into trouble, though, is that we are collectively richer with each passing generation. That means we are less damaged by moderate taxation levels, so opposing them risks making us appear to be amoral at best, immoral at worst. The counter-argument to that is the needy are also better off than they used to be. We might reasonably argue over how taxes are spent in helping them and argue against stupid uses.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

My motivation for the question is to understand if there is any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful. If I make a clear definition of what I understand to be halfway to slave status, what will I learn, other than my definition will be ridiculed, which was already my assumption?


With all due respect (and I mean that non-sarcastically) you come on spoiling for a fight, and then if one ensues, you consider the point proven that we're all closed-minded partisans. Even when someone answers you without a fight, you treat him as if he gave you one because, y'know, it's self-evident that that's what we do to opposing views here.

To the gist of your clarification above, I would immediately take issue with the dichotomy you present, which I suppose proves your point to you. I see "taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy" as an incredibly biased take on reality. If I were to re-word the question as something more like "Is there any level of theft and hoarding from the commons that intelligent conservatives would consider shameful?" would that shed light on my point of view? Or does that sound as snarky to you as your way does to me?

Or is it just a trick question?

LarryHart said...

Viking:

It is clear from your answers that if I still have the choice to quit and die from starvation, then there is no taxation level that is paramount to slavery.


No, it's been clear for a long time that for conservatives, if I still have the choice to quit and die from starvation, then there is no level of employer abuse that is paramount to slavery.

Alfred Differ said...

@Carl M | Seriously, has anyone in a President's inner circle dressed so poorly for meetings in the last century?

Yah. When I first saw him do that, I read it as a control statement. I DON'T HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU ALL DO! See? I'm my own man in the presence of power!

It is a calculated look and if you look, you'll see he has had to retreat from it a bit in certain circles.

locumranch said...



Daniel_D's post drips uncaring disdain about, and reads like a final solution to, the rural conservative & confederate insurgency, but those of you who celebrate our coming irrelevancy & death also celebrate your own.

For once lost, the socioeconomic interdependency that ties us all together & allows mutual influence in the absence of violence may never be regained, irrespective of 'diversity', much in the same way that 'this here' virtual community eliminates the need for an urbane one made of brick & mortar.

Now, Go_Your_Own_Way, as far & as fast as technology permits, and those urban subsets that you yourself contain will also claim independence, and we will all Go_Our_Own_Way_2, liberated by the same technologies which have liberated you.

Or, come back to the negotiating table, offer the confederates your respect & the hillbillies their due, and we will rewrite the social contract anew.

Translation:

"The old social contract is dead, voided at your own request, and I will now return all that I receive from you, returning like for like, disdain for disdain, nothing for nothing, good for good & ill for ill. If granted Heaven, then angelic I be. If consigned to Hell, then from Hell's heart I stab at thee".


Best
_____
@Carl_M: A fascist opposes your political ambitions; a hate speaker speaks what you hate; a racist contests your views on race; and a sexist challenges your views on gender.

@Viking: And, quit we shall, by the millions, and our lands will be fallow, our hands will be idle & our roads will not roll.
[http://www.npr.org/2016/09/06/492849471/an-economic-mystery-why-are-men-leaving-the-workforce]

@Larry_H: And, if I quit & YOU die of starvation, then is that tantamount to a freed slave abusing his ex-master? Or, is turnabout fair play?

Viking said...

@LarryHart:

"With all due respect (and I mean that non-sarcastically) you come on spoiling for a fight, and then if one ensues, you consider the point proven that we're all closed-minded partisans. Even when someone answers you without a fight, you treat him as if he gave you one because, y'know, it's self-evident that that's what we do to opposing views here."

With returned respect, I am conceding that taxation and slavery are different, but I was ridiculing the argument that even 100% tax rate on labor is not slavery, made by Jumper.

"I can demonstrate by reductio ad absurdum that taxation and slavery are not real closely related by assuming a %100 tax, whereupon I quit in protest. If they can't force me to work, I'm not a slave. "

My reply to this was:
"It is clear from your answers that if I still have the choice to quit and die from starvation, then there is no taxation level that is paramount to slavery."

Jumper's argument is up there with claiming legal equality between rich and poor in pre revolution France, as both poor and rich are forbidden from sleeping under bridges.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I see "taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy" as an incredibly biased take on reality

Really?? Seemed reasonable to me to ask that. There ARE needy people and there ARE productive members of society who can help. My mother in her later years was among the former. There was no way her retirement cash could cover all that dialysis. She covered much of it through a plan executed earlier regarding my father's insurance. It mostly worked, so one can use her as an example of how the needy don't always need charity at the fullest extent.

donzelion said...

Viking: [is there] "any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that intelligent educated progressives would consider shameful"[?]

In 19th century America, children were 'productive members of society.' The liberal state altered that, converting them from farm hands into pupils. The liberal calculus was that an educated child may contribute more over time than a cheap farmhand. A contentious claim 100 years ago; less so today.

Elders 'had been' productive, but no longer work so hard. The old solution was for them to either (1) die soon after they stopped working, or (2) mooch off their children. That in turn rewarded parents with large broods of children; they needed not only 'productive' sons to work, but enough to cover in case a few proved bad apples. That also personalized the parental maintenance duties, putting a heavy burden on some but not all kids - the ones who were least bound to their parents would profit the most (hence, parents needed to hold onto family assets as long as possible to control their progeny through probate processes).

All of that was pretty cruel. It was also grossly inefficient. With a liberal, welfare state intervening, the most onerous obligations to children and parents could be collectively shared, at a lower total cost, freeing time to pursue economic well-being at an individual level. Some libertarians pretend that the money magically disappears when it goes to the government, or is converted from a 'gift of hope or gratitude' into a 'bond of servitude' - but following where that flow of money goes makes such simplistic pictures circumspect.

When you ask "at what level do taxes become slavery" my answer is "how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?"

That also raises a related problem: money spent by the government to enrich those who are already rich is automatically theft from our children and our elders. As progressives see expenditures this way, they are also extremely restrictive in who benefits from those expenditures - and why liberal Democrats are more likely to balance the budget and restrain spending than so-called 'fiscal conservatives.'

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

@Larry_H: And, if I quit & YOU die of starvation, then is that tantamount to a freed slave abusing his ex-master? Or, is turnabout fair play?


What have I ever done to you to earn the derisive title of "master"?

If you quit and I don't starve to death, does that prove you are mistaken? About anything?

What if you quit and you starve to death?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Really?? Seemed reasonable to me to ask that. There ARE needy people and there ARE productive members of society who can help. My mother in her later years was among the former. There was no way her retirement cash could cover all that dialysis. She covered much of it through a plan executed earlier regarding my father's insurance. It mostly worked, so one can use her as an example of how the needy don't always need charity at the fullest extent.


I'm not sure we're having the same conversation. Your mother was needy, but she was also productive. I was arguing against the dichotomy--that there is one set of "makers" and one set of "takers" which are mutually exclusive.

Viking said...

@LarryHart

[If I were to re-word the question as something more like "Is there any level of theft and hoarding from the commons that intelligent conservatives would consider shameful?" would that shed light on my point of view? Or does that sound as snarky to you as your way does to me?]

You (and our host) seem to be confusing me with a run of the mill republican.

I see lots of thefts from the commons that I abhor.

1. Natural resources rent. US oil companies typically pays something like 8% of net revenues as resource rent. The Norwegian way of charging 80% of profits is superior, and protects the commons.

2. BLM land rents: My impression is that the renters keep the same plot their family rented for decades and decades, and there is no competitive auction, the process is biased against outsiders. Likewise, I would like operators of ski areas to re-bid for the federal land leases on a regular basis, where they have to compete with outsiders, and the value delivered to the customers (who are the real owners of public lands) in terms of lift capacity and competitor access to concessions, competitive lift ticket prices should be part of the determination. Current leaseholders are often De Facto owners.

3. (A slight barb.) The roads that your forefathers built are also the commons in a sense. Lots of the great recession "shovel ready projects" were re paving of city roads. The string attached was often a required bike lane. Now we are stuck with two lanes that are so narrow that all city buses and heavy trucks violate the other lane, sometimes a lane that carries 10 cars per minute is replaced by a bike lane that carries way less traffic. This is a mal-investment, and robbery of the commons.

4. I am in general for more skin in the game, if you want to run a mine, it would make sense you should put down a significant escrow deposit towards cleanup, that can only be withdrawn after cleanup has happened, I would event want an escrow deposit towards removal of a roadside sign advertising a business, so the sign goes away as visual/information contamination when the store goes out of business. The drawback with an escrow on a mine, is that the temptation by politicians and public servants to loot it would likely be larger than their integrity.

Viking said...

@donzelion

[When you ask "at what level do taxes become slavery" my answer is "how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?" ]

I am crying foul for false analogy, there is by nature nothing shameful about ME spending MY money on MY family.

The shameful part would be ME spending Other People's Money on MY family, and especially if I were careless about the expenses, because somebody else was paying.

PS, I agree "SHAMEFUL" is a normative statement, and thus not very valuable in a quantitative discussion.

donzelion said...

Viking: "You (and our host) seem to be confusing me with a run of the mill republican."
I hope that I am not...

"I see lots of thefts from the commons that I abhor."
Good. The question arises as to how best to deal with them...

"1. Natural resources rent" and 2. BLM land rents."
With most ordinary rents, landlords may readily determine what their tenants owe - but natural resource extraction requires measuring production and the methods of production. Extractors have strong incentives to cheat, and it is far easier to do so than for ordinary real estate. Whether you set the rent at 8% or 80%, any rent of the commons requires government to verify the uses and production; the 'smaller' that government, the more likely it will be captured by those it regulates to empower 'theft.'

"3. Bike lanes as mal-investment/robbery of the commons."
Once you broaden 'commons' to include general health/environment, one might add into the calculation "number of bike riders x health costs for bike riders" (and potentially, x the environmental impact of each car removed); that may, in some cases, result in a 'mal-investment' actually becoming a worthwhile one. At the very least, making all those calculations may be worthwhile - but developers couldn't care less about them, and instead, are interested in "what effect will this bike lane have on my multi-unit/multi-use project?" Of course they want "small government" at the local level: any question asked and answered save that which they care about creates a possibility for restrictions that impede their expected returns.

4. "if you want to run a mine, it would make sense you should put down a significant escrow deposit towards cleanup"
Mines in particular are famous for going bankrupt immediately when they become unprofitable, leaving others to pay the bill. Looting the escrow is one risk; the bigger risk, historically, has been cost-shifting - whether through bankruptcy (to a state/community) or onto workers (black lung, etc.), or to future generations (through enduring poisons in the ground).

Capitalism is all about 'risk and reward' allocation - yet libertarian conservatives generally overlook cost-shifting or assume it is irrelevant (in a manner of speaking, it is irrelevant to the efficiency analysis - it only matters to the real world human beings who experience it). Absent government, the strong could ALWAYS shift the pain of their failed risks upon others. With government, SOMETIMES that effort is thwarted. But they are more likely to be thwarted with GOOD government than with captive government...

Viking said...

@Alfred Differ

"Where those of us who dislike taxation in principle are going to run into trouble, though, is that we are collectively richer with each passing generation. That means we are less damaged by moderate taxation levels, so opposing them risks making us appear to be amoral at best, immoral at worst."

That is a very good point. A parallel in my industry, IC manufacturing, is that for a while, there was the effect that software people screw up in terms of doing less per CPU cycle, but Intel saves the day. With the end of Moore's law, that is less true, and my home desktop processor is a quad core that was manufactured in 2009, and it doesn't feel too slow.

What I see is that society is reasoning that the marginal utility of an extra dollar among the 53% is low, but government spending is not held to the same standard. Even if we only spent $200B/Year on defense, Canada and Mexico would still not invade us, so the marginal value of an extra dollar to the DOD is about zero. On the other hand, a spartan military budget might lead us to preemptively nuke North Korea from a game theory perspective.

donzelion said...

Viking: My point: [When you ask "at what level do taxes become slavery" my answer is "how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?" ]

Your point: "I am crying foul for false analogy, there is by nature nothing shameful about ME spending MY money on MY family.

If the primary purposes of the money paid to the government goes to the benefit of the young and the old, then it's not a false analogy at all. The question then becomes means and ends and efficiency - do I get more value for my buck when I participate in a shared scheme (social security) or when I do it myself for my own?

Indeed, the 'slavery' rhetoric (which you wisely abandoned) tries to obfuscate the intended beneficiaries of most payments to the government, creating instead a monolithic 'other' (the GOVERNMENT IS TAKING MY MONEY!!!) and hiding the logical beneficiaries (our children, our elders). Yes, the 'government' steals from us on one level - but only one the same level that our kids and sick parents 'steal' from us.

"The shameful part would be ME spending Other People's Money on MY family, and especially if I were careless about the expenses, because somebody else was paying."
This is a slightly different line than the one above, but comes to much the same thing.

It is not shameful when a soldier gives his life to defend children other than his own. Nor is it shameful when a taxpayer pays taxes to rear children other than his own. It would be weird to assume that the one is 'noble' while the other is 'shameful' without some clear distinction. But there really isn't much distinction - because in both cases, once we move to a national military or a national health care, we assume that something bigger than our immediate family has value worth defending...like our community.

Viking said...

@donzelion (3:20 PM)

You have very good points. We could negotiate the details over a Whiskey Sour.

donzelion said...

Viking: sticking with the 'shame' concept (despite its admitted problems),

"The shameful part would be ME spending Other People's Money on MY family, and especially if I were careless about the expenses, because somebody else was paying."

The shameful part, in my book, would be to receive those benefits and denounce them (as in, I received something wonderful, but refuse to extend that same gift to others after I received it).

As in, "I received a beautiful road that enabled my parents to go to work, but hated it and let it fall into ruin and neglect because I hated paying taxes for it."

"I received a beautiful land, that many enjoyed witnessing its splendors - but I hated paying for it, so I let it be despoiled."

"I received a beautiful education, that enabled me to read and write and contribute to my world - but I hated paying for it, so I let it be sold to the lowest bidder."

That to me is the logic the Ent tends to fall into, the cynical trap. He disdains what is beautiful, wonderful, deeming it horrid and futile. Locum sometimes falls into that line of thinking too, but he is more likely to feel that those things that are beautiful are still beautiful, just likely to be taken from him (whereas a progressive believes most of those things we enjoyed are not necessarily 'ours' in the first place, merely because we had a time to enjoy them).

David Brin said...

Wow, you guys are having a blast! My blog community may not be as huge as guys like Doctorow and Stross... but look at the level of sapience here! Yes, and even our trolls are very bright!

Though not always clear.

Viking I know you are a hostile person. You know it to. So compensate and stop assuming that others are like you. When I said I had trouble parsing your meanings, it was a genuine appeal for you to use language more comprehensibly. You do also have the option of continuing as-is, knowing that I will eventually give up and skim past your missives. You choose.

I tried again later and I THINK I understood his slavery point… maybe… it’s hard.

“Paramount”… did you mean “tantamount”? I’m trying but it’s hard.

CarlM, in contrast is clear… but alas, he pays zero attention.

Marxist teleology is forward and irresistibly upward.

Fascist and other romantic versions of teleology are cyclical. .

Theocratic teleology is one-time cyclical… except the Hindu.

No, you enquire… but you do not want to know. If you did, I wouldn’t have to repeat everything fifty times, like asking you what force of cheaters squashed freedom and markets for 6000 years.

Well said donzelion. The thing about locumranch is that he secretly wants to be proved wrong, so he can carp and gripe from a higher level of civilization. That’s almost okay. We could use more effort from him, but at least his criticisms occasionally (1% of the time) help our efforts by drawing attention to failure modes and weird perspectives.

The ent wants us to fail. He looks in a mirror and sees a thwarted giant, if only the collapse would come and billions die and ignorance and filth return! A likely lord of harems! A top dog. Poor kibble.

Deuxglass I do not rail against “hillbillies” because I remarked that the term is gone (good riddance) for very good reasons, because almost no one looks or lives like that anymore. My only complaint is about one trait. Ingratitude to FDR and LBJ, who transformed them from grinding, rickets-beriberi starvation to a genteel lower middle class. Far from perfection, but a platform to better. Their ancestors fought against their legitimate class enemies. The current generation hates fact-using professionals, serving the interests of their class enemies. That is worth noting.


Your disappointment in me is your free-right delusion.

Viking said...

@donzelion

Since we're both staying with the useless word shame, let me explain why your reasoning rubs me the wrong way in two possible ways.

1. Your assignment of shame is not consistently logical.
2. I may or may not agree about the scope of use of common resources.

"how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?"

These arguments are to show the fallacy of the assignment of shame, but are otherwise hypothetical and unlikely.

Assume my family were taking too much from me, such that I felt like a slave. If such a situation occurred, it would be their shame, not mine. Your way of expressing something resulting in "shame" is the same logical fallacy as claiming the slaves should be ashamed of slavery. This is akin to victim blaming. Therefore it is hard to engage you in discussion about shame, when you are inverting who should be ashamed.

You wrote: "It is not shameful when a soldier gives his life to defend children other than his own."

This has many dimensions, you may or may not be inverting the shame in this case, but the relevant questions are:

Was the war just? Was the soldier's family at risk because he got drafted, and could not be at home to protect them? Did somebody start an unjust war, and then draft this soldier. In such a case, the shame belongs to the chain of command that drafted this soldier. On it's own, it sounds like you are asking me if the soldier should be ashamed to defend other peoples children. This goes under the paraphrasing with distortion that I mentioned yesterday. And yes, contributing time and money are interchangeable with some conversion rate, which has to be adjusted for risk of death if participating in a war.

"Nor is it shameful when a taxpayer pays taxes to rear children other than his own." I think I elaborated this to death above, again, you are not specifying clearly who is in the wrong, the taxpayer for paying, or the government for making him pay.

However, I do get your point about social insurance, my house not burning down doesn't mean my house insurance premium was wasted.

Viking said...

@Dr. Brin

"Viking I know you are a hostile person. You know it to. So compensate and stop assuming that others are like you. When I said I had trouble parsing your meanings, it was a genuine appeal for you to use language more comprehensibly. You do also have the option of continuing as-is, knowing that I will eventually give up and skim past your missives. You choose."

In that case, I need to apologize for my hostility. You have eloquent language, that's what made you a bestselling author. Together with various elements of hard SciFi, which cannot be faked. I will try and reread more before posting, like you reread your books.

Jonathan Sills said...

Viking, your response also presupposes that a government that assessed a 100% tax rate would not also provide for the basic needs of its citizens.

That's not "government" - that's "barbarian raiders". And our ancestors knew how to handle barbarian raiders, which is why we have governments today.

Viking said...

"Viking, your response also presupposes that a government that assessed a 100% tax rate would not also provide for the basic needs of its citizens."

I also assume that a government that would tax 100% also could retaliate if one decided to quit working. As able bodied, choosing not to work, I might not be defined as needy. Anyway, this is all a philosophical question, as we don't know of any government that taxes 100%.

My overall point is that if we got to the point that an average engineer, making $100K/year had to pay 65% tax, I would say lots of people in power had screwed up badly. And I don't see that as unthinkable given our trajectory.

Is it slavery? From some posters here, it sounds like any tax rate below x axis value corresponding to the peak of the Philips curve is simply wasted.

To me, soaking the rich is a pie in the sky strategy, soon most able bodied employed people will be defined as rich.







Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | As a software engineer, I’m going to grin widely at your accusation and then duck because I know the truth of it. I’m not to blame, though. I bust my butt looking at how my code translates with compilers or runs in virtual machines. Too many of us re-use old libraries that have old assumptions in them, but there is no glamor (or much income) to be found re-writing them.

I entered a tiny contest once to write a routine to calculate values of the sine function without using a trigonometry library and offered up java code to the guy running it. He rolled his eyes figuring a JVM translation would kill any chance I had. Not so. My code ran at about the same speed as the best C offering he got. (It wasn’t a big contest, so he didn’t get anything written at a lower level.) Basically, I paid attention to the object code and knew what the heck a polynomial expansion was for and how one for sine can be worked recursively. Not many of us do that anymore… or have to do it. I’m not sure we should either. If you all are going to go to the trouble of building universal machines, isn’t it missing the point to focus too much on efficiency?

As we get richer collectively, the analogous point we libertarian types have to face is that the marginal utility of a dollar we keep is also dropping. Efficiency matters a great deal if you don’t have a bunch of them and not so much if you are rich. I can rant and rail about taxation being a kind of theft, but the truth is that I can afford the loss AND I benefit from others using those dollars to pick up causes with costs that don’t grow at the same rate as our real incomes. I might RATHER they used a small government approach to be more efficient or skip government all together (there are EXCELLENT reasons for that), but I’m not harmed much if they take my money anyway. As long as people who would use that money to capture government OR voters don’t get it, the danger is diminishing over time.

As for the DoD… well… I’m a US Navy contractor at the moment. Canada and Mexico won’t invade, but Russia will misbehave in Europe and China will misbehave in southeast Asia and both will try to capture trade at the expense of others. They don’t play fair in the markets. They play like would-be empires. You might notice that the USN portion of the budget isn’t tiny. We have a huge fleet. Do we need another aircraft carrier? Meh. Maybe not. Having them out there doing what they do (project force and presence) constrains misbehavior, though. A big part of why the world is prospering right now is that big countries aren’t at war with each other. While we project the power we have, any nation that wanted to go to war across an ocean would have to ask our permission. Sometimes we say ‘yes’, but more often they simply don’t ask. Their abilities atrophy. We’ve said ‘no’ to allies on occasion, so this is not about being on our side. Our Pax thrives on global trade and makes war too damn costly. That is what your USN budget is buying you. The world will thank us some day.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

You (and our host) seem to be confusing me with a run of the mill republican.


If that were true, my "with all due respect" would have been quite sarcastic.

I apologize if I came across that way. Do you understand that you came across confusing the rest of us here for a hive mentality that brooks no disagreement from groupthink, and a PC-worshiping snowflake one at that?



LarryHart said...

Viking:

[When you ask "at what level do taxes become slavery" my answer is "how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?" ]

I am crying foul for false analogy, there is by nature nothing shameful about ME spending MY money on MY family.


donzelion can answer for himself (and maybe he already did), but I took his point to be whether the obligation to your parents and children makes you a slave.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

However, I do get your point about social insurance, my house not burning down doesn't mean my house insurance premium was wasted.


At the risk of being mistaken for snark, I mean this with the utmost sincerity:

You have just proven beyond doubt that you are not a typical Republican.

:)

LarryHart said...

Viking:

To me, soaking the rich is a pie in the sky strategy, soon most able bodied employed people will be defined as rich.


I don't think anyone here--certainly not most--advocate for "soaking the rich" as a strategy. Maybe "not coddling the rich", but that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.*

Keep in mind, though that "the rich' are not monolithic. There are the creators of vast new wealth, about whom I take your point. It's a bad idea to discourage them from creating vast new wealth. Taxing them too highly is like killing the goose which lays the golden eggs. There are also the quasi-legal (and blatantly illegal) thieves and hoarders who acquire wealth by essentially walling it off from others through force and fraud. Taxing them highly is a way of society taking back what belongs to the commons, and anything less than 100% is better than they deserve.

* It's practically my catch-phrase around here. It originates in 1984 explaining why "collective solipsism" is not solipsism.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Viking
I will come at your tax question from another angle

When I "earn" money how much of that money is due to my effort?

As an engineer I know that every-time I do something I am using ideas and knowledge that have been accumulated over the ages - If I invent and patent a new device I am actually only adding a tiny thin veneer to the knowledge required to make that device

Every other profession and job that I can think of is exactly the same
When a job is done a huge percentage of the benefit from that job is the embedded knowledge

Just think about growing a crop - and then think about how well that would go with the wild plant that the crop was developed from

So from this rant I believe that my "income" is only 2% "mine" - the other 98% is due to the work that was done before which cumulatively is known as my "society"

Now I am NOT suggesting a flat 98% tax - that would slow down the engine of our society!

BUT I am saying that we are taxing at a LESS than "fair" rate in order to make society run better

Which means that the people who want to increase taxes should be considered the "fair way" and the opposite of "redistribute" and the people who want to decrease taxes are the ones who want to "redistribute" the income

J.L.Mc said...

The problem with vertical farming is energy costs, the taller it is the more energy is needed to power the grow lights and water pumps.
And unless we have fusion power vertical farms at large scales will be to hard when the oil runs out.

Also, even if we had fusion I dought we would be able to make a lot of them. They would need a lot of hi tech stuff to make them and not enough countries would be able too make a lot of them.

Zepp Jamieson said...

At its core essence, fascism is nothing more than the belief that businessmen should be running the government.
Sounds fairly innocent and almost sensible, doesn't it?
The problem is that you are consigning power to a group that stands apart from the body politic, just as the clergy and the aristocracy are. The result is that you have a group whose interests don't conjoin with public interests, and they therefore have to resort to subterfuge and deception to obtain power, and authoritarianism and the deliberate disempowering of the rest of society in order to keep power.
From there, all the sequalae Dr. Brin describes above ensues.
Capitalism, by itself, doesn't necessarily lead to fascism. Unrestrained capitalism, however, inevitably does.
Once it consolitates power, a fascist regime can be overturned only through blood.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I've maintained for years that we need two new tax brackets: 50% for all income above one million dollars a year, and 99% for all income over $250 million.

donzelion said...

Viking: I wrote: "how ashamed are you when you spend money on your parents/children? At what level do you become their slave?""

Your response: "These arguments are to show the fallacy of the assignment of shame, but are otherwise hypothetical and unlikely."

The unlikelihood is the point. There is no shame in a soldier dying for other people's children; there is no shame to the children nor to the soldier nor to the soldier's family. That applies whether the war is honorable or dishonorable.

"Your way of expressing something resulting in "shame" is the same logical fallacy as claiming the slaves should be ashamed of slavery."
You've misunderstood my claim, and thus erected a straw man to dispute, rather than what I actually wrote. Providing for others is not shameful, whether the provision be compelled or voluntary (e.g., whether a soldier is drafted or a volunteer, it is the manner of service that determines whether pride or shame is warranted). The shame in slavery is in the system itself, and touches all who maintain that system - there is no way a slave owner may take pride in the act of owning slaves, whether that owner is a 'good master' or a 'bad master.'

"This is akin to victim blaming."
Indeed it would be; you have decapitated that straw man you posed, but it was not my argument which stands unchallenged.

For the soldier, pride or shame do not attach to the legitimacy of the war that s/he fights, or the purposes from so doing, but only the nature of service. However, the mere fact he may sacrifice for others neither creates nor confers shame upon him some presidents going to war ought to be ashamed (Bush Jr.). Just as sacrificing life may be required, so too may sacrificing treasure. But how those lives are sacrificed does matter, and how that treasure is utilized does too.

Social insurance, like national military service, only makes sense when one believes that a large group organization can do things a small group of volunteers cannot. America depended upon independent militias in 1812 - they failed, repeatedly (Jackson would have lost at New Orleans had he relied upon them). The same way a nationalized, professionalized, technocraticized military can more effectively crush a foreign adversary than could irregulars, a nationalized, professionalized technocratized social apparatus can crush many social harms (ignorance, starvation, many diseases).

Sadly, it is all too easy for those who despise 'big government' (except the military, which happens to be among the biggest pieces of big government) to critique and condemn what they ought to cherish. The Ent does so, because he cherishes almost nothing and mocks all. Locum does so as well, but more from the vantage of the grunt who hates the silly officers, even as he begrudgingly acknowledges that there must be officers (he just prefers the ones who talk his own preferred way - even if they're grossly incompetent - over competent but remote officers - largely because he's never really lived in a system that was truly, completely, grossly mismanaged...if/when he actually does, he'll have a new appreciation for what we have here, but will still probably be surly).

Jumper said...

At what point do corporate decisions on pay levels become slavery? Not operative. I can quit. Unless there are only a few big mega-corporations, colluding. Whew, that would never happen!

I do think markets have failed when a lot of people are making over a million or so year after year. And take the lone inventor who once in their life sells one patent for $5 million. They should get income averaging.We have often bemoaned how wrong the Laffer curve people have been to even suggest it's anywhere but far too low for theoretical efficiency. Maybe the top rate should be such that no one makes more than $2,718,281 per year - averaged over their lifetime. But I don't know. I'm more inclined to increase that and limit the plutocratic stranglehold by other means, such as limits to corporate size, minimum wages that don't stall and then jump, and government spending increased during downturns and taxes raised during bubbles.

Paul SB said...

J.L. McC.,

You have a good point, if we are talking about today's technology. But as time goes by the technology gets more efficient and cheaper. Like anything else, vertical farms are likely to grow in scope and scale as the costs come down and the efficiencies go up. Take all the world's farmed acreage and enclose and elevate it by one story and you have doubled food production. Of course this won't happen in so simply or smooth a way, but the more of these that are built, the cheaper they will become, and the cheaper it will become to raise them up to 3, then 4 stories, and after a few centuries Earth will look like Coruscant, where no one in living memory has seen the actual surface of the planet. With the technology we have today it would not be too hard to cover one with solar panels or mount a few wind turbines to the superstructure to provide the electricity, making them energy self-sufficient.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Off (present) topic but germane to this blog:
Study provides evidence for externally powered Sun
https://watchers.news/2017/08/01/study-provides-evidence-for-externally-powered-sun/

More to the point of this thread:
"Sam Clovis: Trump's pick for top science job called progressives 'race traitors' "
The unhinged voice of fascism.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/02/donald-trump-sam-clovis-old-blog-progressives-obama

Viking said...

@donzelion

I was not my intention to build a strawman out of your argument, but frankly, it was hard to understand what your argument was about.

My argument, is that there is a level of government spending/taxation that messes up things badly, which I called "shameful", which I admit is not a good term.

I have been baiting you and others to tell me the limit of "do good", at what level does it become unproductive, or in economic terms, the negative marginal utility of the tax payer exceeds the marginal utility of the tax payee. I don't necessarily buy utilitarian arguments, but for the sake of argument, this level seems like an upper limit.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=2569

Your argument seems to say that since everybody (my family and/or your family) are recipients of public spending, it is all good. You have a bunch of seemingly self evident statements, but it is very unclear how they relate to my central question, which is "where is the limit?".

Lastly, sorry about the nitpicking, but I cannot let this statement fly:

"The unlikelihood is the point. There is no shame in a soldier dying for other people's children; there is no shame to the children nor to the soldier nor to the soldier's family. That applies whether the war is honorable or dishonorable."

It was determined without reservations after WW2 that saying "I followed orders" is not a valid legal excuse. If you participate in an unjust war as an aggressor, you carry responsibility, whether it is "shameful" or not.

Viking said...

@Duncan Cairncross

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants, but that doesn't mean the dwarfs should decide howto spend the outcome of the great majority of our labor.

BTW, how long time would it take to train somebody to replace you in your job? How many years of hard work did it take you to get to your current level? If the time and effort spent on self improvements are subjugated to the "common cultural and scientific heritage", that seems like a serious argument for serfdom. Just here, instead of being ruled by a single oligarch, one is ruled by a committee.

I don't buy the "You didn't build that" argument. The same statement most likely has more validity when directed at those that like to steer public spending.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | So from this rant I believe that my "income" is only 2% "mine" - the other 98% is due to the work that was done before which cumulatively is known as my "society"

Funny you should put it that way. There is good evidence that an innovator who produces a valuable piece of creative destruction manages to retain, at best, about 2% of the value it produces for humanity. From his/her perspective, then, the system already taxes his/her creativity. Most of that retained value occurs in Act I of the play and it might amount to billions. Most of the 'lost' value accrues to society in Act III.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Viking
I trained for years - but the knowledge I use represents hundreds of thousands of man years!

If we started afresh each time we would still be wondering which type of rock is best for a handaxe

I'm going to invent something - whats it made of? - Steel - there are thousands of man years there
Then I need to measure it
Cut it
weld it

I'm using the laws of physics to determine how it works
And so on and so forth

I'm going to plant a crop - How? - Fertilizer - How? Why

And the huge part
That crop was developed over thousands of generations of husbandry to be something that is completely different from the initial plant

When I was at University it always amazed me that some double dome would have spent half a lifetime developing a theorem - which we would spend 40 minutes learning and being able to apply it to real world problems

"You didn't build it" may not tickle your fancy but it is accurate

Slim Moldie said...

Viking

I’ve really been enjoying the discussion you brought on. RE your question: “Is there any level of taxation on the productive members of society for the benefit of the needy that ______ would consider shameful.”

My answer is no. Because the corollary to your question is: how many needy people must a self-defining productive member of society ignore before they consider the inequity of that society itself to be shameful and attempt to improve the situation.

If you don’t savvy. Here’s my late night hypothetical situation.

Imagine you are a PE teacher tasked to rank and ultimately grade your students based on their performance in a 1600m run. No ties are allowed because this is sport.

Student A: Male, 18, 72 kg clocks in at 5:26. The data from his heart rate monitor shows that he peaked at 142 bpm and he averaged 135 bpm.

Student B: Male, 18 125 kg, clocks in at 9:37. His HRM data shows a peak at 182 bpm and an average heart rate of 167 bpm.

So…objectively we can clearly state that Student A is faster and Student B’s heart is working more rigorously. Do you see the problem yet?

My assumption is that most of us here would assign some percent category weights to both heart rate and time and combine them to determine the overall grades and rankings.

How would you fairly assess their performance?

As a caveat, before you submit the grades and final ranking, know the parents of each student are both protestants, and fiercely proud of their child’s performance. Moreover, each parental unit has threatened to call your decision “shameful” and take legal action if their offspring isn’t ranked higher than the other.

As it stands, no matter what you choose, the legal counsel for the parents of the lower ranking student will attack your decision. Even if you use category weights for time and heart rate. Their delivery system? An income vs taxation metaphor carrying a payload of toxic zero sum thinking guaranteed to make winners and losers.

George Carty said...

@Paul SB

J.L. McC. is right -- though I wouldn't rule out vertical farms entirely, I'd say they could only be practical if they were powered by nuclear energy (either breeder reactors or fusion).

Solar-powered vertical farms in particular are a total non-starter, as (due to the energy losses in the electric lighting and in the solar panels themselves) the land area you would need to cover in solar panels to power them would be at least twice the area required by the equivalent traditional farms.

Jumper said...

$50 tax for every 200 gallons of whiskey I make is high enough.

Jumper said...

"Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think."
-- Niels Bohr

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I've maintained for years that we need two new tax brackets: 50% for all income above one million dollars a year, and 99% for all income over $250 million.


While I'm more with you than not in sentiment, I'd caution that confiscatory tax rates are legitimate only in addressing hoarding of wealth, not creation of wealth. The problem being addressed is not income per se. When you structure your system to essentially discourage incomes above a ceiling, you are essentially telling a Steve Jobs, "You've improved our standard of living enough. Don't create any more wealth."

The Ayn Randists are right about that. They are wrong in thinking that everybody who accumulates money does so by being productive. What those of us who like progressive tax rates really want to do is tell the Mitt Romneys, "You've walled off enough value from the commons and made it your private property. Leave some for the rest of us."

Or from the old "Willy and Ethel" comic strip (Ethel peers into a refigerator, Willy stands behind her sweating profusely) : "Hey Ethel. It's 95 degrees. Let someone else look for the mustard!"

Rather than an income limit above which almost all of it becomes taxed, I'd rather see those who create actual wealth that benefits the commons able to deduct that value from what they are personally taxed. A recognition that they have already paid "in kind" to the community.

Devil, meet details.

Zepp Jamieson said...

What possible need could anyone have for income above a quarter billion a year, any way.
To use your Steve Jobs example (or Elon Musk, for a living example) it would encourage reinvestment; put the money into the company, and you don't pay taxes on it, but it instead goes to ensuring you make another quarter billion the following year.
If you look at the 0.01%, most of their income goes overseas to tax havens, or is used to subvert us. This way, they're still sending money out to tax havens (which hopefully will one day meet the end Brin forecast in Earth) but they won't have the funds at hand to totally buy out what remains of the US.

Paul SB said...

George,

With our current technology, I don't doubt it. But that's with our current technology. I'm talking about a more distant future, the next 50 - 100 years. If the technologies are nurtured and the need is perceived, more solid chemists will attack the efficiency limits, or perhaps even discover something better, cleaner, cheaper and more efficient than solar. Perhaps there will be a breakthrough in fusion power. That would be hella better than fission, with its nuclear waste issues. And if the vertical farms are enhancements to existing farms, then wind becomes more practicable in many places. I used to live in Denver and visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in nearby Golden a couple times. One of their chemists went to the church I was attending at that time, and I did research there for a museum exhibit on the solar energy boom of the 1970s for the local history museum. The people working there are both impressively intelligent and deep-down true believers in what they do. They only need the funding and attention to do wonderful things for humanity. That chemist I knew was working on creating a new transparent covering for solar panels that would have a higher transmittance than glass but not be as fragile, and not have the problem of turning opaque in the sun as the hydrocarbon alternatives have. Unfortunately I haven't been in touch to see how that little project was coming along. But now solar is becoming a commercial success, you can bet there are more people like him working in the private sector to improve efficiencies. Think future.

Paul SB said...

Donzel of Ionia (okay, you’re tall and trim enough to be Ionian, though the hair color doesn’t match),

Karl Wittfogel was a huge advance for his day. Sure he was wrong about most things, but we know this now because we have both more data and because our culture has changed dramatically. Remember that in the early 20th C. people were still explaining the rise of civilization with Victorian-era racial pom-pom waving and vague notions of “influences.” His more materialist explanation was a huge improvement, even if it was largely influenced by Marx. Marxian materialism has entirely changed the world in terms of how we view relations and causalities regardless of all the things he got wrong. It’s a bit like Freud – we all know he was wrong about many things, but at a very deep level he was right about something, and that something really did change the world. Of course there are still plenty of throwbacks who haven’t learned either of those lessons and cling to ancient superstitions. They make up the ranks of Trump voters, both rich and poor.

But enough on Wittfogel. His theory is largely a relic, enough though his structuralism has become a fundamental part of how we view human reality these days. Your words on debt-centric and reproduction-centric models is much more interesting. Of course, it demonstrates both the value of looking at other primates and the limitations of using primate models. Daniel Duffy was making a pat statement when he wrote that humans are just another primate species. Sure humans are primates, and they have very typical primate instincts. But the fact that humans can’t make up their minds whether they are a pair-bonding or a tournament species shows how they deviate from primate norms, too. The fact that humans have minds to make up is informative. But it’s significance depends a whole lot on just how well they are aware of what constitutes their own instincts. If they are unaware (as most are) then most of their choices will be guided by those instincts while they delude themselves into thinking they are so very clever. I could name some names, here, but I think this is so pervasive there is little point singling a few fools out.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion con.t,

Your point about time is spot on. I would add, though, that individuals who insist on following the tournament pattern are reinforced by intermittent success – a situation Pavlov characterized as the most powerful form of conditioning. Look at the vacillation in Western nations between democratic memes and fascist or totalitarian memes. Sometimes the Nazi types gain ascendancy, and that encourages would-be alpha males to whip themselves up into competitive frenzies and try to bite and claw their way to the top. Other times the democratic institutions stand fast and we get leaders who truly serve the people and not serve themselves. This just makes the wannbe alphas more vigilant and more persistent in trying to wrest control from the people and take power for themselves. They are slaves to their instincts, little different from Pavlov’s dogs, but because they are members of a sapient species they sure think they are clever. And they spread their poison memes in their efforts at self-aggrandizement.

On the other side of that spectrum you have the pair-bond types who live for their children and family is the most important thing to them. This value is so pervasive and intense that anyone who thinks differently in any way becomes a leper. But by being so atomized and taking little interest in the trajectories of society, they are helpless to prevent the machinations of those wannbe alphas. Still operating mostly on instinct, they are easily swayed by fear-mongering into working against themselves, their civilizations, and supporting the agendas of those self-aggrandizing alpha types. Only when the damage gets to be intolerable do they make any effort to remove the bastards they elected to office in the first place. Most then go back to same-old, same-old and the cycle starts over again. They elect their strong men, the strong men pillage them, then some figure out what they are about and hang them up on meat hooks. A decade or so later they have forgotten, they think it’s different this time, and the tournament types get reinforced yet again. Not cyclical history to be sure, and not inevitable, but a pattern. I think the pattern is being eroded by education and the work of the social and cognitive sciences, but it’s slow going. Heavy stuff to contemplate…

Paul SB said...

Larry & Zepp,

Perhaps taxing income is the wrong way to go, here. If the idea is to keep the economy robust so there are good jobs for most people and innovation keeps going, what we should be taxing is deposits. It might not be good to tax them below a certain level, but go after those rentier-class parasites who hoard rather than reinvesting in the future. One drawback to this idea is that it might encourage the type of pyramid schemes in which certain people's wealth is more in equity than actual cash holdings.

Darrell E said...

Viking said...
@donzelion

"Lastly, sorry about the nitpicking, but I cannot let this statement fly:"

""The unlikelihood is the point. There is no shame in a soldier dying for other people's children; there is no shame to the children nor to the soldier nor to the soldier's family. That applies whether the war is honorable or dishonorable.""

"It was determined without reservations after WW2 that saying "I followed orders" is not a valid legal excuse. If you participate in an unjust war as an aggressor, you carry responsibility, whether it is "shameful" or not."


Not to interrupt your conversation, but just in the interests of facilitating understanding, you may be off target here. Donzelion is saying that the specific act of a soldier giving their life in order to save someone else's children is not shameful regardless of the larger context of the war. Whether the soldier was on the just or unjust side of the war, whether they were otherwise a war criminal or a hero, the specific act of saving someone else's children at the cost of their own life is not a shameful act.

Or maybe you did understand that and you disagree? That would be interesting.

Viking said...

@Darrel E:

"Not to interrupt your conversation, but just in the interests of facilitating understanding, you may be off target here. Donzelion is saying that the specific act of a soldier giving their life in order to save someone else's children is not shameful regardless of the larger context of the war. Whether the soldier was on the just or unjust side of the war, whether they were otherwise a war criminal or a hero, the specific act of saving someone else's children at the cost of their own life is not a shameful act.

Or maybe you did understand that and you disagree? That would be interesting. "

From my perspective, it was hard to answer donzelion, because I don't see a coherent argument. I do see that my answer might be interpreted as sniping in taking something small out of context, and vilifying it.

I was almost asking yesterday if the soldier analogy should be taken less literally, and instead be interpreted as someone voluntarily being the one victim instead of five in a trolley problem.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

The reason I didn't say that, is that it could easily sound like rambling, and I didn't want to make another strawman or putting words in donzelion's mouth. In general, I consider an analogy between serving your country as a soldier and paying taxes weak. The save the neighbor's children plot device I suppose could be an analogy for society providing someone with life saving surgery. I guess that analogy doesn't make any impression on me because it is simply wrong:

The work of a soldier is not to save a specific individual or family. It is to achieve a political objective that his chain of command supports.

And involuntary military service is a lot more like slavery than the overwhelming majority of tax situation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop-loss_policy

donzelion said...

Viking: "I was not my intention to build a strawman out of your argument, but frankly, it was hard to understand what your argument was about."

Hmmm, OK. Let's set it out a little more formally then.

Your Proposition: At some level, too much tax/spending creates slavery.
My Observation: At all levels, the largest share of tax/spending goes to dependent beneficiaries (children/elderly/sick). Thus, either
(A) You are able to become a slave to your children/parents/sick people when you transfer money to them, or
(B) The initial proposition is flawed.

You find (A) to be unrealistic - good! Thus, either (B) - or offer a new alternative.

I brought up the military because after the mandatory spending, the military is the next largest recipient of your tax dollars. Repeating that analysis:

Your Proposition: At some level, too much tax/spending creates slavery.
My Observation: Most soldiers are called upon to put their lives on the line for the country.
My Point: What tax bracket is your life worth? 10%? 99%? To the extent that soldiers may legitimately be called upon to give up their lives, even in peace time, then believing an 'excessive' tax rate is tantamount to 'slavery' is misplaced.

Soldiers are a troublesome case for anyone who believes in homo economicus - we never want soldiers to review their orders to determine whether they will receive greater marginal utility by following them or not. Yet if the homo economicus conceit had any basis in reality, we would never have soldiers willingly put themselves in harms way (at least, not until they evaluated how much reward they get for the risk they take).

We want them to follow orders - almost all the time. They don't get to choose from good wars or bad, or from good orders or bad. The Nuremberg consensus is that they can and should refuse to do something clearly 'illegal' (shooting prisoners of war arbitrarily, targeting civilians, mass rape). To my mind, a system that would order them to do so is 'shameful' - but that is a side point to your original proposition.

Paul451 said...

Belatedly,

"Or is it just a trick question?"

IMO, many missed an important aspect of Viking's how-much-is-too-much-tax challenge: He treats tax as a kick-down function for the purposes of his challenge, but clearly wants to use the answer to defend kiss-up policies. See his main example, the "serf" being taxed by the lords/priests. Feel sorry for the poor serf, yes he was harshly treated, and thus feel anger at the idea of taxation, and so join with me in rebelling against the poor taking from their wealthy slaves! The dwarves taxing the giants!

In progressive taxation, the rate increases as does wealth. By definition, under such a system, you can't starve from "overtaxation". You only get taxed more because you can afford to pay more. But by god are those who can afford it unhappy about that idea. So everything they do politically (including promoting their puppet-philosophy, libertarianism) is about restoring the older "natural" order of things, when the lords tax the serfs... rather than this awful progressive notion of the serfs taxing the lords.

Noblesse oblige is not slavery. It's a different thing. Maybe, as Larry would say, the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

Viking:

The work of a soldier is not to save a specific individual or family. It is to achieve a political objective that his chain of command supports.


That's the job description of a soldier. The day-to-day, on the ground work involves other things as well. Unit cohesion and willingness to help your buddies is, I suspect, a big part of that.

Marines go to great lengths to not leave one of their own behind, even if he's dead. That's not in the direct service of a political objective.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: To be honest, I look forward to the day that Samuel Huntington and Karl Wittfogel are both studied together, and similarly discarded, in a course on theory. Still, Wittfogel's observations to the role of geography in the problems and solutions confronted by a political order are useful nuggets for separate inquiry (leading later to the geographic determinists).

"Marxian materialism has entirely changed the world in terms of how we view relations and causalities regardless of all the things he got wrong."
Indeed. Simply assuming that things are 'constructed a certain way' by human decisions - rather than 'naturally reflect tendencies' removes quite a bit of self-serving, tradition-defending prejudice. Like Plato (whom our host despises), assuming a thing is 'knowable' - and even asking what it might mean to know a thing at all - moves debate forward (even if the initial grasping at straws falls short).

"If they are unaware (as most are) then most of their choices will be guided by those instincts while they delude themselves into thinking they are so very clever."
Sadly, I suspect we are all acutely aware of other people's decisions and reasoning flaws - with blind spots to our own. That said -

"Sometimes the Nazi types gain ascendancy, and that encourages would-be alpha males to whip themselves up into competitive frenzies and try to bite and claw their way to the top. Other times the democratic institutions stand fast and we get leaders who truly serve the people and not serve themselves."

Perhaps the blind spot is in our choices of what to fixate upon? We see Trump: we assume America has a 'more tournament' environment than it did in 2014. But does it really, or is a tournament that we always had running just more prominent? Simultaneously, nearly all the nurturing, cooperating conduct that occurred in 2014 continues in 2017 - the alphas are still alphas, the betas still betas - the pairs bond (or try to bond), all continues regardless of what we perceive.

I do not believe that the Trump supporters really want a 'tournament' with a victor, so much as entertainment in a certain form. The phenomenon is closer to the WWE - yes, of course someone wins and someone loses the match - but the engagement is secondary to the winners and losers - it's all spectacle. I cannot think of any primate other than humans so engrossed in that sort of pursuit. Since they can't cook their food, other primates must spend a lot of time chewing; humans can skip that...perhaps because we do so, we readapt the same processes towards mental pursuits (making both tournaments as true tournaments, and pair bonding inordinately more difficult).

Viking said...

@donzelion

Your points about soldiers are good, the individual soldier doesn't get to interpret whether his orders are constitutional, violating UN Human Rights, or violation the Geneva protocol. Your other argument:

"Your Proposition: At some level, too much tax/spending creates slavery.
My Observation: At all levels, the largest share of tax/spending goes to dependent beneficiaries (children/elderly/sick). Thus, either
(A) You are able to become a slave to your children/parents/sick people when you transfer money to them, or
(B) The initial proposition is flawed.

You find (A) to be unrealistic - good! Thus, either (B) - or offer a new alternative."

In (A) above, you are not distinguishing between voluntary and forced. You smear everything together, by your argument, there is no difference between steaming passion and rape, voluntary labor for compensation and slavery.

I can voluntarily chose to work 3 jobs to get my children the best education, this doesn't void the possibility that on the other hand, my wife could live an extravagant unsustainable lifestyle that I never signed up for, and with the threat of divorce and loosing the nest egg, I work 3 jobs under duress. I see you as using the "think of the children" trump card, but you are not supplying any valid supporting logic.

I don't thing there is any doubt that everybody is better off with some tax rate higher than 0%, and everybody is better off with some tax rate less than 100%. I agree with Alfred Differ's point that equating tax with slavery is much less defensible than equating taxation with theft. But note that in a sense, you are putting words in my mouth, I originally asked which tax rate would make someone half slave, which I admit is ambiguous. This is not the same as claiming all taxation is slavery.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Noblesse oblige is not slavery. It's a different thing. Maybe, as Larry would say, the opposite thing.


Heh. My work is done.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

You say that the trait you detest in hillbillies is their ingratitude to FDR, LBJ and the Democrat Party for all they have done for them. In that case you would also have to condemn Afro-Americans for having abandoned the party that freed them, the Republican Party. The Republican Party now is not the same party as it was in Lincoln’s time but the Democrat Party of FDR and LBJ bears little resemblance to what the Democrat Party has become today. FDR and LBJ instituted wide and effective policies to help the common people. The Democrat Party dropped that strategy a long time ago. Eternal gratitude doesn’t and should not exist in these cases. A political party has to be relevant to the people’s wants and needs of today and can’t coast by on what was done 50 or a 150 years ago. Some of my taxes went to bailout the Wall Street banks so by all measure they should be eternally grateful to me but the world doesn’t work like that.

Let me explain better why I took offense at your use of hillbilly. When you talk about confederates, oligarchs and feudalists I know what you mean. These groups have certain characteristics, beliefs and practices that define them. However in general they are not tied to an ethnic group because they are worldwide and exist in every country. There is little difference in behavior between an oligarch in Africa and one in China. They both act in more or less the same way and the color of their skin or the language they speak doesn’t really matter. When you used Confederates, oligarchs, feudalists, who are behavior groups, interchangeably with hillbillies, which is an ethnic group, I became angry. Part of my ancestry is hillbilly but another part is Jewish and I am well aware what can happen when you paint an ethnic group as the root of the problem. You of all people should have been sensitive to this. That is why I was disappointed. It does great disservice to all those hillbillies who vote Democrat and there is a lot of them.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Well, I would use tax credits to encourage reinvestment for the future. It would be foolish to penalize Musk for using his money in the way that he is, to work toward technological and social advancements.

David Brin said...

Parsing a bit better now, Viking asks: “is that there is a level of government spending/taxation that messes up things badly”?

I’ve alread made clear that there are several criteria for justifiable consensus social action, extracting value from taxpayers to invest into joint projects.

#1 is investments that clearly increase the effectiveness of our flat-open-fair-competitive-creative arenas — Markets, Democracy, Science, Courts and sports. The biggest way govt does this is by increasing the supply of ready/able/confident competitors. Even the Hayekians admit that increasing that supply is the greatest way to ensure those systems work.

We have done that through investment in educating the poor, plus keeping them healthy enough to consider competing, plus providing infrastructure, plus enhancing justice so they no longer feel the decks are stacked against them. All of these we do because they are “good.” but the other justification - increasing the supply of competitors - is inarguable and even an honest libertarian must cringe and admit this is worth doing.

Likewise anti-trust and other regs to limit cheating by those who would otherwise cheat with unfair advantage, the thing that ruined markets and competition for 6000 years.

If the competitive arenas are healthy, they then (a) make some of the problems go away, and (b) generate vastly more wealth.

#2 is investment in science and R&D because businesses, even when clean and competitive, have short ROI (return on investment) horizons. Today’s sick, treasonous CEO oligarchy has cut their ROI horizon from the normal 5 years to less than one. But even 5 years is way too short to fund R&D that civilization clearly needs and vastly benefits from.

If you throw in defense, courts and police, you now have maybe a third of govt spending well-justifed in principle… with lots of room to argue WHICH pro-competitive education etc systems are best. That would be “politics.” If that art had not been deliberately killed by enemies of the republic.

But there it is. If an intervention equalizes and raises OPPORTUNITIES to compete, then it has greater inherent justification than interventions that equalize OUTCOMES. Though some of the latter must happen to prevent a return to feudalism, which destroys opportunity.


-
Deuxglass sorry, but your “the democrats left me” bullshit excuse is a bullshit excuse. Trumpism is not about economic neglect, and you know it.

Also you flat out lie when you claim that I used “hillbilly” except to point out that the term was obsolete. You are railing against a strawman of your own devising.

Jumper said...

Actually, a soldier is on good legal ground to disobey an illegal order.

In practice, often there's no real alternative, but that is rarely included in the orders themselves. For example a team of commandos is on a stealthy mission to accomplish an important task (kill Hitler!) when suddenly 30 enemy soldiers surrender. To take them prisoner ruins a chance to finish the mission. To let them go also ruins that chance.

David Brin said...

Keep discussing guys. Best blog community on the planet. I'll be traveling. May quickly post something Saturday, while at Science Foo (at Google) and the Starship Conference. Also talking at Facebook and the Naval Postgraduate School....

Carry on.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I almost laughed out loud at your last aside. No, there aren't any other primates who operate quite like the hominids do (or did, since all but one race of hominids are extinct). That's both the beauty and difficulty of consciousness - humans are much less conscious than they think they are, but the think they are. Those quirks and difficulties come with the territory of thinking they are more than they are. They fail to reach their potentials because their own memes impose limits on them and channel their energies into pursuits that do they more harm than good.

And yes, finding our own blind spots can be herculean, which is why scientific epistemology shoots arrogance down, in spite of the insecurities of non-scientists. It's also why it pays to take other people's criticisms seriously. But as to the game of tournaments and pair bonds, sure these are always happening, more or less. The question is which one is more and which one is less. Some eras seem to have valued one or the other more (think of the peachy keen 50s or the make love not war 60s). When you get a lot of real bastards in high places like we have today, there will be outcry, but also a whole lot of emulation. When the pendulum swings away from bastardization of leadership, and just general bad behavior all around, we might see some improvement. The roaches will still be hiding in the garage, but they won't be raiding the refrigerator. More importantly, fewer people will long to be one of those roaches.

Berial said...

Deuxglass said, "When you used Confederates, oligarchs, feudalists, who are behavior groups, interchangeably with hillbillies, which is an ethnic group, I became angry."

You are the first person I've noticed that thinks of 'hillbillies' as an ethnic group. I've always thought of them as a cultural group, roughly equivalent to 'rednecks' which I've been called myself.

Just a passing comment, carry on.

Darrell E said...

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Off (present) topic but germane to this blog:
Study provides evidence for externally powered Sun
https://watchers.news/2017/08/01/study-provides-evidence-for-externally-powered-sun/"


I think it might be more accurate to say that this study provides an interpretation of evidence rather than it provides evidence. The relevant evidence is data from mainstream science research projects. There is nothing at all wrong with using other people's data of course. I'm just making the distinction that this data was not generated by a research project devised by this researcher to test his externally powered Sun hypothesis.

Interesting, but there are several warning signs that make me suspect this is crank science. It is definitely not consistent with mainstream science and makes many claims about mainstream science's understanding of solar physics that are overly exaggerated or plain wrong.

Perhaps this researcher is on to something and will show most all of modern physics to be wrong, which is the scale of things if he is correct, but the odds of that are tiny and half or more of the items on Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit can be found in that article and its references.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

You say that the trait you detest in hillbillies is their ingratitude to FDR, LBJ and the Democrat Party for all they have done for them. In that case you would also have to condemn Afro-Americans for having abandoned the party that freed them, the Republican Party. The Republican Party now is not the same party as it was in Lincoln’s time but the Democrat Party of FDR and LBJ bears little resemblance to what the Democrat Party has become today. FDR and LBJ instituted wide and effective policies to help the common people. The Democrat Party dropped that strategy a long time ago. Eternal gratitude doesn’t and should not exist in these cases.


I'd normally complain about "Democrat Party", but I know that's a quirk of yours and not an indication you're parroting Limbaugh and Hannity. So never mind.

I don't think you're taking Dr Brin literally enough, though. He doesn't seem (to me) to berate anyone for lack of loyalty to the party of FDR and LBJ, but for supporting those politicians who are hell-bent on dismantling everything that FDR and LBJ did for them.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Deuxglass, please. The African-American community "abandoned" the GOP after a century's worth of "jam tomorrow". As for "abandoned policies that helped the common people" -- it was only with the coming of Third Way neoliberalism under Bill Clinton that such an accusation could stick, a move that coincided with the use of symbolism and inclusionist policies to produce political loyalty among Democrats, and the use of symbolism and exclusionist policies to produce political loyalty among Republicans.

I agree that the Democrats need to make a course correction on delivering policies and a social contract that 'work' for the common people -- "A Better Deal" as Senator Schumer wishes to call it. That's not the same as saying that a better economic policy is all the actions the Dems should take... quite a lot of the animus is now driven by cultural factors, and especially by a highlighting of the cultural-racial divide between cities and the countryside.

I am not a hillbilly, but some of my ancestors were. And we never left the Democratic Party either. In part because somewhere between the hills and here, we figured out that there were principles more important than voting the same way as our neighbors. If I ever cosplayed at a Civil War re-enactment, I'd put on the Union blues. But it's also true that the descendants of those same rejectors of the confederate cause are the same that elected a con-artist to the chief magistrate's office. There is no contradiction here, only a hoodwink: they believe that both the Democratic Party and the Republican orthodoxy were captured by oligarchs. I can see how they could come to such a conclusion... it just happens to be wrong.

Which is why we need the Colonels and their ilk to come and demonstrate it.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/politics/republican-party-donald-trump.html


In an editorial on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal described the week’s events as “one of the great political failures in recent U.S. history,” going as far as endorsing efforts to unseat the disloyal senators. “If the Obamacare Republicans now get primary opponents, they have earned them,” the paper said.

As the radio host Hugh Hewitt took calls from irate listeners, he predicted political ruin for Republican senators, like Dean Heller of Nevada, who had opposed the bill. “Boy, are people mad,” he said. “They are mad as hell.”


Can someone please explain why anti-repeal Republican Senators would be punished by their constituents for opposing the repeal when those constituents were the ones yelling at them not to take their health care away?

Or why such Senators would be punished for voicing concerns but ultimately voting for the bill? I mean, Collins and Murkowski and McCain voted "nay", but "like Dean Heller of Nevada" did not.

If anything, given the nature of the recent town-hall crowds, Heller invited punishment by voting for the repeal, not for arguing against it.

Jumper said...

For a good read, a very well researched story of a man of the North Carolina mountains (far from the stereotype; he's well spoken and reasonably intelligent) who deserts the Confederate army: Cold Mountain
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Mountain_(novel)

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I was an early supporter of Sanders and loyally voted for Clinton even though I felt she was the worst possible candidate except for Trump. Of course being a Sanders supporter basically means that I feel that the leadership of the party is not only out of touch but is actively working against the interests of the middle and lower classes and have been doing so for a long time. I would love to have the party tackle the big problems as did FDR and LBJ but the present leadership will never do that. It will take time but eventually the party will either return to its progressive roots or disappear. Can you prove to me that the Democrat Party still has the reformist energy as did Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and LBJ?

I do no support Tump and never have. Trump isn’t our first bad president and won’t be our last. He will be there for a least four more years and we have to contain him and outlast him. But Trump doesn’t explain why the Republicans swept Congress, most governorships and state legislators. It is too easy to blame it on Fox news, gerrymandering and so forth. That’s just a version “it’s not my fault” excuse and is a very weak one but it has the advantage allowing one to avoid taking responsibility for failure.

Berial,

The hillbillies are the Scots-Irish. All Scots-Irish are not or no longer hillbillies but just about all hillbillies are Scots-Irish. That is why I took it as a racial slur because the people there would see it as one. Where I come from they have a strong identity of who they are where they came from.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass your "dems are almost as bad" narrative fails on every count. It isn't just a NArrow wing of Bernites who have opposed "Supply Side" voodoo blood gifts to the Vampire Caste, but all democrats. All of them support science and independent civil service. All of them support respect for actual facts and knowledge. All of them want public schools to function - though a few would support more charter experiments. All support civil rights... some a bit slower on whatever is this year's forward edge.

Trumping up the differences between the party's moderate left and moderate right serves one purpose, to spark struggle over what should be a broad front assault on every red state assembly seat in the nation... which means supplying Lakoff's 'STRONG FATHER"candidates who are sane adults and not ra ing loonies.

Your entire narrative makes you feel smug and superior, but it is falling for a trap. We need a very broad coalition and a big tent.

George Carty said...

Personally I think continued support for Republicans is less down to Lakoff's "Strict Father" archetype, and more due to the "Inherited Obligation Family" described by Doug Muder. People are trapped in economically moribund communities by family obligations (and possibly also by the oxytocin-driven need for close-knit communities which Paul SB described), and are therefore willing to fall for politicians like Trump which promise to protect local employment.

Tony Fisk said...

I wouldn't have thought the limitations of vertical gardens are energy requirements related to height. Lighting is simply a function of the area to be lit, so you get out what you put in (however, see below). Height? It takes surprisingly little energy to lift something eg water. Say you need to supply 20,000 litres (20 tonnes) of water a day to the 25th floor (~100m). That's 20,000 * 100 * 10 = 20MJ. Doing that over the course of an hour requires a 20,000,000/3600 = 5.5KW generator: about what you need to power a couple of strip heaters. Doing it over a 24 hour day would only need ~250W. Someone* with a bicycle dynamo could do that!

The problem with vertical gardens comes when you have to start augmenting natural plant food (sunlight) with artificial additives. This starts at a fairly early stage but, if lighting costs are an acceptable overhead for your crop**, the above holds.

* ie several someones working shifts.

** A colleague and his wife were getting interested in developing a hydroponic garden for their hi-rise balcony, and went investigating hydroponics shops. They were wondering at the strange paraphernalia for darkened cupboards, and the sideways looks they were getting from the clientele and the shop assistant, and it dawned on them that these shops were catering for a very specific type of crop. They were directed to Bunnings.

Alfred Differ said...

So... chimps are a tournament species, right?

Bonobos?


I remember an old argument among some who look at genetics only that the chimps should be classified as hominids. If so, it would seem to make sense to move bonobos closer too. If humans can't decide between tournament and pair bonding, what of our closest relatives?

Alfred Differ said...

I know one can look at the science details regarding vertical farming, but the part that I always thought offered the worst constraints was the economics. City real estate is extremely valuable and is likely to be more so as we concentrate more of us onto smaller footprints. Why in the world would we devote expensive square footage to growing food? The return on that investment can't possibly compete with other efforts that need the resources available at city centers.

As our cities grow richer, I DO expect vertical farming will happen, but along the periphery at a distance where the ROI works. This has been the historical case and should continue even if the solutions to the equations change over time.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp Jamieson | Okay. I'm stuffed full of baloney now. Thanks. There goes my diet. 8)

Seriously. That article quacks.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - the pair bonding and tournament styles

http://peterturchin.com/ultrasociety/

How 10,000 years of war made humans the greatest cooperators on the planet

Genetic Evolution favors the competitors and has it in for the altruistic cooperators
But Cultural Evolution favors the cooperators

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Chimps are clearly tournament, as are gorillas, two of the three species that share ~99% of human DNA. The third species, bonobos, do not fit on this spectrum at all. Like pair-bonding species they have very little sexual dimorphism and very little violence of any kind, but they don't pair bond. Their sexual antics have become quite famous, so this is a case that doesn't fit on the spectrum - and a good exemplar for people who think that if they have a location on a number line that's all they need to know. As to the argument that these folks belong in the hominid family, it's nonsense. Species can successfully breed and produce not only children but fertile children capable of producing grandchildren. Since all three of these species have 48 chromosomes while humans have 46, this isn't going to happen (like anyone would want to try ...).

Paul SB said...

Tony,

I've had that same experience going to a hydroponics shop with my daughter, and coming to the realization of who most of their clientele really are. Still, I'm glad to have you around, since you have that familiarity with the mathematics of these issues that I only know in theory. I had an energy science class as an undergrad where I had to make those kinds of calculations, and though I did not find them especially difficult, that was 25 centuries ago and I'm more than a bit rusty.

I would think that natural sunlight would be sufficient in many locations, as a vertical farm is really just a sort of high-rise greenhouse. Inner city versions would have the problem of tall buildings shading them, so artificial lighting would be necessary there. I remember reading something about using strips of LED lights for this while doing research for a fiction project a year or so ago. It gave the impression that the new LED lights would be both cost-effective and provide sufficient spectrum for crops.

At the moment vertical farming is only economical for speciality crops like high-brow lettuce varieties. That will change over time. Remember when CD players cost $800 and each CD was $30? With time and proper nurturance it will become more economical and widespread. Maybe a little thunder and does along the way...

David Brin said...

URBAN FARMING IS NOT ENERGY LIMITED. ANY BIG BUILDING WILL IN FUTURE GENERATE A LARGE % OF WHAT IT NEEDS. crap i hate caps loc k while standing at an airport. urban farming can recycle water... even sewage in theory, creating synergies. already some crops like lettuce would be taken over by local urban prod except for the hump of initial capital.

Alfred Differ said...

That urban farming will happen makes as much sense as the electricity generating utilities squeezing every bit of heat into moving electrons by wrapping one generator with another. It will happen for the sake of efficiency. I don't see how it will grow beyond that, though, so I don't see it feeding all that many people. Urban square footage is expensive, so ROI calculations will rule.

To make matters worse, urban centers are where volatility will be highest BECAUSE of ROI's. Farming will be moved around as a result. That will limit the capital applied to projects. Long term risks have to face short term unknowns.

I respect Hanson's description of urban centers whether Em's happen or not. Those centers are where we bring high energy/information/skill intensity projects. Those centers will optimize to make money based on their customer's needs. Those needs WON'T be vertical farming because one does not make a lot of money selling commodities.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Thank you. I couldn't imagine how the Bonobos fit in that model. Besides being managed by dominant females, it's obvious they don't pair up. The females don't allow it.

Regarding chromosome counts, okay. Your version of the counter argument is that all hominids were capable of interbreeding at some point not that long ago. I've seen the narrative that suggests the tree of life should be seen more as a river of currents that branches, but each branch still has many smaller currents. It made some sense as a way to squash the racial notions some of us have and had the added benefit of making it difficult to define exactly what a human is. 8)

I suspect they'd counter that you are mixing species and genus distinctions, though. Could we really interbreed with Lucy's people anymore? I doubt it.


Anyway, I'm not trying to pick sides in the debate. It just popped into my mind because of Daniel's 3-post narrative that described what we are and where we are going. The thought bubble over my head said 'Hmm. Not so simple as that.'

Jumper said...

http://www.salon.com/2016/02/17/enough_with_the_vertical_farming_partner/

Wrong link a few minutes ago.
I'm a skeptic on the vertical farming thing.

Tim H. said...

What might make enclosed food production viable is unstable weather, unseasonable freezes and such, in that case greenhouses might make more sense and lighting would be supplemental, to extend growing seasons. Something like what Davis Weber imagined for settlers on a planet with excessive heavy metals, "Flag In Exile" was the title, those should be large enough.

Tony Fisk said...

@PaulSB The issue of shade is what limits vertical farms, in the sense of 'why go up when you're just intercepting your neighbour's radiation? There are situations where it's OK. (eg shading waste ground)

Here's an idle thought, though: windows that convert green light to yummy red and UV to blue.

Meanwhile, it looks like the kids are getting away from the nanny state.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Lucy's folk weren't hominids, they were genus Australopithecus (much less the same species). Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, yes. H. sapiens floresiensis (or is it H. floresiensis?), maybe, H. sapiens denisova most certainly.

These days the tree is more often seen as a bush, with lots of little twigs. It's just an analogy, though, and doesn't do so good a job of representing extinction with issue.

J.L.Mc said...

I think something akin to "bottle gardens" or container gardens in general are a more realistic alternative to any kind of large scale vertical farming that involves building higher than 2 storeys.

Paul SB said...

Tony,

I would expect city centers full of sky scrappers would more likely go the green roof route - even if they aren't growing anything edible, the affect it has on air conditioning is more than worth the investment, and having green space up there is good psychologically for super-stressed yuppies. I can imagine vertical farming more like in suburban zones. I'm imagining something like a series of stretched-out ziggurat structures under glass pyramids to minimize the structures shading each other.

I like your idle thought. if I were a chemical engineer, I would be going for something I could patent.

Would rogue Chinese chatbots start using traditional characters just to thumb their noses at the Party?

Jumper said...

That green-to-red glass idea is deep and powerful. Do not forget it.

A simpler vertical garden would be a condo with balconies on the south -facing wall.

In the real world gray water has soap, bleach, cleaners, hair, grease, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, peroxide, cotton, paper, etc. Using gray water has large need for either behavior mod, new infrastructure, or intricate treatment technology.

Thomas Jefferson said to plant lettuce seed once a week the entire growing season. I would add cilantro and arugula to that prescription. I never met anyone with the perspicacity to do that.

Carl M. said...

@Alfred Differ:

You are correct that Bannon is asserting power/independence by looking like a homeless man stumbling into the liquor store. But it is a very California style assertion of independence -- Steve Jobsian. It doesn't fit with fascism, the philosophy that we are stronger by being bonded together.

@David:

Hitler had ambitions to establish a thousand year reign. Mussolini wanted to revive the greatness of the ancient Roman Empire -- which lasted a rather long time. Generational cycles don't fit either ideology.

The whole generational cycle thing is pop psychology, not fringe fascism. The book that Bannon likes was once quite popular, and has been cited by many. The generation thing even finds it way into an O'Reilly book [a computer book publisher, for ye non-geeks] on mind hacks.

You may disagree with the theory, and it may well be complete bunk. (But if so, you might want to stop mouthing off about Greatest Generation.) But it is not evidence of fascism.

Provide some other evidence, something less ludicrous.

Carl M. said...

Even if Trump is a fascist, he's a damn incompetent one. By acting like a clown before America's oldest and largest fascist organization -- the Boy Scouts -- he inspired a generation to question the majesty of government.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/07/28/upside-trumps-despicable-boy-scout-speech/513530001/

LarryHart said...

@Carl M,

Trump's speech to the Boy Scouts was probably intended to evoke the response one would expect at a rally of Hitler Youth. My lay-observation of that one as well as his Long Island speech to the police (about roughing up suspects) was that the immediate audience lapped it up and loved it, although the establishment leadership of both organizations quickly denounced the messages.

We all have our darker impulses. Adult Americans tend to self-censor them in a good way. We don't go out of our way to unnecessarily insult or express anger toward others even if our id is feeling such things. Trump panders to those worst impulses, giving us permission to express them proudly. That his method is so popular with even a third of the country sickens me and makes me realize that this past election revealed much about my fellow countrymen, and not in a good way.

raito said...

Catfish N. Cod,

Re: Agincourt

A few points. First, not peasants, freedmen, at least at Agincourt. As well, the French made several serious errors. First, in their choice of terrain. New-ploughed fields leading into a narrow gap isn't good for cavalry, nor for footmen following them. The French also failed to use their own archers to any effect at all. And they didn't make their baggage train attack more serious, which would have squeezed the English and probably won the battle. As it was, Henry got panicky and ordered his prisoners killed, so as to have troops free to deal with the baggage train attack, at least until he found that it was just a raid. The first charge was also a problem in that only a portion of the available cavalry made it. And those faced the English men-at-arms who outnumbered those French who made the charge. The expert guys who I listen to (guys with PhDs who are college professors and such) appear to believe that the archer were far more useful at disruption than outright killing. They (and I) also believe that had Henry not had those men-at-arms, the French would probably have won that battle. They could have done so easily, longbows or no, if they'd had any tactical sense whatsoever. The English did not win as much as the French lost at Agincourt.

But also notice that, even if either you or I are correct, those archers were part of Henry's hired army. Neither 'peasants' nor 'commoners'. Hired professionals in a rich guy's army. But I do agree that I prefer knowledge, skills, AND information be as broadly available as possible.

Deuxglass,

There's always advantages for manufacturing to the critical mass of cities. There's nothing inherent in current, non-3D manufacturing that concentrates in in the cities, either. But it's still and advantage to locate where there's transportation hubs, and a large supply of people (communications is the one area that's not particularly advantaged by cities any more, except for spotty internet coverage). 3-D doesn't change any of that.

Paul SB said...

though they all sound very similar. If you look the word up, you can find a whole lot of definitions, and they have a lot of things in common but differ in some key details. Here's one I found that goes right to the source:

fascism
The only official definition of Fascism comes from Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism, in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy.
1."Everything in the state". The Government is supreme and the country is all-encompasing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.
2."Nothing outside the state". The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.
3."Nothing against the state". Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. If you do not agree with the government, you cannot be allowed to live and taint the minds of the rest of the good citizens.
The use of militarism was implied only as a means to accomplish one of the three above principles, mainly to keep the people and rest of the world in line. Fascist countries are known for their harmony and lack of internal strife. There are no conflicting parties or elections in fascist countries.
Nazi Germany was extreme Fascism, better examples of fascist countries were Mussolini's Italy, Iraq, Iran, and many middle eastern countries.

By this definition, it would superficially seem that Carl is right about Trump being an incompetent fascist. But what is happening in the US is slightly more subtle. With Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain and Nazi Germany the ideology was obvious, in your face, brazen. Probably part of why socialism has such a bad rap in the US has to do with the Nazi use of the term, but today's socialism and National Socialism are very different things (not quite the opposite things, though).

Today, however, we live in the shadow of the War and too many people have been taught in their public schools about it, though I would argue that this happens at a fairly superficial level in most places. If you are too brazen about your fascism today it is pretty obvious, and be seen as fringe lunacy. But don't be fooled by the Republican mantra of small government. When have they ever actually shrunk either the size or the cost of government? They haven't, ever, any time in the 20th or 21st Centuries. All the small government, Big Brother is watching you, taxation is theft rhetoric is just that - rhetoric. The Republican leadership consistently increases the authority of government, violates freedom of speech by watching over us and going after anyone who utters anything that is either unseemly according to their religious base or against their political ambitions, and while they cut taxes to themselves, the richest 1% of the people, by stripping away benefits and the social safety net, they de facto increase the burden on the lower 50% of the income scale.

Paul SB said...

Fascism con.t,

So by Mussolini's definition, does the Mango Mussolini fit the mold of fascism?
Item #1: The radical anti-diversity stance of Republicans generally, the insistence on religious conformity and the anti-immigration policies fit. For Donald Grope specifically you can say that while Republicans have made a lot of noise for many decades they have never actually made any real changes, the exceptions being abortion legislation and their attempts to legislate school curricula, those those are generally shot down as unconstitutional. They have always preferred to keep things the way they are so they have a platform to sun on. But the Grope is making actual changes.
Item #2: Not much going on, there. At least for now actually military expansion hasn't happened since WW II. That part has fallen out of fashion with the Western nations. That sort of aggression has taken the form of attempted regime change and manipulation rather than blatant annexation (though Grope's Russian buddies don't seem to have a problem with annexation).
Item #3: "If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. " This certainly fits the radical anti-diversity version of political correctness on the right, and the recent efforts to defend rapists against their victims on college campuses, new anti-LGBT rules (in spite of Grope's statements to the contrary on the campaign trail), scapegoating of Muslim and Latin American people. Yep.

2.5 out of 3 ain't bad. In the words of Douglas Adams: "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands" Beautiful hands, small hands, the best hands ever.

But any linguist will tell you that language and the meanings of words change over time.

Paul SB said...

George said,

"Personally I think continued support for Republicans is less down to Lakoff's "Strict Father" archetype, and more due to the "Inherited Obligation Family" described by Doug Muder. People are trapped in economically moribund communities by family obligations (and possibly also by the oxytocin-driven need for close-knit communities which Paul SB described), and are therefore willing to fall for politicians like Trump which promise to protect local employment."

- And as Eeyore would say, with his usual level of enthusiasm, "Thanks for noticing!" : ]

Hominids are complicated creatures and I am sure there is room between their ears for both. In fact, the two feed each other in a sort of reinforcement loop. Obligations to the extended family are enforced by those "strong" (tin pot dictator) fathers, who are part of those families and thus benefit from those obligations as well. I don't have a problem with family coherence. That would go in the plus column in my view, as long as it doesn't get so rigid that we are covering up crimes or stifling people's futures in the name of kinship. But the "Strong Father" archetype is the archetype of the dictator, which in and of itself conditions people to vote for those "tough on (fill in the blank paranoia du jour)" types, who mostly fit the mold of tin pot dictators. It is only the system of checks and balances that keep those weirdly anti big government types from becoming full-fledged Big Brothers. Remember when Edwin Meece was trying to dismantle the entire Bill of Rights, back in the days of St. Reagan?

Jumper said...

How that libertarian thing is doing:
https://www.texasobserver.org/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-freest-little-city-in-texas/

On the propaganda wars and meddling in Trump and Brexit elections:
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage

Treebeard said...

It seems like some people are still confused. Fascism is not about the rule of corporations or money. It's more the opposite: a reaction against the excesses of plutocracy, the merchant class, etc. Fascists consider the latter decadent, hostile and in need of overthrow. Ever hear of the Varnic theory? This divides people into four major classes: warriors, intellectuals, acquisitors and laborers, which are associated with four ages when one particular class dominates. Fascism is an attempt to get back to a warrior class-dominated era. Often it's closely associated with a priestly caste or spiritual movement that motivates the warriors. A good example right now is the global jihad movement, which is a revolt of warriors and priests against the Western merchant-dominated civilization. It's a normal, cyclical thing in history. Eventually even Westerners will take up their own jihad against the acquisitors, or we might fall into a laborer-dominated era first (aka a "Dark Age").

David Brin said...

CarlM there’s this thing called… reading. Try it some time. Mussolini’s notions about a new Rome were CYCLICAL! Hitlet’s 1000 years incorporated the concept of a future CYCLICAL fall. His mystics believed that ice moons came to Earth and fell, ending civilizations on a regular patterned interval. And Bannon’s expressing contempt for all the smartypants expert castes around him proclaims “I already know all that I need to know. I have history on my side and there’s nobody I need to suck up to.’

You sneer very nicely but in utter nonsense. Just because I debunk the cycular cultism of fascism, that does not mean I must deny that generations display characteristics. When a crisis comes, Americans rise to it. The Greatest Generation had several, and did. The boomers didn’t and hence got whiney. That doesn’t mean there’s a rigid cycle.

And again I ask you. What cheaters crushed market competition for 6000 years? On every continent. Wrecking markets/freedom for 99% of our ancestors? Hm? Will a time ever, ever come when you answer that?

Your calling the BSA fascist is simply monstrously stupid.

Paul — any definition of fascism that leaves out the utter romanticism, the hostility to facts and science and the uniformitism is just a dumb, incomplete definition.

LarryHart said...

Back in November 2001 or so, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I posted on my old "Cerebus" list that for once in my life, I was glad the president was a Republican. The sentiment didn't last long, but at that particular moment, it seemed that the decisive self-assuredness of Republicans against an enemy was what was needed, and that a self-questioning Democrat would have been a liability. This was the period in which we had just rolled over the Taliban in Afghanistan with practically no real opposition, and long before the invasion of Iraq, and I only felt that way for about two months, so cut me some slack. But the feeling was there.

Looking back, there was an eerie echo to the very last chapter and the very last sentence in 1984 (which I won't spoil for the few who might not have read the book).

And I got to thinking, what could possibly happen that would make me change my mind about #SoCalledPresident and make me actually feel warmly about him being the one in the White House at this time.

And I've got nothing.

I'm curious if anyone else can imagine a scenario that would make someone who doesn't already support Trump to be won over and feel some purpose fulfilled by the result of the 2016 election justified the result.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

How that libertarian thing is doing:
https://www.texasobserver.org/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-freest-little-city-in-texas/


The article is interesting, and points out a contradiction in "conservative" advocacy for such innovations as "Let's run a city without property tax." One of the virtues of conservatism is that it respects the fact that "the way things are done" evolved over time and withstands the test of reality, while radical disruption carries unintended and unanticipated consequences. Yet, when it comes to radical disruption in the name of so-called conservative agenda items, that wisdom goes out the window.

Hence, the entirely predictable "Who knew?" failures in Von Ormy, Texas or in the failed state of (as Norman Goldman refers to it) Kansasistan.

donzelion said...

Raito, re Agincourt: I'd noted earlier in my response to Catfish that English feudal lords paid longbowmen, making them 'free men' with skill at arms. Individual bowmen MAY have included some 'peasants' (folks compelled to work someone else's land), but it would have been rare (they would either have owned some of their own land in order to be authorized to bear arms, or been 'free' men with the time to set aside mastering a longbow). There were probably about as many different conditions for the troops as there were troops.

More important than their legal status in England was their united stance: there was no faction to rival Henry in the English army who would benefit from a 'loss.' Not so for the French.

Massed longbows are ideal for feudal war: whatever feudal lord is most keen to actually fight will bear the brunt of the losses. Putative 'allies' can observe 'safely,' and if their 'ally' is weakened, withdraw from battle then go take his lands. That only applies if 'massed longbows' actually fight as a mass - rather than independently under separate lords - an arrangement more likely to be realized when they are paid from a single treasury.

For Agincourt, Armagnacs and Burgundians made a temporary truce, massed longbows made the Armagnacs suffer the heaviest losses, and the Burgundians 'won' in the aftermath.

"The English did not win as much as the French lost at Agincourt."
I would say the 'less' feudal arrangement defeated the 'more' feudal arrangement - and longbows were key to how they did it (not by killing necessarily, but slowing a 'fast shock troop' to infantry makes killing rather easy). Later on, romanticized myths of the invincible English yeoman/freeman with a longbow - like the myth of the mighty gun-toting American frontiersman - had important repercussions for how the winning state ultimately structured itself.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

It seems like some people are still confused. Fascism is not about the rule of corporations or money. It's more the opposite: a reaction against the excesses of plutocracy, the merchant class, etc. Fascists consider the latter decadent, hostile and in need of overthrow.


That may be your personal sentiment, but it's not what I ever learned as what fascism is. Mussolini's original fascism was the merging of corporation and state. The way my dad described what a fascist US government would look like is that we'd have a Senator from General Motors, a Senator from Standard Oil, and so on.

The police state and militarism normally associated with fascism is the way the corporations enforce their will. You are probably correct that, once established, the military and police organizations become more powerful than the corporations that gave them that power and acquire their own agenda. Maybe that's a different thing from fascism at that point--perhaps even the opposite thing? But the theory has always been a merging of corporate and state interest.

The symbol of the fasces--the bound twigs which are stronger together than any single twig--doesn't seem to jibe with your interpretation.

donzelion said...

Treebeard: "Fascism is not about the rule of corporations or money. It's more the opposite: a reaction against the excesses of plutocracy, the merchant class, etc."

In the fascist state, ONE SIDE of the plutocrats identifies another 'disloyal/dangerous' class of plutocrats to be ousted, and deploys popular sentiment to crush them. Ethno-religious prejudices are one basis for distinguishing who should be embraced and who slaughtered, but the fascist regime coopts the powerful castes first and initially targets 'socialists' and 'greedy others'.

"Fascism is an attempt to get back to a warrior class-dominated era."
Seldom actually the case. Normally, fascism is an attempt to utilize romanticized ideals of a warrior class to destroy alternative bases of power. Neither Hitler nor Mussolini were legendary warriors, and the best Italian and German soldiers never became the highest ranking leaders of their movements.

"A good example right now is the global jihad movement, which is a revolt of warriors and priests against the Western merchant-dominated civilization."
Your claim is laughably inaccurate.

Or rather, it is about as accurate as describing the modern Republican party as a revolt of warriors (Donald Trump? Bannon? LOL!!!) and priests (Liberty University? Televangelists?) - against Western merchant-dominated civilization. If you can conceive of Donald Trump as a heroic warrior, then you can believe the various jihadi groups operate similarly...but such a conception does injury to basic sanity.

Jumper said...

The Scouts may be somewhat militaristic, but are not fascistic. Carl's article he linked to was obviously written by one of a long line of wusses who were never a member of a good troop. As many school uniform proponents know, they serve not just simple regimentation but promote equality as a value and organizational unity. They are no more fascistic than baseball uniforms or band uniforms.

A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. That's from memory; no cheating. As a kid in the '60s, with my scientific outlook, I have always placed caveats on "obedient" and "reverent," but the rest are just fine with me, thanks.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I'm curious if anyone else can imagine a scenario that would make someone who doesn't already support Trump to be won over and feel some purpose fulfilled by the result of the 2016 election justified the result."

The fantasist within me can envision a day Donald Trump wakes up and tweets, "My taxes are just too low! Here, I'll show you. Unfair!" then rewrites the tax code to block him and his friends from their main loopholes. I can imagine Donald Trump saying, "Corporatized health is too expensive for most folks! Trump Care will be single payer!" And proceeds to help enact it.

Not entirely impossible...Trump was a NY Democrat who converted to the Republican party to win office (as with both Bloomberg and Guiliani). He doesn't actually believe in anything (save his own magnificence), so complete 180 degree pivots cannot be ruled out.

That said, I believe the reason we are not in a proto-fascist end game is the Republican party still controls the rank and file at the local level - Trump has some levers of power, but the group of people who clamor in his favor will clamor for his blood tomorrow at the local level were he to break ranks. So long as he keeps the ranks entertained, and shuts off effective governance, they get their money's worth...

But I could be wrong. If that group actually is loyal to Trump and winds up flipping the levers of power...well, I'll be working in the resistance until I get rounded up.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

Yes, I suppose I could end up being glad of a Trump administration if he actually reversed course on everything his administration stands for.

That wasn't exactly my question, though. As I said, a circumstance arose in which I was (momentarily) glad that W was president, or at least that a Republican was president at that moment. I was trying to envision a circumstance (An ISIS attack on US soil? A nuclear launch at Chicago by North Korea? Something Mexico or Iran might pull?) that would even momentarily change my mind and make me glad that Trump is in charge. Something that would make me say he's the one for the job. And I mean Trump qua Trump, not a completely re-imagined Trump.

I can't see it happening, not even if one or more of the possibilities I just mentioned came to pass.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

I went straight to the jackass's mouth to satisfy the traditionalists among us, but I also ended on the standard linguistic caveat that language and word meanings change, like everything else. Unfortunately there isn't really a widely agreed-upon definition, largely because it has been thrown around so often, spat out by angry teens at their authoritarian parents, etc. Remember the Monty Python sketch where the Pope calls Da Vinci in asking him to redo his painting of The Last Supper minus the kangaroos, and Da Vinci calls the Pope a fascist?

Absolute conformity to the point of absurdity, along with authoritarianism, seems to be a widely-held feature. The thing about business interests is common, too. IBM did well for itself under the Nazis, and the original Fasci was quite friendly to certain business interests, just as the Republican party is today. Whether that corruption belongs in the definition is, as far as I'm concerned, up to common usage.

One thing I will say is that the sapling's got his roots pretty twisted if he's trying to put a positive spin on fascism. And his xylem's plugged if he thinks that the Republicans are not the primary players in the Game of Pay-to-Play. Nothing is flowing in his phloem if he thinks their constant efforts to cut taxes on the rich have anything to do with his masturbatory fantasy of manly warriors and not simply a way of lining their own pockets and raising the value of their stock portfolios. Terminal brown rot.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I'm curious if anyone else can imagine a scenario that would make someone who doesn't already support Trump to be won over and feel some purpose fulfilled by the result of the 2016 election justified the result.

I can think of one.

I usually don't mind it when the feds don't do much of anything useful. There are SOME things they should be doing, but my preferred flavor of small government is 'small scope and let the budgets work out as they may'. When they can't get their act together, they tend to limit their scope in ways I find encouraging.

That isn't what is happening, though, so I'm not happy with what I'm seeing. They aren't getting much done, but what they ARE doing is divisive. I'd rather they were inept and innocuous at the same time on any plan that I consider out-of-scope.

Carl M. said...

Dr. Brin: Have a look at Baden-Powell's entry in Wikipedia.

And to go a bit deeper, look up the origins the Pledge of Allegiance. It was devised by American national socialists. (The stiff armed salute began here, albeit with a different hand position.)

Jumper said...

On preppers. The author is very quotable in this piece. Ex.: at a prepper gathering, "When I look around the room full of mostly forty-ish guys, I know the number one way everyone in that room could prepare for the end of civilization: lose 40lbs.

"I’m no expert, understand, but I figure if the world system crashes, the ability to run five miles without passing out has to be worth something."

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/02/preppers-survivalist-summit-constitution-americas-midlife-crisis

Duncan Cairncross said...

I have just read Mussolini's "The Doctrine of Fascism"
This is one of the murkiest - least clear - lash-up that I have ever read

BUT
The single most important thread is that it is all about "the spirit" - it is all about what I would call a "Theocracy" - where the god/king guides the spirit of the Nation
Everything is subordinate to the "spirit"
With the Catholic Church playing a supporting role

So my take is Fascism = thinly disguised Theocracy

Which with the GOP support for and by the "Christianists".......

Hi Carl
I have just read the Wiki on Baden-Powell
The scouts used the Swastika - the correct way around - as it was an Indian symbol for good luck - and was on the covers of some of Rudyard Kipling's books
They stopped using it after the Nazi started using it
One of Powell's biographers (who had never met the guy) decided that he was a Nazi sympathizer - with no evidence!
Not a very strong case - putting it mildly

Jumper said...

Swastika merit badges from 1911. Hitler ripped off the scouts and ruined it.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "As I said, a circumstance arose in which I was (momentarily) glad that W was president..."

I never understood that. What, Bush grabbed a bullhorn and shouted, 'Well the world hears you!' (his single most 'heroic' deed) more loudly than Gore would have? He somberly promised to end the regime and kill the bad guys more convincingly than Gore would have?

But many people did feel that. For a moment, the choice to support Bush (or not) came down to what to do after a major foreign attack hits the homeland, something Americans hadn't experienced for decades.

Bush, ultimately, wanted to be liked as a leader - where Trump is a cowardly bully profiteer. If the leader wants to be liked, so long as they do a few things (chase the bad guys) and refrain from some others (e.g., locking up every Muslim in American detention centers), then in the crisis, it makes sense to approve.

The only time one is grateful for a bully profiteer is when (a) one needs a bully (does one ever?), (b) one shares the profits, or (c) the cowardly sensibility prevents rash wars. The latter is the most probable: some Republicans relish the thought of American troops dying to convert their million dollar debts into billion dollar assets, but Trump will be content to tweet threats (great way to move the needle for certain assets, while those on the inside know to dump them while folks still believe the gambit).

Paul SB said...

Jumper, Hitler didn't get the swastika from the boy scouts. The name itself is Sanskrit, and when Heinrich Schliemann dug up Troy in the 19th C. he found the symbol in use there, speculating that it must have been a religious symbol of their ancestors - their meaning Europeans generally, but the symbol became increasingly used by right-wing nationalist parties in Germany and Austria to represent Germanic racial purity. The Nazi party adopted it for their own use in 1920.

It's odd that the same symbol used in Asia from ancient times also turns up among Pueblo peoples of North America. I vaguely remember an article in Omni Magazine that speculated that the shape could come from a rare cloud formed under unusual meteorological conditions, but I was larval when I read that, so I wouldn't take it too seriously. It's really just a stylized spiral.

Jonathan Sills said...

To say that the Nazis were socialist because of their name is to assert that North Korea is a democracy, because "Democratic" is part of the nation's official name.

Carl, you used to make some kind of sense. You're starting to lose it, man.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Actually, the pledge was devised by a plain old garden variety socialist, a preacher, no less.
National socialists are Nazis. Nothing at all alike.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

National socialists are Nazis. Nothing at all alike [with socialists].


Or as O'Brien might have put it in 1984 :

The word you are trying to think of is socialism. But you are mistaken. This is not socialism. National Socialism, perhaps, but that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing."

This stuff writes itself. :)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: "As I said, a circumstance arose in which I was (momentarily) glad that W was president..."

I never understood that. What, Bush grabbed a bullhorn and shouted, 'Well the world hears you!' (his single most 'heroic' deed) more loudly than Gore would have? He somberly promised to end the regime and kill the bad guys more convincingly than Gore would have?


It wasn't anything specific about Al Gore. Just a general sense that what was needed in the aftermath of 9/11 was the cocksure certainty of a Republican. It's really hard to explain outside of the moment.

And my point in posting that is that, even recalling that there were circumstances which made me think W was a good fit for the situation, I can't imagine a situation that would make me feel the same about Trump. Not something he himself would do, but some set of external circumstances under which he would be better at dealing with the situation than Hillary or Biden or Jeb or Ted Cruz. Any situation that would make one feel, "Thank goodness that this guy is president now."

I can't come up with one.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

And to go a bit deeper, look up the origins the Pledge of Allegiance. It was devised by American national socialists.


To what end? There's nothing in the pledge about racial purity or anything of that sort. It's not like pledging allegiance to Hitler (or Trump), but to the flag of the United States "and to the Republic for which is stands." Before the theistic "under God" was added during the Cold War, the rest of the pledge went "One nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Not "for whites". Not "for Christians". Not even "for the real Americans who came over on the Mayflower". Certainly nothing about treating others as sub-human slaves.

At the risk of repeating myself, that's not National Socialism, but a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

The conflation between socialism and the Nationalsozialistischm was deliberate back during the Cold War. Today most people who spout this stuff are just ignorant. Don't expect Carl to listen to facts, facts don't match his preconceived notions.

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